It’s boots, chaps, cowboy hats for local 9-year-old rodeo rider
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
“Well, it’s bulls and blood; it’s dust and mud; it’s the roar of a Sunday crowd
It’s the white in his knuckles, the gold in the buckle he’ll win the next go ’round
It’s boots and chaps, it’s cowboy hats. it’s spurs and latigo
It’s the ropes and the reins and the joy and the pain, and they call the thing rodeo”
— From “Rodeo,” Garth Brooks
Tyson Milliken isn’t like most 9-year-olds. While his friends and classmates at Byrneville Elementary School might enjoy riding bicycles or hoverboards in their spare time, he prefers bulls and bucking broncos.
The local youngster, son of Hunter and Hannah Milliken, turned 9 in August and is already an accomplished rodeo rider.
The grandson of Lisa and Larry Milliken of Robinsonville and Kim and John McCullough of McDavid has felt the joy and pain of being thrown from an angry bull or horse, as well as the thrill of hearing the 6-second buzzer and receiving a check for his ability to hang on.
Tyson, who will be competing in the International Miniature Rodeo Association World Championships in 2020, doesn’t hesitate when asked what he plans to do when he grows up.
“I want to do rodeo professionally,” he said. “Rodeo is pretty much about the checks, bringing home money for the way you ride. I’ve already won money, and I want to be like J.B. Mauney, Laine Frost, Tuff Hedeman and Dale Grigsby. I want to break their records.”
He’s not so keen, however, on the bones he might break on the way. He is already familiar with emergency rooms and knows emergency medical personnel by name but has never shown any inclination to give up.
“He already has ‘tattoos’ on his arm, his leg, and his head,” said Hunter of the oldest of his three sons (Levi, 7, and Chase, 2, are the others.) “When a horse stepped on his leg, we took him to the ER around 7 p.m. The doctor wanted to stitch it up and asked him how long before he got on the next one. Tyson said, ‘when I leave here,” so the doctor didn’t stitch it up, just bandaged it with some really thick gauze. We went back to the rodeo, and he got on the same horse around 2:45 in the morning.”
Hannah, who calls herself Tyson’s “biggest supporter and worst critic,” said her eldest offspring has been injured “at least 10 times” by bulls and broncs.
“I call him ‘Tyson the Terrible’,” she said. “He’s only been to the ER that one time. But he’s had to go to the ‘Wee-woo Wagon’ (the ambulance on standby at various rodeos) the other nine.”
And, while his parents are 100 percent behind his dreams of becoming a full-time rodeo rider, the cost of getting to that stage is prohibitive. Even the custom-built American hat he wears carries an almost-$200 price tag.
“It’s not cheap,” Hunter said. “The neck roll is $200; his chaps and vest cost around $675; his rigging is $685, including a $168 glove, then there’s boots and the rest of what he has to have. Altogether, with traveling and entry fees and all, it costs about $10,000 a year.”
The young cowboy already has two local sponsors (Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen in Atmore and RTS All-American Garage Doors in Pensacola) but could use others to help fund the trip to the world championships, which will be held in Guthrie, Okla., in January.
“It’s going to cost $2,000 just to barely get by out there,” Hunter said. “It would be nice to have a little more.”
Hannah said her son would proudly wear the patch of any business that wants to help cover the family’s trip expenses.
“If they have a sticker or patch for their business, we can cram them all over his vest,” she said.
The budding buckaroo said he would do his best to make any sponsor proud.
“If anybody wants to help sponsor me, they’re more than welcome,” he said. “I’ll do my best to represent them at the world finals.”
The family will also raffle off in November — at $5 per chance — a gift basket that will have a $200-300 value and will include gift cards and other items from local and area businesses.
Tyson also receives help from his traveling partners and hauling partners, Clay “Wild Man” Dempsey and Brent Dempsey of Beulah, as well as Joanie, Greg and Colt Christie of Wetumpka. That group hauls his horse and equipment to most of the events in which he participates.
If anyone wishes to donate money to Tyson’s cause, they can do so by sending it through PayPal to HannahMilliken@yahoo.com or they can call 251-428-0263 for more information.
The professional rodeo rider hopeful said he doesn’t think of girls, homework or anything else as he’s waiting for the gate to be pulled and his wild rides to begin.
“I’m thinking about that bull or horse,” he said. “I’m not thinking about getting hurt because that’s part of it. Like J.B. Mauney said, you’ve got to dance with the bull. I’d rather ride a bull than go to school.”