Thursday, July 19, 2007
The last time that Salinas bull rider Josh Daries competed in the California Rodeo Salinas he was inside his mother’s belly. Back then, Josh’s mother, Tina Daries, was seven months pregnant and competing in the rodeo’s barrel races, a timed competition where a rider on horseback sprints through a trio of barrels in a cloverleaf pattern. With young Josh spurring her on from inside the womb, Tina and her sorrel mare quarter horse Sally sped between the metal obstacles like a world-class slalom snow skier. When the dust had settled, Tina (and her son) had both won their first events at the California Rodeo Salinas.
With such an early exposure to the rodeo lifestyle, it is not surprising that 18-year-old North Salinas native is now making a go at the professional rodeo circuit. While his mother took him to his first competitions in utero, it was his uncle Joe Baumgartner who first got the Daries hooked on trying to hang onto the topside of a fast-moving animal. Baumgartner is a well-known bullfighter – formerly what was called a rodeo clown – whose job in the ring is to divert a bull’s attention while the fallen bull rider attempts to scramble to safety.
Josh was just 4 years old when his uncle placed him on the back of a sheep. “We have a picture of it at home,” Daries says of the experience. “That’s all I remember.”
For the next two years, Daries would ride sheep frequently while attending rodeos with his mother. He would hold tight to a sheep’s wool and squeeze with his legs as the animal ran around, and dodged in an attempt to dislodge its unwanted passenger.
At 6 years old, Daries donned a helmet and vest, which protects a rider’s internal organs, and started riding calves. Josh would grip the rope tied to the creature more tightly than a beggar does a hundred dollar bill in a windstorm. Then, the calf would start kicking up its hind legs in an attempt to dethrone Daries.
By 12, the young cowboy finally hopped on his first bull at a practice pen in Red Bluff, Calif. Daries’ first bull ride lasted only a couple of seconds. “I remember leaving and hitting the ground,” he says. “Actually, it was pretty fun.”
Since then, Daries has been competing all over the state. He drives to the contests in his Dodge pickup and sometimes ends up sleeping in the front seat or the truck’s bed to save money. Even though it’s a life of fast food restaurants and scraping by, Daries has not soured on the lifestyle yet.
“I get to see lots of places and meet lots of people,” he says. “I get to hang out with lots of friends and chase women.”
At a Professional Bull Riders event in Bakersfield, Daries won a cool $900. But, he believes his biggest bull riding accomplishment thus far was hanging onto a bull called Shakedown for eight seconds at the Blood and Guts Bull Riding Challenge in Red Bluff. Shakedown was later chosen for the National Finals Rodeo that year.
Unfortunately, Daries didn’t fare as well riding his next bull, a one-ton animal called Golden Ghost at the competition. He remembers five seconds of bounding bull and then nothing at all. “He knocked me off,” Daries says. “Everyone thought my head was in my helmet.”
Despite sustaining multiple injuries in bull riding competitions – including getting the brachial artery of his left hand smashed while competing at the California High School Rodeo State Finals in Bishop, California – Daries says he is hooked on the adrenaline of the sport. “There’s not much you can compare to riding a bull,” he says. “You have so much power underneath you, and they are so smart.”
While Daries’ main goal is none other than becoming the world champion in Professional Bull Riding, he also wants to try out the dangerous rodeo sport of steer wrestling. A steer wrestler rides a speeding horse until he catches up to a bull on the run. Then, the wrestler slides halfway down the horse, grabs the steer’s horn and wrestles the creature to the ground.
But, before steer wrestling, Daries gets to return to the California Rodeo in Salinas to see if he can win his first event there without his mother. Though excited about competing in front of his friends and family, the young bull rider will most likely do what he usually does before jumping on an excited bull at the Salinas Sports Complex. “I just give a little prayer,” he says, “and get my head on straight.”
WATCH JOSH DARIES RIDE A BULL on Thursday at 6:30pm at the Salinas Sports Complex, 1034 N. Main St., Salinas. $12/general admission; $19/grandstand. 800-549-4989 or carodeo.com