It's a surprisingly warm February day in Buckeye, Arizona. I'm here for the Arizona Jr. Rodeo Association Rodeo (AJRA), and supporting one of it's participants.
12-year old Corbin Magley is a relative newcomer to rodeoing but has been around horses for much of his life.
What's unique about Corbin? Well, like his two other brothers and a sister too, much of their free time is spent outdoors training for a rodeo or riding horses.
Corbin and his family live on a nice 5-acre spread in a rural area of Phoenix near the White Tank Mountain Preserve, it's close to the city, but far enough away to have that country feel.
His parents encourage all the kids to spend time outdoors, they don't spend a lot of time watching television or playing video games. Corbin and his siblings aren't your average kids, they love being outside and watch over each other with the utmost care and strive to help each other, believe it or not, it's genuine. Sure, they may squabble once in a while, but that it is rare and often short-lived.
These kids live a structured life, homework and chores must be completed if they want any free time to spend outdoors. They often ride horseback on one of the many trails in the area they have blazed, much like a kid riding a bike in the neighborhood. Last year, Corbin asked his parents about riding bulls and that he would like to give it a try. His parents did some research and enrolled him with AJRA and then it was off to the races for Corbin. Learning to rope or ride bulls is a hands-on experience, one can't just watch a YouTube video and say "okay, got it."
|Corbin on a bull|
It's an art that takes years to master, countless hours of training and dedication are required. It's been less than a year and Corbin has already attended a hand full of rodeo events, gaining experience and a few bumps and bruises along the way.
This past weekend was Corbin's first event of the year and his first event since suffering an injury that had him sidelined for a spell.
|Corbin on a ride|
Last Thanksgiving, Corbin was outside playing with his brothers and sister and somehow fell and broke his collar bone, it's ironic that he could be tossed around by a bull like a rag doll and get back up and do it again, yet, sustain a freak injury while playing around with his brothers and sister. I have to say, the kid is tough, he was in pain when it happened but did little complaining about it. That's when I knew for sure that this kid is built to ride bulls, you see Corbin was more upset that he was going to miss the rodeo that weekend and felt bad because his parents prepared for a rodeo that weekend.
I have been to a couple of Corbin's rodeo events, and I gotta say it is a blast watching these young kids rodeo. The days are long, there is poop everywhere, flies try to attack any food you bring out, bees are everywhere (I think one looked at me and pointed his stinger me), but most of all it's just simply a helluva lot of fun and plain goodness. It could be hours between events, depending on what events you are competing in. For Corbin, the down time is spent grabbing a bite to eat, maybe spending time roping and preparing for his next event.
|Corbin (L) working with brother Wesley|
I watched Corbin practice roping between events with his younger brother Wesley, I could see the intense focus of the brothers and I know it's just a matter of time before Wesley gets involved in rodeo too. If you ever get a chance to attend a rodeo like this I highly recommend it, it will give you faith in tomorrow's youth. Some of these kids are really good, you can see the passion in their eyes before an event. The kids that are lucky enough to rodeo know they are privileged, none of them take it for granted.
|Sadie, a tragically hip dog belonging to the Mowbray family|
The time and money it cost to attend one of these events is not for the faint at heart, factor in the entrance fees, fuel, food, and preparation to name just a few things. When attending a rodeo event, it can run hundreds and hundreds of Washington's to do so. So why do these kids do it, why do the parents do it, why do they all sacrifice so much time and money? Well, the answer is simple, it's a family experience even for the family dog. It's an experience that has vanished for many of Americans, we live in a fast-paced world now and so many are out of touch with spending time together and just enjoying life.
|Sunset at the Buckeye Equestrian Center|
What I have noticed is the bond and friendships these young rodeoers have formed, they help and encourage each other, not by text, but in person believe it or not.The rodeo is just half the fun and as the day's events come to a close, it's now time to relax and hang out with your rodeo pals. Everybody is dirty and hungry, for the parents, it's time to grab a chair, have a beer and visit with some down to earth people before supper, perhaps witness a killer sunset.
|Corbin ready for breakaway roping|
At the end of the day, I notice and understand why the parents give up so much, and why these kids want to rodeo. The ear-to-ear smiles are a dead give away.
So there you have it, in a nutshell, these young men and women are tough, way more tough than me. I'm down for two days if I suffer a paper cut on my finger.
Simply said, I can easily see why they all say "this ain't my first rodeo."
For more information about the Arizona Jr. Rodeo Association, visit them on line at www.arizonajuniorrodeo.com.
Until next time, have a tragically hip day!
Ron Valderrama can be reached by email at: Tragicallyhipliving@gmail.com.