Friday, July 8, 2011

{My little mutton buster!}

Okay, admittedly, for someone who loves animals and animal welfare as much as I do, I shouldn't love the rodeo. But I do. It's nostalgic for me (Rob and my first's date was to the rodeo in Lexington, VA). But there is more to it than that. Watching those girls and their horses race around those barrels, seeing a cowboy jump from the back of a bronc to another, seeing those lassos fly out and catch a calf...there is just something so rustic and deeply American about the rodeo. I can't help it. I love the rodeo.

Last year, Squirrel saw the mutton bustin' at the rodeo and kept asking when it was her turn to ride a sheep. We told her maybe next year, and I'll be darned if that girl didn't remember. A few weeks away from the fourth, she started asking if she'd get to ride a sheep this year, so Daddy started practicing with her.

Rob already has the habit of giving the kids a "horse ride" to bed every night--he walks the long trail from the living room to their beds on his hands and knees after prayers. So when mutton bustin' came up, he decided he could add that to his repertoire--each night, the kids got on his back and bucked around until they went flying. He even trained Squirrel to lean forward and would take off at high speeds to see if he could toss her. (He even has what may turn out to be permanent rug burns to prove it!)

When the big day finally came, Squirrel was as excited as could be to go "Mustin' Button," as she calls it. So, off she went to the chutes at the start of the rodeo in her jeans and t-shirt, her bike helmet in one hand, and daddy's hand in the other. A few minutes later, the event began.

Let me insert here that although I have seen the Mutton Bustin' event on several occasions, this was my first time seeing it, knowing that my daughter, my precious 4 year old, would also be IN the event. I don't think the sheep had ever shot out of those chutes as fast as they did at this rodeo.

As the kids kept coming out, each one bigger than she, in their bonafide chaps, vests, and western hats, each shot out like a rocket and flew off those sheep at speeds fast enough to make a mother's heart stop beating. I thought, as one little cowboy got dumped by a sheep that proceeded to jump, literally, 8 feet in the air (!!!), "Oh my gosh...these kids have grown UP doing this and are flying off these sheep!" I tried calling Rob to get him to back out, but it was too late. I could see them in the chutes, loading up my sweet baby...

On the other side of the arena, I have since been told, Squirrel was all business. Rob tells me that when her sheep would bleat at her, she would look him squarely in the eye, point a finger and "Baa-aa" right back. She was the boss, ready to put to good use all that training. She was lowered onto that sheep, leaned forward, and the gate was opened.

If not for the video, I don't think I would remember what happened. All I knew is that Squirrel came careening out of the chute on a sheep that must have thought he was being chased by the devil himself. The crowd went wild, and I heard remarks like, "Look at her go!" and, "Oh my! She is so little!" The sheep steered her right into the loose herd where she finally made a dismount (graceful or not, I can't say, as I couldn't see). The rodeo clown ran to pick her up and lifted her for the crowd to see. My heart quit racing when I heard the announcer say, as he did after just about every ride in every event, "She's all right. She's just fine."

She was one of only three or four kids (out of 15) who managed to ride the whole eight seconds (though in mutton bustin' all the kids get scores), and she scored a 91, just one point below the buckeroo who took first (and apparently regularly rides a sheep named "Millie" at home). She was presented with a trophy half as tall as she is, a gift card to the local feed store, a one dollar bill, and a roll of smarties. When all this was presented to her, she, in typical Squirrel fashion, said, "Ooooh! CANDY!"

She spent most of the rest of the evening taking pictures of her trophy (nearly all the pictures in this thread are actually hers, since I could scarcely get the camera back from her).

And when I asked her if she wanted to do it again next year, she informed me, "No. I think I would like to race a giraffe at the next rodeo."

THOSE will be some good photos, and in spite of myself, that's one rodeo ride I'd love to see!



  1. Where is this video that you speak of!! I would LOVE to see Squirrel in action!!

    Missing you guys!!

  2. I don't see the rodeo at all as anti-animal welfare! Most ranchers I know have a deep respect for animals and all that they provide for humans. The rodeo is just sort of a showcase of that and some fun thrown in. =)

  3. Beth--I posted the video on I will send it to your facebook as well! :)

    BethM (funny that my two comments were both from Beths!): I pretty much feel the same way--that this *IS* what cowboys do, and the life they live, so I love to watch it! :)


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