Meet WJ team member Jason Hutcheson from the state of Ohio in the United States. Not only is he a veteran of the United States Navy but has also competed professionally riding bulls as a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) and the Professional Bull Riders (PBR). Congratulations Jason on your 2013 spring gobbler!
Figure 1 “Photo” Jason Hutcheson and his son Jackson David (3) with his 2013 Spring Gobbler.
By Jason (The Wildman) Hutcheson
Someone once asked me what it took to put my life on the line weekend after weekend. I smiled as I told them it was what I loved to do. It was my passion to get on some of the meanest, rankest bulls. If they had horns six feet across their head or no horns at all, it didn’t matter to me. The meaner and uglier they looked, the harder they bucked.
Bull riding isn’t something I grew up doing, nor was it anything my folks encouraged me to do. When I was very young, watching it on the television, I told them that’s what I want to do when I grow up! Of course no one believed me. Bull riding isn’t something you just go and do. Most kids are brought up in the sport of rodeo. They ride bucking horses, bulls, rope calves and so on.
I grew up on a farm in south eastern Ohio which by no means was the Wild West. The roughest ride I ever had was on a horse we called Cyclopes which was blind in one eye. I thought I was going to break her in to ride. In turn, I was bucked off and broke my wrist. I was in 4-H and showed cattle at a young age. I loved to watch the bull riding on a Saturday night at the county fair. The guys who rode at the fair were my idols. I wanted to be just like them! They all wore cowboy hats, boots and had belt buckles on.
As I got older and was able to go down to where they hung out, I noticed that they were not all they were cracked up to be. Many of them had no time for kids or fans. They were not big time cowboys, just locals wanting to be famous.
When I turned sixteen, I went to my first rodeo by myself. It wasn’t a full on rodeo with all of the events just bull riding. I was told before I left the house, that under no circumstance was I to even think about riding. Well I was sixteen and of course I was in the rebellious stage, so it didn’t matter what I was told. I had money burning a hole in my pocket and I was going to do it! I borrowed a bull rope, chaps and a vest from a friend’s step dad who rode. I got the number of the bull I was going to ride. My heart was ready to pound through my chest. I was so full of fear and excitement, I wanted to throw up. Never once did it go through my head, what if I got hurt? What was I going to tell my folks? Well my first bull riding experience went off without a hitch. I made the 8 second buzzer my very first time on the back of a bull.
A bull rope is a rope with a handle in it, to place your hand in. When it pulls tight you lay the flat braided rope across your hand which is in the handle of the rope. You wrap the tail end of the rope across your open hand and around the back of your hand and back over your open hand once more. Rosin is the sap from a pine tree that has been cured and hardened. When you break rosin, it becomes a fine powder which when put on a leather glove and worked into the rope becomes tacky. The more you work it, the hotter you get your rope.
There are several different kinds of rosin on the market. I have always preferred the black rosin over all the rest. It has more stick to it and if you use saddle soap on your rope, it builds up a sticky, tacky paste that you can’t wash off with a wire brush.
The chaps you wear are to protect your legs, while you are getting ready in the bucking chutes. And the most important thing you could wear is your protective vest. When they first came out, they were nothing more than a flak jacket. The safety of the riders was at their own expense and there were many of them who didn’t wear one.
As everything improves with time, the vest went from a heavy bulky jacket to a light weight durable vest made of high impact foam and hard plastic. It is designed to protect you so that if the bull hits you with a horn, you do not get impaled. Getting stepped on was a different story. The old style vest was good for horns, but not being stomped on. The new ones we wear today are made to break away from your body or protect you from a glancing blow. But to get stomped square on, well it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out you will be up that famous creek with no paddle.
When I turned 18, I was finally allowed to ride with little guff from my folks. My mom wanted me to have nothing to do with it at all. The first time I really got hurt bull riding in Eastern Ohio, the bull had thrashed me around in the bucking chutes bad. I finally got my hand tied in my rope and called for them to open the gate. As the bull exploded out of the chute, the only thing I recall was he had really big feet as he stepped on the side of my head.
Figure 2 “Photo” Jason, doing what he loves, looking for eight…
As I turned nineteen I made up my mind, I was going to join the Navy. In June of 2000, I was off to Navy Boot Camp. Anything that was a challenge I was up for. I went on to my A School which was in Gulfport, Mississippi. I couldn’t wait to get my liberty pass and go off base and find somewhere to ride bulls. Well, the Navy and Uncle Sam didn’t think I should be doing that.
I arrived in California where I was to be stationed for the next five years. After I got settled in, I talked to some locals in the area and it didn’t take me long to find a place to ride.
I bought my PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) permit after I got back from deployment in 2001. By that time, the season was just about over, so I waited until October 2001 to buy my permit. The season runs from October to November of the following year.
In order to gain full card membership, you must win 1,000 dollars on your permit before you can buy your card. This was a bigger challenge than I expected. The bulls at that level were nothing like the bulls I was use to getting on. I had my ups and downs. I was bucked off more bulls than I was covering. It was time to make a decision on how far I wanted to go.
I went to bull riding school for a couple of weekends and learned the basics of riding bulls. After that, I went to my first competition and won some money. I was very happy with myself. Deployment called again and I was not able to fill my permit until my next trip back to my homeport.
Weekend after weekend, I burned up the road all over California. In 2005, I called for orders. I took the orders to Fallon, Nevada. The rest of my season in 2005 was cut short when I transferred. I started fresh in 2006, but this time I had bigger goals in mind. I was going to take on the PBR (Professional Bull Riders).
I started off with a bang in the PRCA and the PBR season started shortly after that. I was burning the fuse at both ends. The biggest thing in the sport of bull riding is not so much if you get hurt, but when and how bad.
In July 2006, I took leave and returned to Ohio where I had doubled up my weekend with a PRCA rodeo on Friday night and a PBR event on Saturday. The rodeo on Friday night went off without a hitch and I won some money. I was stoked about the PBR on Saturday night, due to the fact that my entire family was going to be there.
Saturday started out just like any other day I would go to a rodeo. I felt good, worked out that morning, stretched and off I went. I got to Cleveland, Ohio for the event and as always, I was one of the first riders there. I paid my entry fees, found my bull and got mentally focused for my ride. There was one small issue. No matter how hard I tried to focus my energy and mind on my ride that night, there was something eating at me. There was something that just didn’t feel right about that night. Of all of the bulls I had gotten on over the years and as many rodeos as I had been too, I had never had this feeling before. Was it because my family was there? Did I feel like I had something to prove to them? Was it the fact that for years, my dad had told me I was dumb for doing it? Well it didn’t matter, whatever the case was. My bull was loaded in the chute and I was getting on him, no matter what was going through my head. I had my rope pulled tight and tied my hand down. I slid up on my rope and called for the gate, that’s all I could remember.
Next thing I knew, I woke up in the sports medicine room on a flat board with a collar on my neck. I had no clue where I was and was fighting for my life to get off that damn board. My folks were at my side. Mom in tears and Dad with a look of disbelief on his face, as the doctor told me I was going to the hospital for x-rays and that’s all there was to it.
The x-rays came back with a hair line fracture on the C-2 in my neck. I was very, very lucky not to have broken my dang neck. Later that night, after I was released from the hospital I recall sitting in a Waffle House and my old man saying “Jason, are you done playing cowboy?” I really didn’t have an answer for him. I was still in disbelief of what had just happened and was wondering if my career was really that short lived.
I returned to Nevada sporting a fancy C-Spine collar, which I was told by the doctor to wear for 6 to 8 weeks. Uncle Sam was not very impressed. I buckled down in the Navy, since I was not the best at my job. I turned that around and was awarded sailor of the quarter in 2007.
That aside, I stayed away from rodeo and bull riding from July 2006 until October 2007. I would not go to any rodeos or even watch them on TV. I would watch the replay of what happened that night on the computer, since it was recorded. I watched it over and over to see what happened. From what I could tell, I did what they call “lost my feet”. It happens when you lose your grip with your feet. I was turned upside down and landed head first, almost like diving into a swimming pool with no water.
In October 2007, I was getting bored, so I went down to the local riding arena. I was helping out the high school kids and giving lessons on the basics of bull riding. I was not like those guys, I watched all those years ago. I wanted to help out and teach. If someone asked a question, I took the time to answer it. If some kid ran up to me and said his hero was a cowboy or a solider I would sign his program and smile and move on.
It was a cold sunny afternoon, in February 2008 and I was out at the arena helping some kids out. Something hit me like a semi truck that told me to get back on. Well it was either the stupidest thing or the best thing I could have ever done. But, I had to overcome the fear that I had inside of me. I went to my truck, pulled out my bag in which I carried all of my gear and put it on. I had a bull loaded, that none of the high school kids would get on.
Nathan was the guy who owned the bulls. It was on his dime as he rented time at the arena for these kids to get on bulls. He pulled me aside and asked, if I had lost all of my marbles. I rode the bull as if I had never been off for a day. I returned for a full season in 2008, in which I was in the top 5 standings for most of 2008.
The entire time I was in the Navy and rode bulls, I never forgot who I was and what I loved to do the most. Hunting and fishing are two things that I have enjoyed since I was a very small child. When I wasn’t off at a rodeo, I was in the mountains of California or Nevada hunting or fishing. Sometimes at the rodeo when I had time for a little break, I would drive down the road with my fishing pole. I would come across a neat looking pond, lake or stream and wet a line. I used my leave time to come home to Ohio and hunt for a couple weeks or go on hunting trips that I could afford.
I hunted Elk in Colorado in 2004, which was an amazing experience. I did not fill my tag, but to be on the back of a horse when the sun crested over the Rocky Mountains was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.
I went wild boar hunting on the central coast of California. To be on the side of a mountain that over looked the Pacific Ocean with the sand dunes and beaches below as the morning sun reached its hands towards the water was breath taking.
The cold mornings in the aired Nevada desert glassing for Mule Deer or the sounds of hounds running a black bear through the mountains of Northern California, were reminders of where I came from and who I was.
I was just a little kid when I said I wanted to ride bull’s when I grow up and they all smiled and laughed.