Last shall be first
Final bull rider wins PBR event at county fair
One last rider, one last bull, one last shot at victory.
The Professional Bull Riders event at the Mesa County Fair saved the best for last Thursday night, when Scottie Knapp got aboard Geronimo.
Eleven riders had qualified for the final round, and all had been shown up by their bull. Knapp’s score didn’t matter. All he needed to do was beat the eight-second buzzer.
He did just that, but it wasn’t easy. He was rewarded a re-ride after his first bull fell down right out of the chute. Only minutes later he got aboard Geronimo and made his second attempt.
Knapp cleared his mind, held on and had a winning 77.5-point ride.
“I wasn’t thinking,” he said. “Thinking is hesitation, which is the first cause of failure.”
Knapp’s victory was met with cheers from the grandstands. Fans appreciated his talents, but the fans had already given their hearts to another rider.
When the name Tony Mendes was announced, the crowd erupted. The bull rider is a clear fan favorite and it’s easy to see why.
Not only is Mendes a Fruita resident, but he also knows how to please the fans. After each ride, Mendes throws his hat into the middle of the arena as an ear-to-ear grin spreads over his face. He poses for pictures with kids, and shakes hands with fans both young and old.
The 36-year-old Mendes said he is often asked why he hasn’t retired yet.
“I know that I can still compete and I wake up every morning with (bull riding) in my heart and there is nothing going to stop me,” he said.
Mendes has ridden bulls all over the world, but the Mesa County Fair is his favorite venue.
“I could travel all over the country, but doing it in my back yard with my family and taking the kids to the carnival, it makes it worth it,” he said.
Mendes was successful in the first round and even though he only scored 56 points, it was enough to get him to the final.
In the finals he drew Rewind, a bull that wasn’t looking to cooperate. After warding off Rewind’s attempts to sit down in the chute, Mendes finally got into the arena, and Rewind, who was talked up by the announcers, lived up to the hype. Mendes was cited for slapping the bull with his off hand at 7.4 seconds, giving him no score.
Mendes was entered into the competition twice, so he could have ridden a second bull in an attempt to beat out Knapp for first, but a pulled groin prevented him from doing so.
A loss, and an injury to boot, seems like the recipe for an unhappy bull rider, but Mendes, who left the arena with a limp, still had a smile on his face.
Mendes’ children rushed to greet him, along with his wife, who he proposed to at the Mesa County Fair four years ago. Despite everything that went against him, Mendes was content.
Being with his family means everything to Mendes, and he said no matter where he is, or what kind of ride he has, nothing can beat the fair in Grand Junction with the people he loves most.