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

Chasing The Dream

Written by Jin'ichiro Shibahara

2008 season

Apr 5, 2008 - Cave Creek, AZ: Knock Out

The rodeo starts at 1 p.m.; so how do I get down to Arizona in time? It’s just under 700 miles from Salt Lake, but with no other rodeos to make this weekend and gas prices in Utah hovering around $3.26 a gallon, it didn’t make sense to drive.

Besides, it would take me three days to get down there and back if I drove. Then it came to me to use one of the cheap airlines. Cave Creek is only 30 miles from Phoenix, so I would fly from Slat Lake on Southwest Airlines to Phoenix, then drive to the rodeo in a rental. Even though most of the United States is now in daylight savings time, Arizona doesn’t use the system, so even though Utah and Arizona are both in Mountain Time, there’s an hours difference between the two states.

I flew out on a nine o’ clock flight on Saturday and landed in Phoenix an hour and a half later just before ten. It took a little time getting the rental car, but the drive on the freeway was smooth. Temperatures in Salt Lake are about 35 or 37 degrees, but in Phoenix the mercury was already over 70. North on 17. Phoenix is a big city with housing areas all the way to the edge of town, but the scenery changes just as you get on the freeway leading to Cave Creek. You see the Hispanic influences in the red dirt colored houses that dot the desert among the tall cactus. Someone once said that “America has a different face in every state” and I think they may have been right.


The grounds were empty when I arrived. I parked the car and headed over to the rodeo office and paid my $100 entry fee. I had drawn #R6 Hugh’s Pet of Honeycutt Rodeo. At a different rodeo in Arizona a few weeks ago, a rider who managed to cover him scored an 85 and won the show; so, that makes him a pretty good bull. I talked with the stock contractor to find out which pen he was in and went to take a look. He was a white bull with a brown overtone; what cowboys call “yellow.”

The grand opening went out on time and kicked off the rodeo. I hadn’t even noticed that the stands had filled. Without a large number of entries, the rodeo progressed through the events pretty quick.

As the barrel racing began, the bulls were loaded into the chutes. When I saw Hugh’s Pet in the pen, he was standing next to a huge bull and didn’t look so big himself, but as I eyed him in the chute before me I realized he was a pretty good size after all. All the chutes delivered left. I was to ninth out of ten, and by my turn only one cowboy had managed to ride for the full eight seconds. I asked a rider near by to film as I got set to go.

High Quality (MWV 3.12MB)

His firs jump out of the chutes was low, followed by continuous bucking as he circled widely to the right. On his fifth jump he cornered right and continued to spin in that direction. I was bucked off around this time and landed on my neck, getting knocked out and motionless for a moment. Fortunately, I wasn’t stepped on or gored by the bull, but how I got out of the arena I still don’t know. When I came too I was walking around behind the chutes with a lemonade in hand. I noticed that my rope, vest, chaps and other gear had been placed near my bag, so I must have done it while blacked out. I recall two cowboys striking up a conversation with me, but was still in a cloud at this point and don’t recall much. I sat down in a chair, took off my spurs, changed cloths, put my stuff away, and rested a bit. I suddenly noticed how hungry I was and walked over to where the towns volunteers had set up a barbecue. Occasionally riders are given such perks on the rodeo trail; this must have been where I got the lemonade earlier as well. The local barbecue meister kept up a steady conversation with me as I stuffed my face. “Don’t leave hungry” he kept saying, “or we’ll just have to feed you more!” With my stomach full, I felt reenergized, so I shook his hand and thanked him, then headed out to the parking lot.

As I walked to my car I saw a trailer with the door open, and I could see a cowboy and his girl lying together on the bed. As I past he yelled out from inside, “You okay?” I wasn’t, but I had a meal in my stomach and I was conscious. We got to talking about our next rodeos when his friend Kevin walked up and joined the conversation. It was just pointless cowboy banter so I will spare the reader here, but I will say that while the content itself was insignificant, it did give me a good insight into what kind of people these guys were.

Back to Phoenix and onto the seven o’ clock flight to Salt Lake City. By the time I landed it was almost ten. Just a day trip, as business folk might say. In Arizona you could get away with just a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops; not in Utah.

I reached into my gear bag for my jacket and put it on.

My next rodeo is on the 13th in California - unforgettable Oakdale.

Jin’ichiro Shibahara


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