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Enjoying the Rough and Tumble of Mutton Bustin’
Five-year-old Walker Mott was the first of about 10 mutton busters Tuesday night.
Thursday, July 4, 2024



Five-year-old Walker Mott has spent the last 364 days preparing for his turn at the rodeo—ever since he saw his last rodeo.

He’s practiced hanging on riding on the back of his mother who admits she can buck pretty good. He’s read all the books on rodeo in the children’s section of the library, and he’s watched rodeo videos on You Tube.

This young’un is determined to hang on.

Finally, the big moment came. On Tuesday evening as the evening sun turned the Hailey foothills a rich orange color, Walker Mott hitched up his best cowboy blue jeans and donned a Western plaid shirt and a mandatory red helmet. Then he climbed aboard a wooly sheep more than twice his size as hundreds of fans looked on from the Hailey rodeo arena.

The buckaroo holding the sheep had scarcely let go before young Walker went flying through the air. His father Casey Mott estimated he had a single second on the sheep; others said he must have had at least three seconds before the sheep dispensed him. He landed on the ground, his feet in the air, as the wooly bugger ran off. He sat there for a minute dazed. But then he regrouped, holding his finger up in the air to let everyone know he was No. 1.

“He said, ‘I want to go first, and it turned out he did get to go first—he was so excited to jump on the sheep,” said Walker’s mother Sarah Smith, who watched her son’s rodeo debut alongside his father Casey Mott and 7-year-old brother Robin. “I was so proud of him—I could tell he was having fun.”

The Mott family has been attending the three-day Sawtooth Rangers’ Days of the Old West Rodeo ever since Casey took a job overseeing The Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum.

The bull seems to be scanning the arena to figure out the best way to go.

Casey had attended the rodeo in his youth, having grown up in Sun Valley. But there was no rodeo near their home in California so it was new to Sarah and to Robin, who was 2 when they moved to Sun Valley.

“We always go to the rodeo—it’s a good family activity, and it’s so fun to see all the Wood River Valley coming out and getting excited about the same thing, especially when we don’t have a local sports team that plays in the summer,” said Smith. “And you get to see animals in a different light—you see the power of the animals on full display.”

Walker saw mutton bustin’, which was introduced in Alberta, Canada, in the early 1960s, at last year’s rodeo. And, once he realized kids his age could take their turn, he was all in.

Now that his rodeo debut is over, Walker has gone back to mountain biking, playing by the river, camping and basically “running around like a crazy guy.” But he’s already gunning for next year when he can try mutton bustin’ again.

A rider lays across the back of the bronc, figuring it’s going to give him the best chance to stay off the ground.

“I didn’t tell him there were two more nights of rodeo left this year,” Smith said. “He would have wanted to be there.”


The Sawtooth Rangers’ Days of the Old West Rodeo concludes tonight with a final performance featuring bull riding, bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and more beginning at 7:30 p.m. Pre-show activities like the Rodeo Queen Coronation and Casperson Mini-Bulls will begin at 6 p.m.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for youth 12 and under, available at all Atkinsons’ Markets and The Chamber Welcome Center in Hailey. They also can be purchased online at https://www.sawtoothrangers.org/get-tickets/. No tickets will be sold at the gate.

A calf roper throws a halo above the calf.

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