By: Justin Felisko August 29, 2014@ 04:00:00 PM
THACKERVILLE, Okla. – Jared Allen’s Air Time was minding his own business enjoying a nice June day at Matt Scharping’s Arlington, Minnesota, ranch when a harmless bird flew overhead.
Instantly, the bull, who was coming off a dominant 47-point outing a month earlier at Last Cowboy Standing, spun around and kicked high into the air.
In just a flip of a switch, Air Time was exerting plenty of energy after being annoyed with someone invading his space.
“He is scared of everything,” Scharping said with a laugh. “The problem with Air Time has always been that he is scared of his own shadow. Literally, he was scared of everything around him and everything made him nervous.”
There was the time at previous owner Scott Accomazzo’s Stephenville, Texas, ranch when a similar instance happened as a bumblebee flew past the nearly 2,000-pound bovine causing him to jump. The seemingly anxious bull would also be startled by people walking by his pen or by flies landing on his back.
It was safe to say it didn’t take much to spook this year’s World Champion Bull contender right out of his own skin as if he was the second coming of the cartoon character Scooby Doo.
However, Kasey Hayes, Joseph McConnel, Renato Nunes and Justin McBride can all attest that when it comes to the bucking arena, Air Time should have nothing to worry about. Minus Nunes’ 92-point March ride in Phoenix, the rest have all taken their tumble toward the dirt courtesy of the Jared Allen’s Pro Bull Team athlete. Scharping and Allen purchased Air Time following the bull’s impressive Phoenix out.
Hayes was bucked off in three seconds as Air Time was marked an event-winning 47.5 points two weeks ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Hayes was Air Time’s first victim last year when the bull launched Hayes off his back in 1.51 seconds during his BFTS debut in Thackerville – the site of this weekend’s event where he will buck in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round on Saturday night. Air Time was marked 45 points.
“I really don’t like getting done like that by a bull, especially when I was putting everything out there to ride him too,” Hayes said of his most recent out with Air Time. “I know when he left out of there he felt good. He made that left turn and I was like ‘Alright, this is going good so far.’ Then he snapped, kicked and jerked me to the end of my arm.”
Still, it is the bucking arena, particularly the back alleyways and bucking chutes, where the 5-year-old’s quickly irritable and sensitive mentality first proved troublesome in the bull’s early years.
After competing in the 2012 ABBI Classic Finals in Las Vegas, Air Time was slated to buck during the Built Ford Tough World Finals before he suffered a broken back during the load-in process, according to Accomazzo. Unable to compete, the stock contractor rested his bovine for the next five months before bringing him to the ABBI event in Stephenville in March 2013. Injury struck Air Time once again when he fractured a hock in the bucking chute, leading to another three months off.
“He is so touchy and timid and for him to move, it is so effortless that he pretty much all did it to himself,” Accomazzo said. “It took forever to get him to the chute without injuring him. If you just touched him, when the tail of the bull rider’s rope brushed him in the back he would jump in the lead ups.”
Air Time is the son of 2013 World Finals competitor Big Cat after the bull, then 2 years old, hopped a fence and bred with Lone Star Bucking Bull’s heifer LS-17.
With plenty of patience and hands-on work from Accomazzo, Air Time eventually began to mature in the bullpens and bucking chutes. Scharping, who considers Accomazzo a mentor, has continued the training and patient approach with Air Time, even standing next to the bull in the alleyway before he was loaded into the chutes in Tulsa.
Many jokingly began calling Scharping a bull whisperer, but their laughs quickly turned to compliments once they witnessed Air Time explode for 47 points.
“People think I am crazy, but when they run him in the back alley, I stand there and pet on him and talk to him the whole time to keep him calm as much as possible,” Scharping said. “I told Kasey Hayes, ‘Man, slide your rope slow, do everything real slow, real easy with him.’ We are helping (him) mature and helping him figure it out.”
There is no questioning the natural talent of the physical specimen. Since making his BFTS debut last year in Thackerville, Air Time has been marked 45 points or higher in every one of his BFTS outs and has gained notoriety for how high he bucks off riders. Air Time’s name actually comes from how high he jumped during his first out with a dummy as a yearling.
Air Time is still learning how to handle his physical talents though. He got disqualified at the 2013 Built Ford Tough World Finals when he hipped himself leaving the chutes with Chris Lowe aboard him, and then he slipped and fell at the Touring Pro Division event in Fort Worth, Texas, last December.
“I like to call him a wreckers or checkers type bull,” Scharping said. “He is going to be either outstanding or he is going to screw up or fall down because he is trying so hard. Knock on wood, he has been really good about keeping his feet and trying real hard as of late. I think it is a maturity process.”
Ever since bucking off McBride in 1.74 seconds and being marked 46.5-points at THE AMERICAN, Air Time has been on a roll and has become one of Bushwacker’s latest challengers during the legendary bull’s final season.
Air Time was marked a full point better than Bushwacker in the bulls’ past two outs against each other.
“I was very happy. Anytime we can go in and beat Bushwacker by a full point is good,” Scharping said. “Bushwacker is the greatest bull of all time. I will never take anything away from that bull.”
Yet, Air Time may be able to do so.
Scharping is hoping Air Time can do enough in the second half to earn himself a spot on the short list of World Champion Bull contenders for the World Finals. Air Time just needs an invite to the dance to make things interesting.
“I know the potential he has and I want in that World Champion Bull race because if it comes down to five bulls in one race with a clean slate coming to Vegas, then I think that bull can win,” he said. “If it is a different bull, then I applaud him because every bull can have a bad day and Air Time could have a bad day there. If he has his days like I have seen him have then I think he stands a good chance.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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