In 2016, Devon Mezei hasn’t had the season he had hoped for. He hasn’t ridden the way he knows how to ride, or won as much as he’s used to winning. It hasn’t been the same, his confidence was shot, his desire drained. That was until Saturday night at the Glen Keeley Memorial PBR in Stavely, AB.
While standing in the arena during the opening ceremonies at the Stavely arena, Mezei found the inspiration that had been missing.
Sixteen years ago, a twelve-year old steer riding Devon Mezei was competing at CPRA rodeos, and traveling with his Dad, Dan.
“I remember being around Glen the year he was killed in 2000” Mezei said on Sunday afternoon. “I was riding steers in the CPRA and he was around riding bulls. I can remember, we picked him up from the airport somewhere, me and my Dad, and took him to High Prairie to the rodeo. I spent the day with him, and around him, and with him. I was just a shy steer rider, but that guy was so humble and kind. My memories of Glen are all positive, he was quiet and just a friggin bull riding SOB.”
On Saturday, an opening video remembering Glen featuring tributes from the likes of Tuff Hedeman, Michael Gaffney, Cody Lambert, Todd Braithwaite, Kelly Armstrong, J.W. Hart, Jim Sharp and Ty Murray, was a surprise to the Keeley family orchestrated by Al Lively.
“The guys that would be like Wacey Finkbeiner and those (younger) elite guys coming around, after they watched that video, they were like ‘holy cow, I didn’t realize Glen was that rank.’ They knew he was a great bull rider, but Glen was the best of his time that we had. He rode in a tough era of bull riding,” Mezei said.
“What blew me away was that every one of those guys, it’s not like they were together but they had pretty much the exact same thing to say about him. Like how great of a guy he was in and out of the arena, how hard he tried, and just that he didn’t ride bulls for the money or the fame or any of that. He just did it cause he loved riding bulls. You need a pretty strong desire to ride bulls, and some days I don’t feel like I have that anymore. But after watching that video and watching all those type guys talk about Glen and his passion for it, it made me remember why I started riding. It kinda took me back and made me think and remember why I started doing it and why I had a lot of success doing it. It put a little gas on my fire.”
For 28 year-old Mezei, having his son Cooper with his wife Kayla has changed the game recently.
“There’s a lot more to take into consideration now. I started riding like any other little rodeo kid, that’s what my family did. That was just the way. I was fortunate enough to have some talent and pursue it and be successful. It’s brought me memories and opportunities that not everybody gets to do. I look back, and for example those World Cup experiences with the PBR were once in a lifetime chances. I was luckily enough to be riding well at the time and got to be on the team,” Mezei said.
“Now, with having Cooper and stuff, I appreciate being home more. It’s funny, I don’t like leaving home (to go), but once I’m at the event, I come around. I still love bull riding, if I could just get on in my backyard three times a week that would be the best,” Devon joked.
With the announcement of the PBR Monster Energy Canada Tour and Western Festival in Edmonton in 2017, Mezei looks forward to being a part of the future of bull riding in Canada.
“There are exciting things happening with the PBR (in Canada) that have also made me turn my head and have another look at it and give it one more try,” Mezei said.
“I’m not old by any means. I can still do it, but sometimes I don’t go into it anymore with my mind in the right place. Sometimes my heart ain’t as big as it should be, and it has shown this year. But, you go to a bull riding, like Glen’s deal, and seeing all those guys that are at the bull riding in person. I’ve been to almost every one (myself). There’s old bull riders, they come there because Glen was a great guy, they come to that bull riding to remember him. It does something to a guy, it makes a little magic happen.”
Magic does happen in the Stavely arena for the Glen Keeley Memorial Bull Riding, as it did this past Saturday with Mezei’s revival and resurgence.
“We’ve seen some of the best rides that we’ve had in Canada in that arena,” Mezei said. “That bull riding has been won a couple three times by Tanner (Girletz), a couple times by Chad (Besplug), a couple times by Scott (Schiffner), and I think a couple by Tyler (Thomson) and Beau Hill. We were all kinda in the same age group of bull riders. That buckle has always left the bull riding with someone that knew Glen Keeley and appreciated what that meant. Guys would go there if they $50 added, just to win that buckle with his name on it. It’s a special deal.”
On Saturday, as the event winner, Mezei took on a Wild Hoggs/Brad Keeley bull called Sworn Enemy for a one-ride check worth $10,000. With the crowd on the edge of their seats and Devon wearing his heart on his sleeve, it didn’t go how we all wanted it to, but everything happens for a reason.
“I was fairly embarrassed bucking off that bounty bull. That should have never happened, and probably wouldn’t happen again if I had that same opportunity. But I come back there, and Chad Besplug and them guys they are back there, I was pretty upset about it and beating myself up over it a bit. They were like: “Shit man, you got that buckle, that don’t matter, the money don’t matter, it’s the fact that you get to wear that buckle. That’s worth more than any money.”
In our lives, there are ups and downs along the way, but how we deal with them is what defines us. For the Keeley family, tragedy struck on that March day in Albuquerque in 2000. But each year the Keeley family, the local community, along with the rodeo and bull riding community come together to remember those who have passed.
Glen, and his parents, John and Donna may be gone, but they will always be in Stavely each September.