ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. ― It’s not yet been a month since the untimely passing of Kent Cox, who handled and hauled Julio Moreno’s prized bull Bushwacker, but the California native is slowly acclimating to what is becoming a new sense of normalcy.
He knows it’ll never be the same – just talking about the past two months is overwhelming – but life is, in fact, getting easier.
It’s just different.
“The whole thing with Kent was kind of emotional,” said Julio’s wife Kindra, as he sat quietly thinking about everything. “There are still some loose ends.”
She added, “We’re trying to get in the routine of things because obviously this is all new to us having Bushwacker and taking him everywhere. Kent did that.”
Cox raised the two-time World Champion Bull and played a significant role in his development into what longtime PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert said is the best bucking bull he’s ever seen in his lifetime.
As it were, two weeks ago, Moreno’s friends Casey and Jade Ballenger hauled Bushwacker, who will be retired at season’s end, from Dublin, Texas, to Phoenix, where the Moreno’s picked him up and hauled him to their ranch in Oakdale, Calif.
Oakdale is where Bushwacker would have retired to following this year’s World Finals in October.
It’s where he lived until Moreno sent him down to Texas like he had with so many of his promising young bulls.
According to Moreno, Cox was looking forward to this weekend’s Ty Murray Invitational.
“He was planning on being here for the bull weigh-in,” Moreno said in a soft-spoken voice Friday just before the opening round of the event. “That kind of bothered me this morning, but we got through it.”
Lambert has reached out and talked with Moreno as two old friends and as professionals.
“It’s been a trying, testing two months,” Lambert said. “It’s all tough. Everything about it is tough.”
This is the first of four planned Built Ford Tough Series events in a row where Bushwacker is slated to compete, but it’s the first time in 2014 that he’ll be in the bull draft for the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
To this point, he’s twice bucked in the 15/15 Bucking Battle and in his last outing he was the Bad Boy Mowers Million Dollar Ride Bull at the Dr Pepper Iron Cowboy V in Arlington, Texas.
If it all goes as planned, he’ll buck again next week in Fresno, Calif., followed by a two-week road trip to Nampa, Idaho, and Billings, Mont., before returning home and eventually heading down to Las Vegas for the Last Cowboy Standing.
It would be the first time in his illustrious career that Bushwacker has bucked four consecutive weeks.
He’s competed three weeks in a row on numerous occasions.
But finally the excitement of the Top 35 riders all wanting a shot at Bushwacker in the draft brings a smile to Moreno’s face.
He is, after all, a proud owner.
“I like the draft,” he said. “I do because then you get those riders like J.B., who are going to pick him.”
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Of course, Mauney is out this week with a sprained right ankle and so too is Robson Palermo, who told Moreno during the bull weigh-in that he hopes for an opportunity to face the World Champion Bull this season.
“I think the cowboys are happier too because they all want to get on him before the year is up,” Kindra said.
She later added, “I get nervous and I can’t hardly stand it.”
Julio said, “I just want them to go two, three rounds with him. He’s bucking so good with a lot of power.”
Lambert said there’s “quite a gap between Bushwacker and everything else.”
Even in Albuquerque, where Lambert said he put together “a tough set of bulls,” Bushwacker is in a league of his own.
In three outs this year, he’s been unmatched.
Bushwacker was marked 46.75 points in Oklahoma City when he bucked off Mauney in 1.13 seconds and 46 points in Anaheim, Calif., when he bucked off Nathan Schaper, who was left with a broken leg after landing awkwardly and being stepped on.
In Arlington, with $1 million on the line, Bushwacker bucked off Joao Ricardo Vieira in 2.2 seconds and was once again marked 46.75 points.
He’s only been ridden three times in his entire career and only once since October 2009. That was when Mauney rode him last August in Tulsa, Okla., for 95.25 points to snap Bushwacker’s well-documented PBR record of 42 consecutive buckoffs at BFTS events.
He’s earned a career average bull score of 46.33 points, which is slightly higher than his PBR average of 46.12. According to probullstats.com, he is currently the No. 1 ranked bull in the world and is also No. 1 in the power rankings. He’s been the top-scoring bull in 54 rounds in his career.
Following the first half of the BFTS, Bushwacker is scheduled to compete in Tulsa, Okla., and Nashville, Tenn., after the summer break. Moreno is looking to also confirm the recently added Laughlin, Nev., event as well as Oakland, Calif., before hauling him one last time to Vegas for the Finals.
“I might take him to some appearances in California,” Moreno said about the summer break, “but I doubt it. I have people calling and I just don’t know if I’m going to do that.”
Last year, he and Cox agreed on bucking him twice at something other than a BFTS event.
In early June they bucked him at a Touring Pro Division event in Decatur, Texas, and again in October at a TPD event in San Antonio, Texas.
This year, Moreno has given some thought to turning Bushwacker out as part of the opening ceremonies at a pair of TPD events – Santa Barbara and Salinas – in his home state of California.
He said he’ll discuss his options with Lambert before making any final decisions.
For the Moreno’s everything is still new.
“He puts us at a loss for words just about every time he bucks,” Kindra said.
He added, “That’s one thing that hasn’t set in yet, he’s a two-time world champion. He’s here and he’s my bull.”
Moreno bred him, Cox did a great job of raising him and together they made a “fabulous” team.
Now the Moreno’s will rebalance their schedule for the remainder of the year – Julio also team ropes and hauls bulls to rodeos. And, of course, the reality is that they’ll have to maintain that balance for the foreseeable future as they oversee their young futurity and classic bulls—bulls they normally sent to Texas will remain in California.
For now, they’re getting used to hearing everyone who sees their trailer ask if Bushwacker is inside.
Yes, indeed, he is.
“It’s an honor to own and haul Bushwacker,” said Kindra, which brought the largest smile to Julio. “We miss the phone calls from Kent.”
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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