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

Chasing The Dream

Written by Jin'ichiro Shibahara

2008 season

Feb 29, 2008 - Salt Lake City, Utah

I’d come back to Utah a week ago, in time to ride at this event. I had been in Japan for about four weeks since the end of January, but was lucky enough to get one of the 45 slots, and with practices wrapping up at the end of March I wanted to get in as much practice as possible in preparation for the PRCA rodeos starting in April. So, this wasn’t exactly a sudden return to the US for me, but rather a preplanned occurrence.

Tokyo was beginning to get warm about the time I left; it felt like the end of March or April, though it was still only February, and even the snow here in Salt Lake has melted all but on the tops of the mountains, with brown grass showing everywhere. The sun was bright too, helping to melt all that snow. I think the crops will be good this year, what with all the water the ground absorbed over the winter.

Left untouched for a month, the battery in my decrepit Prelude was, predictably, dead. I spent a day recharging it and headed out to a practice event on Monday, the 25th. I hadn’t been bucked off in four outs at practice since January, and this day I covered another to extend my streak to five in a row. Practice or not, I have never stayed on this many bulls in a row. They loaded up my second bull of the day; a small bull they said, “doesn’t jump, he flies!” When I mounted him, he was so small my legs extended past his girth, but he was quiet and cooperative in the chute.

He took a huge leap as we exited, all four legs in the air. He faced to the left but turned to the right as he landed, then leapt again, still facing left. I could feel my weight slowly shift to the left. He lands, turns to the right a bit again, then leaps and floats. His body was twisted, with his head turned to the left and his hindquarters pointing to the right; what we call a “belly roll.” My body slips to the left again. He lands again, and launches me off with the next jump. Out and off in about four seconds… Someone pointed out to me that I got bucked off because I was hunched over and was unable to use my free arm to move my body back to the right while we were in the air.

The day of the event, I stopped by a 7-11 to get some money out of the ATM to pay my entry fee, but when I got back in the car and twisted the key, nothing. Not an uncommon occurrence for my Prelude. So I wait a bit and turn the key again, and again, nothing. I called what my local “family” for help, but of course, no one was home… Thirty minutes later, having had its fun, the car finally cooperated and turned over. Mashing the accelerator, I headed for the arena. I could get there in 20 minutes if I hurried. I arrived in 20 minutes flat, and made a mad dash for the rodeo office.

When I got there, Mike Serr, who had been entered as an alternate was waiting there. “We were just talking about you.” He said as I walked in. Entries were set to close in another 10 minutes, and had I not made it, Mike would have rode in my place. That was close… Mike is another local rider and lives in Salt Lake also. It was ironic that of all the riders, me, the one who lives closest to the arena, should be the last one to finish entering. Sorry Mike. A $220 entry fee is not cheap, but it was a two day event with the opportunity to ride on both days. Of the 45 riders entered, the top 10 riders with the highest combined score on two rides would move on to the short-go (final round).

It was a motley crew of riders. Even some that had been to the PBR World Finals were there. Sonny Murphy was there that day, and so was Canadian Champion Jody Turner. It’d been a while since we’d seen each other and naturally the conversation flowed.

With such caliber riders, it’s not hard to imagine that the bulls too were of caliber to match as well.

I drew #455 Gunner Bill of the Corey-Horst Rodeo Company, son of the great Gunslinger. Slightly larger than the last bull I rode, he had a long set of horns and was a good looking bull. There was no way he was anything other than a power bull.

The rider introductions and the opening ceremony concluded and the event began. I was in the last section,so I had a long wait ahead of me.

I wrapped my rope around Gunner Bill, who had been loaded into a right hand delivery. He had wide shoulders and a thick neck, but he was big enough that my legs wouldn’t hang low, allowing me a better chance at a good position. After a while, the chute boss finally told me I was next, and I began to heat my rope in the chute.

Out we go. He was huge from the first jump. Not high, but really far. Straight out he went, but I was able to keep my seat. As he lands, his weight pulls you in just as you’re declining; loose your balance here and you’re in trouble. And then…no recollection. At some point during one of his jumps, I had leaned forward and the back of his head struck the facial portion of my helmet with a loud “CRACK!” Strangely, I remember the sound… That blew me off, and I landed quite away from the bull. I was far enough away that I was spared a subsequent attack from the bull, but as I stumbled to a corner, I took a knee and waited for the cob webs to clear. I’m not sure what happened and don’t remember anything. After waiting for my eyes to focus a moment, I went and retrieved my rope, thanked the bullfighters, and left the arena.

My “family” had come to watch me ride said I was on a good 4 seconds, yet I can’t remember half of that.

Well, at least there still tomorrow.

So many mistakes; both at practice and here (though I can’t remember the ones here…)

Lookslike it’s time to start over…

Jin'ichiro Shibahara

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