My Best Mormon Life

A Mormon opens up about his life to this point.

Continued from page 1

The drive to Cheyenne passed as expected for a long run. We rolled into the arena and parked between pickup trucks, and I stepped out and did the same thing I always did at every rodeo. I found a bathroom to relieve myself. Even though I didn’t compete I was nervous the entire time I sat in the stands up until the announcer called Jeremy or Josh’s name, and then through their attempt at eight seconds of glory. After a sturdy pee, right away I started asking God to bless them with safety, which intensified as I repeated the request faster and faster the closer it got to their rides.

The biggest show on earth was no different. Josh headed toward the chutes and after finding the bathroom I walked around the vendors with concentrated prayers keenly distracted by the staffs of the Jack Daniels and Copenhagen booths, manned by tightly fitted, hardly-clad young women. I did some of my greatest pondering at those moments whether at booths or walking around bleachers at what seemed like every rodeo, asking myself what a brave, tough, handsome cowboy had that I didn’t.

The first section of the bulls rolled around and Josh’s bull was in one of the first chutes. The grandstands were as tall and long as any rodeo’s that I’d seen, and they were packed. Josh had drawn a bucker and it flung him high into the air shortly after it kicked out of the chute. He wasn’t hurt as he stumbled out of the arena. I left my seat and loped around the chutes until he appeared a few minutes later.

—Had a good one, he said smiling and shaking his head.

—He bucked.

—Let’s go.

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I didn’t say anything because you don’t tell a bull rider who just bucked off a ton of twirling fury that you looked good while you were on it, but it was just that last split second before you bucked off you looked like a rag doll, or keep positive there, cowboy, you’ll have better luck next time, or not even Don Gay rode ’em all. Sometimes being there was just enough, but then sometimes being there was just the bare minimum.

I entered my senior year of high school fit and hungry for my final year of wrestling. I had committed myself to compete close to my weight of 165 lbs. at the start of the season. For once, I had some muscle and aimed to make the most of it and was going to manage my weight reasonably, competing at the 152 lb. class. Josh came to the preseason practices. After passing on his rodeo scholarship in Oklahoma, he had a few free months before his Mormon mission. He wrestled growing up but had played basketball in junior high and high school. He came to practice to roll around for exercise, and he knew I had been working hard in the offseason, so he encouraged me to fight my best. The first tournament approached, and coach called for the first wrestle-offs of the season to determine the varsity team. A sophomore challenged me for the 152 lb. spot and, to my surprise, took me down early in the match and, to my frustration, prevented me from scoring the rest of it, beating me.

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