With Queen’s rendition of “We Will Rock You” blaring over the loud speakers and more than 1,000 fans vigorously exercising their voice boxes, 14 bull riders stood Friday night near the Montezuma County Fairgrounds arena in preparation for the Ute Mountain Roundup’s most popular event.
Hailing from states as far away as Florida and as close as Utah and New Mexico, the young and wiry cowboys stretched and tended to various injuries while talking among themselves about their recent trials and tribulations at events that took place as recently as the day before.
By the time the gates finally opened for the night’s first rider, Cullen Telfer of Brandon, Florida, audience members could hardly contain their excitement. Unfortunately for Telfer however, the eight-second buzzer never sounded as the former high school wrestling state champion lost his balance and fell to the ground after his bull made a hard right turn.
Over the course of the night, 12 riders would face similar fates thanks to an athletic array of bulls brought to Cortez by the Honeycutt Stock Co., which has been breeding bulls for eight decades.
At times during the evening, several of the animals became enraged to the point that cowboys and rodeo clowns alike were forced to avoid angry charges, leading announcer Jody Carper to comment that one animal looked “as mad as Tiger Woods when they posted his picture the other day,” following an alleged DUI.
Among the most exciting rides of the night was that produced by La Salle, Utah native Jacob Smith, who overcame his bull’s wildness in the shoots and produced an evening-best score of 74 points while Ram Jam’s 1977 classic, “Black Betty,” blared in the background.
Also on display throughout the evening was an innate toughness displayed by several riders, including Dustin Muncy, who broke his nose after getting his hand stuck in the rope. He limped out of the arena, followed a small blood trail.
“When it’s good it’s good; when it’s bad, it’s bad,” said cowboy Drew Flynn, when asked about the injuries that result from bull riding. “About four weeks ago in Franklin, Tennessee, a bull hit me coming out of the bucking chute ... and damaged some ligaments.” It can be a little brutal ... but if you love it, you love it.”
By the time the evening concluded, Ty Wallace sat atop the Roundup’s bull riding standings with a score of 78, which he posted on opening night. Smith’s score of 74 was good enough for second place, and Australia native Matty Pfingst’s score of 50 points was good enough for third.
Other standout performances from the evening included those of saddle bronc rider Chance Darling, who posted an evening-best score of 76, and steer wrestler Josh Peak, whose time of 5.2 seconds was the top performance of the night and placed him in second overall.
In the team roping event, Clayton Van Aken and Cullen Teller just missed the arena record of 4.1 seconds with a time of 4.5 seconds.
At the end of the evening’s festivities, several cowboys and cowgirls signed autographs for young fans outside the arena while chatting with rodeo staff members, friends, and family members.
“We’ve all been raised to treat one another the same and treat everybody with love and respect,” Flynn said. “The people I’ve met through rodeo and traveling ... I’ve always got a place to stay. If I go broke, somebody’s got my back. They go broke, I’ve got their back. It’s a family, and we try to treat everybody that way.”
With two nights of the Ute Mountain Roundup Rodeo now complete, fans still have one more opportunity to see live action as a full slate of events will take place at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds on Saturday at 7 p.m.