Often hidden directly in the limelight of any rodeo are the men who exchange their cowboy boots for a pair of cleats.
Professional bullfighters are oftentimes the most talented athletes in any rodeo arena, and if they do their job well, you might never know about them.
Because they’re in the business of battling bovines, the animals who make up 50 percent of the equation in the most popular event in rodeo. They must put themselves in harm’s way, then make the athletic maneuvers needed to get everyone out of every situation unscathed. After the cowboy is thrown to the dirt — either by the bull bucking him off or by his own means — bullfighters grab the bull’s attention and pull the animals toward themselves and away from the others.
In Odessa, Texas, three of the best bullfighters in the game are working the Sandhills Stock Show and Rodeo: Dusty Tuckness, Andy Burelle and Cory Wall, the latter elder statesmen among the upper echelon of cowboy protectors. Tuckness was named the 2010 Bullfighter of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, a year after Wall earned the honor for the first time in his storied career.
Two seasons ago, I watched these great men work in Odessa, and I grew more impressed with each one throughout the 13 days we spent together in West Texas. Not only are they all tremendous athletes who care very much for the work they do, but each has proven to be an asset for the events they work. Not only will they protect cowboys during bull riding, but they will promote the event.
They’re professionals, and they’re the best at what they do because of it.