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No amount of time in a kennel or lunatic asylum could prepare you for J.C. Trujillo's singing voice. The ex-champion bareback rider "entertains" weary elk hunters in his Pyramid Peak, Colo. hunting camp with songs about drifters and drovers and broncs so wild they could kick the white out of the moon. He's hunched into his olive duster, a guitar in one hand, a fifth of peppermint schnapps in the other. Soon his mules, Cheech and Chong, start braying along. "At this point," Trujillo says, "I'm a better bareback rider than a singer."
Nobody ever said Trujillo was much of a crooner. But in an 18-year pro career as a bareback rider he has made the national finals 11 times, and he won a title in 1981. His rodeo life consists of eight-second spasms of violence on broncs busting out of chutes into dusty arenas from Cody, Wyo. to Woodstown, N.J.
J.C.'s raggedy, go-for-broke style has earned him the nickname Trujillo Monster. It also left him unconscious last December at the nationals in Oklahoma City, and with a broken toe, busted ribs and a knee and elbow that never stop hurting.
"What year is it?" asked the physician in the emergency room.
"Nineteen eighty-three," answered Trujillo.
"How many national finals have you been in?"
"Too many," sobbed his wife, Margo.
In a sport where most burn out by 27, Trujillo, now 36, had been scrambling to as many as 130 rodeos a year, sometimes appearing in three different cities in a single day. His "retirement" after the Oklahoma City smashup lasted until June. "All those rodeos coming up looked too easy to pass up," he says. "So the Trujillo Monster decided to cowboy up." That's rodeo talk for riding with pain.
Quietly, the Trujillo Monster entered a mid-size rodeo at Grand Junction, Colo. He won. A week later he was first in Reno in the second-biggest event on the circuit. And on the Fourth of July in his hometown of Prescott, Ariz, he won again. Since 1981 he has earned about $200,000.
Trujillo also runs a hunting and pack trip business out of his home in Pyramid (elev. 8,001, pop. 11). The pop. in his house includes Margo, his daughters Annie, 3, and Sammie Lou, 2, and his trusty ranch hand, Danny Longo. Trujillo is Pyramid's self-proclaimed mayor and its chamber of commerce. In fact, when it comes to commerce in Pyramid, what doesn't take place at the gas pump in front of Trujillo's house usually does in the liquor store out back.