BELLVILLE, Texas – Years before he was one of the most popular bullfighters in rodeo, Dusty Tuckness was a key fixture at the Austin County Fair and Rodeo.
“Bellville was one of my very first PRCA rodeos I got to work,” said Tuckness, the reigning seven-time Bullfighter of the Year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. “It’s cool because of the fact that I was hired by Mo’ Betta Rodeo, which got their contracting card in 2006, about the same year I got my (PRCA membership) card.”
He returns for the 11th time in 12 years – he had to miss one year because of an injury. The Wyoming man brings a boatload of talent to the Austin County Fairgrounds for the rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12-Saturday, Oct. 14.
“Mo’ Betta gave me some of my first breaks, and the Bellville committee has always been so good to me,” he said. “It’s a good county fair and a good, solid rodeo committee. It’s in a good community, and it’s fun to come back and see where it all started.”
He is one of two men in the arena whose jobs are to keep everyone safe during bull riding. They utilize their exceptional athleticism to distract the bulls once each rider hits the ground – whether it’s before the qualifying 8-second ride or after. It’s oftentimes a thankless job, but it’s necessary.
He’s been so good, Tuckness has been selected to fight bulls at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo each of the past eight seasons. In Bellville, he will battle bovines alongside Oklahoman Chuck Swisher, who fought at the NFR with Tuckness in 2014.
“Chuck is a good guy to have on the other side,” Tuckness said of his partner. “He’s fun to be around, and he has good fundamentals. We get along good in the arena together.”
They need to. It’s vital that the two men can read the situation and react in collaboration in order to help keep everyone safe. Of course, having the opportunity to work a great event like the Austin County Fair and Rodeo is a bonus.
“Bellville is a really awesome rodeo,” Swisher said. “It’s a cool venue with a really good crowd. It’s nice to be in that area of Texas at that time of year.”
He also recognized that much of southeast Texas will need a full weekend of entertainment after the struggles that impacted the region after Hurricane Harvey blasted the area.
“Hopefully we don’t have to swim around any bulls,” he said with a laugh. “This will be my fifth year going there now, and I always look forward to being there. It’s cool to have a whole community come together and make such a great event. It’s a sandy arena, so it’ll hold all that Harvey rain.”
And like Tuckness, Swisher understands how important it is to have a solid partner in the arena.
“The sport we’re in isn’t the safest sport, so you want to be able to work with a professional that handless business on their side,” Swisher said. “Tuck is always on point, so that helps me step up my game.”
When the game is as dangerous as dancing with bulls, teamwork is the ultimate key. Tuckness and Swisher have it.