Man vs. beast: Local teenager competes in rodeo events

Published 4:08 pm Tuesday, April 3, 2018

By J.R. Tidwell / Editor

Fourteen-year-old Justin Mims of Clanton will be among the competitors during the Alabama Junior Rodeo’s event at Ray’s Arena in Jemison, April 7-8.

The age groups range from kindergarten all the way up to eighth grade.

“They have bareback [riding], calf roping, team roping, bull riding, goat tying, barrel racing, chute dogging, pole bending,” said Justin’s father Brian Mims. “They have it all for the kids. They have just about everything you’d see at an adult rodeo.”

Spectators who see Justin might think he appears a bit undersized to ride bulls in one event and wrestle them to the ground in another.

Justin seems well aware of his stature. It simply has not stopped him from chasing his dream.

“I started out on dummy roping and goat tying,” he said. “Then my dad told me I should try out the chute dogging and bull riding. When I tried it out I, realized I kind of liked it. Then I started doing it more and more, and now I’m hooked.”

The bull riding event is fairly self explanatory, though the rules differ from those used by adult professional organizations.

“You try to stay on [a bull] for six seconds, and you don’t touch the bull with your free hand,” Justin said.

Chute dogging still involves a competitor and a bull, but the object of the event is very different.

“You are in the chute with a pretty good-sized steer,” Justin said. “You have to hold onto its neck. When you are 2 or 3 feet out of the chute you have to hook onto his horns, twist him, turn his head up, grab his nose and flip him.”

Justin said his stature aids him in some ways while making things more difficult in others.

“I’m all skinny,” he said. “It’s good to be like that when you’re bull riding because you don’t catch as much wind, but it’s also not good because you don’t have any muscle. I need more muscle, so I need to exercise and practice more.”

And practice Justin does. His father built him a training rig in the family’s backyard called a drop barrel. Justin also gets to practice on the real deal some.

“It wasn’t really hard. It just takes time,” Brian said. “It’s a 55-gallon drum welded onto a platform. A friend of mine out of Arizona told me how to build it. He has been practicing on it, and he goes to a friend of ours to ride real bulls for practice.”

Justin started out in the Alabama Little Boots rodeo. He has moved on to the junior rodeo and will eventually compete at the high school level. From there, his goal is to become a professional bull rider.

“He decided he wanted to try it one time,” Brian said. “When he tried it, he got hooked. Now, he wants to do it all the time. All he wants to do is bull ride now. He has been in about eight rodeos now. He has been in the Alabama Junior Rodeo from August up until now. He still has four more to go, and the finals are in June.”

Competing in rodeos takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Justin’s competitions have taken the Mims family all over the southeast. His younger brother Paden will be doing the same starting next year.

“We have been to south Alabama all the way down to Florida,” Brian said. “In two weeks, we are going to Pensacola, Florida. It takes a lot of hard work and practice. If the kid is dedicated to it like [Justin] is, they do all the work. You just try to support them. That’s all we do.”

Justin’s mother Marsha said she is used to hearing other people question how she and her husband could allow their son to compete in such a sport. The answer is simply a matter of faith.

“We put God first. God’s got us,” she said. “Justin has been saved and baptized.”

“If I do get hurt, I know where I’m going,” Justin said.

Justin even wears his favorite Bible verse on his outfit: Philippians 1:21, which appears alongside all of his sponsors, whom he thanks.

“It says ‘for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’ I go to Clear Waters Cowboy Church.” Justin said. “Cowboy church has cowboy camp. Last summer that was their saying, and now it’s my favorite verse.”