Jaxson Kidd pulled up to the Boulder City Horseman’s Association in a white carriage, anxiously awaiting to see the surprises in store for him.
The carriage pulled up next to a semitrailer with a montage of bulls painted on its side. Inside the truck was Chicken on a Chain, one of the most notable bulls in the Professional Bull Riders circuit.
In a few hours, the 8-year-old from Bixby, Okla., which is about 15 miles outside of Tulsa, would be sitting atop the 2,100-pound bull with the help of two of his PBR heroes.
Dressed in a pink long-sleeved shirt, dark blue jeans, brown boots, a black cowboy hat and a belt buckle nearly half his size, Jaxson was all smiles as he took in the experience his parents never thought he’d be able to have.
Jaxson was diagnosed with medulloblastoma in February 2013 when doctors discovered a tumor the size of a golf ball resting in the back of his brain. After a 12-hour surgery, Patrick and Gina Kidd were told there was a possibility they’d have to teach their son how to walk and talk all over again.
“When he got diagnosed, everything changed,” Patrick Kidd said. “All the plans got redirected.”
Now, they live their lives one day at a time.
After Jaxson’s diagnosis, Patrick and Gina Kidd joined a support group called Families Fighting Childhood Cancer. In August, they were invited to the “Turn Tulsa Pink” parade, where they were told their son would be able to meet a few of his favorite bull riders.
Instead, they were surprised when they found out they’d be traveling to Las Vegas for the PBR World Finals Oct. 23-27. Jaxson Kidd received the “cowboy for a day” experience where he learned how to properly throw a lasso, ride a horse around the Boulder City corral, and even sit atop Chicken on a Chain with the help of PBR riders Cody Nance and Jason Malone.
“He really looks up to them. They are his heroes,” Patrick Kidd said. “It’s really just a dream come true for him.”
Nance and Malone gave Jaxson tips and showed him the ropes of being a professional bull rider.
“This is really what it’s all about,” said Nance, who’s currently 10th in the PBR world standings. “When I grew up, I didn’t have a whole lot of friends. If I could just be a friend to some of these kids, it means a lot to me to be able to build a relationship with them.”
Jaxson recently completed 55 weeks of chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiation. The battle has drained him both mentally and physically, and an unexpected trip to the hospital has derailed family plans numerous times, leaving Jaxson to wonder if the world had forgotten about him, his parents said.
“We’ll have plans to do something, and then they’ll admit us into the hospital and we’d have to cancel,” his mother said. “So I think he wondered if this was going to be taken away, too.”
But Jaxson has been strong since his diagnosis, his parents said. Before his surgery, he told his parents he wanted a play kitchen so he could practice owning his own restaurant. After his surgery, he was hooked up to a breathing tube for five days and his condition was still unknown.
“As soon as they pulled the breathing tube out, he looked at my mom when he was in the ICU and said, ‘Did you go get my kitchen?’ ” Gina Kidd said. “So not only could he talk, but he didn’t forget.”
The scar on the back of his little head serves as a reminder of the hardships he’s had to go through, and the battles he still has to overcome.
“He wouldn’t have been able to walk in the dirt without falling over. He has to concentrate when he’s walking,” Gina Kidd said. “His legs are just covered in bruises because he does fall a lot.”
The mental struggles also have taken their tolls on Jaxson as the uncertainty of each doctor’s appointment leaves him wondering what could happen.
“Every time we have an MRI, we never know what they’re going to tell us,” Gina said. “He knows next week is the MRI, and he usually gets really nervous. But this was a perfect time, because I don’t think he’s thought about it at all.”
With the help of Malone and Nance, Jaxson Kidd sat on top of Chicken on a Chain, the same bull that won the World Champion Bucking Bull title in 2007. Wearing a black vest autographed by numerous bull riders, his smile beamed with exuberance that did not show a boy struggling with a terrible disease.
For that brief moment in time, all of his problems were gone. His mother could barely watch, but his father knew he’d be perfectly fine sitting atop the massive bull.
“This is nothing,” Patrick Kidd said. “I mean, it’s something. But he’s been through so much already.”
After Jaxson took pictures with his heroes, as well as those who came to cheer him on during his special day, he and his family headed to the Thomas & Mack Center where they made a grand entrance for the first day of the PBR World Finals.
It’s an experience the 8-year-old from Bixby will never forget.
“Today felt absolutely magnificent,” he said with a smile.
Contact reporter Steven Slivka at email@example.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow @StevenSlivka on Twitter.