One last ride

Rigby resident Riley Barg, 12, gets his wrists taped by his father Neil Barg before his minibull ride Saturday at the War Bonnet Round Up rodeo at Sandy Downs. None of the mini bull riders stayed on for the required eight seconds. Pat Sutphin /

Plenty of good times were had as the 103rd War Bonnet Roundup came to an end Saturday at Sandy Downs.

Rodeo clown Clint Sylvester led the crowd in karaoke that ranged from Old Crow Medicine Show to Conway Twitty, cinnamon rolls and trips to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas were given away and 16 Idaho cowboys and cowgirls were registered to compete on the final night of Idaho’s oldest rodeo.

Although he and the other mini bull riders were unable to stay on for the required eight seconds Saturday, 10-year-old Jaxton Mortensen was having just as much fun as the professional cowboys in the arena.

Mortensen and 13-year-old brother, JC, are frequent competitors at War Bonnet for good reason. Their maternal grandfather, JC Trujillo, is a world champion, 12-time NFR qualifier, Rodeo Hall of Fame member and general manager of Prescott Frontier Days in Prescott, Ariz. Their father is Judd Mortensen, a former professional bull rider from Idaho Falls who helped restore War Bonnet in 2011 after a two-year hiatus.

“It’s starting to be a family tradition, and it’ll eventually be passed down to us,” Jaxton said in regards to War Bonnet.

The brothers have already won money this year from competing in mini bull riding, and they’re always on the go with their parents.

They live in Chino Valley, Ariz., but Jaxton said he and his family travel “tons.”

“We’ll be at a rodeo one day, then flying out the next,” he said. “We’re hardly ever home.”

The only thing Jaxton enjoys as much as bull riding is football, and he said he wants to either be a professional cowboy or football player when he grows up. For now, he and JC get plenty of help from Judd in their rodeo endeavors and the brothers also have each other’s backs.

“We help each other out all the time,” Jaxton said. “Yesterday when I rode, he got so excited because I hadn’t rode in a while and he threw his hat in the arena.”

War Bonnet has also been a frequent stop with a hometown feel for Rigby steer wrestler Dirk Tavenner. The 23-year-old was given a 10-second penalty, bumping up his time to 15 seconds, but the result didn’t deter from the success the cowboy has had this year.

The 2009 Rigby High School graduate is currently 19th in the PRCA steer wrestling standings with $30,044.01 in earnings, putting him good position to make the NFR for the first time in his career.

“Especially being in the top 25 in the world right now, I’m just trying to take it a rodeo at a time,” Tavenner said.

Tavenner, who said he has been around rodeo since he could walk, followed his father into the sport. He competed in high school rodeo and took his talents to New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M., where he qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo all four years.

Tavenner said he likes steer wrestling because of the power it demands from cowboys.

“Just the competitiveness of being physical, taking down an animal that’s larger than you,” Tavenner said. “It takes strength to get them down.”

With the potential to compete on rodeo’s biggest stage in December in Las Vegas getting bigger with each rodeo, Tavenner hasn’t forgotten his roots and who has helped him along the way. He said he is reminded every day of how lucky he is to do what he does for a living.

“You meet a lot of incredible people in rodeo that do a lot to help you out,” Tavenner said. “I’ve been blessed with the family I’ve been given. I’ve been blessed with all the support.”