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Chasing The Dream

Written by Jin'ichiro Shibahara

2008 season

AUG 1, 2008 – Grace, ID: The Shirt
Caribou County Fair & Rodeo (PRCA)

Running down a road in Idaho that cut through pastures as far as the eye can see, the town finally showed itself on the horizon after what seemed an eternity of running through a sea of green.

The highway I was on turned into the town’s main street at the edge of town, but traffic, both on wheels and foot, was light on Main Street.  Drive about a block and turn right and you’re at the town’s rodeo arena.  The parking lot was packed to the brims by the time I got there, which is not to say it was much of a parking lot to begin with, but that too helped to give it that humble character of a down home country town.

A three hour drive in my air condition and cruise control-less Prelude was far from comfortable, but having been tuned a bit for an inspection last week at least helped her engine run smooth.

The contestant’s parking lot was full also, and with barrel racer trailers taking up space here, there and everywhere, it took some time to find a spot for my tuned up jalopy.  As luck would have it, the open spot I found happened to be in front of the one occupied by the rodeo’s princess.  She was hurriedly applying her makeup using the rearview mirror as her mom sorted through some of their bags, and the scene was reminiscent of Japanese woman fixing their faces on the packed trains of Tokyo, completely oblivious to the thousands of other commuters packed in around them like so many sardines.

After checking in at the office and paying my $120, I found that there were only four guys entered in the bull riding that day.  As luck would have it, one of them injured his leg and turned out, so in actuality there were only three riding.

I had drawn D&H Cattle Company’s Savage Shaker, who’s name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t remember from where.  But being that it was D&H doing the contracting, I knew he wouldn’t be a dink.

After going through my usual preparations, I walked around the arena hoping to grab a few shots.  There was a carnival at the front of the arena, and screams and shouts of joy could be heard emanating from the contraptions where it seemed most of the town had come to enjoy.

The other roughstock events were short on contestants as well, and the rodeo progressed a bit faster than normal.  About half way through the barrel racing Savage Shaker got loaded into a chute on the left side.  I had assumed he would be loaded into the right, so I was a bit perturbed at this unexpected twist of events.  Moving over to the other side, I climbed up into the chute and wrapped my rope around the bull.  As I did so, something inside of me shouted “This ain’t no ordinary bull!”  Something about his structure, or maybe it was his muscles, whatever it was it felt unusual.

Of the three riding that day, I was told I would go first.  The D&H fellow who climbed up the chute to tighten the bull’s flank strap had a nice shiny buckle on his belt engraved with the words “PBR World Champion Bull” on it.

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“You better stay forward.  Stay forward of your rope or you don’t have a prayer.”  Having told my self this, I nodded my head and exited.

Saved Shaker came out and immediately spun to the left.  His speed and agility which allowed him to move so effortlessly in such a small space overwhelmed me.  He twisted his body, kicking his hind legs up to the left from the right.  Before I knew what was what, I was slammed to the ground on my back, and the bull that still spun began to sheer the left sleeve off of my shirt each time he stepped down with his hind feet.  One of the bullfighters was shielding me from the bull, but all I could do was lay there and stare at the feet of the bull that continued to spin and cut through the air.  After a mere microseconds that felt like hours, I did the only thing I was able; I crawled through the bullfighter’s legs and hid in the corner of the chute.  As I crouched in the relative safety of the chute, the scene of those legs, powerfully kicking into the air and spinning round above me kept replaying over and over in my head.  I thanked the bullfighter who brought me my rope and smiled an uneasy smile.

I’ve been bucked off more than a few times before, but this one was different.  To have been given the opportunity to mount such an exceptional bull, at a small rodeo such as this one nonetheless, was nothing short of a pleasure.  When I got home, I punched the bull’s name into the ‘puter and found he was a regular on the PBR’s Build Ford Tough Series, and have bucked off some of the best in the sport along the way.  Those who managed to make the whistle were all awarded scores in the 90s.

Like a star struck child, I wished a silent wish that someday I would be able to ride bulls like that.

Jin’ichiro Shibahara

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