It makes sense to pray before you try to ride a wild animal and that’s what members of the Texas Christian Junior Bull Riders do.
A concept that appears to be enjoying the benefit of good timing, the TCJBR has garnered more than 200 members statewide since an Odessa couple founded it in 2012.
Some of the animals are wilder than others, ranging from sheep to calves for the youngsters and steers and bulls for the bigger cowboys, but one of the organization’s consistencies is acknowledging the presence of God and asking for his protection.
State Director DeeDee Dunda of Odessa, who started the TCJBR with her husband Gary, said overly demonstrative parents are strongly discouraged. “We gave a parent a warning in the southeast region and then banned her for two years,” Dunda said.
“That’s one thing we’re not afraid to do. We keep getting more members each year because we put God first. All the kids get prizes up to saddles, chaps, jackets, buckles, rigging bags, bikes, goodie bags and silver cross necklaces.”
The entry fees are divided among the tophands.
Dunda said the National Anthem is sung and a five-minute sermon given before the rodeos, which are usually held at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturdays. “It’s a family atmosphere that is all about the kids,” she said.
“Christian music is played during the events.”
Contestants from ages 3 through 19 ride sheep in the “mutton bustin” events and progress through calves, steers and bulls with Andrews producer JoJo Lemond, a nationally ranked professional team roper, providing the stock.
Not many girls participate, but there are usually some at each rodeo. Annual memberships are available for $150 on the group’s website at tcjbr.com.
Those who ride in at least 10 rodeos are eligible for the state finals in October — the date hadn’t been set — in Andrews and the national finals Nov. 13-16 in Ignacio in southwestern Colorado.
The next area rodeo will be held May 18 at the Outback Arena at Ector County Coliseum with an all-region competition slated May 19 in Marion in Southeast Texas. Others will be June 22 in Odessa, June 27 at Whitney in East Texas and Aug. 17, Sept. 7 and Sept. 28 at the Ward County Fairgrounds in Monahans.
West Region Director Tammy Cline Rankin of Wink said Cowboys for Christ, Cowkids for Christ and Pastor Buzz Busby of Panhandle, east of Amarillo, have been supportive.
“Our motto is ‘First Pray, Then Ride,’” Rankin said. “A lot of times, kids will be praying with other kids behind the chutes. You’ll walk by and see a couple of them kneel down.
“It’s a wonderful organization. We have some girls compete, especially in the mutton busting. It’s a family event. The parents and grandparents help out. One person can’t put a rodeo on. It takes a bunch.”
At a recent rodeo, she said, there were 42 riders with 26 mutton busters and “two or three” girls, one who rode a calf.
“We bring them along spiritually,” Rankin said. “We talk about what they’re going through in everyday life. Each one can come up if they want a prayer. That’s what we are about.”
Brycen “Bubba” Galindo of Odessa is a 6-year-old sheep and calf rider who likes the animals, has fun and enjoys learning about God. “I like to see my rodeo friends and try to win money and buckles,” Bubba said.
“My favorite thing is when the older boys help me and give me tips on how to stay on.”
Chuy Villa, 12, of Odessa is a junior steer rider. “TCJBR allows me to do what I love, which is bull riding,” Chuy said.
“I’ve been riding since I was 4 years old. We pray together before each rodeo and get to make friends with other kids who love bull riding. Pray first, then ride. That’s what we have learned.”
Lane Smith of Snyder is an 11-year-old junior steer rider. “I enjoy hanging out with my rodeo buddies,” Lane said.
“Riding bulls is fun, but it’s awesome when we all pray together. We pray before we ride and pray for our buddies if they get hurt. My mom and I pray before I ride. We have a lot of fun.”