Boudreaux Campbell believed he nailed it. Right after his dismount he was fist-bumping bullfighters, exhaling deep-from-the-chest yells and grinning so widely it had to hurt.
When his score was read to the 5,000 fans at Stampede Park, they roared, Campbell knew the announcement of 92.5 was not the temperature in the shade, but represented the best ride of the night in Xtreme Bulls.
For the second straight summer, Campbell, 20, of Crockett, Texas, beat the gathering of most of the top bull riders in the world in Cody.
“Love it,” he said of his two-year relationship with Cody. “Cody likes me.”
Stampede Park was rocking for the bull-riders-only $15,000 event as lightning scripted the sky in the distance, but rain held off.
It took every bit of Campbell’s score to hang on in a highly-competitive, high-scoring showdown.
Scores in the 90s were no rarity. It took just about that much to breach the top five.
“The bull was really up and down,” Campbell said. “He was really wild and shaky.”
All bull riding, with the hope of staying aboard for 8 seconds, is wild and woolly.
Second went to Parker Cole McCown of Montgomery, Texas, with a 91. Daylon Swearingen of Rochelle, Ga., was third with a 90 1/2. Swearingen just won the College National Finals a few weeks ago and McCown was fourth.
Trevor Reiste of Linden, Iowa, followed with a 90-point ride.
At the start, a huge X was scratched into the Stampede Park dirt and then, powered by gasoline, lit aflame before riders were introduced. The competitors went off in groups of 10 in sections.
Donnie Gay, the eight-time world champion bull rider, was called upon by announcer Boyd Polhamus to handicap each section for the fans.
Given the capriciousness of any eight-second, hoped-for ride, it was a reach.
“I can’t pick just one,” Gay said, nodding towards Cole Melancon, Parker Breding and Roscoe Jarboe in the first section.
It was a good thing Gay wasn’t betting on his hunches in Las Vegas in any section.
The smart money – and Gay’s main prediction – was on Sage Kimzey, the five-time reigning world champion from Strong City, Okla.
While Kimzey dominates the circuit, he never seems to have much luck in Cody. He looked as if he might post a good score on Homer, but then was thrown off after 7.42 seconds, tantalizingly close to the buzzer.
“A zero is a zero,” Kimzey said afterwards, dismissing the almost ride.
McCown’s ride seemed barely under control on a bull named Magic Poison.
“That’s my highest score,” McCown, 19, said of his 91, on his first visit to Cody.
Highest not of only his summer, but of his life.
“He was really fast,” McCown said. “He was bucking really hard.”
Swearingen, pro rodeoing regularly for just a few weeks, seemed to still be riding the momentum from his college title.
“I’m just blessed to be able to do it,” Swearingen said while also raving about his first visit to Yellowstone National Park on the way to Cody.
Fifth-placer Brady Portenier of Caldwell, Idaho, conquered a bull that did considerable spinning in circles he said, not his favorite.
“I like a bull that is more up and down,” Portenier said.
Hidden under Portenier’s boots, he wore socks of a colorful pattern of reds, greens and more on a backdrop of white. He could have bedazzled judges into a higher score if he had flashed them.
Chase Dougherty of Canby, Ore., had no familiarity with the bull named Hooch he drew, but rode him to an 88.
“I didn’t know what he was about,” Dougherty said. “But he was wiry and he was ready to go. Just what a guy could ask for.”
Sometimes a rider has seen a bull elsewhere and sometimes he is clueless about a bull’s habits.
Josh Frost of Randlett, Utah, faced an unusual situation. His bull Casper was a rookie. Casper, unlike the cartoon ghost, had no history because this was his first rodeo.
“Casper has a little bit of speed, but not enough,” Polhamus told the crowd. “A little bit of a spinner.”
There was no prior book on Casper.
“It’s a young bull and you never know,” Frost said. “He wasn’t kicking a lot.”
Bulls don’t really tolerate men on their backs, but if they cooperate with suitable nastiness they can help guys get a good score.
Frost stayed on for 75 points, but didn’t believe he deserved a higher total from the judges.
“I think they hit it right on the head,” Frost said.
1) Boudreaux Campbell, Crockett, Texas, 92 1/2. 2) Parker Cole McCown, Montgomery, Texas, 91. 3) Daylon Swearingen, Rochelle, Ga., 90 1/2. 4) Trevor Reiste, Linden, Iowa, 90; 5) Brady Portenier, Caldwell, Idaho, 89; 6) Chase Dougherty, Canby, Ore., 88. 7) Jordan Hansen, Ponoka, Alberta, 87 1/2. 8) Jeff Askey, Athens, Texas, 87. 9) Cordell Curtis, Monte Vista, Colo., 84. 10) Josh Frost, Randlett, Utah, 75.