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

Chasing The Dream

Written by Jin'ichiro Shibahara

2008 season

JUL 10, 2008 – Nephi, UT: Resonation
Ute Stampede (PRCA)

Louie, his wife and two year old daughter along with his mother accompanied me to Nephi this day. I would be riding, and he would be fighting there.

I got to his house a little after five and spent some time playing with his daughter and watching “Tom & Jerry” on DVD. It took a little while for everyone to get ready, but we were able to get on the rode a little after six. With Louie’s daughter already hyper, we headed south on I-15 about an hour, into what you could call the cowboy country of Utah.

Check in at the office and pay my $120 entry fee. I had drawn #578 Charlie of Flying U. Nephi is an older rodeo and its arena has a stately sort of air about it, what with the VIP seating sticking out to just behind the bucking chutes and all. A fair had been set up around the arena and children’s voices filled the air. The rides weren’t state of the art like you would find in Japanese amusement parks, but the status of the rides made them more distinctly American.

Behind the chutes, the bareback riders had already finished their preparations. Being the first event, they always arrive the earliest. After having laid a few things out I went to find my bull. The back area was crammed with pens, and lots of pens meant lots of bulls. Flying U was scheduled to provide stock for the rodeo in Salt Lake a few days later, and since they operate out of California, they must have brought all the stock they needed for that one with them to this show.

There was one set of pens where the bulls hadn’t been fed, so I guessed this was the pen of bulls they were using that night and started looking for Charlie. A small kid helped me look for him. He says he likes bull riding but doesn’t want to be a bull rider. Dressed in his Wranglers, classy button down shirt, complete with the boots and hat, it wasn’t hard to tell he was being raised in the cowboy life. The kid found the red haired bull we were looking for. He was the biggest in that particular pen and looked maybe a bit heavy but otherwise good in stature. I thanked the boy and headed back to behind the chutes.

The bleachers were filled to the gills despite being a Thursday. The crowd was pumped and just as anxious as the crowds in Lehi and Oakley.

The opening ceremony was kicked off by soldiers back from the war in Iraq. After a parachutist with the Stars and Stripes attached to his legs floated down from the sky, the soldiers spread the flag out in one corner of the arena and the anthem played.

The rodeo proceeded quickly also. During one of the breaks in the action, a one armed cowboy on horseback with a whip in his hand drove a couple head of buffalo around the arena to the amusement and delight of the crowd. The buffalo were well trained to be sure, but the horse was also just as well trained, and the cowboy’s horsemanship was nothing short of amazing. It’s no wonder he has been chosen as the PRCA’s “Entertainer of the Year” for the last eight years running.

When all of the events save bull riding had been completed, the bulls, including mine, were all loaded into the chutes and the lights went out. Fireworks lit up the sky as the announcer signaled the beginning of the bull riding; and as they say, “the crowd went wild.”

As my turn drew close and I was in the chute heating up my rope, I heard someone behind me shout “Ganbare!” which is a Japanese term of encouragement. Needless to say, I didn’t turn around to find the person, but I could swear I heard it…

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Out we go. Charlie leapt out straight, and started kicking on the second jump. His forward lunge is low, but his rear kick is high. Perhaps the ground was soft, but I felt him sink each time he landed. On the fourth kick he cornered to the right and my body shifted left. Almost immediately, he threw his head left but kept moving right, and as my right foot became dislodged, so followed my left hand.

As I returned to the car, Tony, a guy who works for Flying U and was an old acquaintance came up to me and asked,

“Why’d you jump off?”

I wasn’t quite sure at this point why I had been bucked off, but even Louie’s mom who I saw later said,

“It looked like you jumped off. You looked so good coming out.”

I had to take a look at the video to understand what it was they were saying. After having seen it I have to agree, it does look like I jumped off intentionally.

The feel of the rope and the feel of it slipping from my hand as I desperately tried to keep my grip still resonated in my palm and fingers.

Yet again, I had failed to attain that allusive eight seconds.

Jin’ichiro Shibahara

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