Beaten by Livestock

September 24, 2007
By Mackenzie Stewart, Henderson, NV

"Beaten by Livestock"

Mutton Busting. Most of you are thinking, "Extremely illegal beastiality or fairly traumatic rodeo event". The latter would be right. Growing up in Arizona rodeo country, I was familiar with the event that came with the traveling rodeos. Bull riding, dressing a calf, hog-tying a calf, and mutton busting. Imagine the manly sport of bull riding. One man is roped onto a fat, snarling, bucking bull and is let loose into the dusty, hot outdoor arena. The goal is to hold on for eight seconds. That may not seem like a difficult thing to do, but try it someday. Mutton busting is like bull riding; however, instead of bulls you ride sheep. In place of manly men riding these sheep (which would look ridiculous) children between six and ten years old get on the little sheep and hang on for eight seconds.
It took me all of five minutes to say yes to the idea of riding a sheep. Being seven years old, my decision-making ability was very limited. That didn't bother me one bit. I figured, "Hey, I'm seven. I can ride a sheep just as well as the other kids." Little did I know, I was in for a world of pain and embarrassment.
My nerves were rattling the day of the rodeo. What was I thinking? I hated being in front of large crowds. I didn't like being dirty or even near dirt. I loathed trying new things. I didn't even like sheep. They were dirty and smelled like, well, sheep. Yet there I was, getting ready to ride one for eight seconds in front of hundreds of people. I wanted to run out of the arena and hide in the stifling hot car until it was over. By the time the idea of running away occurred to me, I was lifted like livestock away from my mother by a rodeo handler and placed atop a platform.
The next ten minutes seemed like the longest and yet the shortest ten minutes I had ever waited in my life. Finally, I was at the front of the line looking down on what was my sheep. It looked gigantic. I froze. Mutton busting was not the sport for me. I wanted down, and I wanted down right then. Just as I turned around to voice my fears, the rough-handed man looked square at me and asked, "You ready?" in a gruff, harsh voice. I didn't have much choice in the matter.
My feet went into the cramped pen first. I felt the soles of my shoes touch the dirt enclosed by the rusted blue pen under the sheep. The pen smelled musty and thick. Once I was balanced above the sheep, the handler let go and told me to lean forward. I did as the callous man told me to. With a helmet two sizes too big for my head block my view of anything, I grabbed handfuls of the coarse sheep's wool full of dirt and leaves. I could feel the little animal's heart beating faster than mine. I realized that this poor animal was more frightened than me. There was no time to commiserate with the beast. Once I had a firm grip, a loud, deafening buzzer ran out, that blue, rusty pen opened and the sheep took off stumbling.
The death grip I had had on the poor thing did not work at all. Withing three seconds of being out of the gate, I had bounced off the sheep and found myself face first in the crusty, sun baked eart. The sheep, in all of it's "sheep-y brilliance", thought this was its time to exact revenge, by stomping on my back before running off to the other end of the arena. There I laid, trampled, helmet askew, covered in dirt and sheep, with hot tears streaming down my face. I looked behind me to see my mother running to comfort me in my embarrassment. "Stand up and show them you're okay," she told me as she wiped the dirty tears off my face. I stood up, disheveled and traumatized, waved me little hand, and walked out with my mother.
Sadly, I didn't win anything. Not even the respect of the worn down rodeo animals. I did find a new admiration for those little puffs of wool. My plan from that day on was to never ride or even go near another sheep. No sheep have trampled me since, which gives me hope that my plan is working splendidly.

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