GUYMON, Okla. – In a typical day, Nathan Jestes’ life is pretty unassuming.
He’s a husband to Bridget and a daddy to Harper, 2, and Channing, 6 months. There isn’t much to tell about the Wyoming man until you see him change into his superhero outfit, a jersey outfitted with his sponsors and enough padding to protect him while he goes about the job of saving lives.
Jestes is a professional bullfighter, and he will return to the Oklahoma Panhandle for the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 5; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7. He will work with another veteran lifesaver, Cody Webster, in protecting everyone during bull riding at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
“Anytime you get to work such a prestigious event like Guymon and events that are part of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, it’s one of those things that’s definitely got a unique feel to it,” said Jestes, who works many of the biggest rodeos in the country and travels the rodeo trail with his family. “When you get there, you know where you’re at. It’s always an honor and a privilege.”
He’s earned that right. Jestes has been selected to work the National Finals Rodeo four times in his career. He’s also been nominated as the PRCA’s Bullfighter of the Year seven times in his career. While working Pioneer Days Rodeo, he’ll be matched with Webster, a 10-time NFR bullfighter who is the two-time reigning PRCA Bullfighter of the Year.
“Web and I have always worked good together,” Jestes said. “He’s one of those guys that when you step into the arena with him, it just makes our job easier. I can trust he’ll have his stuff handled, and he knows I’ll be right there when I’m needed.
“It’s just second nature to us anymore. We’re able to react and do our jobs. We can trust each other to do our parts. When you work with someone like that, it just makes your job easier.”
Make no mistake: Their jobs aren’t easy, but they are vital. Bulls are aggressive by nature, and it takes a bit of gumption to ride a bucking bovine; it takes more guts to step into the arena and be in a position to keep those bull riders – and everyone else in the arena – safe after each ride ends.
To do that, bullfighters use their ability to “read” the animals, react to their maneuvers and control their own athleticism to keep themselves and all others out of harm’s way. It takes special souls to be able to look danger in the eyes and attack it head-on. That’s what happens when Jestes and Webster enter the arena. They are combatants and caregivers all wrapped up in an athletic ball of talent.
“I fight bulls because it’s what I love to do,” Jestes said. “I have an amazing schedule, and I work a lot of the best rodeos all year long, and Guymon is one of those. To be selected to fight at the NFR is a huge honor. To get to step down in that arena, to get to breath that air that not a lot of people get to breath and protect the best bull riders in the game, it’s the biggest privilege I’ve ever had in my life, other than being a dad.
“With Frontier (Rodeo’s) stock and the prize money Guymon has available, it’s a good time of year for every contestant to come. That makes Guymon the best quality rodeo you can have.”