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Cousins AJ and Gus compete at 4th of July Rodeo in Arlee

By Lailani Upham

AJ concentrates as he gets prepared for his event. AJ is a U.S. Army Airborne war veteran. He served one year in Iraq and two years in Afaghanistan. (Lailani Upham photo) AJ concentrates as he gets prepared for his event. AJ is a U.S. Army Airborne war veteran. He served one year in Iraq and two years in Afaghanistan. (Lailani Upham photo)

ARLEE AJ and Gus McDonald are not only local bull riders, but cousins who support each other.

AJ from Arlee and Gus from St. Ignatius both competed at the Arlee Fourth of July Rodeo.

Rodeo is a family event of not just a place where spectators take their families but where families compete and support one another.

Gus, 26, says he started riding only a few years ago and says his cousins who own a Pistol Creek stock encouraged his decision to start riding. “I’ve always been a basketball player so I got a start in being in shape,” he said. With two little ones at home he says he isn’t able to travel with the sport as much as some. (Lailani Upham photo) Gus, 26, says he started riding only a few years ago and says his cousins who own a Pistol Creek stock encouraged his decision to start riding. Ive always been a basketball player so I got a start in being in shape, he said. With two little ones at home he says he isnt able to travel with the sport as much as some. (Lailani Upham photo)

The holiday rodeo has been run by Arlee family RT and Stephanie Hendrickson. Their sons Billy, Levi and Rusy all are active in the rodeo circuit and have helped run the rodeo over the years.

AJ says he has many cousins he has looked up to in the rodeo life. Although he said he started out jumping on calves at the age of five, he said he only recently started competing in the saddle bronco event. A year and a half to be exact.

Spectators watch as the bull makes a twist causing younger cousin Gus lose grip and receive a no time. (Lailani Upham photo) Spectators watch as the bull makes a twist causing younger cousin Gus lose grip and receive a no time. (Lailani Upham photo)

He said it was when his grandpa, the late Joe Pablo, bought him a saddle and showed up with it one day.

Both bull riding cousins have their reasons and starts that may be different of why they ride, but it boils down to them and all the riders that they just want to stay on for the eight seconds.

One former bull riding champ said it was 80 percent mental and 20 percent talent. Whatever the percentage, one knows it takes guts and muscle to brace themselves to combat 2,000 pounds of terror.

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