With my luck, THIS is what WOULD happen if I ever relented and allowed any of my children to enter this rodeo ritual...
The events described below are complete fiction. The opinions, however, are all mine.
Anderson Cooper (looking dapper and suave as ever): They say it's a rite of rodeo passage—some starting as early as two years of age. It's done in the name of toughness. Done in the name of proving ones child can 'cowboy up' and take a little grit in the teeth and a few bumps to the head. But is it really worth the risk? Is what they call Mutton Bustin' really worth parents' bragging rights or the chance at a very large and gaudy livestock trophy? One mother in Spanish Fork, Utah is asking herself those very questions tonight. I am joined by Chris Thompson, small town mother of three whose daughter, Anna, was tragically paralyzed in last night's sheep riding competition at their annual Fiesta Days celebration. Mrs. Thompson, how is Anna holding up tonight?
Me: Anderson, she is in pretty good spirits considering what she's been through. Thank you.
Anderson (with a look of concern): Now, for our viewers who are not familiar with this particular rodeo custom, is it true that your daughter was trying to ride a sheep when the incident took place?
Me: That is correct.
Anderson (inquisitive): What kind of training did your daughter have? What was her experience? I am assuming that you and your family are familiar with farm animals and the dangers they pose?
Me (a hick accent forming): No, not really. Anna's only experience with farm animals came from pettin' her grandfather's horses and watching mutton bustin' at past rodeos. Plus, her cousin's cousin on the other side rides bulls. Does that count?
Anderson (looking dismayed and not quite sure where to go with that response): So, she hadn't practiced or prepared in any way... What kind of protective gear was Anna wearing, because I know in other states, it is mandatory for children to wear a protective mask? helmet? vest?
Me (hick accent growing stronger): Well, Sir, they don't have those kinds of fancy requir'ments here in Utah, and besides, those things might've protected Anna from a busted tooth or a severe head injury, but there is nothin' she could've wore to keep her from havin' her spine busted up the way it was.
(Dead air time as Anderson formulates what was just said)
My princess was, however, all dudded-up with a cute pink hat and matchin' boots. Plus, I'd curled her hair real big like a rodeo queen, ya know?
Anderson (looking flummoxed): No, Mrs. Thompson, I don't know. Do you mean to say that you sent your daughter to the middle of an arena, atop an animal that reached speeds up to twenty miles per hour, eventually ramming her into a cattle fence, paralyzing her, and the only protection you offered her came in the form of an eighties hairdo? What the hell were you thinking?
Me (hick accent reaching Ozark proportions): Well, she's wanted to do it ever since she was a tiny thang, and I figured that if she had the gumption, by golly, I was gonna let her try.
Anderson (looking forlorn into the camera): Mrs. Thompson, do you hear yourself? People all over the country, right now, are listening to you describe how you used your daughter's 'gumption' as you call it, to allow her to unwittingly provide entertainment for a crowd of people whose collective IQ apparently isn't much higher than your own! She was simply a spectacle—all to get what...a laugh? a trophy? bragging rights? Why exactly did you put your daughter in a situation that in most parts of the country would be deemed nothing less than child abuse?
Me (whiny, mamma bear, hick voice forming): Well, she was really lookin' forward to it. She held on for a pretty good run, and had that devilish sheep not ducked its head and charged straight for that fence, she coulda had that trophy! And if that'd a happened, Anderson, you wouldn't be sayin' child abuse, you'd be sayin' glory, glory, glory!
Anderson (shaking his head): Mrs. Thompson, you have the final word...your daughter will never walk again. What do you have to say for yourself?
Me (with whiny, undaunted, ignorant resolve): Well, she may never walk again, but next year...even without the use of her legs...I guarantee you, Anderson, that Anna'll be ready to hang on and ride, pink hat, curls and all! (camera fades to black) Helmets are for wussies!