"All goals start out as dreams, I suppose," explains Bobby Mote, a professional rodeo rider. "If I'd told people when I started that I wanted to be where I am now, they might've laughed at me."
And where he is, a cowboy from the small Central Oregon town of Culver, is an impressive four-time World Champion in bareback riding. This weekend he will compete as a (close to) hometown favorite at the 74th annual Sisters Rodeo.
It has been a long ride. The first time that Mote, still in high school, came to the Sisters Rodeo was with his first rodeo mentor, John Hammack, a Sisters native and bareback champion at rodeos from Central Oregon to Madison Square Garden in New York City.
"It was so big and exciting and awesome," he recalls. He says he remembers falling instantly in love with the glory and spectacle of it all. "All I knew at the time was that I wanted to be a part of it."
And soon he was: At the age of 15, in 1997, Mote started riding bareback horses. Not so unlike other bored young kids from rural areas, his dreams began to take root while just mucking around; in his case, heading out with friends after school and jumping on the bulls and horses provided by Dale Landrus on his ranch in Powell Butte. "I don't think it's so weird to want to try stuff as a young kid. I was still figuring out who I was and what I wanted to be," says Mote. "At the time it was just fun and something to do, but the more I did it, the more it turned into something more. I always wanted to be a cowboy, to be my own boss and get to travel around the country."
Over the past quarter-century, Mote has done just that, turning one of the most dangerous and unpredictable events in rodeo into a solid career. Unlike other rodeo events where the rider has control over the horse's speed and direction, bareback riders are fighting just to stay on the horse; much like bull-riding, trying to hold on for a regulation ride. "Even a perfectly scoring 8-second ride leaves you a little battered and beaten," Mote admits, ticking off a litany of injuries including a broken shoulder, a broken arm, a broken leg and a broken vertebra.
But injuries have yet to deter Mote; it is just part of the process, he says, just part of the risk you have to be willing to take when doing what you love.
Although Mote has competed at the Sisters Rodeo for many years, this time will be distinct for him. Last summer, his first mentor, Hammack—the man who first took him to the Sisters Rodeo—died in a tree falling accident during a wildfire last summer. Mote says his mentor will definitely be in his thoughts as he is getting in the bucking chute this Friday, June 13. Hammack will also be honored at the rodeo with a bareback riding buckle in his name as a permanent memorial.