Talk about unusual summer jobs.
Kegan Mayo just might be the only Carroll County teenager earning money doing trick roping.
For Kegan, 14, performing full-time at the Western Theme Park in Berlin is the perfect job and a chance to do what he absolutely loves.
"He walks around with the rope 24-7 — everywhere he goes," said Jennifer Mayo, Kegan's mother who is spending the summer with her son in Berlin's Frontier Town Campground. "Practicing his tricks and learning new tricks. It takes a lot of repetition and concentration."
Kegan, a Hampstead resident and rising freshman at Manchester Valley High School, is practicing constantly to master tricks such as flat loop, butterfly and the ocean wave.
"He really wants to be a rodeo performer," Jennifer Mayo said. "And he is the youngest one there."
Kegan is determined to excel on the national level.
"I am working on my form and technique so I can go farther," Kegan said.
Kegan is equally focused on rodeo, particularly on bull riding.
He'll be entering his fourth season competing in the sport this fall and is coming off a stellar run.
The 5-foot-4, 110-pound Kegan competed in the National Junior High Rodeo Finals in Lebanon, Tenn., last month. He comes out of a shoot riding a bull that weighs around 1,000 pounds and attempts to stay on it for eight seconds.
"This was the first time he went to nationals," said Jennifer, noting that he qualified two years agstero, but decided he wasn't quite ready. "You are competing against kids from Texas, Wyoming and Oklahoma, where kids are doing this every day in their backyards. He did very well. He was the (only) Maryland bull rider to make it the eight seconds. "
Kegan's performance at nationals followed him winning the Maryland High School Rodeo Association Junior Bull Riding championships in Princes Anne in May.
He also captured the same title in 2015.
"I love traveling everywhere and I get to meet all these new people," Kegan said. "I talk non-stop about rodeo."
Jennifer, who advises students for the Maryland High School Rodeo Association, hopes that the sport will be the key to her son's higher education.
"There are college rodeo teams and you can get a full scholarship for bull riding," Jennifer said. "I would love to see him get one."
His father, David, who rode professionally, can vouch for his passion.
"He eats and sleeps rodeo," David said. "When he's not at school, he is practicing on a bull-riding dummy and watching video of his own rides. Riding is 90 percent pure will. He just has the heart for it. This boy just loves rodeo."
Kegan also sticks to a rigorous daily workout routine that is all geared toward improving his bull riding.
It includes lifting weights and riding horses bare back.
"Bull riding is mostly leg strength," Kegan said. "You have to keep up with your leg strength. You have to do a lot of squats and a lot of riding on horses. I also practice on a barrel that is shaped like a bull."
Bull riding runs in the Mayo family. Kegan is following in the footsteps of his father and older brother Parker.
David rode bulls for 12 years, four of them professionally.
He also works as a rodeo announcer and serves as vice president of the Maryland High School Rodeo Association. David had his first introduction to the sport through his aunt and uncle in Ohio.
Kegan is keeping up with the family tradition.
"Since I grew up around it, I knew I wanted to get into it since I was young," Kegan said.
The family has come to terms with the reality that bull riding is a dangerous sport.
Kegan wears a helmet and safety vest when he rides.
"I am 42," said David, who in 1996, the peak year of his career, earned about $87,000. "I've had 38 broken bones and 30 of them are from rodeo. Kegan has had two concussions. That's the extent of his injuries."
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