Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Mutton Busting This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
      Growing up in Arizona’s rodeo country, I was familiar with the events that come with 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 sound difficult, but try it someday. Mutton busting is like bull riding, but instead of bulls, they use sheep. And in place of the manly men (who would look ridiculous on a sheep), children between six and 10 years old try to 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 pretty limited. I figured, Hey, I can ride a sheep as well as the next kid. 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 crowds. I didn’t like getting dirty, or even being 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 hot car until it was over. By the time this idea occurred to me, it was too late. I was lifted away from my mother by a rodeo handler and placed atop a platform.

The next 10 minutes seemed like the longest and yet the shortest I had ever spent waiting in my life. Finally, I was at the front of the line looking down at 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 to voice my fears, the rough-handed man looked me square in the face and said in a gruff voice, “Ready?” I didn’t have much choice.

My feet went into the cramped pen first. I felt my shoes touch the dirt floor of the rusted blue pen. It smelled musty and thick. Once I was balanced on top of the sheep, the handler let go and told me to lean forward. I did as this man told me. With a helmet two sizes too big (that blocked my view), I grabbed handfuls of the sheep’s coarse wool that was full of dirt and leaves. I could feel the animal’s heart beating faster than mine. I realized that this poor sheep was even more frightened than I was. There was no time to commiserate with the beast though. A deafening buzzer suddenly blared, the pen opened, and the sheep took off stumbling.

The death grip I had on the poor thing didn’t work at all. Within three seconds, I had bounced off the sheep and found myself face down in the crusty, sun-baked earth. The sheep, in all of its sheepy brilliance, thought this was its time to exact revenge and stomped on my back before running to the other end of the arena. There I lay, trampled, helmet askew, covered in dirt and sheep stench, with tears streaming down my face. I looked behind me to see my mother running to comfort me. “Stand up and show them you’re okay,” she told me as she wiped the dirty tears from my face. I stood, disheveled and traumatized, waved my 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, though. My plan from that day on was to never ride or even go near another sheep. And no sheep have trampled me since, which gives me hope that my plan is working splendidly.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




Join the Discussion


This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

htrae22 said...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 8:07 pm:
The last sentence is great great job
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
BethaniThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jun. 7, 2010 at 1:37 pm:
I like it! Good job! Please check out some of my work. 
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Site Feedback