One of the most celebrated personalities at the Cowboy Church of Ellis County Buck-Out on Thursday night was 12-year-old Eddie Joe Balzadua.
Eddie Joe never misses it, and he patiently waits his turn to ride old Rowdy, the bull.
Eddie Joe was born with cerebral palsy. His mother, Suzy, brings him to the Cowboy church festivities every Thursday night from their home in Oak Cliff. Eddie Joe cannot speak or walk, but the glow on his face reveals that he has one thing on his mind - to ride old Rowdy.
Sporting Wrangler jeans, black Roper boots, a white straw cowboy hat covered with autographs of his friends, a teal-green cowboy shirt bearing prints of cows, and his most prized possession, a large, silver Cowboy Church of Ellis County belt buckle, with his own name embossed on it, Eddie Joe’s eyes light up when his mother faces his wheeled carrier toward the arena to view the Buck-Out.
“He had many complications during his birth,” Suzy said. “We didn’t know if he would make it or not, but I prayed three times - the third time I broke down and wept as I prayed and then it was not long until we learned he was going to live.”
Eddie Joe was about 8 months old when they knew that something was wrong, his mother said. At about 18 months old, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
His father, J. Marcos Balzadua, is in construction work, and his big brother, Joe, is graduating from high school this month, she said, adding with a laugh, “I’ve got a lot of Joes in my life.”
“Eddie Joe has brought a lot of joy to our lives,” his mother said. “He doesn’t talk, but he is trying to make some sounds. He can say ‘Mama’ and he says ‘Amen’ very clearly when we say grace at the table. We have this problem though. He is getting so tall - he has already outgrown his carrier. I know it looks simple, but these things cost over $3,000! We’re going to have to do something.
“Although he cannot talk, he has very definite ideas,” she said. “I bought him a beautiful denim cowboy shirt once, but he let me know he didn’t like it and demanded that we go exchange it - only he wanted to pick out his own shirt. He cares nothing for toys - his main source of pleasure is being here around the horses and cows.”
Asked what his favorite movie is, Suzy said, “Anything with John Wayne in it.”
When Eddie Joe’s turn to ride came, one of the cowboys carried him into the cattle chute to help him mount old Rowdy. The giant bull slowly came out carrying his young passenger - who was wearing a big smile.
The crowd cheered. It was a good day for Eddie Joe.