When Trujillo was six, his sometime team-roper father took him to a junior rodeo. J.C. was allowed to enter the calf-riding if he promised he wouldn't cry if he got bucked off. J.C. placed second. "I won $10.80," he says.
He thinks a bareback rider has to be as aggressive as an inside linebacker, which is what he was at Eastern Arizona College. He later transferred to Arizona State, and was the collegiate champion in bareback riding in 1968, the runner-up in '69. He rides "gapped out," with the wild abandon that gets bareback riders "exposure." He flails his legs in time with the bronc's jumps, and clings to the leather rigging. A good bareback rider needs a strong arm to keep from getting jerked back, and Trujillo's right arm—with which he hangs on to the rigging—is nearly two inches larger around than his left.
In the seventh go-round of those '83 finals at Oklahoma City, Trujillo drew All Velvet, one of the roughest, heaviest, meanest broncs on the tour. Trujillo had ridden him at three other rodeos: He took first twice and was upended the other time. All Velvet charged out of the gate, angled toward the center of the arena, turned hard back to the right and double-jumped. Trujillo was knocked out when his head snapped back against the bronc's rump. He got hung up in the rigging and flopped around the horse's left flank like a rag doll. "In rodeo," he says, "it's just me against the horse." Chalk that one up for the horse.
But you should have seen him during the nationals in '81, when he trailed Bruce Ford going into the ninth go-round (of 10). With the championship on the line, Trujillo drew a nasty yellow bronc with the harmless name of Tweedle Dee. "I knew I had to come up with something special, so I caught another gear about the third jump," he says. The horse could have been stalled in neutral as far as Trujillo was concerned. He scored 88 points, the second-highest total ever for a national finals ride. And, of course, he rustled the bareback title from Ford.
Back on Pyramid Peak, Trujillo is leading his pack animals down snow-blanketed Sheepherders Trail when Chong ventures off the trail and gets his lead rope caught around an aspen. As Trujillo tries to get the beast untangled, Cheech and Co. take off.
Trujillo thrashes after them, roaring curses and braying imprecations. A couple of miles later he is faced with the acute embarrassment of being helped out of a tight spot by an outfitter of another group. The great rodeo cowboy can't even lead a pack horse.
"At this point," Trujillo says with chagrin, "I'm a better bareback rider than an outfitter."