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

Chasing The Dream

Written by Jin'ichiro Shibahara

May 5, 2007 - Bakersfield, California

My relatives in San Diego let me stay with them for a week, so as I iced my leg, I chose a few books from the mountain they had in their study and did a lot of reading while I was there. Perhaps I was starving for some written words, particularly Japanese. I took a walk through a nearby park to assess my leg and judged it was well enough to ride on. Though slow, I could walk.

The morning of my departure, my relative made me a Japanese style box lunch. A box lunch! Sometimes I'll slap a few pieces of bread together and call it a lunch, but this, this was a true to form Japanese box lunch! Japanese fried chicken, croquettes, pickled plum and rice with a little pickled Chinese lettuce. I hadn't had a lunch like this made for me since high school, I think. Anyways, touched by the gesture, I gave my thanks and bid my farewell. About 300 miles to Bakersfield; not too far. A Mexican festival called "Cinco de Mayo" was being celebrated in San Diego that day; it literally means May 5th. The town is near the border with Mexico, and the scenery is reminiscent of the film "Traffic." I got the feeling the highway was going to be packed, so I headed out a little early.

Along the way, I managed to take a wrong road again. I missed the exit which would have taken me off Route 15 and off to the Northwest, so I took the next exit to find that the road it led to was a back road to Route 15 that paralleled the highway and ran Northeast. As I drove along I learned this road was once part of the historic Route 66, and there are logos along the road indicating this. Well, I kept going along the road until just before Barstow where I got on Route 58 and headed West. I tore into the lunch prepared for me at a truck stop, then it was back on the road for another 100 miles or so. This is area is reminiscent of U2's "Joshua Tree" album cover. I'm making good time, and it looks as though I'd make it into town about 3 hours before the show starts.

Bakersfield's rodeo arena is also of fare size. I got in quite a bit early, and the area was still deserted and quite. I decided to lay down on the grass and rest. The rodeo was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m., so I finished entering about an hour out and took a look at the contestant list to find there were several cowboys from Utah scheduled to compete that night, a few of which I recognized. I also ran into a rodeo photographer. His business has the less than original name of "Rodeo Photography" and I remembered seeing him at Lakeside as well. It seems he had photographed my ride and took the time to explain it as he showed me shot for shot what he had captured.

"You looked like a world champion coming out of the chute! Perfect form on that first jump. Then you started to swim around on the bull, sank, and you know the rest."

"I'm not sure I want to see the ending."

"You rode at Tehachapi last year, right? I got pictures of that ridetoo."

"How much for all of them?"

"I'll give'm to you for $20."

"Alright, I'll get'm from you later."

I didn't see him after that, and didn't get the pictures either...

The bull I drew this time was #6078 Mo Time of Salt River Rodeo, the same company that owns Magic that I rode last time. Talking to Skip I learned this bull was the son of "Prime Time," a bull that had been to the NFR and the PBR World Finals. There's no way this bull was going to be a dink. He was about the same size as Magic, but had a different personality from what I was told. Once the rodeo got underway, I began to do my usual dynamic stretching routine, but I couldn't seem to get my right calf to stretch. It seems my muscled had hardened, so I left my right foot alone and concentrated on everywhere else. While I waited my turn, I tried to imagine every move the bull could make as he came out of a left hand delivery. Of course, guessing won't get you anywhere; no one knows for sure how the bull is going to move, so I don't guess. But, by implanting various possible moves in my head before I ride, I believe I am able to reduce the time it takes for my body to react to those moves.

Mo Time is entered into the chute, so I wrap my rope around him, finish preparations and wait. I asked Alex, a guy I had practiced with in Utah during the winter, to pull my rope. Here is where what I talked about in my last report happened; Mo Time is a small bull, but the chutes here are wide and long so they can accommodate larger bulls. As I dropped my legs down and placed them against the bull and began warming the rosin on my rope, Mo Time began moving left and right, then leaned against the chute wall with my leg pinched between him and the wall. His full weight is now on my leg, and it's pretty damn heavy. I'm still about three inches back from my rope where I need to be sitting, so I moved my left leg forward as other bull riders used they feet to try and push the bull over and create some space between him and the wall. When I got a little space, I quickly moved my right leg forward and was able to bring my body up to where it needed to be and somehow get into position. I nod my head for them to open the gate and let us out. His first jump was small, and though his next jump wasn't all that high, it was long. When he landed, I tried to loosen the grip with my legs and move them down and forward to re-grip. My left leg did exactly what I wanted, but my right wouldn't budge. I got no grip. The bull must have felt that too, ecause his next move was to face left and swing his hind quarters to the right. I had already lost my grip with my right foot, and I was slammed onto the ground. I couldn't stand, so I crawled back to the chutes. I managed to climb over the chute, and there I stood to watch the other rides, not even bothering to change. The stands were bright, but all I could do was reminisce about my ride, over and over again.

After saying goodbye to Skip, I talked a little with the guys from Utah, we all agreed to meet at the rodeo next week, then parted ways. It was a bit past 10. My plans were to drive another 100 miles North to Fresno and stay at a friend's house there. He's the younger brother of my best friend, and it had been about 3 years since I had seen him last. Stuffing my self with bananas, cookies and water, I headed back to the highway; the place where rodeo cowboys spend more time then any other.

Normally this is where my story would end, but this time, there is more. I made it safely to Fresno, and after a nights rest in bed, I tried to get up the next morning (Sunday) and found I couldn't stand. I would feel excruciating pain in my right calf after my right foot had barely touched the floor. The swelling had not subsided, and it was clear it had worsened. Somehow I managed to shower, after which the sofa and I became inseparable friends for the remainder of the day as I raised my leg to a position higher than my heart and iced it, hoping the swelling would go down.

Monday my friend lent me his shoulder and helped me out of bed and to the shower. I can't walk a stepc Ripples of pain are constantly spreading throughout my lower leg. My friend's wife located a clinic, so in the afternoon, I had her take me there to get my leg checked out. My friend arrived later, his son in tow. It's a clinic, not a hospital. Sort of like a doctor's office in Japan, and costs a lot less then going to a hospital. Finally my turn comes around and I speak with the doctor. First he tells me the leg's infected. The yellowing on my skin is signs of this. Then we take some x-rays. First thing he says after getting the x-rays developed is, "have you ever broken your leg before?"

"Nope" I say.



"You sure?"

"I'm sure."

"That's funny, looking at this, it seems like you've broken it once before, and it's been healing for a while."


My friend, the doctor and I take another look at the x-ray together. I was told I had broken my right fibula. It seems I had broken it in Lakeside, and since the x-rays were taken 10 days later, the bone had been healing. "No wonder it hurt so bad" I thought. I couldn't walk now, but it's a wonder I could walk the week before. I was given 6 weeks to recover, a black boot to wear, and was wheeled out in a wheelchair, the doctor and nurses constantly badgering me "You take it easy for six weeks; and no bull riding! You understand?" It was like listening to my mother. Fresno is host to a major PBR event, and there is a large rodeo every year in Clovis, the next town over, so I'm sure they said what they did because they know what kind of men bull riders are. I had entered rodeos on the 12th and 13th and was pretty bummed.

On Tuesday I called the PRCA and let them know I would be doctor releasing out of the two rodeos I had entered. If you're injured, you can fax them the doctor's certificate and you don't have to pay a fine or the entry fees for the rodeos you can't make.

I'll head back to Utah on the 17th, and fly back to Japan after that. This was something I had planned months ago, so it's not a change, but the problem is, how am I going to get to Salt Lake City from Fresno with a broken leg? I'm going to have to chew that one over a while here on the couch.

Jin'ichiro Shibahara

Real Western
Copyright © 2007 Real Western All Rights Reserved.
Unauthorized Reproduction and Copying Prohibited