By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Teaspoon Mitchell originally never wanted his son, Ouncie Mitchell, to become a bull rider.
It is why he about lost his mind when Ouncie’s mom, Laquita, decided to enter their 2-year-old son in a mutton busting competition.
“Are you crazy?” Teaspoon remembers saying. “Do you know what you just did? You messed up everything, because I didn’t want him to ride bulls.”
Ouncie’s debut in the mutton busting ended with him peeing his pants in the arena, Ouncie recalled with a laugh, but it was the beginning of the now-25-year-old’s obsession with becoming a cowboy.
The Fresno, Texas, cowboy eventually turned pro when he was 18 years old, and he reached the pinnacle of the sport when he qualified for the 2019 PBR World Finals as a Velocity Tour wild-card winner.
Ouncie often competed at bull ridings along his journey to the pros, such as the Bill Pickett Invitational, with his father working as one of the event’s bullfighters.
That was the case once again this past weekend in Las Vegas with Teaspoon on the dirt, cowboy protecting his son and watching him advance to the bonus round of the 37th annual Bill Pickett Invitational with a 76-point ride.
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“It is amazing,” Teaspoon said. “What father wouldn’t want to be with their child? He has been around it all my career since his mom entered him in the mutton busting. The boy wasn’t even walking all the way when he got started.”
CBS will air a one-hour special featuring highlights and event storylines Saturday, June 19 at 1 p.m. ET. The Juneteenth television special will be the first time an all-Black rodeo has been broadcast on network television. Juneteenth is the date honoring the end of slavery in the United States and a celebration of the oldest African American holiday.
“It is pretty awesome,” Ouncie said. “This is the first one they have teamed up with the PBR. It is the biggest one of them all now.”
Teaspoon used to ride bulls at the Bill Pickett Invitational in the 1990s before transitioning into a cowboy-protecting career.
“I have been fighting bulls at the Bill Pickett so much that I have lost track,” Teaspoon said. “We have a great relationship, and just to be a part of something like this is great. There is a bunch of talent and a bunch of different nationalities, but coming from my world and my pigment of skin, it has been hard, but it is fair. I am glad with the generation going on now that this younger generation of guys gets the opportunity to feel equal like everybody else. That is amazing. I am glad they have an opportunity to be recognized because it wasn’t always like that.
“Hopefully, we have some champions coming up from around here too. Somebody has to step up to the plate.”
Ouncie, who also has a firefighting degree from Houston Community College, grew up near Houston and got on his first steer at 5 years old. He credits his father with teaching him how to ride over the years.
Teaspoon competed in PRCA rodeos and amateur events throughout Texas, but he eventually shifted over to bullfighting after breaking his hip.
“I try to ride loose and cool and have fun,” Ouncie said in 2018. “My dad used to always say, ‘Forget the form and make the horn.’ Whatever I have to do, just make it. Most people want to stay structure-wise, but for me, if it works, it works.”
Also advancing to the bonus round in the bull riding competition at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo with Ouncie was Tank Adams and JaMarcus Whiting.
Adams, a professional MMA fighter and firefighter, was the first bull rider to earn a qualified ride on Sunday, leading to a strong ovation inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“It is great here because there is all the pressure on people. First big event,” Adams said. “This is a blessing. You can’t beat it. We just thank everybody that came out, all the sponsors. I didn’t think the crowd would be this big. This is enormous for us. They went crazy. I have had higher-marked rides than that, and people haven’t been that loud. The crowd is really behind us and excited about it.”
Whiting is a two-time Bill Pickett Invitational winner.
“Man, this is exciting. Shoutout to the PBR, CBS and Bill Pickett for working together in getting us a shot to show how talented we are,” Whiting said. “This is just exciting.”
Ouncie has struggled this season in PBR competition, going 2-for-17 in 10 events. He has also started entering some PRCA rodeos and is 1-for-9. Still, he hasn’t ruled out a potential push for the World Finals by working his way up the standings via the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals in the second half.
Mitchell’s next PBR event will be the Slick Rock Challenge in Rocksprings, Texas, on June 26.
“I believe in speaking it into existence. Talk about it. Believe it,” Mitchell said after predicting he would qualify for the bonus round of the Bill Pickett Invitational. “It is not about being confident; it is about being content with winning. You can lose your confidence, but you can’t lose being content with winning.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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