By Eric Butler
The announcer at the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association Finals bellowed to the crowd that they were at the “world’s most dangerous playground” to start Wednesday night’s festivities.
While that may or may not be true, there’s a reason Carmen Roberts showed up at the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena with a string of rosary beads in her hands.
Her son, Brady, 8, was one of 10 competitors in the calf riding event.
While calf riding is somewhat akin to bull riding practiced by full-grown cowboys, the entrants — all 8 years old or under — are barely three feet off the ground if they should be thrown.
Plus, the calves in this event generally don’t buck, they run straight ahead.
Still, the first rider of the night was sent head-over-heels and was kicked by a stray foot from the fleeing animal while laying on the ground. It’s just that kind of an incident that keeps moms like Roberts worried.
“He’s wanted to do this since he was two, but, as you can see, I hold my rosary,” said Roberts, clutching her small red beads before her son rode. “He told me he was going to be a bullrider, so here we are.
“Him getting hurt worries me. But I’m happy for him, because he loves it so much.”
Brady’s run ended quickly when his calf tossed him after approximately two seconds.
To qualify for a score from the judges, the calf riders have to stay on the animal for six seconds.
“Just the adrenaline rush I get,” said Brady Roberts, explaining why he liked the calf riding event. “I’m not as nervous when they let me go as I am when I’m in the chutes.”
“He’s only ridden eight times and we didn’t even think he’d be here,” said Dale Roberts, the boy’s father. “The very last calf he rode, he covered to qualify for the finals. So, he was excited.”
The Roberts hail from Seminole, Texas.
Jacob Gudgell of Logan recorded the high score of the night with a 56.
“This is my first year. It’s pretty fun,” Gudgell said. “I’ve got stepped on before. That’s pretty bad, but not as bad as when you’re not wearing a vest.”
The young rider said he always wears a vest for protection when he rides calves. Gudgell was also one of the entrants who did wear a cowboy hat on this night.
Unlike Roberts, however, Gudgell doesn’t aspire to be a bullrider. At least, not right now.
“Nah, that’s pretty rough,” Gudgell added. “I just want to do bronc riding.”