Writer Stephanie Maher Palenque
Photographer Keri Meyers
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n a world filled with video games, iPhones and other electronics, there are three North Valley families who are raising boys in what may seem like an alternate universe: the world of rodeo competition.
Barely tall enough to see over the steers they regularly ride, these boys put fear aside and work through their anxiety each time they climb into the metal chute and mount the 1,800-pound steers they will cling to for as long as possible — in front of crowds of hundreds. Thus far in their relatively short careers, they have attracted the respect and admiration of many audiences. And if local resident Rob Tremp has his way, they will sell the short documentary he produced to a network for reality TV development or a full-feature documentary based on three of these local “Young Bucks.”
Many believe that more than promoting bull riding and the rodeo circuit, these boys are promoting a lifestyle that some say is all but dead: the lifestyle of the Old West. Ed Mullins, a “rodeo grandpa,” was quoted in the pilot episode of “Young Bucks” as saying, “Country is country. What it was in the ‘50s is still there today. You’re just common folk, putting your boots on, going to work and coming home to your family.”
Brandon Grimes, father of Logan, one of the “Young Bucks” in the short documentary, said, “This show isn’t about rodeo at all. It isn’t about technique. It isn’t about who stays on (the bull) the longest and it isn’t filled with arguing and drama. It’s about kids being raised right. It’s about kids respecting their elders and covering hearts with cowboy hats when the national anthem plays. It’s about controlling emotions, falling down, getting back up and getting back on after it’s harder the next time — and learning from it.”
“It is more about teaching these kids to challenge themselves than it is to ride a bull and get a picture,” added Tremp, who is the executive producer of the project.
Challenge themselves, indeed — and sometimes those challenges result in serious injuries. Becky Mullins, mother of Avery, shared that the chances bull riders take every time they mount their steers are all “part of the business” that riders are well aware of as they grow up in this environment. In fact, a steer stepped on Avery during the taping of the pilot, and viewers get a taste of how these junior cowboys deal with and move forward from injuries and mishaps like these.
According to rodeo announcer Jake Jacobson, the herd is thinning when it comes to bull riders.
“We have to start getting bull riders that are coming up,” he said. “We are losing the younger generation. We are not getting the younger kids stepping up to the next level.”
Even if your child is not a future bull rider, families can enjoy watching bull riders practice every Thursday night at the Roadrunner Restaurant, Bar and Saloon in New River, where the documentary footage was taped. Bring the entire family out to enjoy the world of rodeo every Saturday night, along with food and entertainment. Whether it is your family’s first night of rodeo or whether you are longtime fans, you will enjoy the quality time together that is steeped in the tradition of the Old West. While you are there, you might see Logan Grimes, Avery Mullins and Brady Turgeon, the three “Young Bucks” who are poised to make a splash, not only in the world of rodeo, but also in the world of reality TV and documentaries.
Get to know them before the rest of the world does!
Logan Grimes, 9, Anthem
Logan attends Diamond Canyon Elementary School, where he is an honor roll student and is involved in as many sports as he has time for, including football, soccer and baseball. Rodeo is always in the background; Logan has been riding in local rodeos since his first mutton busting event at the age of 5. What his mother, Julie, thought was a one-time sheep ride on a Friday night in Cave Creek has evolved into something much more.
Logan worked his way up through the ranks, starting with sheep riding. The Roadrunner in New River offered an advanced sheep riding class where instead of lying down on the sheep, kids sit up with their hand in the rope, just like on a bull. This is where Logan won his first buckle in a six-week series. Advanced sheep riding is intended to prepare the kids who want to ride calves and steers in the future. From advanced sheep riding, Logan moved to calf riding, where he was lucky enough to be coached by some of the best talent in the area. Currently, Logan is entering the world of steer riding and working on his technique to compete in the Arizona Junior Rodeo Association (AJRA) with Brady and Avery this year.
Logan has a horse, “Cobra,” that he rides every chance he gets and uses to practice some of his bull riding techniques.
“There are important lessons from both team and individual sports that we believe build the character of an outstanding child,” said Logan’s father, Brandon. “Team sports obviously help kids learn to work together and succeed as a group. Everyone is a winner and everyone gets a trophy in most cases, regardless of performance.
“Individual sports like bull riding put the pressure to succeed on kids directly. It’s just you, no one else. How have you prepared? Did you learn your lesson from the last time? Are your emotions in check? What are you going to do different tonight as a crowd of hundreds of people watch you compete? In these moments in the rodeo arena, I believe leadership qualities and character are born into these young boys.”
It is clear that Logan is building a lot of character, as well as time management skills. According to his parents, on most Thursday nights when Logan is taking a couple practice rides, he has already gone to school, done his homework and attended football practice. He finishes off his day climbing into a chute and riding a steer.
“He’s an example that you don’t have to be raised on a farm to do this,” said Brandon. “You can be a regular everyday kid and do this stuff right in your own backyard.”
Avery Mullins, 10, Desert Hills
Avery, who is homeschooled, loves the fact that bull riding and his involvement in rodeos has given him an opportunity to meet people along the way who become family and friends. He also loves winning and the pressure that comes with healthy competition, as well as the “feeling” of riding bulls. Avery was destined to ride in rodeos, as his father is a professional rider, as well. Avery started small … very small. He rode sheep at age 2 and he rode his first calf at age 3. One might say riding is in his blood.
Professional competition also seems to run in the family. Avery believes it takes hard work, a lot of perfect practice, physical and mental strength and dedication to be a successful competitor. He plans on beating Ty Murray’s all-around record and becoming a world champion — and is well on his way. Avery is a three-year Arizona state champion in the AJRA and two-year champion in the junior division at the Mile High Professional Bull Riders (PBR) in Prescott. He holds numerous buckles and trophies at Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeos and open rodeos in mutton busting, calf and steer riding. Avery is a confident competitor who plans to go all the way.
Brady Turgeon, 12, New River
Brady, who attends Stepping Stones Academy, started as a mini buck of 5 when he rode sheep in rodeos. From there, he progressed to riding the family’s mechanical bull, “Muskogee.” He rode his first steer when he was 9, and the rest is history.
Brady loves the intensity and adrenaline he feels when he rides.
“You have to try 110 percent all the time and have fun,” he said.
Results show that he dedicates himself 110 percent all the time: he has won 12 buckles over the past two years of competing. During the 2014-15 AJRA season (his first year in the organization) he took second place for the year in steer riding. This season, he is sitting in third place and at press time has finals in two weeks in Prescott. He also rides in the Arizona Junior High/High School Rodeo Association and just finished first for the year in steer riding and won a saddle. He plans to be the No. 1 bull rider in the PBR.
Jennifer Riggs, Brady’s mom, admits that every time she sees Brady get on a bull, she is nervous. What parent wouldn’t be? However, she treasures the fact that she has seen him progress and his confidence level has skyrocketed. When asked how he embodies the spirit of rodeo, Brady said, “By always being a good sport no matter if I win or lose, and I help everyone around me any way I can.”