Injuries can’t keep Loma’s Jimmy Allen from doing what he loves: wrestling steer
Jimmy Allen tried to stay away from the rodeo.
After a severe injury to his right knee four years ago, the Loma resident tried to put rodeo in his rearview mirror and get on with his life.
“It was in my blood,” Allen said. “No matter how bad I want to quit, I come back.”
This year, after a four-year layoff, Allen came back, and it’s paying dividends.
Entering this weekend’s Colorado Pro Rodeo Association state finals at the Mesa County Fairgrounds, Allen was in position to win a state title — his fifth.
Not many competitors can say they’ve won state rodeo championships nine years apart. After winning three steer wrestling titles in six years, he won his fourth in 2000.
Rodeo is a young man’s sport. At 33 years old, Allen is among the older competitors in his chosen event.
Then again, “I’ve had friends bulldog (steer wrestle) clear up ’til they were 50,” he said.
By the time he was in third grade, he was riding horses on his grandparents’ ranch on 19 Road. He naturally gravitated to Little Britches and high school rodeos.
He was strongest in the roping events. In order to compete for the all-around title in high school, he needed to do another event. He chose steer wrestling.
“It’s what I’m good at,” he said.
He was also a fairly decent football player at Fruita Monument High School, earning some college scholarship offers for his play as a fullback and linebacker.
The rodeo call beckoned louder. He attended Cochise County College in Arizona on a rodeo scholarship.
After his two-year stay in junior college, he joined the CPRA circuit.
Then came a devastating knee injury during one rodeo, tearing ligaments in his right knee when he landed after jumping off his horse to wrestle a steer.
With a family to raise and a new plumbing business taking up much of his time, his rodeo career began taking a back seat.
“Like the tax lady says, it’s more of a hobby,” Allen said.
As fate would have it, a young rider, Rick Peterson, approached Allen about teaching him how to steer wrestle.
“I went with him (to rodeos),” Allen said. “I just decided if I’m going, I might as well do it.”
Most of the other 12 qualifiers in this year’s CPRA finals were competing nearly every weekend. The money list determines the top 12 qualifiers, and if they don’t ride, they don’t win money.
That’s where Allen’s expertise and experience came in. He competed in only 10 events during the summer, winning two and placing in nearly all the others.
“Most of it is like gambling,” Allen said of good fortune playing a factor in having a good ride. “It’s the luck of the draw.”
In steer wrestling, a cowboy can’t break the ribbon to get a head start when the steer leaves the gate. He’s got to jump off his horse at the right time and land with his arms locked in a good hold on the steer’s head. He’s got to get the steer over on its side with all four legs up. And he’s got to do it faster than any of his competitors.
As with any rodeo competitor, Allen’s had his share of bumps and bruises. The knee injury was one of a long list of his maladies, which include landing on his neck during the high school national finals (he rode the next day) and breaking his sternum in another rodeo a few years later.
There’s no injured reserve list for rodeo. It’s ride or don’t get paid.
“I think we’re tougher than any other athlete,” Allen said. “We’re totally different than any other professional athlete. We pay to get in and we get paid for it. That’s why you’ve got to win.”
As long as his body, and the money, hold up, Allen will continue to compete.
Based on his result Saturday night, he could vault from third place entering the state finals to winning a state title in three days.
“It’d be pretty cool to win in ’09,” Allen said, with his final ride of the year set for 1 p.m. today.
Call it, by his admission, one for the old guys.