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Chasing The Dream

Written by Jin'ichiro Shibahara

2008 season

Mar 1, 2008 - PBR Enterprise Tour, Salt Lake City, Utah

Yesterday there was not a cloud in the sky.  Then this afternoon, out of nowhere it started snowing.  Utah snow is usually light, but this snow was like Tokyo snow; wet and heavy: And tons of it too.  The scene before me was dyed white before my eyes.  Perplexed at the awkward weather, I thanked the Lord I was riding in an indoor arena.

The event didn’t start until eight, so with time to kill I relaxed around the house.  With a 16 hour difference between Japan, night and day are almost exactly opposite, and I was just getting over the jet lag.

6 p.m.  Brushing the snow off the car, me and a couple teenagers I know headed for the arena.  My Prelude decided to be cooperative today, and we managed to get to the arena without a hitch.  After arriving, I headed to the rodeo office to check in and viewed the draw results.  I had drawn #110 Time Machine of…I forgot who owns him.  Right about that time, Ryan, who’d ridden this bull the day before, came up to me.

“Which bull’d you get?”

“#110, Time Machine.”

“I thought so.  I rode him yesterday.”

“Yeah?  How was he?”

“Good bull.  Jumped twice, went to the right and kept bucking.  Constantly to the right.”

“Sounds like a ‘wipe my hand’ kind of bull.  Good match for me, I think.”

“You’ll do fine.”

I’d only met Ryan for the first time the day before, but he was the one there pulling my rope for me when I got on.

I put “to the right” in the back of my head.  Bulls can change what they do from day to day, and they change what they do depending on the rider too.  Ryan and I are about the same height and weight.  I ride left, but I can’t recall which hand he rode with.

This day I was in the third section, but that’s not to say I had a lot of time like yesterday.  This day they had a short-go scheduled after the long-go, so the time between sections had been reduced to speed up the long-go.  Bulls were being loaded into the chutes non-stop. 

Of the 45 who rode yesterday, only 9 made the whistle.  It was a victory for the bulls by a large margin.  And today seemed to be no different; those with PBR World Finals experience were getting dumped left and right, just like the rest; Brian Herman, Keith Roquemore, Mark Lopez, Dan Henricks, Rocky McDonald, Jerold Vanegas, Rob Bell…  I should mention, Rob Bell is a Canadian Champion, yet he and the other Canadian Champion Jody Turner were both thrown to the dirt on both days.  Past NFR competitor Sony Murphy managed to stay on the first night, but was dumped early on this night just like the others.  One upper 80 point ride and you were going to the short-go; it was that kind of night.

Time Machine came down and was loaded into a left hand delivery.  As I was wrapping my rope around him in the chute in the back, he was already excited.  He hadn’t calm down at all by the time he was loaded into the bucking chute either, and was shifting around inside, ready, no, eager to get out there and explode.  I climbed over and was heating up my rope when he kicked up his hind legs and was almost launched head first into the steel sliding door that separates one chute from the one in front of it.  I decided to ask one of the cowboys nearby for a spot. 

A spot is when you have a cowboy on the outside of the chute take hold of your vest, jeans or chaps with one hand, then place the other on or in front of your chest to stop you from being thrown forward if the bull starts acting up in the chute.  Sometimes if the bull suddenly lays down in the chute, you can be pulled forward into the sliding doors as well, and on some occasions, the bull will stand up on its hind legs, hooking its front legs over the sliding door and try to shake the rider off his back and down onto the chute floor; a highly fatal position.  So, what the spot is there to do is keep the rider from being pulled forward or to pull the rider out of the chute should the situation get dangerous.  You don’t need a spot if the bull is calm and cooperative, but when you have an antsy bull, their importance can’t be overstated.

Time Machine is not what you would call cooperative.  As I finally managed to get my rope wrapped, the stock contractor called out to me from behind, “Slide forward slowly and you’ll be alright.” 

So I did as he said, lower my legs down so they were inline with the bull’s front legs, pointed my toes out, stuck out my chest, lowered my chin and called for the gate.

We came out, and the rest was a blur.  This bull was a bit smaller than Gunner Bill from yesterday, so I had expected him to be a bit quicker, but this was fast.  He doesn’t jump too high or long, but immediately goes into his next jump; so far, he’s doing just as Ryan said.  He was anyway.  Immediately upon landing the second jump, he cornered tight and hard…to the left; and fast too.  I think my upper body managed to stay in position, but both legs came out from under me on the next spin as I somersaulted forward and off the bull.  Lying face up on the ground I look up to see his face and both legs just a spitting distance away.  No time to think; I just balled up into a fetal position and he rolled me like a ball then commenced to brutally trample me.  I try to escape but don’t quite make it far enough, and just then, a bullfighter steps in and baits him away.  I get to my feet, walk to the edge of the arena and slammed my fist into one of the signs hanging on the fence.  I didn’t damage it…at least I don’t think I did.

I fetch my rope, thanked Bill Bass the bullfighter, and left the arena behind.  Bill’s a fighter I’ve known for a while too.  He was fighting the PBR event in Ogden, Utah about four years back when I came off my bull in about 1.9 seconds, and the bull cracked me on the left side of my head, launching me about twenty feet and giving me a concussion.  I woke up lying on the sofa of a friend I was staying with at the time.  Had I not been wearing a helmet, I probably wouldn’t be here today.

A Brazilian by the name of Helton Lewis Barbosa won the event.  Another rider with PBR Finals experience, he was the only rider this day to cover all three of his bulls. 

Making the PBR isn’t easy.

There were a few lessons I took home from these two bulls.  As I recall the two bulls from the events back in November, all the bulls I rode in practice and those over these two days, I notice I am able to stay with those power bulls, not allowing a space to form between my riding hand and my crotch, loosing my seat and getting bucked off as a result.  I’m also getting used to bulls that spin right, turn back, or turn wide out of either right or left deliveries. 

But, I don’t do so well with bulls who come out of a right hand delivery and corner left, or come out of a left hand delivery and turn back or corner left after a jump (like Time Machine did this time), or spin left after a jump.  These are all moves we would call “Into your hand” type moves.  And to think these were the bulls I had no problem with in 2003… 

But now I’m just rambling.

After the show all the riders walk around the arena and sign autographs for the fans that came out to see the show.  In the PBR, this is considered part of the job for riders.  No matter the sport, it’s a “professional” sport because people pay to come see it, and wouldn’t be “professional” without the fans.  Some riders despise signing autographs, but they’re all out there nonetheless, with felt pens in hand, signing autographs for all the fans on tickets, programs, T-shirts, hats and even the arms and backs of some of the girls.

“You ain’t gonna be able to shower if I sign your back.” One of the riders teases.

“Well, then I just won’t shower.” Replies the five year old girl.

Finally, I apologize there are no pictures or video for this report.  The truth is I dropped my camera during the trip back, and broke it.  I’ll try to get pictures or video for the next report.  Thanks for reading.

Jin'ichiro Shibahara

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