“After all the flash and thunder” (to quote John Fogerty’s song, “Mystic Highway”) of the PBR, it’s easy to forget how bull riders start. It’s not glamorous, and sometimes the bulls don’t even have names, but it’s where you can see who’s not cut out for the sport and who’s going places.
The Painted Pony Rodeo of Luzerne, NY (yes, that’s right: NEW YORK) has been producing grassroots bullriding events all over the Northeast for the past—well, let’s put it this way: according to its website, it’s the oldest weekly rodeo in the U.S. Shawn Graham is the boss, and he’s been working it since 2001. Painted Pony has sent bulls and broncs to the PRCA Wrangler National Finals, and has won several Stock Contractor of the Year titles from the American Professional Rodeo Association.
The Dutchess County Fair event was SEBRA-sanctioned (Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association), and attracted riders from New York and Pennsylvania—as well as transplants from Mexico and Cuba. For a $60 entry fee, riders had a crack at $1,000. This year’s SEBRA rankings include Gage Gay at #51, who’s obviously been busy elsewhere!
On Sunday, the final day of the fair, bullriding was scheduled for noon and 6pm. I always go to the final day of an event, so I made the 6:00.
They wet down the dirt, then raked it, and minutes later it poured like hell. Somebody didn’t listen to the weather report. They could’ve saved themselves all that trouble. It rained so hard, I thought they might cancel because of the dangerous footing, but Painted Pony’s policy is “rain or shine.” The emcee/DJ was on the ball: instantly we started hearing songs with the word “rain” in them.
Note: I heard the most appalling sound I’ve ever heard from a loudspeaker: country disco. I couldn’t imagine a more abominable crossbreed. Thank god the emcee washed the taste out of my ears with a hiphop song done from a bullrider’s point of view. Now that’s interesting.
BTW, Flint Rasmussen needs to look over his shoulder. With a bit more material (he borrowed some of Flint’s!) and polish, “Danger” Dave Whitmore could take his place. His version of “Cotton-Eyed Joe” was a better/different dance routine. He’s the only person I’ve seen perform a backwards Worm. He does a spot-on imitation of Dwight Yoakum (in skinny jeans, with fake silver guitar). Plus he made an embarrassed quartet of State Troopers sing that stupid Journey song—the one famous line, anyway.
First bit of entertainment was that all the bulls—most without names, just numbers (bummer) were let into the ring so we could ogle them. Then they all were lured back to the pen, but the gate shut—on purpose—leaving behind the last guy, a one-horned spotted wonder named Jack and Coke (a crossbred Braemer, I think the emcee said, in his preacher cadence). The poor thing hung around the gate looking like a kid whose friends all suddenly deserted him. On the other hand, he might’ve been a troublemaker who can’t be penned with a roomie. Eventually he was allowed backstage.
Here are the 20 riders as listed, but there were some changes, so what you see here is not exactly correct.
Yorny Burgos (Cuba)
Chris Tejero (Mexico)
John Jazwinski (Marlborough, NY)
Nate Brown (Red Hook, NY)
Billy Love (Allentown, PA), first SEBRA member to ride both bulls and broncs, who last year broke his jaw and sternum riding at the Hartford County Farm Fair in Maryland.
Mike Adams (PA), RNCFR qualifier several times, in one round beat CBR’s Joe and Josh Frost (and that’s saying something!). He won the PRCA’s First Frontier Circuit championship and average, and qualified for the RAM National Circuit Finals, winning one round.
I hoped to see Carlos Garcia, SEBRA’s #13 guy, because he’s the only New Yorker I’ve seen in the PBR, but he wasn’t there.
Most of the scores were relatively low, and I’d have to say that was the bulls’ fault. First of all, it was hard to get them to look to the outside while the riders were wrapping; more than rider had to re-wrap.
Travis Finley’s bull practically stuck to the fence and had virtually no spin, so 76 was the score. Mike Adams was paired with Jack and Coke, who still wanted to get back into the pen; Adams got stuck with 77.50.
Steven Finley, a SEBRA National Finals qualifier earlier this year in Murfreesboro, TN, got “a little crumpled up,” as the announcer explained, when #51 threw him hard, and he couldn’t get up fast enough. His next trip was to Sports Medicine.
It was a bad luck day for one of the New York riders: the same bull bucked him off in both events.
For a moment there, I got excited because there was a lot of fanfare about how we were going to see freestyle bullfighting, but the real guys went on fake strike and refused. It was left to Danger Dave to show his prowess. Lots of buildup, then the gate finally opened and out strolled a cute minibull with not a care in the world. Dave went into action, trying to run over the bull’s back like Jesse Byrne does—but succeeded only in going flying and getting hooked in a very bad place. Or as he put it, “Dude, my check engine light is on!”
Cool ropin’: Chris Tejero from Mexico (via Pennsylvania), SEBRA Finals qualifier in Pennsylvania and RAM Finals qualifier in Oklahoma City, is a Charro: a trick roper. He demonstrated nifty ways to use a looped rope, including spinning it in spirals and jumping through it while spinning. I mean his whole body through it in mid-air. Charro trick roping is a Mexican tradition that Chris is carrying on from his father. He didn’t have such good luck on his ride, though. The bull stalled out at one point, and a bullfighter had to push it back into action. Tejero was offered a choice of 68 points or a re-ride; he declined the re-ride. Ty Murray’s head would explode. ”Back when I was ridin’ bulls…”
Jamie Griswold’s bull tried rocketing up out of the chute while Griswold (a New Yorker) was trying to get ready, then after the buckoff, wanted a piece of everybody, and eventually was the only bull to slip in the mud. Nothing serious, though.
Cuban Yorny Burgos, now a New Yorker, won the 12:00 bull riding. In this later round, he almost lost his seat as his bull bobbled, but when the bull went into a spin, he settled in for the ride, and scored 83.
In the Short Go, Griswold got probably the worst boo-boo of the evening: #51 bucked him back into the chute; he was slammed and couldn’t get up for a couple of minutes. While Sports Medicine tended to him in there, #51 was giving the outrider a hard time; there’s one in every crowd. Rope or no rope, he wasn’t going to exit. Finally the rider moved on ahead through the chute into the back pen, dragging the bad boy behind him.
#326 burst out of the gate and caught a little air—then Chris Tejero’s spur caught a little rope. After the buckoff there was a pile-up. One bullfighter got in the bull’s face while the other put his body between them and Tejero; seeing it up close, you really get how impressive these guys are.
Adams rode Quartermark, sort of—he clearly hit the ground before 8 seconds, but instead of a DQ he was given an 84. Well, that’s one advantage to grassroots bullriding.
It looked like Burgos was on track to win, but in the Short Go his bull started bucking him off in the chute, and it didn’t get any better on the dirt.
Best ride of the evening, for the win, was Travis Finley’s trip on a quick spinner; he spurred away, the ride was scored 87, and a bullfighter got airlifted—even at the grassroots level, that’s fun to see.