Many moons ago, my mom was a rootin’, tootin’ would-have-been cowgirl growing up in Idaho. Would-have-been because, despite her all encompassing desire, her parents would not get her a horse. Despite living on acreage and being comfortably well off. And this is why, despite not living on much acreage and sometimes having financial difficulties because of it, my sisters and I did have horses. And it is because of my mother’s Idaho roots that we grew up watching rodeo, specifically bullriding.
This tradition has passed from my sister Becky to my nephew Jake. Jake has long loved watching bullriding. Becky records bullriding at night and then he’ll watch during the day, often the same rides over and over. His favorite rides feature “beeding.” What’s beeding, you might ask? Well, for some reason, Jake has a hard time putting the “L” in that word. It should be “bleeding.” “Is he beeding, Mama?” Jake will ask. A beeding cowboy is a for real cowboy, and Jake likes him some for real cowboys. Jake also likes to ride horses. His first pony Frosty (or Froh-Froh, in Jakenenese) took Jake on many rides around the farm. He rides with good balance and no fear, just like a for real cowboy. It is perhaps time I mentioned Jake is three, and won’t turn four until late October.
Yesterday, Jake and his parents, along with cousins and aunt, went to a local rodeo that featured Mutton Bustin’. Mutton Bustin’ being essentially bullriding for little kids, only on sheep. As Jake took in the spectacle he knew this was what he was made for. His cousins would be Mutton Bustin’, and, by God, so would Jake. The only thing was, the next youngest kid in the Mutton Bustin’ was six. But Jake had an all encompassing desire to be in the rodeo, much like his grandmother before him, and so my sister signed him up and got him a number.
As they waited in line Becky’s eyes grew wide at the sight of so many children crying, scared to bust some mutton. “Are you sure you want to do this, Jake?” she’d ask. “It’s okay, Mama,” Jake would reply. “It’s okay.” Children were leaving the arena bruised and bloody. “Jake, look at these kids,” Becky said, “see how they’re scraped up?” “That’s okay, Mama, that’s okay.” “You’re going to hit the ground hard, Jake!” “That’s okay, Mama, that’s okay.”
Finally, it was Jake’s turn. Jake’s dad, Brent, watched from the stands, where he had the opportunity to hear the announcer comment on Jake’s pending ride. “What kinda Mama puts their baby in the Mutton Bustin’?” the announcer asked. No doubt Brent attempted to look inconspicuous. Becky did not hear the announcer, as she was down in the belly of the beast, in the chutes and gates from which the rodeo operates. Jake got on his sheep in the for real bull riding chute. He was ready to go, and he was fearless.
Off Jake went, riding his sheep beautifully. He rode the sheep to the 8 second mark, earning a score of 65. He then continued to ride his sheep until it stopped. He stayed on the sheep until the ring assistants came over to him. He tried to stay on as they literally pried him off of his sheep. Jake was just getting started with his Mutton Bustin’. Ultimately, his score was good for a middle of the pack finish, placing him ahead of many children far older. While he didn’t win, being a three year old with a score of 65 was enough to turn him into a celebrity of sorts at the rodeo, with several strangers coming up to give him high-fives. Jake took his rock star turn as his due. After all, he’s always known he was a for real cowboy, it just took the rest of the world awhile to catch-up.