Bull Riding HQ



Mike Cervi Sr. is a friend of mine.  If anything ever happened to me, I know he would be there for my family.  I would do the same for him although it’s hard for me to imagine anything I could ever do for him.  He has so many friends.  Friends in high places and insignificant people like me.   Lots of friends.   An astute businessman, one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met, smart, a good person—when I grow up I wanta be Mike.  

As a stock contractor with some of the biggest rodeos, he’s proven to be a worthy adversary.  He’s been the Darth Vader while I of course am Luke Skywalker.   It is a challenge to keep up with him.  

Beats the heck out of world class Chess.  Half the bull riding rules were written to counter-act things he done. Each rule has a story behind it. The things he did weren’t done out of meanness or crookedness, most were based in economics. 

I recall one time when he locked me out of the Denver rodeo office (trailer) when they were fixing to draw the short go.  Bobby Delvecchio broke out a window and tossed me through.  As Donnie Gay can attest--Delvecchio could toss a guy pretty far.   But in a couple of decades of mental chess, we’ve never exchanged a word of profanity.  Not once. I don’t every recall him ever cussing at all.       

I never met Mike Jr.   Knew who he was but never was introduced.   I knew he’d been a top high school quarterback in California in an area that produced lots of Division I college players.  A real stud ball player.  Tall guy.   I remember him picking-up at some of their rodeos.  Think I even remember him running over me while I was judging at Casper.  Took him awhile to get picking-up mastered.   The hair never quite grew back on the top of my head, so some people assume I’m a Monk ) and no better than I did with the girls I may as well have been).   Anyway…. I knew he made the NFR in the team roping.    I knew he married Sherry Potter.   But I never met him. 

When my best friend Patty Daly called me this afternoon with the sad news… I cried.   Not a manly thing to do. Maybe it was partly because of the Twin Towers grief thing—every night if I watch the rescue/ recovery reports on television… the tears come.    But with Mike Jr. I cried because being an old guy I’ve seen too much death.   I can’t imagine losing a child.  I cried for Mike Sr.’s unimaginable pain.

My memory of Mike Jr. won’t be of him roping or of he and Sherry photo-finishing-in at Eagle one time. My recollection of him will be from one year at Loveland.   It was before we had limits in the bull riding and Cervi had brought over all the slack bulls to help Bennie.  I was up in the stands watching with some of my wife’s relatives from Germany.   That week Mike Sr. had given his bull herd to Mike Jr.—an 8 year-old in charge of his bull herd.  (couldn’t do any worse than Mike Sr. I reasoned).

The first gunner… I see him warming up his rope… pulls… slides up…then all of sudden he’s laying on his back in the arena.  The chute gate is still closed.   Green bulls, I figure.   They pack him out.  No Justin Healers back then, they just drug a guy out of the way like they did JW Coop.  The next bull rider…same deal.   I can tell this guy’s mad… I could hear the cussin’, in fact.   The judges of course acted like they hadn’t seen a thing.  They were still standing 2 miles South of Cheyenne with their fingers up their butts. Just like they do today. 

So I performed sign language for the Germans… “Bye bye”  “Go see bulls”…  kinda like James Stewart did in any 1950’s Cowboys and Indians movie (where all the Indians looked like Italians or Mexicans because they WERE Italians or Mexicans and the prettiest Indian Princess was Natalie Wood).  Like some of our message board participants—I definitely had an anger management problem back then.  Probably needed professional therapy but no better than I rode, the therapy I relied on was Budweiser and BUTE (and lots of both).   

I cussed the judges on my way by… said something about using their fingers to find their heads…then made a beeline for the chutes.   Jumped up on the chute in front of the next gunner.   He was taking his wrap.   I knew the bull… just a tame old Hereford like the rest of Mike SR’s. fine sale barn rejects. 

So this bull rider…. he eased up to his rope.  And I mean EASED.  Made the Carrillo Brothers and Elkins look like their motors were stuck in fast forward gear.   Then he nodded.   Timidly.   More like gravity did it.  


He landed out in the arena like the other two.  Did kind of a triple gainer somersault deal, which I thought was pretty athletic.   In fact the gate men were holding up cards that had 9.5’s on them like they do in diving.   The timid guy is laying there, holding his butt and groaning.    Hemorrhoids perhaps?   

Nope.    Mike Jr.  

My eyes drifted to the back of the chute and there was 8-year-old Mike Jr. with one of them three foot long –crank-a-tractor-batteried hot shots/arc welders that were popular at the time.  Like his dad, looking plumb innocent.   See…. since it was his first stock contracting rodeo and he couldn’t imagine hotshotting his bulls so he figured that he was supposed to give it to the bull riders—right in the BUTT.   Pretty cool kid. My kind of guy.   I always liked Mike Cervi Jr. after that.   Never met him though.  

And when I think of him, I’ll picture that criminally innocent looking 8 year-old face.

Mike Cervi Jr. was blessed with a wonderful father.  A loving father.  A father who taught respect and politeness.  Taught thoughtfulness.  Taught mental toughness.  Taught business principles.  Taught work ethic.   Lessons that boy children absolutely need and few get.   Myself included.

I figure God blessed Mike Sr., with Mike Jr. and God blessed Mike Jr. with Mike Sr.

And if I happen to have a few tears going at this moment I figure it’s okay.

Mike Cervi is a friend of mine. 


Bryan McDonald