Bull riders battle with high-end livestock

Fruita bull rider Ethan Cook hangs onto the bull Moonshoes on Saturday at the Red Rock Nissan #BestSlope Bull Brawl at the Mesa County Fairgrounds. Riders, including Kody Aldrick, below, battled high-end livestock. For more photos from the event, visit http://www.gjsentinel.com.

Fruita bull rider Ethan Cook hangs onto the bull Moonshoes on Saturday at the Red Rock Nissan #BestSlope Bull Brawl at the Mesa County Fairgrounds. Riders, including Kody Aldrick, below, battled high-end livestock. For more photos from the event, visit http://www.gjsentinel.com.

By Dale Shrull
A bull fighter hangs out in the barrel after the bull knocked it over.

By Dale Shrull
A bull fighter keeps a close watch on a bull rider.

By Dale Shrull
A bull rider goes flying.

By Dale Shrull
Fruita native Ethan Cook tries to make it to eight seconds.

By Dale Shrull
A bull tries to buck of a rider at the Mesa County Fairgrounds.

Carston Smith was close, but eight seconds is a long time to stay anchored to about 2,000 pounds of bull.

Angry bull that’s in no mood to be packing extra baggage.

Smith stayed with every twist, turn and buck, until the very end and he went flying and landed hard in the Mesa County Fairgrounds dirt.

Bummed is an understatement. But he smiled at how close he came to a great ride. But it was still a zero score and that means zero money.

“Well, I mean it sucks, it’s like watching someone rip up 10 hundred-dollar bills and throw ‘em away,” the Logan, Utah bull rider said. “I knew it was going to be a good bull, I knew that bull was gonna buck for sure. I was trying my guts out and thought I was gonna get it, I kept keep grittin’ it out, but that bull beat me today and it’s about the worse feeling in the world.”

Another understatement is that bull riders are a unique breed of athletes. Watching the bull riders behind the chutes, virtually everyone had wrists taped, knee or wrists braces, there was a black eye and a few bow-legged limps.

As the announcer called them, “cowboy warriors,” and that’s accurate.

Smith wasn’t alone in hitting the dirt before the eight-second goal.

The first-ever Red Rock Nissan #BestSlope Bull Brawl drew riders from around the region and featured some of the baddest, rowdiest bulls this side of the Pecos, which is a river in New Mexico.

It was a unique competition because bull riders were battling for a $4,000 prize purse and the stock contractors that brought their best bucking bulls were competing for a $6,000 purse.

Both the rider and bull are judged in bull riding with each getting up to 50 points on a successful ride.

Fruita native Ethan Cook was another rider who came close. After his first ride, he quickly regrouped and refocused for a second bull.

“It always upsets you when you hit the dirt,” he said, as he prepared his bull rope for the next ride. “No one likes failure, but what makes the champions are the people that accept failure and are able to pick their bull rope up and get on another bull, and realize every time it could be different.”

Cook, 20, had a second ride and the result was the same. He wasn’t happy. He came to ride bulls, but the bulls got the best of him on Saturday night.

The bull gets the best of the rider a lot.

Brandon Olson of Franktown came away with the title with a winning score of 78.

Injuries are part of the sport and there were a couple of close calls. A bull stomped on one rider, but he popped up and high-tailed it to safety.

Cook has a brace on his left wrist from an injury that won’t go away.

“It never healed up right and I ended up having surgery,” he said. “I went in about two weeks ago and they told me the bone didn’t heal right around the screw they put in. So I’m gonna have to go back in so they can kinda rebuild the bone and put some more screws in.”

Then he revealed the silver lining that only a bull rider can understand.

“But it’s not my riding hand (the hand used to hang on) so I’m not really too worried about it affecting my performance,” he said.

But it is affecting another passion of his.

“That’s my guitar hand so it affects me a little bit. I sing a little and write some rodeo songs,” he said with a smile. “I wrote a couple of songs about bull riding that my buddies like, they get ‘em pumped up before they ride,”

The late Chris LeDoux was a rodeo cowboy and country music star, and he’s well known in rodeo circles.

“I like to be a little like Chris LeDoux, I’ve always idolized him a little bit,” Cook said.

But after two trips to the dirt in under eight seconds, Cook was left singing the blues on Saturday night.

Bull riders are known for their toughness and battling through injuries. They are also known to be the rock stars of the rodeo world.

“Yeah, bull riding makes you feel like a rock star sometimes but it’s a real humbling sport,” Cook said, smiling. “Being with your buddies brings you closer together and you feel a bond with your friends when you’re riding bucking bulls together.”

Then he smiled again.

“But when you strap one, there’s nothing that feels better in the world. And yeah, you do feel like a rock star for sure,” he said.

There was not rock star treatment or prize money for most of the riders. Money is what every bull rider needs to keep going in the sport, which requires thousands of miles a year traveling.

For Smith, he was still telling every friend and foe he saw just how close he came to riding his bull. Clad in a bright green shirt with green cowboy boots and green chaps with yellow four-leaf clovers, it was obvious he’s very partial to green.

“I just love the color green,” he said with a grin. “It’s the color of luck and money and that’s what you’re in this sport for.”


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