Cowboys will always be cowboys.
That was never more apparent than it was when Chris Shivers, his best friend Mike White and J.W. Hart recently spent a week roping wild bulls along the shores of the Mississippi River in the southern-most part of Louisiana.
Roping cattle is dangerous work in the best of conditions.
These were less-than-desirable conditions in which the three famous cowboys were faced with wild bulls that, according to White, had never seen humans before. They roped the bulls in boggy terrain, pulled them to the riverbanks, swam them to a barge, which carried them across the river and then loaded them into the waiting cattle trailers.
“Yeah, we were all together down there catching bulls in the marsh,” Shivers said. “That’s just part of the stuff we do.”
And by saying “stuff we do” he’s referring to, perhaps, the most dangerous cattle wrangling they’re involved in all year.
A week before the trio got down to this island one of the barges sank.
But all three were up for the challenge.
“They would say, ‘Oh, I don’t think you can catch that one,” recalled White. “Well, that’s the wrong thing to say to this group.”
“I’ve been going down there for years doing that and it’s not for everybody,” Shivers said. “It’s a dangerous, dangerous deal down there and it’s something that I’m glad I’ve always been a part of and I think that keeps my motor running. We do stuff like that. We don’t sit in our truck all day or sit on the computer all day. We go out do as dangerous of stuff as we used to do when we were riding bulls, so it’s nothing new for us.”
White added, “It’s living life on the edge.”
Speaking of living life on the edge, all three are part of the fast-approaching Unfinished Business in which Shivers, White and Hart will join fellow Ring of Honor members Justin McBride, Ross Coleman, Tater Porter, Michael Gaffney and Cody Custer in a winner-take-all challenge for $160,000.
Well, once a bull rider always a bull rider.
The pay-per-view event will take place May 30 in Decatur, Texas.
Enticed by the idea that it’s not the grind of a whole season and it’s just one bull, Shivers and the others have no grand illusions of doing this again.
However, the idea of riding bulls is still in their blood. It’s who all eight of them are.
“It’s one of those deals where you want to do good to compete for the money,” Shivers said, “but you want to be remembered as how you left it before. This could mess things up or if you didn’t do something that you did before you have one more opportunity. It’s something to look forward to and I’m excited about it, to tell you the truth.
“You’ve been out of the sport for two or three years and now getting an opportunity to go and it’s going to be against some of the old guys that you used to ride against and there are a lot of family and friends who are going to come to that event. I’m excited about that as well.”
Shivers said roughly 30 to 40 family and friends will be making the 400-mile drive west from Jonesville, Louisiana, to Decatur, Texas, for the event, which will be broadcast live on Pay-Per-View. It’s only the second time in PBR history the organization has do so with a special event like this.
Among those will be his two sons — Brand and Blayne.
Both boys had seen their father compete numerous times late in his career. However, now both are actively involved in mini bull riding and have a better understanding and appreciation for the sport.
“It’ll be pretty special,” Shivers said. “There’s one thing about them being older —they’ve got jokes now. They like to pick and play. It’ll be fun for them to get to see me ride again for the last time. Maybe not like I once was, but maybe we can do it one time for them.”
The skills might fade with time, but memories last forever.
Shivers won two world titles – 2000 and again in 2003 – and became the standard by which all 90-point riders are measured with an all-time record of 94.
He was the first to earn $1 million, $2 million and eventually $3 million. He won two Challenger titles and when he retired at the conclusion of the 2012 season, he did so having nodded his head more times than anyone else in Built Ford Tough Series history (877) and, at the time, had recorded more qualified rides (408) than anyone else in PBR history.
Those two numbers have only been surpassed by Guilherme Marchi. However, it’s unlikely anyone will account for as many 90-point rides in the near future, if ever. For good measure, he recorded the highest score ride – 96.5 points – not once, but twice in the prime of his career.
He also set a record by qualifying for the PBR World Finals 15 times.
Shivers was such a dominating force that it was a foregone conclusion when he was inducted into the prestigious Ring of Honor a year later in October 2013 along with his mentor and fellow Louisiana native Bubba Dunn.
This past winter, when Hart called Shivers with an invitation to compete as part of the Unfinished Business competition, Shivers said he initially thought Hart was simply “joking around.”
“I didn’t think he was for real,” recalled Shivers, who said he was quick with his answer once he realized Hart was serious. “It didn’t take long to commit after I figured out he wasn’t joking. The guys we’re competing against are the guys basically just like me—they retired and rode back in the day and were done with it, so if they were willing to step up to the plate then I should be too.”
Though he’s been on horseback roping bulls at several BFTS events each of the past three seasons, he’s looking forward to getting back behind the chutes with White, his longtime traveling partner.
On a two recent episodes of “Outside the Barrel,” host and PBR entertainer Flint Rasmussen reminisced with Shivers one week and White the next about their many exploits.
Rasmussen even reminded White of the nicknames – Bobbsey Twins and Mighty Midgets – the two were affectionately called throughout much of the first decade in the 2000s.
Shivers said it will be just as nice to get together in a competitive atmosphere with McBride, Coleman and Hart, who are among the handful of former riders he talks with at various PBR events and junior events with their kids. Others, like Porter, he only sees occasionally and remembers the start of his career coinciding with the end of Gaffney and Custer’s career — both of whom where in the latter stages of their careers, but still good and “always fun to watch.”
“It used to be on a weekly basis and we have a lot of memories out there,” Shivers said. “It’ll just be fun.”
He added, “Once you’re done it’s like that’s it, that’s all you’re going to get to do. Well, now guys get a chance to get back out there and do it one more time in front of all those people who supported us for all those years.”
Shivers talked quite a bit with White and Hart about the upcoming event, while they were roping wild bulls.
He said having maintained some of those adrenaline-filled experiences will give the trio a little bit of an advantage (or so he hopes) in Decatur.
“I don’t think the fear aspect of it is there on our part,” said Shivers, who did confirm this will in fact be the last bull he ever gets on. “We do that kind of stuff every day on a daily basis, so it’s not something we’re worried about. Maybe our actions and our reflexes are maybe a little slow—slower than they once were, but as far as getting out there and having a tough mind toward what we have to do, I think, we’ve got that.”
“I think that’s what makes it so exciting. You get to step back into the past and kind of reminisce a little bit about the way things used to be and the way things were before. This is going to be a really, really, really big night of bull riding.”
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