Bubba Boots. It’s so cowboy, it’s almost corny.
No, his parents did not put that first name on his birth certificate, but someone in the family labeled him Bubba so long ago he doesn’t know why.
It fits for a Northwest College rodeo rider tearing up the Big Sky Region.
The sophomore from St. Anthony, Idaho is ranked No. 1 in the all-around. He flips those steers to the ground like a WWE wrestler. He twirls a rope over sprinting calves’ heads with laser-guided accuracy.
The footprints of Bubba’s boots are everywhere in the standings as the Trappers tighten their stranglehold on first place with their season aimed at a College Rodeo Finals appearance.
The mystique wouldn’t sound the same if he used his given name of Teigen, but except for official documents probably nobody around here knows it.
Growing up around rodeo – his father Aaron was a bulldogger – Bubba knew where he was heading. He just didn’t predict a two-year intermediary stop in Powell.
“I knew a couple of guys who came here before,” Boots said of why he chose Northwest for school.
And coach Del Nose knew a couple of guys who knew a couple of guys and knew enough about Boots’ family. Nose knew enough not to recruit Bubba’s sister Makayla Jo Boots, who leads the all-around for Idaho State in the Rocky Mountain Region. She chose that school because she was close to that coach.
Alas, it would have been neat to have a pair of Boots leading both his men’s and women’s teams, but Nose is content receiving Bubba’s production.
On a recent sunny day at Trapper Arena, Boots was leading a string of four horses into the outdoor practice arena, ropes bunched in his hand. He’s got a horse of a different color for every task.
Dark brown Tango is a calf-roping horse. Team-roper Jasper is lighter brown. Gray Caesar is for steer wrestling. Reno is a steer wrestler hazing horse, also brown. Boots is broad-shouldered and about 6-feet tall.
Unlike the 3-year-old thoroughbreds featured in the spring Triple Crown races, rodeo horses are more seasoned.
“They’re older,” Boots said. “They know what they’re doing.”
Especially Caesar, 16, who is a hand-me-down from his father. Jasper is 10. Boots is 20.
He seems like he knows what he is doing, too.
Stampeding beside the steers, springing off the horse for position and putting the headlock on the livestock is Boots’ favorite event.
He has been tackling animals larger than him for many years. Following in dad’s footsteps he began steer wrestling as a little kid when the steers were proportionate.
“They were little steers with little horns,” he said.
Boots and teammate Matt Williams, from the same area of Idaho, have a history more of going head-to-head than cooperation, but now they are header-heeler allies.
“We’ve known each other since high school,” Williams said. “I always roped against him.”
Together they are the second-ranked team ropers for the Big Sky Region.
Nose said Boots would probably ride bulls if he let him, but maybe he’s wrong.
“I’m kind of scared of them,” Boots said.
There are hazards in every rodeo event. During steer wrestling practice, Boots bounced back to his feet with a swath of his red sweatshirt flapping. A horn had sliced it open, the slash perilously close to including his belly in the swipe.
How about goat tying, Makayla Jo’s No. 1 event?
“I’ve tried goat tying,” Boots said. “I’m not that good.”
Boots is good enough at enough things though, to be thinking championships. His regional all-around lead is 183 points, sufficiently fat to believe a crown is within reach.
It would be nice to think a rodeo champ named Bubba could get free food at a Cody restaurant named Bubba’s Barbecue.
“Yeah, I’ll walk in and say, ‘I was hoping I can get a free meal,’” Boots said.
Maybe. Except for the pesky problem of being a Teigen, not a Bubba, on official documents.
“Bubba is on my school ID,” Boots exclaimed. “I can prove it.”
Extra sauce on the ribs.