PUEBLO, Colo. – Standing calmly inside his bucking chute, Bushwacker’s left ear slowly twitched. Next, his right ear followed suit in a harmless and innocent fashion.
Only one can wonder what the World Champion Bull was thinking in the minutes leading up to the final out of his legendary six-year Built Ford Tough Series career.
Was he aware of the moment?
Did he know he was the underdog, trailing Asteroid by 1.5 points for the 2014 World Champion Bull title?
If he did realize it, he certainly didn’t show any concern.
He just stood there, patiently waiting for his name to be called and for the gate to set him loose one final time with 2004 World Champion Mike Lee on his back.
On the other hand, owner and stock contractor Julio Moreno was well aware of what was at stake and what was necessary if Bushwacker was going to rally to overtake Asteroid and Mick E Mouse to earn his third World Champion Bull title.
Moreno knew he had to change something if Bushwacker was going to fire out of the chute in full force.
Therefore, Moreno took a deep breath and decided to change up what he had done all season. Instead of flanking Bushwacker flat across the bovine athlete’s back like he normally does, Moreno took a trick out of the playbook of the late Kent Cox, a longtime hauler.
“I put the flank over the left hip and it was the first time I ever did that,” Moreno said. “I wanted to make him fire and that makes him fire out and kick.”
It was a tactic Cox used when he hauled Bushwacker from 2008-2013 before he tragically passed away this past February.
Surely, Cox was smiling down upon the Thomas & Mack Center as Bushwacker erupted out of the bucking chute with one final big, rear kick to dispatch Lee hard onto the ground in 2.13 seconds to win his third World Champion Bull title.
Bushwacker was marked 46.5 points and his total score of 91.5 points – Bushwacker was marked 45 points for bucking off Brady Sims in 3.9 seconds during Round 2 on Thursday – was just enough for him to join Little Yellow Jacket as the only two bulls in PBR history with three world titles.
“I owe this one to Kent,” Moreno said. “He always told me, (Bushwacker) is better in the second out and the other bulls were weaker. I know Kent had a lot to do with this.”
Once Bushwacker had been loaded into the chute, there was a longer-than-normal pause as the 17,204 fans in attendance all stood to salute the PBR’s legendary bucking bull before he competed for one final time.
Everything began to hit Kindra Moreno in that moment.
“I was standing up in the crowd right before Bushwacker bucked and there was that long pause,” Kindra said. “I think reality finally set in with me and I couldn’t hold back the tears. I think that is knowing Kent is here with us and everything else. We tried to be tough this whole week, but reality is reality. He is not here with us, but he is here with us.”
Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said Sunday that Bushwacker has nothing left to prove. He is purely the best bucking bull of all time.
“He is the greatest bull there has ever been,” Lambert said. “He didn’t get lucky. He just earned it again. He came through like the champ he is. That is the perfect ending to a perfect career.”
Bushwacker’s 2014 farewell tour began with a rematch against his long-time nemesis J.B. Mauney. It was the first time Moreno, who had announced a week earlier that 2014 would be Bushwacker’s last, had flanked his champion bovine since the bull was 3 years old.
“I couldn’t even spit and I couldn’t even talk,” Moreno recalled. “That was nerve racking.”
Bushwacker started off the year in style, bucking off Mauney in 1.13 seconds and being scored 46.75 points, the highest score he would receive all season. He also earned another 46.75 points for bucking off Joao Ricardo Vieira during the Dr. Pepper Iron Cowboy V in a special $1 million matchup.
He finished the year 14-0 on the BFTS and 17-0 overall.
Bushwacker’s record speaks for itself. He has bucked off 64 of his 66 opponents in six years on the BFTS, and dumped 84 of his 87 foes since his first out in 2009.
The bovine athlete ended his career with a streak of 20 consecutive BFTS buckoffs after Mauney ended his PBR-record streak of 42 consecutive BFTS buckoffs in August 2013 when he rode him for 95.25 points in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
According to Probullstats.com, Bushwacker also finishes his career with the third-highest bull score in PBR history. His 46.16-point average marking ranks only behind Dillinger’s 46.83 points in 49 outs and Bodacious’ 46.4 points in five outs. Bushwacker’s average score is also slightly better than Little Yellow Jacket’s (46.13).
Bushwacker has bucked off four World Champions in his career: Mauney, Lee, Guilherme Marchi and Silvano Alves.
In 2014, Bushwacker’s BFTS buckoffs included Mauney, Nathan Schaper, Joao Ricardo Vieira (twice), Markus Mariluch, L.J. Jenkins (twice), Guilherme Marchi (twice), Cody Nance (twice), Stormy Wing, Brady Sims and Lee.
If there is any rider that knows just how difficult Bushwacker is, it is Mauney. The 2013 World Champion was a combined 1-12 against Bushwacker at BFTS and TPD events.
Mauney said he was pretty sure Bushwacker was going to finish out his career as a World Champion.
“It is good to see him go out on top. He is a great bull,” Mauney said.
Julio nearly retired Bushwacker following the 2013 World Finals before bringing the talented bull back for one final season.
It wasn’t easy and it was certainly stressful.
“They (Asteroid and Mick E Mouse) put a little pressure on me,” Julio joked. “I lost a lot of weight and a lot of hair.”
The Morenos were nervous following Bushwacker’s 45-point outing in Round 2. The score put Bushwacker at a major disadvantage against Asteroid, who snatched the 2012 world title away from Bushwacker, and Mick E Mouse entering Championship Sunday.
“Oh my goodness, I am at a loss of words,” Kindra said. “It is incredible. We were a little discouraged coming in from Thursday’s out. He redeemed himself and he never lets us down. He certainly proved that.”
Julio called 2014 his favorite of Bushwacker’s three world titles.
“I think it is because coming in here they thought he wasn’t ready to win it, and to overcome the people that didn’t think he was going to win it is awesome,” he said.
Kindra concluded, “You just can’t take anything away from him. He knows competition and knows when he has to up his game and he proved that. This is how we wanted it to end. We wanted him to go out on top.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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