Hat-whooping contests and brand-spanking-new chaps. Man, those were high times.
I’ve been retired from bareback riding for a couple years now, but seeing this photo brings back memories. It’s from the 2010 Red Bluff Round-Up in California, the spring after my first National Rodeo Finals. The horse was Blackhawk Down of Flying U Rodeo Company. I don’t think it was his first trip to town, but I know it was pretty early in his career, and he was one of their best colts from the year before. At least twice before my ride, Reno Rosser from Flying U told me not to screw him up.
The world stops when the Round-Up is in town. There are people everywhere. The rodeo is huge. There are often twenty-five bareback riders and nine bucking chutes. So they’re loading broncs while rides are going on. The horses are all neighing. People are hollering things like, “That’s mine!” and “Get your stuff on him!” It’s a little hectic. They usually load your horse with three or four ahead of you and let you know when there’s one ahead of you. When they tell you there’s just one, it’s go time. You’ve got to get on the horse, get your hand in the riggin’ and get ready to nod.
Those chaps were brand-spanking new. I can be kind of loud, so my chaps were that way, too. I had another pair that were green and white. You have to have a little pop and flash.
If it’s a sunny afternoon, you want to ride with your sunglasses on. But if you get your head whipped back, it doesn’t matter how good your sunglasses are, they’re going to fly off your face. Most guys don’t ride in cheap Dollar Store sunglasses. So we rigged up some tape to the ends of the sunglasses and tied them like shoe strings behind our head.
Taos Muncy and I got into a hat-whooping contest the night before and completely ruined both of our brand new straws. So when we got to Red Bluff, I didn’t have a hat. It’s usually hot at Red Bluff. You normally wouldn’t wear a black hat. That hat was in the van from the winter run. Steven Peebles and I were rodeoing together at the time. He shoved it at me and told me to use it, never mind the fact it fit over my ears like a five-gallon bucket. I folded the hat band and stuck a bunch of tape in there, and it still didn’t fit me. When the horse reared up out of the chute, that hat just lifted up and was gone.
Like I said, the rodeo was hectic. Steven had already ridden and was behind the chutes with me. My horse got loaded in the chute.
“There’s two ahead of you,” the chute boss hollered.
“I don’t even have my riggin’ on yet!” I hollered back.
“Whatever. You got two ahead of you.”
Steven and Danny Webb threw my riggin’ on this horse and pulled it. Well, when they pulled it, the riggin’ got real crooked and off to the side. I was taping up my glove.
“That’s not gonna work,” I said.
“You’re up,” the chute boss yelled.
I looked at Steven like, What do I do with this?!
He just smiled and said, “Uh, lean to the left.”
So I crawled down in the chute and went with it. The ride itself was kind of a blur, but I marked somewhere in the high eighties—eighty-six or eighty-seven, maybe. Like I said, the ride was a blur.
I finished second or third, so I guess leaning to the left worked.
I don’t miss the leaving home part of rodeoing. I miss the people part. I felt like I lost five-hundred friends when I quit traveling.