Saturday, August 3, 2013


Where I come from, mutton-bustin' is a real thing.

(Where I come from, there's also a lot of cornbread and chicken and front porch sittin'.)

For those of you who are not familiar with mutton-busting (I understand this may be culturally unique to small-town rural America), Zuzu is reenacting it for you here:

Yes, mutton-bustin' is a rodeo event that consists of small children riding sheep.

Much like bulls or saddle broncs, the purpose of the event is to see how long you can hold on.

As you might expect, sheep aren't exactly stoked about being ridden by small children.  This isn't your typical Shetland pony plodding in a circle kind of activity.  This is a bunch of kids on a bunch of sheep set loose in a regular rodeo arena with a few rodeo clowns running around scooping up the kids when they get bucked off so they don't get trampled by other sheep running around, bucking off other kids.

I'm serious you guys.  This is a real thing.

And no, there are no helmets or knee pads or liability waivers.  Such things are for weenies.  This is the real deal.  You just do it because you're a little kid, but you're tough.  Equal opportunity for boys or girls.

In fact, Zuzu's Uncle Bubs (my brother) was Champion Mutton Buster back in the late '80s.  He lined up with all the other kids with negligent parents and hopped on a sheep.  The event is usually over in a minute or two, since most little kids aren't very good at holding on to sheep running wild.  But Brandon's sheep broke away from the herd and took off across the rodeo arena, and Brandon, in an adrenaline-fueled panic, simply held on for dear life as the sheep raced in frantic circles.  He gripped the fleece with every ounce of his strength and bounced around on the back of the sheep while the old-man rodeo clown made clumsy attempts to catch the sheep and grab my brother (who was all of six years old at the time).  The crowd went wild with cheering.  Eventually Brandon was the last kid standing (or rather, the last kid clinging to the back of a sheep) and the two rodeo clowns managed to corner the sheep and get Brandon safely returned back to my parents (Who were not hotlined for negligence, although my mom wonders now what she was thinking letting him participate--I guess it was peer pressure?  I mean everyone was doing it.)

So as far as I'm concerned, Brandon holds the mutton-bustin' record for Vernon County.  But now I'm wondering if I would let Zuzu challenge him?

Unlike the high dive and the teeter-totter and this amazingly long slide that used to exist at the city park, mutton bustin' has not gone the way of other crazy cool forms of entertainment from our childhood.  As of 2012, it's still an event at the Youth Fair and Rodeo, and kids still line up to get thrown off the back of sheep in the rodeo arena.  There still are no helmets, pads, or liability waiver forms to sign.  I'm not even sure you need parental permission to enter.  So, theoretically, Zuzu could participate in this sport in just a few years.  And part of me thinks that would be awesome.  And part of me is terrified that she'd get her head trampled by a crazed sheep.

Sooo...  What do you think?  Would you let your kid mutton-bust?  Or would you kill their rodeo dreams in the name of safety?  Or maybe she could mutton-bust in a bicycle helmet?  Covered with a big cowboy hat?


  1. I live in a small farm town and mutton bustin' is alive and well here. I have a 6 yr old who may very likely want to do it this year. Although I'm really leaning towards letting her enter the contest where they let the kids loose in a pen with a bunch of small animals and if they catch one, they can keep it. We could use a chicken... or a pig etc. Oh, country living!!

  2. Oh, man, I would totally do that! And since I'm too old, I'd totally let Gwen do that! Sounds awesome!

  3. Oh my god, she is so adorable!

    On the mutton-busting, NO. The risk of a serious head injury would stress me out too much. (True story- my youngest brother fractured his skull as a baby by rolling into the bottom corner of one of those big floor model tvs with the wood base at the baby sitter's house. It doesn't necessarily take a lot.Luckily he was fine in the long run. But I think head bumps stress me out more than most still because if they hit it just right they could get hurt pretty seriously.) My kids won't be riding bikes without helmets either so crazed sheep are a no-go.

  4. In theory, I am totally against sending my kids out on a crazed sheep. I already have a list of prohibited sports and it includes football, luge, and most of the X games. Mutton bustin seems like a logical addition. Helpfully, my 5 year old is very unlikely to be interested in that. On the other hand, my almost-2 year old would probably LOVE mutton bustin - she's the daredevil of the family. And she might be pretty decent at it, too.

  5. Our third son just got initiated into mutton bustin in July.

  6. lol.

    I can't believe this is a thing!

  7. If you asked me what a mutton was, I wouldn't have been able to tell you.

    And now I learn that children ride said "muttons"?

    Oh. my. word.