Doing what we love: Fruita’s Mendes shows his stuff during PBR stop at Mesa County Fair
Tony Mendes’ career in the arena is what every bull rider aspires to have.
Mendes has ridden on the Professional Bull Riding tour for more than 10 years, has qualified for the PBR Finals eight times and has won $1 million in his career.
Thursday at the Mesa County Fair Rattle the Rockies PBR Touring Pro Division event, the 32-year-old rider showed what’s made him so successful.
“It’s one of those sports where it’s give and take,” Mendes said. “Some days it’s money and some days it’s mud.”
Mendes was born and raised in Reno, Nev., but recently moved to Fruita with his fianc&233;e, Jessica. Mendes embraced the opportunity to ride in front of his family and new hometown.
“Having my family here inspires me to have a good ride,” Mendes said. “Being a bull rider, we have to travel a lot, make sacrifices, and endure a lot of time away. So, when we are around, it’s great to spend time with them.”
Mendes comes from a family of bull riders. His brother, Scott, won the 1997 PRCA World Championship. Mendes said it was always his dream to be a professional bull rider, and despite being one of the older riders on the tour, he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
“I’ve been doing it long enough that I just focus on riding bulls and being happy,” Mendes said. “It’s one of those deals where the older you are, the more wisdom you get.”
Mendes said much of his wisdom comes from injuries, and the time spent rehabbing those setbacks. He added being away from the tour puts one of the most dangerous sports into perspective.
“I tore my knee up, broke my leg and had to have a rod put in, so it’s tough,” Mendes said. “But it’s what I’m planning on doing. Why work 8-12 hours a day having to be away from my family, when I can work for 16 seconds and win a couple of thousand (dollars)?”
Mendes was one of 43 riders during Thursday’s event that featured participants from across the country. Mendes said the riders help motivate each other.
“The young kids push and inspire the old guys, and the older guys show the path for the younger kids,” Mendes said. “Basically we are all doing what we love.”
Those young riders include Brady Menge.
Menge grew up in Fruita, and the 23-year-old has been riding bulls professionally for the past five years.
“I like to win everywhere I go,” Menge said. “My main goal is to be the top rider at every event.”
Menge added he was looking forward to riding at home, and it was a good way to break up a very busy schedule.
“Since June, I’ve gotten on at least a bull a day,” Menge said. “It’s nice to riding here at home. It’s another bull ride for me, but I’ll have a lot more people cheering for me.”
Like most riders, Mendes and Menge’s schedules don’t slow down much after the Mesa County Fair event. Menge said he’ll be attending events in Salt Lake City and Cheyenne, Wyo., during the next few weeks.
“I’ve always wanted to be a bull rider and being able to do it is a sense of pride,” Menge said. “Being able to go out there and do it, and be pretty good at it is a good feeling.”