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Chasing The Dream

Written by Jin'ichiro Shibahara

2008 season

JUL 17, 2008 – Salinas, CA: The Lineup
California Rodeo Salinas (PRCA)


Two days before the show, I was heading west on I-80 to see a photographer I knew in San Jose.  But two days prior to leaving, my old Prelude up and died.  I thought it might be an electrical problem associated with the battery, but it turns out my alternator was shot.  I went out and got a new one, then spent all day Monday fixing it with the help of my host dad, who happens to have experience working as a mechanic.  The car was running great as a result, but with 758 miles to travel, I decided to make it a two day trip.

I-80 going through Nevada is nothing but dry desert.  Not necessarily the rolling hills of sand kind of desert, but one spattered with dried trees and brush.  As you get closer to Reno, known as the “biggest little town” you begin to see hills and valleys, as Reno is situated up in the mountains.  After Reno the road wines and turns through what remains of Nevada, and on into California.  I decided this was a good place to stop and parked my car in the parking lot of a casino just outside of Reno.  Sleep came easy, as I am used to sleeping in the car by now.

The next morning the temperature was just low enough to be uncomfortable for someone like me in a T-shirt and shorts.  Warming m body with coffee and a muffin I started up the car and headed down the mountain.  Past Sacramento and just close enough to the cost to get a glimpse of San Francisco Bay.  Just a little further south and you are in San Jose.

San Jose: the center of Silicon Valley.  Of course, I didn’t even know where the so-called Silicon Valley was until I got there…  I was given another surprise when I got to the meeting spot; there before me was a Kinokunia (a major Japanese book retailer) and a Japanese supermarket, Mitsuwa.  I hadn’t seen that many Japanese magazines in one place in a long time.  Definitely not a scene you would find in Utah.

I decided to get a little more sleep until the photographer got there.  It was a little past noon when they finally called, and I unhesitantly collapsed the couch, which was to be my bed for the next few days.  I must say, it was much more comfortable than a car seat.

The day of the show I ran about an hour to work out any kinks in my muscles.  It was only an hour from San Jose to Salinas, and the show didn’t start until six, but I decided to play it safe and headed out just before three.

The place was not what you would call a small arena.  I tried to find the office to check in but it took a while of walking here and there before I found the small room that was tucked in under the VIP seats.  $345 entry: not cheap.  But then again, the money that could be won was ten times that which I was used to competing for, thanks to major national sponsors.  The bull I’d drawn was #504 Pale Face; a humped Brahma from the Corey and Horst Rodeo string.

There were over thirty riders entered that day, so the bull riding was split in two sections, with me riding in the first section just after the opening ceremony.  Needless to say I got ready early.

Clouds in the sky kept the temperature low and the winds blew cold off the ocean.  Many a cowboy wrapped himself in a jacket, despite it being the middle of July.

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Pale Face got loaded into a left hand delivery far enough back that I was the last one out in the first section.  The guy before me was Chance Smart, the number one ranked bull rider in the World, but despite his ranking, he hit the dirt before even getting started.  Rodeo is funny like that.  I asked some cowboy I didn’t know to film the ride for me and got down in the chute.  When I was ready to take my wrap, it was none other than multi-time PBR World Finals qualifier Tony Mendes who was standing there, ready to pull my rope for me.  He had ridden in a Challenger Tour event the day before, stayed the night to watch the rodeo, and was heading off to Tulsa the next day.

As the crew struggled to get the last bull out of the arena, Pale Face kept leaning on the chute and restlessly shaking his rear.  It was obvious he was as anxious to get out of there as I was.  I was told to wait a while, so I pulled my hand from the rope.  One of the pickup men roped the bull out in the arena and held him in place.  Tony pulled my rope as I wrapped my left hand on to the bull’s back.  I’m fully ready to go, but now Pale Face decides to stare at the ground instead of looking out into the arena where I need him to be looking.  I can’t get my right leg in between him and the chute either.  Somehow I forced my leg down, and just as I did he peeked out into the arena.  Exploding out of the chute, he kicked his hindquarters high at the same time, then immediately he cornered to the left and into a left hand spin.  But instead of leaning forward, my body is sucked backwards and stretched out, soon followed by my feet coming out of the bull’s sides.  The score card said 2.74 seconds.  Disgusting…

with Ash Cooper

Normally I would pack my stuff and head out, but this day was different.

After eating my fill at the tent set aside for contestants, I was walking around when I ran into the Australian PBR bull rider Brendon Clark and Levi Rosser, the calf roper and steer wrestler from California, both of whom I hadn’t seen in a while, and had a long overdue conversation with the two cowboys.  Behind the chutes I ran into Canadian rodeo clown Ash Cooper who I hadn’t seen in 4 or 5 years either.  Needless to say we had a lot to catch up on and we not short of conversational topics.  Two time PRCA World Champion Terry Don West was also there, and I had the honor of sharing a few words with him as well.  The 2005 World Champion Matt Austin, finally recovered from his injury in December of 2006, was there as well.

After all the events had concluded, the rodeo featured a round of freestyle bullfighting, with some bullfighters having traveled from Michigan, Ohio, Wyoming, and even Alabama, just for the chance to fight there that night.  After the bullfighting wrapped up, there was an autograph session scheduled in the arena, with all the bullfighters, Ash Cooper, Matt Austin and the two rodeo queens signing autographs for the fans.  Maybe it was because I was standing there talking to Ash, or maybe the announcer saw me talking with Matt, I still don’t know, but for some reason as they’re walking out, an announcement blared across the arena that, “We have a cowboy from Japan with us tonight, who rode in the bull riding!”  Before I could register what was happening, I was sitting next to Ash, signing autographs for the kids who had lined up.  It must have taken an hour for that line to finally end, but it was worth all the smiling faces.

with Trevor Brazile

The next day it was back to Salinas.  This time to get the complementary gift bag that is handed out to all the contestants.  I was a little late to get mine the day before, so I had come back the next day to see if I could get one.  From what I was told, the bag contained hats, T-shirts and other goodies.  After getting my bag, I headed back behind the chutes.  There stood Jesse Bail, Bill Etbauer, and Dave Samsel; the superstars of the rough stock events.  Matt Austin was riding in the first section this day, so there was no way I was going to miss this.

I walked around the arena for a different view.  It sure looks a lot different from the stands; you get a true appreciation for the size of the arena there.  Just as I past the roper’s chutes I noticed Trevor Brazile standing before me.  He had won the All Around title, the Tie-Down Roping title and the Steer Roping World title in the year previous, and was loudly being touted as the greatest cowboy of his time.

It was freezing cold, so I decided to make it a short day.  Salinas was both long and short for me.

Salinas features a final round between the top 12 riders on Sunday, but I had a rodeo in Salt Lake City on Monday (21st) so I headed out of San Jose on Saturday night for a 14 hour straight drive home.

Me, bed, fall, sleep…

Jin’ichiro Shibahara

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