Charlie Gibson started rodeo 12 years ago, when he was five. “My dad (Casey Tyree) and my sister (Brittany Winslett – 7 years older) competed,” […]
On The Trail with Creek Young
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
A framed $25 check for winning the first mutton bustin’ he entered at only two-and-a-half years old hung on Creek Young’s wall for years.
As a kid, Creek’s grandma, Lois Porter, would read to him from Gary Paulsen’s series, “Tucket’s Travels,” about a boy in the mid-19th century and his adventures in the American West.
Now, the cowboy from Rogersville, Mo., is living a 21st century version of those tales with a bull riding twist that’s taking him to the 2021 National Finals Rodeo.
“He’s kind of an old soul so that’s where the nickname Old Man River comes into it,” said Creek’s friend and mentor, Denton Fugate, referring to Creek being a fan of Lil Wayne. “It’s not as modern as it was a few years ago I guess.”
His aunt, Michelle Porter, didn’t know about the nickname yet her description of Creek was identical, but for very different reasons.
“When he was little, he’d ask very deep questions and he was like an old man in a young man’s body,” Michelle said. “He loves his quiet time and is contemplated and focused. He has a strong moral compass and has this wisdom about him that’s like an old man. It’s impressive.”
Creek blew the competition out of the water in the race for PRCA Rookie of the Year with $143,511 and finished No. 4 in the PRCA’s world standings.
“Last year, I left the house with $10,000 and hoped I’d win enough to keep going,” Creek said. “By the middle of the summer run, the dollars were stacking up. Breaking $100,000 was pretty cool.”
Denton watched Creek progress through the Missouri Family Rodeo Association and the Junior Pro Bull Riders-Missouri.
“He has a really strong mental game but it took him a little longer to get the basics down because he’s always been taller than the average kid; but that’s hard for me to judge because I’m 5-6,” Denton said.
At 6 feet tall and 150 pounds, Creek is taller than most of the 2021 NFR bull riding roster.
“I don’t feel like I’ve ever had a problem or rode different because I’m taller,” Creek said. “I have more arm to give on the bulls and that makes it easier.”
His journey on the other hand, has been anything but easy.
Creek was born to Randy Young and Raneé Porter-Young on Nov. 15, 2000. Randy was a bull rider and bullfighter, but he died when Creek was a toddler.
“I love bull riding for my own reasons,” Creek said. “I never connected it with him because I was so young. I love it for my own reasons because I had to find my own way.”
His mom passed when he was 11 years old. But, every cloud has a silver lining and Creek’s was arguably better than gold.
His aunt Michelle finished raising him while his rodeo family continued to grow. Michelle didn’t know anything about rodeo, but was determined to support her nephew’s dream.
He also has two half-sisters and a half-brother who are several years older than him, Najee Donson, Derrion Donson, and Bailey Young.
“I have an extended family, a rodeo family,” Creek said. “When my mom passed, people stepped up and made me feel better.”
He listed Mollie Howard and her grandson, Josh Steele, both of his grandmas, Lois Porter and Barbara Young, his aunt and uncle, and a long list of friends and family including Charlie and Shanna McDonald family.
“I don’t know if everyone understands how it (rodeo family) works, but I feel like it’s more common here than people think,” Creek said. “Maybe that’s because I’ve always done it.”
While growing up, Michelle encouraged Creek to participate in football, basketball and track. Although he did well, it was clear that he wasn’t passionate about it.
“I could tell he did not light up the way he does at his rodeos,” Michelle said. “It was so clear to me that I decided by sophomore year this isn’t that important. He knows where he is going and has strong friendships and is a well-rounded 15-year-old. So, I let it go and we shifted gears to ‘let’s make it happen,’ and he did.”
Getting better and seeing his hard work pay off helped him grow into the bull riding powerhouse fans know today.
“I wasn’t very good as a freshman and struggled with staying on,” Creek laughed. “I was always a little hesitant and scared when I was younger, and I did it anyway.”
His fear faded over time and changed into a craving.
“It got to where I always wanted to do it so I practiced all the time,” Creek said. “That was a turning point in my young career and that’s when I took it seriously.”
He would get on practice bulls every Sunday and Wednesday with Quentin Vaught in Crane, Mo.
Creek believes sophomore year is when he started to get serious and that’s about when Denton noticed something was different about Creek.
Denton realized Creek has what it takes to go pro.
Creek qualified for National High School Finals Rodeo his freshman and sophomore years of high school.
“It was a cool experience and I made a lot of friends,” Creek said.
Making friends and expanding his “rodeo family” has been a key component to his growth and success.
He competed with the IPRA, and won the year-end and the rookie of the year titles with the ACRA in 2018.
“I went to as much as I could for amateur rodeo,” Creek said.
As his 18th birthday approached, Creek and Michelle sat down and discussed his plans.
“I told him, ‘you know you want to be a bull rider and you live and breathe bull riding, so why wait until the spring to be riding if you can graduate in December and get started,’” Michelle said.
His brilliant mind helped propel him onto the ProRodeo scene by graduating half a year early from Logan-Rogersville (Mo.) High School.
“I doubled up pretty good on classes,” Creek said. “I just wanted to get out and be able to rodeo on my permit. There were some spring rodeos I wanted to go to and I didn’t want high school to interfere.”
Creek made his ProRodeo debut by tying for fourth at the Sandhills Stock Show & Rodeo in Odessa, Texas, in early January 2019.
“I remember vividly that it was a different feeling,” Creek said. “I was super excited, and just being a young kid at a ProRodeo was pretty exciting. I did well at it, so that was even better.”
Creek moved to Fort Scott, Kan., to live with his friends while on his permit.
“I was never broke, but I wasn’t living on a lot during my permit seasons,” Creek said.
This year was a different story.
Michelle speculates that COVID-19 putting a pause on his ProRodeo endeavors only fueled the fire.
“Being able to get back out there and really do as much as he could possibly do without restrictions was exhilarating for him,” Michelle said.
The 2021 season started slow by Creek’s standards, placing second at the RAM Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo for $1,475 in mid-October 2020 followed by a few hundred dollars at the Brawley (Calif.) Cattle Call Rodeo a month later.
In November 2020, he scored his first big win at The Egg Xtreme Bull Riding Event in Oxford, Miss., for $4,004.
“That was the first X Bulls I ever won and was my biggest win at the time,” Creek said. “I went to the Finals (NFR) and watched one perf and that was really cool, and that’s when I noticed I was serious about making it and not wasting my rookie year.”
Creek hooked up with Trey Kimzey over an online game of “Fortnite,” and the two decided to travel together for the 2021 season, starting in San Angelo, Texas.
Bigger wins followed, such as $15,000 at the Tri-State Rodeo in Fort Madison, Iowa, in September.
“I watch him on the Cowboy Channel and read the articles and it’s just mind-blowing,” Michelle said. “It feels a little surreal that this is happening and I’m just so excited for him. He’s worked hard to get here.”
Creek nailed a 90.5-point ride on Bar T Rodeo’s Exit Strategy to win the Strawberry Days Rodeo in Pleasant Grove, Utah, in mid-June.
“I wanted to be sitting good enough at the end of the year to not stress about having a perfect Finals,” Creek said.
He was no longer the same bull rider who finished third in the permit standings with $24,584 in 2020 and 13th with $17,025 in 2019.
“I felt like I went pretty hard both years on my permit, but not really since I just stayed close to the house,” Creek said. “I started taking it seriously since I knew I couldn’t get my rookie year back if I messed around.”
Messing around simply isn’t in Creek’s character.
As a young child, Creek would repeatedly watch and study his old VHS tapes of Lane Frost and Tuff Hedeman.
“I know little about the rodeo world, but Creek is so calculated and has thought it out and you can see it in his riding,” Michelle said. “That gives me peace and confidence in his abilities.”
Creek was one of only a handful of bull riders to qualify for the 2021 ProRodeo Tour Finale in Salinas, Calif., where he raked in $12,316 to finish his rookie season with an exclamation point.
Most of his earnings were invested back into rodeo, but he saved quite a bit of it. Now his goal is to keep improving.
“I’m fourth this year, so then I want to be in the top three next year,” Creek said. “I feel inspired by what I could achieve. That’s what inspires me to keep going and try hard. I have a good start to what could be a good story eventually.”