Some of the greats will be spending a few seconds on the backs of bulls this evening at the D.J. Allen Memorial Bull Riding event.
“And if people want to see a show, they need to join us,” said Meridath Sayles. “We're proud to be able to do this, and a lot of the riders were friends of our son's. There'll be some really good bull riders in our local arena … competition as tough as you'll see anywhere at any bull-riding event.”
This is the third year for the event, and Sayles said every year it grows a little. He imagines one day it will be a big draw for bull-riders, because of the competition, and because he figures by the time Allen's friends are too old to ride, the younger one's will have heard the story and want to share in the action.
Gates open at 6 for spectators (riders will need to pay their fees by 5 p.m.) and the show starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Earl Q. Wilson Rodeo Arena. This year, for the first time, there will be mutton bustin' also.
Tickets are $7, or $4 for children ages 6 to 12. Children younger than 6 are admitted for free. There's a snack bar, a snow-cone stand and items up for bid in a silent auction.
Sayles was a bull-rider, and so was his father, and for that matter, so was Allen's older brother. Sayles said he took D.J. to a bull-riding event as a kid, a very young boy, and he was hooked from the get-go. By the time D.J. was 9, they were going to American Junior Rodeo Association events every weekend, and D.J. was riding every chance he got.
In 1998, Allen was the AJRA World Champion Steer Rider. The year before, he'd been reserve champion. Twelve years in a row, D.J. qualified for the AJRA National Finals
“The good Lord gave D.J. the ability to ride like he did,” Sayles said.
“He was a good, solid Christian young man,” he adds sorrowfully, “an all-round good young man – rodeoing was what he lived for.”
Allen, then 23, was on his way to Glen Rose Feb. 14, 2009, to pick up some friends and go to a Professional Bull Riding event. Outside of Stephenville, something happened. His Grand Prix left the highway and in all likelihood hit a culvert and rolled into a creek bed some 10 feet below the roadway. Weeks later, a rancher chasing after some stray calves noticed what appeared to be an overturned car at the bottom of a ravine.
At Allen's memorial service, Sayles said, he first had the idea for an annual bull-riding event honoring D.J.'s life and Sayles and his wife JoAnn dedicate at least six months a year to organizing it.
“This memorial bull riding is a celebration of D.J.'s life,” Sayles said, “but in a lot of ways it's been what's kept us going.
“It's the least we can do to keep D.J.'s memory alive. We'll keep doing it until I'm too old or dead myself,” he added.
“We don't make a nickle off this. I keep my fingers crossed each year we'll be able to pay the pot – I mean without me borrowing money to do it – and so far we have, but we're like everybody else, we really need the help and support to keep this thing going,” Sayles said.
“The prize buckles we give are really special. Cody Harris has won both of the events we've had, and our buckle's the one he wears all the time.”