Kids love extreme sports. Texans love cowboys. What can be more extreme than the sport of bull riding? Skateboards and motorcycles don’t try to hook you or stomp you after you fall off. So how do you keep kids safe when they want to ride a bull?
Meet Scott Mendes: PRCA World Champion bull rider, husband, father and pastor of Western Harvest Ministries in Springtown where he puts on bull riding camps each month. Participants range in age from 12 to thirtysomething and come from all over the country. This isn’t like fantasy baseball camp – these boys are serious. Serious about riding bulls and serious about life.
Bull riding is second only to NASCAR in popularity. Just as with all celebrities, bull riders and rodeo cowboys can be influenced by the celebrity status they receive. Mendes’ focus is teaching and modeling a way of life that benefits the lives of these boys and builds a solid foundation that not only keeps them safe on the bulls but also in life. His mission is to instill a positive and uplifting message for families while providing education and entertainment. His personal journey has led to this work both in and out of the arena so the next generation of rodeo stars doesn’t fall into the downward spiral that celebrity so often offers. “My heart is burdened for the youth of America. I and those who work with me use our experience as well as the extreme sport of professional bull riding to help today’s youth conquer the beasts in their own lives and to fulfill their dreams. We have a great opportunity to make an impact in their lives,” he said. Using the nationwide platform Mendes has available to him, between bull riding camps, events and speaking engagements, he feels confident that he can have a positive effect.
Twelve year old Ben Scheffel of Alvarado has been riding bulls for four years. His big brother rode bulls and Ben said, “I thought it looked cool so I tried it.” He has been competing in the Texas Youth Bull Riders Association but said Scott has taught him more about safety because of his belief in God and faith. “It’s more important than bull riding.”
Springtown was well-represented by Cameron Bittick, Cole Middleton and Hayden Tedder. Bittick, 15, has just been riding bulls a short time. His cousin, Colt Munden, is a CBR bull rider and his father was a bullfighter. Even though he’s been so close to the action, Cameron said, “I never had a real chance to ride until I came to church and met Scott. It’s really cool.”
Middleton, 14, has been riding about three years. He went to a cowboy church in Fort Worth and a friend got him interested in bulls. “I always liked doing fun stuff like that,” he said.
Hayden Tedder, 14, has only been riding bulls for two years and is already competing most Fridays at the Cowtown Coliseum. He’s a repeat participant at the Conquering the Beast camps and a regular at WHM. When asked about the safety factor he’s learning from Scott, he said, “Now that I’m coming to church, I feel a lot more safer with God.”
Jimmy Joe Demaree traveled all the way from northeastern Kentucky to work with Mendes. He’s taking the WHM format back home where he’s in ministry school. “This weekend, I learned how bull riding can be used to reach people, reach their hearts and change their lives,” he told the crowd gathered Sunday morning at the WHM office.
Western Harvest Ministries has plans for youth programs to help get the kids out of the parking lots and into a positive environment where they can be nurtured into balanced adults. Mendes has a genuine desire to build self-esteem in the youth of Parker County and beyond. Plans are being generated to offer movie nights, afternoon activities, educational opportunities and resources for the local youth and families as well as monthly bull riding camps (locally and around the country) and roping clinics. The Conquering the Beast Pro Bull Riding Challenge has riders from several states as well as Brazil. The next event is scheduled in Salina, Kansas on May 31. WHM will be at the 94.9 KLTY Celebrate Freedom Festival at the Southfork Ranch June 27. For more information, call Scott Mendes at 817-523-BULL (2855) and check out the website: www.westernharvestministries.com or www.conqueringthebeast.com.