PUEBLO, Colo. – A year ago this month Julio Moreno was standing at the end of the bar on the main casino floor at the South Point Hotel Casino & Spa, in Las Vegas, when he called Kent Cox over for a chat.
It was the night before Bushwacker’s final out in Round 6 of the 2013 World Finals.
A little more than 15 hours before Bushwacker won his second world title, Moreno broke the news.
“Tomorrow I’m leaving and I’m taking Bushwacker with me,” Moreno recalled. “I said, ‘He’s done. I’m retiring him.’”
Cox, who passed away in late February, nodded and said he had a feeling Moreno would retire his prized bull that had already been proclaimed as the “greatest bucking bull of all-time” by PBR livestock director Cody Lambert.
The next afternoon, he bucked off Douglas Duncan in 3.48 seconds. Judges marked him 46.5 points as Moreno and Cox celebrated the victory together at the Thomas & Mack Center. It was Bushwacker’s second World Champion Bull title in three years and, at that point, the 8-year-old had been a contender for half his life.
In fact, he had done more for the sport of bull riding than any other bull in history.
He had been featured in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, ESPN the Magazine had named him “the baddest body in sports” and television news veteran Charlie Rose has twice talked about him on CBS Morning News.
Cox may have heard of Moreno’s plan through the grapevine – Buswacker’s owner doesn’t recall he or his wife Kindra discussing the plan with anyone prior to telling his longtime handler and hauler – but one thing he certainly got right was that Moreno would soon hear from the PBR.
The first call came from Sean Gleason.
The COO initially wanted to confirm that Moreno was in fact hauling him home to California. Chairman and CEO Jim Haworth called. Moreno then called and had the first of several discussions with Lambert, whose professional opinion Moreno said he values as a personal friend.
Initially they talked about having one final outing take place, in Arlington, Texas, at the annual Iron Cowboy event.
Then Gleason, whose favorite rock band KISS announced its own farewell tour in early 2000 and are still touring in 2014, called with a farewell idea of his own for Bushwacker.
Like KISS, it went from one event to a trio of marquee Built Ford Tough Series events that would also include the Last Cowboy Standing and this year’s World Finals to 13 outs at 12 different events before winding up being 18 total outs, including three Touring Pro Division events and the last three outs remaining on his schedule.
Bushwacker will be featured this weekend at the Monster Energy Bulls on the Beach event, which will be telecast on CBS from Huntington Beach, California.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Kindra, who ultimately felt Bushwacker desevered to be recognized for what he’s accomplished and, more importantly, what he’s done for the popularity of the PBR.
“I hauled him home (last year) and I said he’d never go again,” said Moreno, who, unlike KISS, will not extend Bushwacker’s career again beyond the 2014 season. “I retired him last year and the PBR and CBS talked me into going on this farewell tour.
“It’s time. He’s on top and he needs to go out.”
Moreno said he’s been too busy lately to truly contemplate Bushwacker’s last road trip.
That is until Tuesday afternoon when a flood of calls came in.
The P.R. department and television producers wanted to know when he would be arriving in Huntington Beach, so they can capture the arrival and unloading of him Saturday morning and then again Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas.
Others involved in the production of the event openings during the Finals also called.
“I thought about it today, especially today, because they called me about the some openings and then I talked to Cody Lambert,” Moreno said. “All that is starting to hit me now. When I load him up Thursday it’s probably the last time I load him to go to an event.”
Kindra added, “I think when we load him up for this last week here, it’s going to be a reminder that this is the last time he’s going down the road to an event. We’re trying to play tough right now, but it’s an emotional thing.”
Moreno grows increasingly uncomfortable and looks to redirect the conversation whenever it gets too emotional.
He’d rather let the distractions get in the way.
It’s easier that way.
“Kindra starts getting sad,” explained Moreno, regarding the memories of a career that was, “and I tell her not to get that way because it makes me get worked up.”
After all, he’s fixated on winning one more title.
A third title would tie Bushwacker with Little Yellow Jacket for the most in PBR history.
However, some experts, including Lambert have surmised it may be a difficult task.
“He is so good that if he doesn’t draw a couple of the best bull riders, at the Finals, there’s a good chance he won’t win the Championship,” Lambert said, “because they won’t challenge him enough to make him turn it on. It’ll happen in one or two seconds and they won’t put the challenge on him to make him show what he’s got.
“It’ll be more nerve-wracking for Julio than it is for me. I don’t care if he wins it or not. He’s the greatest bull that I’ve ever seen.”
“I kind of makes me wonder,” said Moreno, who added, “He was doing good until guys couldn’t ride him or didn’t want to ride Bushwacker and he kind of got used to that, so now he lost it? I don’t think so. I really think he’ll perform good there. I have faith in him that he will.”
This year, he’s been unridden in 15 outs – 12 of which have come at BFTS events.
He won the title in 2013 and 2011 after winning the ABBI Classic title in 2010.
Bushwacker will forever be remembered for his consecutive buckoff streak of 42 riders at BFTS events. The streak lasted the better part of four seasons until reigning World Champion J.B. Mauney rode him in August 2013 for 95.25 points in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
However, Moreno hopes the first out put him in the lead instead of having to come from behind on Sunday.
“I really think that bull is smart enough to know,” said Moreno, of the heightened excitement surrounding the World Finals, “especially that second trip.”
Moreno added, “He’s got (three) more outs and everybody’s saying he might not do it, but we gotta keep going. They’re saying it and I used to get worked up about it, but Kent used to say, ‘Those (other) bulls don’t have good outs back to back. That’s the only thing I’m thinking—he could be right. He used to tell me that for the past five years.”
Cox never named Mick E. Mouse on that list, but, according to Moreno, Cox did name check Asteroid and Shepherd Hills Tested.
Asteroid arguably had the best out of his career in Biloxi, Mississippi, but is known for hipping himself on occasion and has done exactly that in Las Vegas.
Regardless of the outcome, it’ll be a bittersweet ending.
On the evening of Sunday, Oct. 26, they will load him up on his trailer and he’ll make his final trip home to a pasture, where 21 cows await his arrival.
“That gives me chills,” said Kindra, who recalled last year’s decision and difficult drive home that followed. “We thought about it hard and heavy. I think we were fighting our heads about it, to be honest with you. We thought, ‘Why can’t he go one more year?’ and then we thought, ‘he owes us nothing more.’”
This year, Moreno said, “I sometimes ask myself, ‘Am I still retiring him too early?’ I’ve asked myself that a couple times.”
“He owes us absolutely nothing for what he’s done in his lifetime,” said Kindra, who was pretty matter of fact when she concluded, “Now you know it’s set in stone.”
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