Friday marked five years since Tristan Lewis, now a freshman at Salem High School, rode his first calf at a rodeo.
As of this summer, he has qualified for the World Mini Bull Riding Championship in Mesquite, Texas next month.
Lewis, 14, son of Scott and Katrina Lewis, competes in rodeo almost every weekend of the year, oftentimes riding in a couple of rodeos over the course of Friday and Saturday nights. Over the past weekend, he was in Thayer and Poplar Bluff.
“I will ride about anything,” said Tristan with a smile during an interview.
Mainly competing on mini bulls, he began in 2016 riding calves as an eager nine-year-old rodeo participant. He took a bit of a break until 2018, and has been back to rodeo since.
This is the last year Tristan can compete in his current age group, at 14. Mini bulls are bred for their small size and weigh in at around 500 pounds, compared to standard rodeo bulls that can weigh 1,800 pounds or more. Youth bull riding is one of the fastest-growing sports in rodeo events nationwide.
Tristan has ridden with the Double B Rough Stock Association, Ozark Family Rodeo and more.
His first sponsor is Off R Rocker, a Florida-based group that aims to promote rodeo with youth across the country. Team members must keep a B average or better in school, rodeo at least one weekend a month, and stay true to the values represented by the company. In addition, he is sponsored by Triple B Cattle and Alpha Real Estate.
Not only does he compete in rodeo multiple times per month pretty much year-around, he has a practice pen in Crane. Additional practice comes in the form of bareback riding at his family home, or a bucking barrel hanging at his house.
He is a member of Green Forest 4-H and shows hogs each year at the annual 4-H/FFA Expo. Tristan and his friend are also starting up a business to break horses in his spare time.
Mostly riding in Missouri and Arkansas, the world championships will be his first ride in Texas.
He is most proud of his score in Versailles this year, scoring an 87. For those unfamiliar with the sport, a rider must stay on the bull for eight seconds, and with that time reached, a score of 0-100 is earned, all while touching the bull with only their riding hand.
“The scariest place is in the chutes,” said Tristan.
Despite suffering a few injuries and broken bones, Tristan said he enjoys the sports and wants to continue. The rodeos are a family affair as Tristan travels with his mom, dad, sister Trinity, her boyfriend Brian and daughter Shekota, and several friends to rodeos all over the state.
When he isn’t riding in rodeos, Tristan enjoys hunting and hanging out with friends.
Friends Denny Reeves, 17, Kenny Robinson, 15, Jonah Henderson, 15, and Landon Ralph, 16, often travel with him to events to cheer him on and also participate in events.
Tristan has shown a few of his friends how to ride, after one of his cousins showed him the ropes originally.
So, how does a nine-year-old decide to start this sport?
“I always watched ‘8 seconds’ (movie starring Luke Perry as rodeo-great Lane Frost), and I kept watching it and watching it, and finally my parents let me try it out,” said Tristan.
As Tristan travels to the finals in Texas Oct. 4-9, there are several costs included for lodging, entry fees, etc.
A benefit is planned for 4 p.m. Sept. 25 at Lone Pine Ranch in Salem. A fish fry, sloppy joes and more food; silent auction; horse show; and karaoke are planned with most of the proceeds benefitting Tristan in his journey to the world championships. Events of the benefit horse show are $10 to enter, and spectators are by donation.
If you are interested in attending or want to donate, contact Katrina, (573) 739-9336, or Trinity, (573) 739-9824 for more information.