Benton III of Rock Island, Texas, was listed as the third-leading money winner in bull riding on the 2018 PRCA circuit heading
into the Greeley Stampede’s Xtreme Bulls event.
That’s especially impressive
considering he had missed the previous six weeks of rodeoing while a torn groin muscle was healing.
Benton stayed on his assigned bull, Firewater, for only 3.18 seconds, far short of the 8 seconds necessary to get
a score from the judges.
As a result, his earnings for this past Tuesday night was …
Yes, one of the
top PRCA bull riders came to Greeley for a few seconds of work and got nothing for it. The same was true for 2018 leading
money winner, Sage Kimzey, also bucked off early.
“That’s part of our job,”
Benton said. “If you ain’t a winner, you ain’t doing much … or for very long.”
reason why it can be so tempting to muse that these guys are nuts, placing themselves on the backs of raging bulls —
none named De Niro — and putting themselves in potential harm’s way after being bucked off, flying through the
air and hitting the ground.
The bulls do not turn meek at that point, either.
A successful ride is eight seconds of mayhem,
eight seconds that can seem to last forever. And because the bull’s actions determine half the score for a full ride,
the goal is to have the bull provide the most challenging test possible — without shedding the cowboy.
At the Xtreme Bulls
PRCA event at the Stampede Arena, each entrant got one ride. There was no qualification for advancement to a finals group
or anything along those lines. One ride. One chance. And, if things went right, one score.
So for a bull rider, it can go
The good news is you’ve drawn a notoriously mean bull.
The bad news? You’ve drawn a notoriously mean bull.
These bulls are identified by name on the entry
lists and potentially well-known on their own, as when the bull “Bodacious” years ago had famous battles with
bull riding legend Tuff Hedeman, at one point bucking off Hedeman and smashing the cowboy’s face with the back of his
head at the 1995 PBR Finals in Las Vegas. Hedeman was left with horrific facial damages and underwent two surgeries.
isn’t quite to the point where the bulls have fan clubs and entourages and make guest appearances on The Tonight Show
Starring Jimmy Fallon, but they’re acknowledged parts of the show. Bodacious, in fact, was inducted into the Pro Rodeo
Hall of Fame in 1999.
The bulls are bred to be angry, not to be merry-go-round rides. So getting bucked off them happens,
and it happened to most of the 50 PRCA competitors in Greeley this past week. Including Benton.
“Rough go,” Benton,
26, said with a shake of his head. “I tore the groin in Redding (Calif.), and I got on a big bull and had done some
workouts the week before and was ‘sored up’ pretty bad. I wasn’t in the right shape to ride here. It’s
coming. I feel it. It just didn’t happen tonight.”
He shrugged and added, “I just gotta make 8 (seconds) the
next time. Then it’ll be a longer show.”
The Stampede is part of rodeo’s “Cowboy Christmas,”
the stretch around the Fourth of July that is packed with a flurry of rodeos sanctioned by the Colorado Springs-based PRCA.
Nobody can make them all. But they sure can give it their best shot. After the event in Greeley, Benton left and drove overnight
to reach the next rodeo, in Springdale, Ark. Following that, the itinerary was to include Prescott, Ariz., Cody, Wyo., and
Ponoka, Alberta, Canada.
Bull riding shows, under both the PRCA umbrella and the more specialized, Pueblo-based Professional
Bull Riders (PBR), have similar atmospheres as other rodeo endeavors. The PBR, with its singular focus on bull riding, generally
is considered to have stronger competition than the PRCA’s Xtreme Bulls.
The PRCA’s advantage, though, is that
bull riding is part of the organization’s annual high-profile National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, and getting to that
is a dream of many cowboys — including bull riders, who enjoy being part of the sport’s all-event Super Bowl.
The PBR also has its popular finals in Las Vegas, but it’s not an across-the-board convention.
In the PRCA, bull riding
is part of the show.
In addition to the Xtreme Bulls event, there were
six other scheduled sessions of rodeo under the PRCA banner at the Greeley Stampede, and the final two are this afternoon
and Tuesday night.
In the PBR, bull riding is the show. Convinced that bull-riding
was capable of standing alone as a tour outside the multiple-event rodeo circuit, the top cowboys in the sport began the PBR
themselves in 1992, literally throwing seed money on the table in a hotel-room meeting. It still is around a quarter-century
Regardless, making your living getting on the back of bull angrily trying to buck you off also involves a unique
culture and kinship.
On the night of bull riding in Greeley, there was enough classic rock blaring over the sound
system — including KISS, Joe Walsh and John Mellenkamp — to suit a radio program director of that genre.
public address announcer, Will Rasmussen, offered a pre-competition, specific-faith prayer; led cheers (“South side
… north side … everybody!”), and provided narration through the two-hour event. When cowboy Tristan Mize
was roughly tossed and appeared to be injured, Rasmussen pointed out: “There is no injured reserve in rodeo …
He paid to come to perform for you!”
The winner was Elliot Jacoby (91.0 points) of Fredericksburg, Texas, and the runnerup
was Brazilian-born Silvano Alves (88.0), the three-time PBR World Champion giving the PRCA a try this year. Of the top three
money winners on the PRCA circuit, only No. 2 Parker Breding cashed. He finished third.
The “rough go” didn’t
lessen Trey Benton’s enthusiasm for the craziness.
“This is a lifestyle I wouldn’t want to change for
anything else,” Benton said. “You have to be crazy to do it, yeah, but I love it. I just worked myself up in this
from the time I was 6. My dad stuck me on a calf when we were working cows and I’ve loved it ever since. I roped a bit
too and I played baseball a little bit, but they don’t pay you in baseball when you’re 12. I won prize money in
youth rodeos and it got me addicted. I was paying taxes by the time I was 14.
“I’ve grown up around horses and
cows, and I don’t know anything different. Bull riding is a family. We’re all in the same level of crazy.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “You try your hand at it and tell me.”
The sport also can
have an international flavor, and Alves provided that Tuesday night. He’s from Pilar do Sul in the Sao Paulo, Brazil
“My grandfather rode horses, my father rode bulls and I followed my dream to ride bulls, too,” he
said. “I started really young, like at 8 or 9 years old. I started it as a professional when I was 15 years old.”
came to the U.S. in 2010 and won PBR World Championships in 2011, 2012 and 2014. He now lives on a ranch in Texas. He hasn’t
abandoned the PBR, but he purchased his PRCA card in January and began competing in select PRCA events, hoping to qualify
for the NFR. He and his wife, Evelin, attended the NFR in Las Vegas the last four years, and now the goal for Alves is to
qualify for and participate in the bull riding event there this year. Or perhaps next year.
If he ever manages to add a PRCA
title, he would join the legendary Hedeman, who was one of the PBR founders and retired from competing in 1998, as the only
man to have bull riding championships in both PRCA and PBR. Hedeman won PRCA titles in 1986, 1989 and 1991; and the PBR title
Bull riding also has had two other offshoots, Championship Bull Riding and another Hedeman endeavor, the Tuff
Hedeman Bull Riding Tour.
So Alves is branching out in a sport with options.
“I don’t do it for the money,”
Alves said. “I do it because I love it.”
Especially when the ride lasts eight seconds.