In the late 1960s, Walter Brennan starred in the title role of the TV Western “The Guns of Will Sonnett.”
The story line had Sonnett and his grandson searching far and wide for his gunfighter son, who had abandoned the family years earlier. Of course, Brennan’s character had a trademark line used throughout the series.
He would utter that his son is good with a gun and his grandson is better. “And I’m better than both of ’em,” he’d conclude. “No brag, just fact.”
Jon Rivera wishes he could say the same. The retired Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputy won last year’s World Fast Draw competition in Durango, Colo. I wrote about him in August 2012, after Rivera won that first world title. He’s won four of six tournaments since then, piling up points toward the 2013 world all-around championship. That’s plenty to brag about.
But in Red River, N.M., last weekend, when it came time to defend the World Fast Draw title he won a year ago, Rivera encountered an unlikely and unbeatable foe: his 16-year-old son, Jonathan. Just fact.
Unlikely? Jonathan, an Oakdale High sophomore who this afternoon will take his driver’s license exam, had shown only a passing interest in fast draw shooting until only two weeks before the Red River event. He picked up the six guns while his dad was training for the championships, and something just clicked.
“He pulled off a bunch of great shots,” dad said. But that was one hot streak on one day, so his dad dangled the competitive carrot.
“I told him if he was fast again on the second day in a row, and again the third day, I’d take him with me to New Mexico,” Rivera said.
Indeed, Jonathan displayed incredible new-found speed those second and third days, so dad scrambled to book an additional airplane ticket, and off they went.
In fast draw competitions, shooters meet in best-of-five-shot duels. They stand side by side to fire blanks or, in some events, wax bullets. Events also vary by distances from the target. Lose a match, get an X. Three X’s and you’re out.
The Riveras both competed in the 8-foot blank elimination world championship, the showcase event of the meet.
“This was the big one,” Jon River said. “The first day, we managed to avoid (competing against) each other.”
Instead, Jon suffered his first X at the trigger of Canada’s Nick “The Quick” Ione. By the afternoon of the second day, the field dwindled to three shooters: Jon and Jonathan, with one X apiece, and Nick The Quick with two.
Father and son finally faced off, with dad winning the first two shots and Jonathan the third and fourth.
“I was really nervous,” Jonathan said.
The fifth shot would decide the match – or not. The Riveras drew exactly at the same time – each timed in 0.263 seconds – creating a rare tie that merited one more try.
“The next shot, Jonathan got me and gave me my second X,” Rivera said.
“It felt great,” his son said.
Jon Rivera next faced Nick The Quick.
“He knocked me out in three shots,” Rivera said.
That left the grand finale for the world title: Kid Jonathan vs. Nick The Quick.
Nick won the first match, giving Jonathan his second X. In the championship go-round, Jonathan won the first shot. Nick the Quick took the next two. Then Jonathan took shots four and five for the championship.
But the match against his dad is the one he’ll remember most. “No one picked me, going up against my old man ranked No. 1,” Jonathan said.
Dad maintained his overall No. 1 association ranking by finishing third. His son, meanwhile, tasted victory and caught the competitive bug in a major way.
“I just got my (all-around) title Sunday, and he’s ready to take it from me on Monday,” dad Jon said.
Hence, there’s a new kid in town. The guns of Jon Rivera were humbled, yet he is a proud papa.
Jonathan won the world championship. Dad took home the all-around title for 2013.
No brag, just fact.