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Daily Journal
June 2, 2022
#61-153 KDJ

Back on the bull: rider returns to Pembroke Rodeo

By Meredith Melland

PEMBROKE TOWNSHIP — While preparing for his first rodeo since breaking his wrist, Jarren Johnson said he hoped to ride the same bull that caused his injury nine months earlier — number 711, a mostly black creature flecked with spots and a cream-colored head.

“I’m a little nervous,” he said a day earlier. “Like, if a bull rider ever tells you that they’re not nervous, they’re lying.”

The 21-year-old Pembroke native’s wish came true Saturday, the first day of the 46th Pembroke Rodeo and Picnic, when he rode bull 711 before quickly getting bucked off.

He rode again Sunday.

Like many of the day’s participants, Johnson returned because of love for the rodeo he grew up around, its sport and community.

“This is what I love to do,” Johnson said. “I’m not going to let a minor injury make me quit riding or be off for that long after I was cleared.”


The Pembroke Rodeo was founded in 1976 by Thyrl Latting, creator of Latting Rodeo Productions, and has been carried on by his son, Mike Latting.

As one of the largest African American traveling rodeos in the country, according to Latting Rodeo Productions, it continues to diversify as Pembroke and Hopkins Park draw in more Latinx families.

The event features bareback riding, steer wrestling, calf roping, relay races, barrel racing, flag races and bull riding, in addition to hosting food vendors, scholarship draws and pony rides.

“It’s very important. He’s the third generation,” said Iris Johnson, Jarren’s mother, about rodeo’s role in her life.

She used to do rodeo events before she had kids and is involved with a two week camp for kids called Run-A-Way Buckers. She said Jarren has been around horses his whole life.

“It was a family thing, like my great uncle used to ride bucking horses and bulls,” Johnson said. “And then when he passed away and stuff, I took everything serious.”

About four years ago, Johnson began to get more involved in rodeo and eventually started working for Latting Rodeo Productions, which tours rodeos on weekends in summer, and taking part in the bull-riding event.

He was injured in the ring on Sept. 4, 2021, when it seemed the bull stepped on his hand after bucking him off, according to a video, Johnson said. At first, he thought he had only sprained or slightly damaged his wrist, so he did not go to the hospital for a couple of days.

When he was treated by hand and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Taruna Madhav Crawford at Riverside Healthcare, she told him he had fractures in two of his bones, dislocated two bones and tore a ligament in his wrist.

“It was kind of, I wouldn’t say bad, but I wish I was able to ride,” Johnson said.

He went through three surgeries — one major procedure that used pins to reconstruct his wrist, and two others to improve mobility and take out some of the hardware needed to repair his hand, the last of which was in early March. He completed hand physical therapy before he was cleared to ride again this spring.

While recovering, Madhav Crawford said he was still traveling to work with the rodeo and was set on getting back on the bull.

“Our goal in hand therapy is to return somebody to what they do,” she said.

To do this, she specifically made Johnson a brace he can use while riding “to protect him a bit more.”

Sustaining injuries is part of participating in a rodeo, as other riders can attest, and they are always a risk.

Iris said she was scared about Jarren returning to bull riding, but had to support him because he is passionate about it. His sister, Breaina Shumate, 22, echoed that sentiment before his ride Saturday.

“I was nervous a little bit, but he loves to do it so we just gotta support him,” she said.


A draw determines the order and bulls of the riders for the last event of the rodeo. Some of the riders said their performances depend in part on the difficulty and temperament of each bull, so it’s hard to predict.

Once a bull is released, it is important to focus on hustling for the whole ride, according to Johnson.

“You have to ride for eight seconds but if you don’t make the eight seconds, if you come off early, then everything is over with,” Johnson said.

He geared up for the ride by donning a helmet, vest, glove and braze. Then, the other riders helped him get situated on the bull before opening the gate. Johnson would normally grab the rope used to hang onto a bull with his left, dominant hand, but he planned to use his right hand after the injury.

None of the bull riders at the Pembroke Rodeo rode for eight seconds on Saturday and Sunday — all were bucked off early .

Still, Johnson said he felt good after the rodeo and has high hopes for his return.

“This year, it’ll be the year.”

Latting Rodeo Productions summer schedule

June 4: Macon County Fair, Decatur

July 11: Logansport 4H Fair, Logansport, Ind. 

July 13: Gibson County Horticulture, Princeton, Ind. 

July 15: Newton County Fair, Kentland, Ind.

July 23: Boone County Fair, Lebanon, Ind. 

July 25: Jasper County Fair, Rensselaer, Ind. 

Aug. 6: Kankakee County Fair, Kankakee

Aug. 11: Georgetown Fair, Georgetown

Aug. 28: Will County Fair, Peotone

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Meredith Melland
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