Bullfighters put safety first

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The Gooding Pro Rodeo bullfighters – from left, Cade Burns, Nate Jestes and Dusty Tuckness – work in unison to help get a bull rider out of trouble at a recent event in southern Idaho.

Trio of talented athletes protects all at the Gooding Pro Rodeo

GOODING, Idaho – There are a lot of little things that stand out about the Gooding Pro Rodeo that make it unique and excellent.

Having three of the best bullfighters in the sport is one of those, and they’re three of the upper echelon of men who help keep everyone safe: Cade Burns, Nate Jestes and Dusty Tuckness. They will be on hand for this year’s rodeo, set for Thursday, Aug. 18-Saturday, Aug. 20, with a special “Beauty and the Beast” performance set for Wednesday, Aug. 17. All performances take place at 8 p.m. at Andy James Arena.

“Working with guys like Tuck and Cade makes everybody’s job easier,” said Jestes, a four-time National Finals Rodeo bullfighter from Douglas, Wyoming. “When a rodeo brings in three bullfighters, it’s the best form of protection we can have not only for the bull riders but also ourselves.

“When you have three guys on the same page, it makes all our jobs easier and makes it safer in the arena for the bull riders and everyone else.”

It’s their jobs to help distract the bulls once the rides are over. They use their cunning and their athleticism to do that, sometimes jumping into the middle of a wreck if need be. The goal is to simply gain a bull’s attention after the ride is complete and help escort it out of the arena.

“We used to have an Xtreme Bulls event, and we needed three bullfighters,” said Burns of Laramie, Wyoming, who has fought bulls at Gooding since 2010. “Dusty came in and just did the bull riding, then they just decided to keep bringing him back.”

Don Gill, the fair and rodeo manager, made that call, and it’s been a good situation ever since.

“When you’re working with Nate and Tuck, the three-man system woks pretty flawlessly,” Burns said. “It secures the bull riders that much more. It just helps eliminate so much potential problems by having another guy in there.”

All three men have been part of the freestyle bullfighting circuit, where they were in competition with fighting bulls that were bred specifically for that kind of fight. In the freestyle fights, the men utilize their athleticism to score points against the aggressive and agile bulls.

While some of those same skills are involved in their work as protection bullfighters, they aren’t trying to impress the judges. They’re just trying to keep everyone safe. In fact, if everything goes right, they are hardly noticed.

Tuckness has worked the NFR every year since 2009 and is a 10-time PRCA Bullfighter of the Year. Like Jestes and Burns, it will be nice to reunite with his brethren in Gooding.

“Don Gill and that small crew take very good care of us,” Jestes said. “All the amenities that we want as a bullfighter coming in and staying for four or five days are there. We’re parked on grass and under shade trees, and we are fed lunch and dinner every day. It’s a great place to be.”

Like every athlete that’s ever been to the Gooding Pro Rodeo, the crowd and the feel that comes with being there is special.

“It’s a fun atmosphere,” Burns said. “The people in that town know how special their rodeo is, the caliber of animals they get and the quality of the contestants they get. They get behind it full force and make signs. It’s unlike any other I go to. The atmosphere there is different than any where else.”

There have been times that the bullfighters have been “beer worthy” themselves, recognized for something extraordinary by a section of the crowd that offers up brews for great rides or wild wrecks.

“That rodeo is like nothing else,” Jestes said. “You pull into Gooding and wonder where you’re at, then you pull into the rodeo grounds, and it’s a sold-out crowd every night and one of the most unique crowds you will ever experience.

“I’ve gotten a few beers. I took a couple of hookings and got a few beets out of there. It’s just an electric crowd. They know what they watch, and they’re not afraid to get excited about it either.”


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