A beloved Texas tradition has led to an extremely rare and nearly fatal infection for a little boy, who is finally showing signs of recovery.
Derekscott "Bubba" Kirby still has a long, painful road ahead, but he has a lot of angels at his back.
"Mutton bustin'" involves very young children riding sheep in a rodeo arena. It nearly turned deadly for Bubba, who was just three years old when he fell off a sheep at a rodeo in Central Texas last month.
That's not what hurt him, though.
Doctors say the youngster got an E. coli bacterial infection after ingesting a mouthful of dirt.
The infection led to congestive heart and kidney failure. "It's affected his lungs," added his mother, Deven Denman.
Doctors at an Austin hospital revived Bubba. Now he is improving, and gaining the kind of fame most rodeo cowboys can only dream of.
BubbasAngels.com and Bubba's Facebook page have almost 5,000 followers, said Kendra Good, a friend of the boy's mom, who grew up in Bedford. Web visitors offer prayers and buy T-shirts — from California to England.
"If they're not from Texas or part of the rodeo family, they definitely ask a lot of questions about mutton bustin'," Good said.
Bubba's Angels set up shop outside Rita's Water Ice on Industrial Boulevard in Bedford Tuesday night, collecting donations and selling raffle tickets to win a new TV.
"I'm just a prayer warrior for Bubba," said Clinton Eddins, whose wife knows the family.
Bubba's family recently moved to the little town of Goldthwaite 140 miles southwest of Fort Worth. Only about 1,800 people live there, but this case is so unusual, he's got Bubba's angels pulling for him all over the place.
Next week, his mom hopes to bring him to Dallas to start rehab, but Bubba still has a long way to go.
Volunteers are holding car washes in Bedford and Plano this Saturday, July 31, to help with medical expenses. You can get more information and follow Bubba's story on his Facebook page.