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8 Seconds

February 27, 2019

Bull riding is a test of will — looking fear in the eye and facing it head on, devil be damned. The sport all comes down to that point of no return — that moment where all the practice, preparation and perspiration is in play, down to the last wrap of the bull rope. Pulling down the Stetson, and giving that decisive nod, the cowboy and his animal explode out of the chute and into the arena for those precious few seconds when anything can and unapologetically will happen. And fans can’t get enough.

That’s why this breakout event from traditional rodeo has become so popular — it is the event everyone wants to see. Audiences want to see the unexpected, the “go big or go home” attitude in 3-D, these death-defying cowboys scoring great rides on the toughest bulls with the worst attitudes. All the other events usually serve as anticipation for the main event — when the action really heats up for this ultimate test of courage, as man and beast are hell-bent on making the most of every second.

The paycheck a cowboy potentially can earn makes it worth the risk, but for most of these guys the sport isn’t about the money. It’s about pushing themselves to do their best with the implied understanding that each ride could be their last. Chasing their addiction to danger and the accompanying natural high it achieves drives the cowboy’s ambition. In other words, it’s all or nothing.

So for the second year, the Fort Mojave PRCA Classic Xtreme Bulls event expands to two days of heart- and ground-pounding excitement on both Friday and Saturday, March 1-2, at the Mojave Crossing Event Center (across the Colorado River from the Avi Resort & Casino). Doors open (5:30 p.m. AZ time); bull riding action starts (7:30 p.m. AZ time).

In previous years, the event was combined with the Avi River Stampede Rodeo. Because the crowds for the bull riding are considerably larger, the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe and partner, the Avi Resort, offered two days of the “people’s choice” event instead for the first time last year. The decision proved to be the right one.

“It went really good,” said Jerry Honeycutt, rodeo producer and the main stock contractor of the event at the Mojave Crossing Event Center. “We had great crowds and when you can fill that building, you’re doing pretty good over there — and we filled it on Saturday. The Avi was tickled to death and so we’re gonna do it again this year and we’re gonna do it again next year even, so this is really cool.”

Bull riding fans will get double the action with 70 of the top athletes competing over the two days for thousands of dollars and points that go toward standings that could take them all the way to the series finale and the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

Sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the competition includes the best in the business.

“It is the top 70 guys in the world who are entered here and so you get all the best bull riders from the PRCA, and $30,000 has been added to the bull riding. So it’s a big payday for the guys entered. Yeah, they win a trophy buckle, but it’s also money towards the world standings.

“Whoever wins this bull riding will have a big shot in the arm. I think there’s only two or maybe three of these $30,000-added bull ridings out there and most of them only take 45 guys, and we’re taking 70,” he said. “There’s a lot of Xtreme bull ridings within the PRCA that only add in $10,000. The Avi adds $30,000, so that’s three times the money of most XTreme Bulls events. So the bull riders in this event have a chance at a little over $50,000 in prize money.

“For the entertainment value, you can’t beat this bull riding,” Honeycutt added. “It’s just awesome for the price of a ticket — and I’ve got a great relationship with the Fort Mojave Tribe. They’ve been so good and they’re family oriented — they’re a pleasure for me to work with. That means a lot to me.

“Everyone is really nice and all the people at the Avi have been good to work with, and that, too, means a lot to me,” he added. “When the people you work with, you trust and you know and you’ve got the same goals, that means a lot. When you both want the best bull riding and the best entertainment value you can come up with that’s a rare thing. When you can get everybody on the same page, that’s huge.

“You know in the business world, everybody’s got their own agenda sometimes, and it’s neat when you can get everybody on the same page.It makes our bull riding events a lot more fun,” Honeycutt added.

He would know. The Honeycutt name has been synonymous producing rodeos and providing livestock all over the Southwest for years. It is a heritage as strong in rodeo as rodeo’s heritage is to the west. Jerry Honeycutt and his family are keeping that heritage moving forward, continuing what his relatives started a long time ago.

For decades, his father, Roy Honeycutt was the go-to guy with Honeycutt Rodeo Co., for rodeos all over the Southwest including Laughlin and Bullhead City rodeos for years. When his dad retired from the business a few years ago, Jerry took over the reins, balancing his solid legacy and reputation with his own way of doing things.

“My grandfather, Walt Alsbaugh, started this business and kept it going for 60 years,” Honeycutt told us. “When he passed, my uncle took over, but then he had to get out of it. My dad came on board and has made it the success it is today. It would be a big accomplishment if I can just keep it going. That’s my dream. If I do that, I can pass it on to my kids.”

And family is what makes the Honeycutts different from most rodeo companies. All the Honeycutt’s have a job to do. Their philosophy is involving even the smallest member of the family from the get-go. Whether it’s feeding animals or riding in the grand entry, everybody works — and that has usually involved three, sometimes four generations at any given time.

Jerry’s been working with his dad his whole life, from driving trucks hauling livestock to rodeos all over the Southwest to serving as one of the pick-up men in bareback and saddle bronc riding events. This gives him a working knowledge of how the whole rodeo thing works.

“We’re up to five generations now in the rodeo business,” he said. “We just came back from the Yuma rodeo and it’s been five generations of us who have been there and worked that rodeo. Our heritage means a lot to my family.

“Our slogan is ‘eight decades and five generations we’ve been in the rodeo business.’ All I can do is try to follow in my grandpa and my dad’s footsteps and do the best job I can…and I’m enjoying life. I told a guy on the phone, I feel guilty sometimes because I get to do what I like and I have fun at it.”

How this competition will play out…

“It’s just like last year. The way it happens, the top 70 bull riders in the world enter the event. Then out of those, 35 guys will go each night,” Honeycutt explained. “Then out of those 35, we have an 8-man short round. The top 8 riders will come back and ride a second bull in the short round each night.

“It’s the best ride, or the best points on two bulls. In other words, a guy with the best score Friday could win it or a guy from Saturday could win it.

“They don’t come and ride both days, they just ride the one day, but the top eight winners will have to get on two head and whoever has the best score wins,” he said. “Say a guy scores 85 points on both his first and second bull on Friday. His total score is going to be 170. Then the next night, a rider scores 85 and 84, then his score is 169, so the guy who had the 170 points the first night will win.

“A lot of guys are going to the American in Arlington, Texas, and coming to the bull riding at the Avi, too, so there’s gonna be a lot of guys flying in and flying out over those two days.”

Because entries were still open at press time, it is unknown which bull riders will be competing at this event, but action is the name of the game and it won’t be in short supply.

While it’s the cowboy who earns the score, it’s the bull that makes him look good. And the biggest challenge is that bull that’s never been ridden.

All of the bucking bulls are top-notch, no matter which of the stock contractors supply animals.

In addition to Honeycutt Rodeo out of Alamosa, Colorado, stock contractors will include Bar T Rodeo out of Utah, Summit Rodeo of Wyoming and Salt River Rodeo from Arizona.

“The bull power is probably going to overwhelm the cowboys, but it will be a really good bull riding,” he added. “We’ll have the best bulls in the business, so there will be a lot of high scores and buck-offs. People won’t hurt for action and this year is gonna be probably the best, I would imagine, because of the entertainment value.”

Comic relief with a purpose…

The competition includes professional rodeo clown and barrel man, “Backflip” Johnny Dudley, of Denton, Texas. He has been hailed as one of the hottest talents in the PRCA and PBR. His quick wit and off-the-cuff banter have been keeping crowds from coast to coast laughing until their sides hurt. He always has enough time to visit with every kid and is a master at promotions. Dudley served in the U.S. Marine Corps and upon receiving an honorable discharge, he earned a college degree in international business. “Backflip” greets everyone with a smile.

Bullfighters this trip are Joe Butler and Kris Furr, both professionals with the PRCA.

Specialty act…

This year’s specialty act is something of a “French twist,” and a first for this event.

“I’m excited this year because we’ve got a good bull-jumping guy performing this year,” Honeycutt said. “His name is Manu Lataste and he jumps Mexican fighting bulls. He is just phenomenal. He doesn’t just jump up in the air, he goes out flat, arms spread out — I mean, he’s real athletic. He’s like a gymnast and instead of jumping, he actually flies over them. He’ll do three or four jumps every day in between sections of the bull riding. It’s gonna be very entertaining.”

Modern bull jumping has 2,000 years of story behind this skill. Everything started in the old Europe in the arenas of the Roman Empire. Slaves and gladiators were sacrificed using Spanish bulls to kill them. Some of them saved their lives by fighting the bulls and by jumping the bulls.

Lataste grew up in the culture of the traditional Course Landaise and the Culture of the South West of France, where jumping a bull was a right of passage from boy to man. This French tradition respects the animals, and Lataste is the only professional bull jumper working all over the world. Most recently he performed his craft at the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Vegas.

Mutton Bustin’...

There is an event that allows area youngsters to get in on the rodeo action in a slightly “pint-sized” version of riding bucking bulls called Mutton Bustin’ — where competitors try to ride sheep for as long as possible. Competition takes place both Friday and Saturday nights in the Mojave Crossing Event Center. The event is limited to 10 children per night and free of charge to children ages 4-7.

The competition takes place in between the bull riding which begins at 7:30 p.m. (AZ time); children should arrive at the event center no later than 7 p.m. (AZ time) to check-in and sign a release form. They may register prior to event by calling Brittany Boatwright at 702-535-5525.

Every participant receives goodies, and prizes provided by the Avi will be awarded for the top three contestants. Protective gear (helmet and vest) are provided to all riders; however, children should wear closed-toe shoes, jeans and a long shirt. No sandals or flip-flops. Spectators, including parents and additional siblings, will be charged regular admission. For sign-ups and more information, email marketing@AviCasino.com.

Tickets...

Tickets for the Fort Mojave Classic Xtreme Bulls start at $15 per person for general admission; reserved seating is $20; Back Reserved seats are $25; Gold Buckle seating (near the chutes) is $35 and Front Gold Buckle seating is $50. A barbecue meal will be served onsite, with tickets costing $15 per person. Tickets for the Fort Mojave Classic Xtreme Bulls and the barbecue event can be purchased by visiting AviCasino.com or Yapsody.com.