J.C. TRUJILLO MAY BE A BAREBACK ACE, BUT A PACK ANIMAL CAN THROW HIM

November 26, 1984

No amount of time in a kennel or lunatic asylum could prepare you for J.C. Trujillo's singing voice. The ex-champion bareback rider "entertains" weary elk hunters in his Pyramid Peak, Colo. hunting camp with songs about drifters and drovers and broncs so wild they could kick the white out of the moon. He's hunched into his olive duster, a guitar in one hand, a fifth of peppermint schnapps in the other. Soon his mules, Cheech and Chong, start braying along. "At this point," Trujillo says, "I'm a better bareback rider than a singer."

Nobody ever said Trujillo was much of a crooner. But in an 18-year pro career as a bareback rider he has made the national finals 11 times, and he won a title in 1981. His rodeo life consists of eight-second spasms of violence on broncs busting out of chutes into dusty arenas from Cody, Wyo. to Woodstown, N.J.

J.C.'s raggedy, go-for-broke style has earned him the nickname Trujillo Monster. It also left him unconscious last December at the nationals in Oklahoma City, and with a broken toe, busted ribs and a knee and elbow that never stop hurting.

"What year is it?" asked the physician in the emergency room.

"Nineteen eighty-three," answered Trujillo.

"How many national finals have you been in?"

"Too many," sobbed his wife, Margo.

In a sport where most burn out by 27, Trujillo, now 36, had been scrambling to as many as 130 rodeos a year, sometimes appearing in three different cities in a single day. His "retirement" after the Oklahoma City smashup lasted until June. "All those rodeos coming up looked too easy to pass up," he says. "So the Trujillo Monster decided to cowboy up." That's rodeo talk for riding with pain.

Quietly, the Trujillo Monster entered a mid-size rodeo at Grand Junction, Colo. He won. A week later he was first in Reno in the second-biggest event on the circuit. And on the Fourth of July in his hometown of Prescott, Ariz, he won again. Since 1981 he has earned about $200,000.

Trujillo also runs a hunting and pack trip business out of his home in Pyramid (elev. 8,001, pop. 11). The pop. in his house includes Margo, his daughters Annie, 3, and Sammie Lou, 2, and his trusty ranch hand, Danny Longo. Trujillo is Pyramid's self-proclaimed mayor and its chamber of commerce. In fact, when it comes to commerce in Pyramid, what doesn't take place at the gas pump in front of Trujillo's house usually does in the liquor store out back.

When Trujillo was six, his sometime team-roper father took him to a junior rodeo. J.C. was allowed to enter the calf-riding if he promised he wouldn't cry if he got bucked off. J.C. placed second. "I won $10.80," he says.

He thinks a bareback rider has to be as aggressive as an inside linebacker, which is what he was at Eastern Arizona College. He later transferred to Arizona State, and was the collegiate champion in bareback riding in 1968, the runner-up in '69. He rides "gapped out," with the wild abandon that gets bareback riders "exposure." He flails his legs in time with the bronc's jumps, and clings to the leather rigging. A good bareback rider needs a strong arm to keep from getting jerked back, and Trujillo's right arm—with which he hangs on to the rigging—is nearly two inches larger around than his left.

In the seventh go-round of those '83 finals at Oklahoma City, Trujillo drew All Velvet, one of the roughest, heaviest, meanest broncs on the tour. Trujillo had ridden him at three other rodeos: He took first twice and was upended the other time. All Velvet charged out of the gate, angled toward the center of the arena, turned hard back to the right and double-jumped. Trujillo was knocked out when his head snapped back against the bronc's rump. He got hung up in the rigging and flopped around the horse's left flank like a rag doll. "In rodeo," he says, "it's just me against the horse." Chalk that one up for the horse.

But you should have seen him during the nationals in '81, when he trailed Bruce Ford going into the ninth go-round (of 10). With the championship on the line, Trujillo drew a nasty yellow bronc with the harmless name of Tweedle Dee. "I knew I had to come up with something special, so I caught another gear about the third jump," he says. The horse could have been stalled in neutral as far as Trujillo was concerned. He scored 88 points, the second-highest total ever for a national finals ride. And, of course, he rustled the bareback title from Ford.

Back on Pyramid Peak, Trujillo is leading his pack animals down snow-blanketed Sheepherders Trail when Chong ventures off the trail and gets his lead rope caught around an aspen. As Trujillo tries to get the beast untangled, Cheech and Co. take off.

Trujillo thrashes after them, roaring curses and braying imprecations. A couple of miles later he is faced with the acute embarrassment of being helped out of a tight spot by an outfitter of another group. The great rodeo cowboy can't even lead a pack horse.

"At this point," Trujillo says with chagrin, "I'm a better bareback rider than an outfitter."

PHOTOCARL IWASAKIIn Pyramid, Trujillo checks out his rodeo gear.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)