BISMARCK, N.D. – Two-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker simply stood in the corner of his pen patiently waiting with his wet, snot-filled nose of attitude positioned right up against the gate.
For nearly 45 minutes during the championship round of Chad Berger’s DCB PBR Bull Riding Challenge on Friday night, he barely budged.
He scarcely moved.
He simply stood in that same spot.
It was as if Bushwacker sensed the stakes would be higher than normal when J.W. Harris wrapped his blue bull rope around him during the Cooper Tires Match of World Champions.
Once the back pen gate opened, Bushwacker’s eyes lit up as he hustled his way towards the chutes where Harris hoped he would become just the fourth rider ever to conquer the legendary bull and earn a gleaming $100,000 bonus.
Yet, less than 4 seconds later, it was all over for Harris.
The peacefulness Bushwacker had demonstrated earlier was nonexistent, and the bull, with a face full of coated mud from some Wednesday fun at Berger’s ranch, showed his fierceness and ferocity by easily tossing Harris to conclude the first of two nights of Touring Pro Division action in Bismarck this weekend.
“I left good with him,” Harris said. “I didn’t let him beat me out of (the chute), and just right where he threw me off, I just set my hips too soon and raised up too soon. He just kept dropping and just pushed me over his head.”
Prior to the ride, Bushwacker was leaning on the backside of the chute and away from Harris’s hand. The four-time PRCA champion’s initial goal was to make sure he didn’t allow the talented bovine to beat him out of the gate. Harris was able to accomplish that, but he began to fall out of position once Bushwacker hit to the left instead of turning completely towards the right.
Harris said he wished he would have stayed down a little longer near Bushwacker’s horns instead of rising up after watching the replay on the big screen.
However, the 27-year-old was quick to admit hindsight is 20/20.
He also knew right away he was in trouble.
“I could feel it coming,” he said. “I felt it coming as soon as I did it. I was hoping I could knee up and kind of stop the disaster that I caused. A bull like that, you are not going to stop it. If you make a mistake, he is going to make you look like an idiot out there.”
Owner Julio Moreno, who won $10,000 for Bushwacker’s victory over Harris, said that Bushwacker bucked exactly how he thought he would after shedding 50 pounds this summer. Because the matchup was an exhibition at the end of the event, no official buckoff time was recorded.
“I’ll tell you what,” Moreno said. “He had a really good trip. He got in the air like I thought he would with a little weight off him like that. He really had that kick out of there. He really got in the air, front feet and back.”
Berger, who had doubled the bounty on Bushwacker to $100,000 just 10 days ago, called it another example of just how intelligent the leading contender for this year’s World Champion Bull title is.
“He gets so high off his front end and comes down hard,” Berger said. “J.W. rides right-handed, and that bull is smart, and I think he just turned back to the left – felt him – and left him there. J.W. was out over there where he needed to be to ride him. He was way out over him. That old bull felt that he was right-handed and turned back away from his hand and he was out over him and he just dropped him over his shoulder.
“That is just a great, great bull. He thinks like a human and anytime you have an animal that thinks like a human, he is dangerous.”
However, leading up to the night’s monumental showdown between the two champions, it seemed as if Harris was the one with all the momentum.
Ten minutes before climbing aboard Bushwacker, Harris conquered his second bull of the night when he made the 8-second mark on Cowtown Slinger for 91.5 points to conclude the championship round. Harris won the long round with an 88-point ride on Bully Pulpit in smooth fashion, before matching the quick-spinning Cowtown Slinger with ease and tossing his cowboy hat high off the big screen inside the Bismarck Civic Center to the thrill of those in attendance.
Even though he was half a point shy of the event win – Kasey Hayes (180 points) took home the victory by riding Fire & Smoke for a career-best 94 points – Harris (179.5), who was using a new bull rope in Bismarck after finally deciding to replace his “worn out” older one, had all of the momentum in the world heading into his matchup against Bushwacker.
He had made easy work of his two bulls and had the glare of a champion.
“That made me think, ‘Oh boy, he rode two awesome and he has this one,’” Moreno admitted. “I really thought he was going to have a chance, but when I saw that first jump of Bushwacker, I kind of went, ‘Oh, yeah.’”
Berger added, “He was pumped up there. He wasn’t hurting. If he ever was going to ride Bushwacker, it was right after he rode Cowtown Slinger. The confidence level was there.”
But Bushwacker was confident, as well, and, once again, he got the best of another rider looking to defy the odds. He has now bucked off 16 consecutive riders since J.B. Mauney broke the bull’s record buckoff streak last year in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Harris shook off any notion that he may have been fatigued having to climb aboard Bushwacker shortly after his successful ride on Cowtown Slinger.
“I felt like I hadn’t been on nothing all night when I stepped over on top of him,” Harris said. “It doesn’t matter if you are tired or not, you still have to do what it is you’re supposed to do on him. If you don’t do it, whether you are fresh or if you’ve been on two more, it doesn’t matter.”
Just as he was appreciative of the chance to face off against Mauney at the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge in Decatur, Texas, where he suffered a broken nose two weeks ago, Harris was thankful for the opportunity Berger presented him on Friday night.
Of course, he wish things could have gone differently, but he understands the opportunity to get on Bushwacker is a rarity.
It’s a rarity Harris hopes can happen once again before the bovine retires to California at the conclusion of the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
“If he is in the short round and I am coming back first, I am taking him,” Harris concluded.
The DCB PBR Bull Riding Challenge continues Saturday night, and can be viewed online via PBR LIVE, beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET. Click here for more info.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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