So there I am at the ripe age of 10 on the back of the bucking chutes at another awesome Ontario rodeo. I am waiting for Ol Billy Leggette to tell me to start getting ready. As I begin putting on my bright ass red helmet I notice my Dad heading my direction at a brisk walk from the timed event end of the arena after yet another successful Steer Wrestling run, to my brother Josh and I this was a familiar sight. Dad makes his way to a very busy Billy Leggette to find out the order and only a top hand like Billy would know such things because he was the arena director. Dad climbs up onto the bucking chutes and gives Josh and I a few words of encouragement before its our time to shine, and because we were 10 and 9 it was basically hogwash but his speeches were always inspiring so we listened intently!
Well as chute boss Greg Heinz begins adjusting some flank straps its time to buck some steers. The first riders set the pace with 2 qualified rides and it was no wonder that they would get scores because, well, simply put the Smith boys always got scores. Time for myself and my younger brother, both gave some good efforts but could not match the Smith boys. Last but certainly not least is a new kid and one I have never heard of before. Inside the bucking chutes he’s getting the help of his older brother who was at time a bull riding champion. Words of encouragement soar through the hot summer heat
“lift on that bull rope” “Dont quit” “watch your spot”
Such words were second hand nature to young bull riders like ourselves. As I patiently wait for this new kid to nod for the gate I am stopped in my stiff gaze as I hear…CRYING? Not a little bit of complaining like when Leafs start a new hockey season but like full on tears dropping crying , like when Rose left Jack in the Titanic..Like that kind of crying!!
This kid wanted nothing to do with Jr.Steer riding its almost as if he was forced. But tears and all his champion brother was not having that at all he opened the gate on that kid and he was on the ground wiping tears from his face in seconds. Now you would think this was the end of that bull riding career but you’d be dead wrong. This did go on all year but then that crying kid realized he has bull riding in his veins and I don’t think any of us back then saw this cowboys career coming…In fact I’ll bet my farm, all 4 acres and the double wide.
For those of you who have been around rodeo since the Big L Rodeo days you should know exactly who I am talking about. For those of you who have no idea what Big L Rodeo is I am almost positive you’ve heard of this cowboy. The kid mentioned above and the pro bull rider highlighted in this blog is hands down one the best to ever ride bulls in Ontario. The one and only Dusty McMullen.
A natural athlete inside and outside the rodeo arena
The boy who cried some 20 years ago is at the height of his bull riding career right now. Born and raised in the cowboy capital of Ontario though he can be found in the southern states riding professionally he will proudly tell you that his heart will always be in Aylmer. For Dusty being a rodeo cowboy came naturally to the red headed bramer tamer. Born the youngest of a huge rodeo family Dusty didn’t really have a choice but to get involved with rodeo. Following in the footsteps of brothers Brent and Randy he was quick to jump in the truck when it was rodeo time. Even though it took a few forced gates opening by Randy, he developed a natural ability of making the 8 second whistle and after he got over the crying and not wanting to ride the money and gold buckles started pouring in from the junior ranks winning Ontario titles year after year. Though a champion he did experience defeat…Even once by a girl at a Northern Ontario rodeo…(but don’t tell him I told you that ). From his first buckle to his most recent one I can guarantee that if you were to line them all up they would stretch clear across Texas.
With numerous Jr.Steer riding buckles won and a fresh new drivers license in his hand at the age of 16 it was time to move up to bulls. Dusty and I became very good friends so naturally I was right beside him in whatever pile of steel we could afford. Man oh man the vehicles that Dusty has had in his lifetime belong in a museum, and not because they are collectors items but because it was a miracle they even got out of the driveway let alone all over North America. Oh the memories! I tell ya if those wheels could talk………….Actually its probably better they don’t. Anyways, moving on!!
Dusty making it look easy at an early age
In the bull riding Dusty’s talent soared like we knew it always would. Becoming the Ontario Rodeo Association Bull Riding champion at the age of 17 came with ease after riding all 3 bulls at the finals held in Stratford Ontario that year. That winter we went to the Ontario Rodeo Awards Banquet and he collected his first of many championship buckles.
17 years young, getting our bull riding finalists jackets
The buckles did not stop in Stratford Dusty continued his winning ways collecting the Dodge Rodeo finals buckle in 2001 and 2007 along with the ACEC year end title in 2015, ERQ champion in 2015 and 2016 and the Wild Time Bull Riding title in 2015 and 2016 as well. These victories are only the major ones I don’t have time to outline all the championships in between and it’s almost bedtime!!
After proving he was ready for the big leagues Dusty set his sights on becoming one the best to ever do it. After winning the Dodge Rodeo year end title he earned his right to fly out west and compete at the Canadian Cowboys Association Finals held in Saskatchewan. Though no buckles were won in the wild west he came back with a pocket full of cash and the reassurance that he can ride the rank bulls. After his first trip out west he then made the same trip multiple times after. He was also leaving his mark on the International Professional Rodeo Association With the motivation to not only qualify for both finals but to win them.
Dusty had a very very busy schedule and could be found hitting rodeos year round. He found more luck hitting the International Pro Rodeos then he did any other. Qualifying for the International Finals Rodeo on multiple occasions. The International Finals Rodeo or “IFR” is held in Oklahoma every year in January and it highlights the top 15 cowboys and cowgirls of each rodeo event from the International Professional Rodeo Association.
Dusty has found himself at the top of the hill on more than one occasion. The absolute best year I have seen him ride was in 2015. Riding the wave he started in 2014 after winning a Professional Bull Riders event in Lima Ohio and collecting a cool 10grand because of it.
PBR Bull Riding Champion
Dusty had his eyes set on the IFR gold buckle in 2015 and nothing was gonna stop him from collecting that World Championship buckle. Well almost nothing, Dusty was sadly involved in a hit and run accident. While walking across a parking lot he was suddenly struck by the vehicle and left to bleed unable to move. Quickly rushed to a hospital in Oklahoma the doctor gave the world number 1 some painful news. Not only would Dusty miss the finals that year but he would also need surgery.
Dusty sadly watched the IFR that year from the stands. Such an accident would usually forfeit any hopes of ever riding again, but not Dusty. As soon as he got approval from his doctor Dusty quickly began physio and was back riding in a matter of months. Though he missed out on the IFR he was able to ride in the IPRA Canada Finals that spring and came out with some gold becoming the 2015 and 2016 IPRA Canada Bull Riding champ.
These days Dusty can be found in Oklahoma still riding rank bulls and chasing the dream. Along side traveling partner and another great Ontario bull rider AJ Vaal, the two have their sights set on the big time. It’s easy to say that gold buckle dreams helps them sleep at night…well, that and some bad whiskey I’m sure.
From someone who has known this guy literally his entire life I cannot even attempt to sum up his rock star life. From Quebec to Texas from eating crackers to eating lobster from needing loans to buying everyone’s dinner from crying in the bucking chutes to living with World Champion bull rider Shane Proctor.
I don’t know what the rest of his bull riding career has in store for him but I hope it’s whatever he has his eyes set on. So with all this in mind and to you new parents out there if you find your son or daughter crying in the bucking chutes or at the baseball diamond or in the hockey arena before you pass judgement and think about throwing in the towel take a minute , have a deep breath and consider the story about The Boy Who Cried Bull!!
Let Er Buck