DUNCAN, Okla. – As the hooves pound, the muscles strain. When done right, bull riding can be poetry in motion.
That lasts just seconds. When those moments are over, the bullfighters move in quickly with great agility and tremendous athleticism. It is their job to distract the bull, move him away from the cowboy and try to keep everyone in the arena safe.
It’s a job that Wacey Munsell and Chuck Swisher know well. Both will return to southern Oklahoma for the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19-Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan.
It’s an honor, really. Both have been selected multiple times to protect cowboys at the regional finale. Their places are determined by the bull riders, and it’s recognition that Munsell and Swisher are good at their jobs.
“The quality of cowboys in our circuit is really good,” said Munsell, 31, of Ulysses, Kan. “If you can make the circuit finals, I think you could do just as well at the NFR. As a bullfighter, getting votes from that quality of cowboy means a lot. It’s a big honor.”
This marks the seventh time Munsell has been selected to fight at the circuit finals, the second time since it moved to Duncan in 2012. Swisher will now work the championship for the third time.
“It’s really cool because the bull riders trusted me enough to step into the arena and work the rodeo,” said Swisher, 27, of Dover, Okla. “That’s pretty awesome to have those guys pick you out of a list full of bullfighters so that you can do what you love at an event like that.”
It takes true athleticism to handle a bullfighter’s load effectively. They will work together, gain the animals’ attention and finish by utilizing their athletic ability to remain out of harm’s way.
Both men have worked some of the biggest events in ProRodeo. Munsell has worked rodeos in Denver; Tucson, Ariz.; Greeley, Colo.; and Dodge City, Kan., just to name a few. Among Swisher’s highlights are San Antonio; Sikeston, Mo.; and a 2014 assignment to protect bull riders at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“What’s great about the circuit finals is that it’s the top 12 in each event,” Swisher said. “It’s cool to see all that talent coming together and compete against each other.”
Both men were raised in the region, so they comprehend the talent level that sits inside the Prairie Circuit. Whether it’s all-around world champion Ryan Jarrett of nearby Comanche, Okla., or a rising star like saddle bronc rider Hardy Braden of Welch, Okla., it doesn’t get much better than seeing all the top cowboys competing inside Stephens County Arena.
“What makes the circuit finals great is the quality, both contestants and stock,” Munsell said. “There are a lot of horses and bulls that have been to the NFR, so you know we’re going to have top-quality stock. The circuit usually produces really good cowboys, and a lot are NFR caliber.
“When you have that, it makes for a great rodeo.”