GUNNISON, Colo. – Darran Robertson and Cody Emerson look at life inside the rodeo arena vastly different than most.
When danger appears, they attack it. When a 1,600-pound bull charges, they return the favor, utilizing their athleticism and experiences to help themselves and others inside the arena escape harm’s way. It’s their nature; it’s their job. They are the bullfighters and will have a very important role at the Cattlemen’s Days PRCA Rodeo, set for Thursday, July 15-Saturday, July 17, at Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison.
“I do this for the love of the game,” said Emerson, 32, of Marble Falls, Texas. “I think the thrill of protecting your buddies is something that most people don’t get to feel. The bull riders are always grateful that you saved their butts. You get to travel all over the country doing what you love to do. There aren’t many jobs like it that you can provide what it provides, along with the adrenaline rush that comes with the job and the brotherhood we have as bull riders and bullfighters.”
It takes a passion to jump into the middle of a wreck in order to keep everyone else in the arena out of trouble, and both men have that. Robertson, who rode bulls for several years before he tried his hand at bullfighting, understands the necessity of his job better than most.
Both are veterans in the game, but Robertson is a bit more … distinguished. He’s 44 years old doing a job that most men do until their mid-30s.
“My wife, kids and I talked about when to hang it up,” said Robertson of Weatherford, Texas. “I said I was going to be done at 40, but I still have fun doing it. I do it because I just enjoy it.
“My son gets to go with me a little bit. When I stop having fun or if my body tells me I’m done, then I’ll quit, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen soon. I go to the gym five to six days a week, and I still feel pretty good.”
It shows in his effectiveness, and he and Emerson work well together. They’ve partnered together numerous times over the last decade, and that trend doesn’t look to stop soon. Both are excited about returning to Gunnison and experiencing how a community comes together for a celebration like Cattlemen’s Days, which has been around for 121 years.
“That’s just a great little rodeo,” Emerson said. “It’s got the old-school look and the big, wood chutes, which is something you don’t see very often at rodeos today. We have two sections of bull riding, so we get to open and close the performances with bull riding. You have your work cut out for you, because they’ll bring the heat twice a day, and you need to be on your toes.”
There will be plenty of action inside the historic arena, but the rest of his venture to work the rodeo will mean enjoying the cool mountain air; that’s a far cry from their Texas homes, which features high humidity and intense heat through the summer months.
“Gunnison is a cool little town in the mountains, and I like going to the mountains and rodeoing in June and July,” he said. “It’s also a cool town to be in, with a neat atmosphere. The rodeo is a huge deal to the people there, so that helps make it really exciting for us when we get there.”
He got his start nearly a decade ago after watching the action for much of his life. He grew up roping in northeastern Arkansas, then decided to try his hand at bullfighting. He attended a school put on by veteran bullfighter Frank Newsom, and he quickly fell in love with it.
Robertson rode bulls well enough to qualify for the Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo three times. After he decided to hang up his spurs, he found a job, but he had the world of rodeo calling back. of Fame rodeo clown Lecile Harris, a longtime family friend, offered some assistance, and Robertson followed by putting his natural athleticism to work in a different capacity.
When he arrives in Gunnison, he will offer decades of experience around bulls and a love for the game that most men in their 40s would never comprehend.
“The people in that town are amazing,” he said. “There is definitely an Old West feel when you get there. They have the old-style bucking chutes, and that Tough Enough To Wear Pink program is a huge deal there.
“The town has some nostalgia to it, and it’s got an incredible feel. I just love that small-town atmosphere and the way the people treat you when you’re there.”