Even at two years old, Parker Hooks was a man with a plan.
When his parents, Derrick Hooks and Latoya Jackson-Hooks, took him to the Lea County Rodeo, the little man wanted to ride the bulls.
“Of course he couldn’t ride a bull,” Jackson-Hooks said. “He was so mad, he wanted to leave the Lea County Rodeo.”
But, that was not the end of Parker Hooks’ interest in rodeo, just the beginning. Seven years later Hooks is a world champion, having won the 7-9 year-old calf-riding title at the Youth Bull Riders World Finals in Abilene, Texas earlier this month.
“I’m super excited,” said Hooks, who just began fourth grade at College Lane Elementary School in Hobbs.
“It’s a huge thing,” Jackson-Hooks said. “Not everybody can say that they are a world champion.”
The association Hooks competes through is Texas Outlaws Youth Bull-riding. That, like any youth rodeo association, sends only the top five riders in each age division to the YBR World Finals.
“So not everybody gets to make it to the YBR,” Jackson-Hooks said. “And this is his third year of making it to the YBR.”
Hooks finished in the YBR world championship’s top 15 for bull riding in October 2020, after having only started riding mini-bulls in June of that year.
“It was pretty impressive,” Jackson-Hooks said. “A lot of people say he’s just a natural. When you watch him ride, he kind of just gets it.”
Those 2020 worlds were supposed to be in Las Vegas, Nevada, but were moved to Mesquite, Texas due to COVID. Hooks qualified for worlds again last year, but because they coincided with the first week of school, his parents had to say no to letting him attend and compete.
“He begged and begged and begged that he could go this year,” Jackson-Hooks said. “We told him if it worked out, he would get to go. And it was one week before school, so he got to go.”
And competed against riders from Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Australia and Thailand, as well as other riders from the U.S.
Hooks jumped off to a blazing start, winning the first round, which carried him most of the rest of the way. Though he was sixth in the second round, Hooks still had the highest overall score, thanks to his strong opening round.
“His first ride was really, really good,” Jackson-Hooks said. “That kept him super high over the whole process.”
Hooks has moved up through the riding ranks over the past six years. A year after his request to bullride at two years old was denied, his grandfather Willie Jackson entered him in the rodeo’s mutton-busting competition.
“He loved it,” Jackson-Hooks said.
Hooks next rodeoed in Odessa, Texas, did fairly well, then won the same competition the following year.
It was a steady progression for Hooks, as he worked his way toward riding mini-bulls two years ago. Though competitors take what they draw to ride – bulls, steers or calves – bulls tend to be the most predictable animal to ride, according to Jackson-Hooks.
“A lot of people like to put their kids on mini-bulls,” Jackson-Hooks said. “Calves and steers buck differently, so some people just like their kids on the bulls; they know what the bulls are going to do.”
Hooks thinks that riding animals, bulls in particular, is both scary and exciting. He says it’s scary “when the bull looks mean,” and exciting “when they buck good.”
It’s a dangerous sport, but Jackson-Hooks says the family accepts that and tries not to fret about it too much.
“It’s just like anything else,” Jackson-Hooks said. “Our oldest son plays football, and he gets concussions. It’s just kind of the way that it goes.”
Hooks’ grandmother, Luella Jackson, even asked him if he worried about the remote chance of a ride ending as bad as it possibly could. She recounted Hooks’ response to the rest of the family.
“‘Oh well,’” Hooks told her. ‘I’ll just be riding in Heaven.’”
Mrs. Jackson then told the family, “What can you say to that?”
Hooks continues focusing on the positives, and in fact, his climb to this year’s YBR championship was not a surprise. Each January, the Hooks family writes their goals for the year on a poster board they call a dream board. And Hooks writes winning a YBR world championship.
“It’s that one thing that a rider wants to say that they did,” Jackson-Hooks said. “Parker has written it on his dream board for the last three years, so it was really cool to mark that off the dream board.”