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Chasing The Dream

Written by Jin'ichiro Shibahara

2008 season

July 4,2008 – Rupert, Idaho: Second Chance</p> <p>
Rupert PBR Classic Enterprise Rent-A-Car Tour (PBR)

It’d been a while since I had headed North on I-15. The mountains of the Wasatch Range line the route, sometimes nestling up to the road, other times pulling back as if content to watch over you from a distance. Switch onto I-84 and head northwest. At this point the mountains have given way to plains as far as the eye can see with nothing but rangeland and foothills in every direction. A dust cloud dances in the distance. Nothing in the way to stop the wind as it blows westward from the east. As I continue to drive on, I see in my side mirror that sand has blown up from the ground to far up into the sky like a giant curtain had been pulled shut behind me. Looking into my rear view I see that a part of the sand curtain had begun to spin.

“Tornado?!” I thought in fear.

If it was a tornado, stopping didn’t seem like the smart thing to do, so I kept on driving, throwing an occasional eye at the would be twister in the rearview as I went, but the spinner eventually turned to just a swirl and never managed into a full fledged tornado. An hour after passing the “Welcome to Idaho” sign, I arrived in Rupert.

As I had expected, it was a small town. Today was the 4th of July; every town in America was celebrating the birth of the nation. Part of Rupert’s celebration consisted of a mobile carnival, something that is quickly becoming rare these days, that the locals seemed to have been thoroughly enjoying. Although this was Idaho, it seemed like the preponderance of the people were Hispanic.

I headed off to the office to finish checking in and pay my $220 entry fee. I asked to see the stock sheet and noticed there were only 29 entered, most of whom were, like me, permit holders. They had told me on the phone that they expected 40 entries, but it looks like they didn’t get as many as they had hoped. This was the biggest weekend of the year in terms of rodeos and other bull riding events, with numerous PRCA rodeos and PBR events other than this one being held all around the country and as such, it was also the busiest weekend for rodeo cowboys like me. With so many large rodeos offering so much prize money, it’s difficult for little towns like this one with small prizes to fill all their slots.

The bull I had drawn was #765 Pop-A-Top owned by Brad Mead and Ty Joslin. The bull was co-owned by the two men, and Pop-A-Top was the only bull they had brought to the event. PBR minor league events like this one will often gather bulls from small contractors instead of contracting with major stock contracting companies. What it comes down to is that if the bull is good, they don’t care who owns it (it has to be properly registered, of course). If the bull IS good and it manages to gain a reputation, maybe it will be allowed to buck in the major leagues, so even though the two men only brought one bull, it would be safe to assume that it was their best bull. The bull looked calm but had a face typical of brahmas. Unlike rodeos, I didn’t have to wait long for my turn at bull ridings, and being that I was in the first section and the tenth to ride at that, I started my preparations early and made sure to stretch.

Unlike Lehi and Oakley, the event’s opening ceremony was pretty tame. Local cowgirls rode around the arena carrying the flags of sponsors, but they seemed inexperienced and not very used to being on horseback. After the cowgirls left, each rider was introduced one at a time, and lined up in the arena. There was fireworks and smoke as the riders came out, but there was more smoke than fire and it was hard to even see the riders. I got the feeling this was the first time these guys had done pyrotechnics, but they were all doing the best they could to please the local crowd.

I found Darrell was there as one of the fighters again.

“I didn’t even know you were here until they introduced you” says Darrell.

“I didn’t know you were here either! I thought you only fought in the big shows.”

“My wife had some business to take care of over here, so it was sort of incidental.”

Darrell normally fights in the Built Ford Tough Series, the major leagues of the PBR, and today he was wearing the uniform of those top fighters.

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Pop-A-Top got loaded into a right-hand delivery. I wrapped my rope around him loosely and waited my turn. Just as listed, my turn came tenth. Pop took one step out of the chute, leapt right and dropped; a nosedive is the best way to describe it. I felt my self being sucked against the bull, but my crotch hadn’t come away from my hand. It felt like he had jumped quite high, but his kick felt higher. I felt great up to this point; my free arm was up high, my spurs dug into the bull’s side and I squeezed his abdomen with my knees, keeping my self from being sucked forward by the force of his drop. But his hind legs kept rising and the next second he spun to right – fast! My free arm was up too high – as soon as he spun right I should have brought it forward, parallel to my body at a 45 degree angle, a motion called “wipe my hand” but, the momentum just carried my arm out to the outside, and my right leg came out. As my body rolled back, his rear-end came around and caught me in the air, launching me clear back and against the chutes where I landed hard on my back and struck the back of my head against the deck. I leapt up and ran into the nearest chute but couldn’t stand up straight and just fell in a heap. Darrell ran over to me and yelled, “Breath!” I ripped my helmet off and tried to breath in, but no air came in, and it took a while before I could breath normal again.

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29 rode that day and only five made the whistle. This was not a rodeo, it was the PBR, which means there’s a short go and ten men are slated to ride in the short go. Of course, the five who made the whistle will move on, but the other five are chosen at random from the other 24 that didn’t make it. All the riders know this, and all of them are waiting for the results of the draw with their spurs on. Then, the announcer began to read off the names.

“Looks like I have to say his name again. Let’s see if I can say it right this time…”

I could hardly believe it, but I had been chosen as the 8th rider for the short go. One of the riders who had made a successful ride in the long go had broken his leg in the process, so they chose six for the final round, and I was lucky enough to be one of the six chosen. I threw on my chaps and vest, grabbed my rope and helmet, and went to look for my bull, #407, but he’s not here – I finally realized he must have been loaded into the left hand deliveries and ran to the other side of the chutes to find him loaded and ready to go. My turn was close so I immediately climbed up into the chute and began wrapping my rope around my bull when the first rider went out, and as I adjusted the length of my rope the chute boss came by to tell me I was next. This bull was a bit smaller than the last one and though I realized he was probably a left turn back bull, too late; he was just too fast. He leapt forward out of the chute but immediately went to the left, by which time my body had been slid back, and though I followed to the left my chin had come up and my right spur came out before I knew it, and before I could do anything I was airborne; one spin is all it took.

I just couldn’t calm down… This was my second “second chance” I had got at a PBR event, yet I was unable to do anything with either of them… I watch footage from the long go and the short, and I think “I should have done this” or “I should have done that” but the problem is I didn’t do it THEN.

The event was over before I even knew who won. Kids had lined up at the end of the arena waiting to get autographs. I changed, put my gear away, and went to get a pen. The kids stare at me not as a guy who had fallen off in mere seconds, but as, and only as, a bull rider.

“Thanks for coming today.” I made sure to thank everyone of them.

One of the volunteer ladies came over and said, “We got a mountain of pizzas over there, so come get some!” I threw my gear in my car and headed over. In an almost deserted gym like building, I grabbed a slice from one of the boxes of a mountain of pizzas and took a bite. The table was lined with fruit, chips, chocolate and other food; bottled water too, which I appreciated. A few others had come in but conversation was scarce.

It was around 11 when I left the arena. 190 miles to home – the freeway awaits…

Jin’ichiro Shibahara

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