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Chasing The Dream

Written by Jin'ichiro Shibahara

2008 season

AUG 5, 2008 – Afton, WY: The Well
Lincoln County Fair Rodeo (PRCA)

East on I-80 and onto state highway 89 at a town called Evanston to head north.  While it’s technically a state highway, it runs north along Wyoming’s western border, snaking in and out of Wyoming into and out of Utah and Idaho along the way.  The road’s number changes every time it goes out of Wyoming, but reverts back to 89 once it comes back into the Equality State, finally combining with and becoming US-89.  US-89 winds through a few national forests, and if you stayed on the road past Afton, it would take you to Jackson city which is the gateway to the famed Grand Teton National Park.

I had been to Afton a few years back for a PBR events held here, and I remembered her green chutes well.  The town is draped by mountains on all sides, and I don’t know if they chose that color intentionally to match the surroundings, but whether intentional or not it matched with the scene perfectly.  Unfortunately, the mountains were covered in thick rain clouds on this day, and you couldn’t make out the summits.  I had also forgotten that they called the state “Windy Wyoming” for a reason, and as the cold winds blasted my body, I cursed myself for having come to Wyoming dressed as I would be in Utah and without a jacket.

Paying my $120 entry fee at the office, I find I have drawn Conspiracy of Burns Rodeo.  The rodeo announcer I talked to told me he was only three, but a good bull.  After that, he followed with the question I get at every rodeo I go to; “How do you pronounce your name?”  Every announcer give it their best shot, but most of them end up butchering it anyway.  I tell them I don’t mind if they butcher it, so long as they also tell the crowd that I’m from Japan.

The bull was right behind the chutes and didn’t take long to find.  I talked with one of the Burns guys who told me he comes out and spins to the left.  He was sure to add “He’s a good bull” so I was beginning to think I had drawn a decent bull.  Just as I went back to the chutes to begin my preparations, it started to rain.  With no roof over the chutes I couldn’t risk taking my rope out for long and getting it soaked, so I just adjusted it to fit Conspiracy’s body, then ran to my car as the wind continued to blow the rain sideways.

The opening ceremony got underway despite the precipitation, followed by the bareback riding.  I stayed in my car, keeping dry and waiting for the rain to lighten up.  As the rain let up a bit, I stepped out of the car to do my stretches.  My heart rate summarily increases and my body warms up, but I don’t want to do to much then cool down, so as the rain picked up again, I got back into my car.  As the sun set the rain stopped, showing a colorful sunset between the clouds that remained.  The wind still blew, but at least there was no rain.  As I walked back to the chutes, a brilliant rainbow bridged the mountains to the east of the town.  The saddle bronc riding had just started.  With the rodeo office above the chutes, it offered a small but dry place for me and a few more of the bull riders to work on our ropes.  It was still early, but I went ahead and put on my vest and chaps as well.  Not wanting to cool down too much, I kept moving around as much as I could.

Conspiracy got loaded into a left hand delivery facing right.  As I finished wrapping my rope around him, the chute boss came by to inform me I was going out sixth.

Of the five before me, only two made the whistle.  I got up on my rope and nodded my head, but the gateman must have missed the signal because the chute stayed closed.  Meanwhile the bull had turned his head away from the arena, so I start slapping his neck, trying to get him to look in the direction he would be exiting, without much success.  As I’m doing this I hear one guy say to the other, “Did he nod earlier?” “Nah, I couldn’t tell” says the other.  The bull shook his rear end a few times, then finally stood up straight.  Pointing my tows down and digging my spurs into the bull’s sides, I shook my head in a greatly exaggerated manner so there was no doubt.

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Out we went with a huge jump to the front, then he immediately cornered to the left.  As he did so, my body listed to the left, and as he continued to spin to the left just as the Burns guy had told me, I felt my right foot pop out yet again, leaving me to fall to the left.  Down I went into the worst place for a rider to go; into “the Well.”  My falling didn’t stop his spinning, and on every rotation his hind legs come dangerously close to making impact with my head.  I roll up into a ball right below this spinning behemoth, desperately searching for a way out.  After being stepped on and rolled around, the bullfighters finally manage to get the bulls attention and pull him away, saving my life in the process.

Going back to the chutes, I stared at the moon.  Travis, whom I had run into several times over the last month came up to see if I was alright.  Shaken but in no pain, I responded that I was.

The wind had died and as I packed my things Travis and I traded numbers.  Throwing my things in the car, I went back to grab a subway sandwich the rodeo committee had prepared for the riders.  Having filled the rumbly in my tumbly, I got back in my car and headed out of the arena.

At the gas station in town one of the bullfighters from earlier was also getting gas, so made sure to thank him again before getting back on the road.  I decided to just take US-89 all the way south, a decision which almost caused me to have a head-on collision with a deer standing in the middle of the road.  They didn’t call it deer country for nothing, for this was only the first of several near misses I would have with deer as I winded my way down the state.  Of course, they were here first, so maybe it was they who almost had a head-on collision with a car as it drove down their land.

I prayed that they didn’t end up one of the corpses of wild animals that litter the shoulder of these highways.

I finally reached home as the clock marked half past two in the morning.

Jin’ichiro Shibahara

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