Mutton busting carries boy from Fort Lupton to ‘Leno’
Rigo Garza can’t help but laugh a little when he stops to think about it.
The 75-year-old farmer has been working with sheep for 62 years, dating back to when he was a 13-year-old migrant worker traveling across the West to help make money for his family, and in all those years garnered little, if any, recognition for his lifetime of work with the animals – not that he’s been doing it for the attention, he added.
On the other hand, it’s taken his grandson all of a few weeks to start making a name for himself in the world of sheep – having possibly even earned himself a moment or two on national television, in addition to other recent accomplishments.
“It’s something else, I tell you,” Garza said.
In recent weeks, 6-year-old Dimitri Alarcon has ventured away from the family farm near Fort Lupton – where he “eagerly” helps his grandfather shear sheep, along with other operations – to take part in national mutton busting competitions in Fresno, Calif., and Las Vegas.
Mutton busting is an event held at rodeos, similar to bull or bronc riding, in which children ride sheep. Participants, required to weigh 60 pounds or less to ride in most cases, must hang on for six seconds before they are judged.
By taking first in his heat and third overall at the Colorado State Fair in September, Dimitri – the mutton busting champion at the Greeley Stampede in July after having only tried the activity a couple of times – qualified for the competitions in California and Las Vegas. At the national events, Dimitri dominated the early rounds, earning first-place medals in his preliminary heats at both competitions, and in Las Vegas he missed out on a $10,000 prize by only a fraction of a second.
In addition, while at the Pro Bull Riders World Finals in Las Vegas last weekend, he earned the title of “best-dressed wrangler” at the competition – a prize rewarded with a load of free clothes from Wrangler.
And, perhaps most exciting for the youngster, he was one of three kids asked to give mutton busting demonstrations to a camera crew for “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
“I come back from the restroom after a few minutes and he’s been talking to people from Jay Leno,” Dimitri’s mother, Angelina Alarcon, said, laughing. “He’s quite the kid … never know what he’s going to get into.”
A spokesperson for the show said Thursday morning their six-minute segment from Pro Bull Riders World Finals in Las Vegas is scheduled to air tonight but the schedule is always subject to change. “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” airs at 10:30 p.m..
Dimitri’s mother admitted she’s never watched the show – and to be honest, she added, didn’t even know what it was – but said the family will definitely be watching tonight, or until Dimitri’s potential first minute of fame has aired.
Dimitri – shy and soft-spoken – said he, too, is excited to watch and see whether he’ll be on national television tonight, but he was reluctant to reveal any of his secrets regarding his successful mutton busting.
“I just like riding,” he said with a quick response.
Although sheep dominate the present in Dimitri’s life, it’s only a stepping stone for what he wants to do later on, for it takes all of a split second for him to answer the question that’s bombarded youth since the beginning of time.
“A bullfighter,” no doubt, is what Dimitri plans to be when he grows up.
Although the 45-pound Dimitri – always clad in his cowboy getup, which his older siblings give him a hard time for, Angelina said – isn’t quite ready to handle a one-ton charging beast, he’s certainly making the most of what opportunities he has now.
“He works so hard at it. He’s a determined little guy,” Angelina said. “A lot of the other mutton busting riders have their coaches and people who help them get on the sheep when they ride.
“Not Dimitri. He doesn’t want anyone’s help.”
Dimitri instead enjoys providing the help, according to Angelina and Dimitri’s grandfather.
“He’s a tough guy who works pretty hard here on the farm, and in whatever else he does,” Garza said. “He’s received quite a bit of attention recently, but I suppose he deserves it.
“More attention than I ever got,” he said with a laugh.
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