Real Western > Rodeo > Japanese Rodeo Cowboys > Jin'ichiro Shibahara

Chasing The Dream

Written by Jin'ichiro Shibahara

Apr 27, 2007 - Springville, California New!

Once again, I drove two days and over 700 miles.  This time taking Route 15 South through Utah and into Nevada, giving only a quick look at the hotels and casinos of Las Vegas, I just drive on through into California.  Along the way in a small town I find a diner that's been in operation since the 50s and use it's parking lot for a quick nap.  The next morning I stop by a Starbucks in Bakersfield for coffee and a light breakfast and then it's on into Springville.  This is just a small town that sits between some mountains, but they have a wonderful rodeo arena.  I had gotten in quite a bit early, so I was just kind of wondering around when this gentleman I was sure was a member of the rainbow coalition struck up a conversation with me.  I thought maybe he was a stock contractor at first, but I came to find out he had come with his daughter who was entered in the barrel racing.  His name was Bob Welsh, and his son is Bobby Welsh, who rode in the NFR last year and the year before that.  After learning that, it was all talk of bull riding for about the next 30 minutes.  This rodeo was a bit unorthodox, and conducted the bull riding apart and by itself.  12 had entered.  Following the bull riding, there was a dance featuring a local band and a queen contest as well.  Charlie Parker from Oregon and I had met at a PBR event in Canada, as well as Oakdale two weeks ago.  Then there was Jason who I rode with in Tehachapi last year, and Doc, who was the announcer at that show as well, along with a bullfighter by the name of Tim who has saved my hide a number of times at some PBR events in California, and then there was (dare I say "legendary"?) Randy Cory, who I had thought had retired, announcing the show.  I was surprised to see him working such a small rodeo.  After speaking with him I found him to be very down to earth and a real nice guy.  I also cam to find out it was his first time in Springville also.

The bull I had drawn was #221 of Western Rodeo; a tall, black, skinny bull with no name, just a number.  His horns had been cropped down to about 3 inches and he looked young.  I wrapped my rope around #221 who had been loaded into a right hand delivery and waited my turn.  I try to concentrate, vocally repeating over and over again, "Remember Oakdale."  I climb down into the chute and wrap the rope around my hand.  I point my toes and adjust my knees; narrow my shoulder blades and stick out my chest; lower my chin and GO!  Following the first jump, I felt the bull float in the air and myself floating as well.  At this point, my free arm inadvertently touched the bull's head.  As soon as he landed, he changed directions and I could feel his body twist; a move known as a "belly roll."  As he lands, he turns in the opposite direction once more.  I was able to follow him up to this point, but this is where he shook me loose.  I fell to the right of the bull, but my left hand wouldn't come loose from the rope and I'm stuck.  I got swung around a while like that until the bull hit me in the backside with his horn and launched me loose.  Tim quickly moved in between us, allowing me to make my escape.  Four, maybe five seconds?  The crowd was excited to see a Japanese bull rider, but I was in no mood to bask in the spotlight.  I was disqualified at the point when my free hand touched the bull's head, but the ride felt good up to the midway point.  I was staying forward and was unable to get my body back up as the bull's head came back, and that's when I touched him.  I didn't loose my feet like last time, but I've got some issues to work on in getting back into position after a belly roll...

Following the rodeo, I managed to find Bob in the quickly darkening arena and speak with him.  In situations like this, it helps a lot to have someone who can explain what happened to you.  The first thing he said to me was "You can ride!  Good job!"  While he meant "Good job!" as a complement, it only worked to further my chagrin.   After that we went over the ride motion by motion and move by move, him telling me what I did, and what he would have done in that situation, telling me how he saw it and how I should have reacted giving me a heck of a lot to reflect on.

I changed cloths and headed over to the party.  A few of the guys who had ridden in the rodeo were there having drinks.  I was particularly famished and walked around trying to find some food but every booth was sold out except a booth selling strawberry shortcake using locally grown Springville strawberries.  I had no other choice so I went a head and got one.  It was a 3x3 inch sponge with a mountain of sliced strawberries covered by another mountain, this one of whipped cream.  A true to form "American" treat indeed, but surprisingly it was not overly sweet, consisting only of the strawberries' natural sweetness, and I ate every last bite of it.  After which I had a few beers with Jason and the others, and that was my dinner for the night.

Beer: $3
Shortcake using Springville's own strawberries: $5
Entry fee: $120
Getting bucked-off but continuing to ride: Priceless

I guess if you were to make a credit card commercial out of this day, it would be something like that...

I finished my beer and headed back to my car where I would spend yet another night.After a while the party wrapped up, the lights went out and the rodeo arena was covered in darkness.  I could hear a horse neigh somewhere nearby.


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