Cowboy Diaries: Dusty Tuckness -- Bullfighters Are More Athlete Than Clown
True cowboys and cowgirls are hard to find, but not at the Houston Rodeo. Life on the road leads them here this time every year for the biggest rodeo in the world, where they'll ride and wrangle livestock for cash and glory. Each day, Hair Balls will spotlight one person with enough dirt on their boots to call themselves a cowboy -- and mean it.
Mandy Oaklander Dusty Tuckness, bullfighter
Name: Dusty Tuckness
Hometown: Meeteetse, Wyoming
I've been fighting bulls since I was about 12 years old. My dad did it. I've been around it all my childhood years, and I grew up liking it and enjoying the whole aspect of the bullfighter/rodeo clown.
Back when bullfighters/rodeo clowns first started, you were kind of all in one: rodeo clown, bullfighter, comedian, barrel man. Nowadays, there's more of a separation factor between the rodeo clown, which is Leon Coffee here at the rodeo. His main job is to entertain the crowd and to give us an island of safety out there with his barrel.
Now, it's the bullfighter's job to keep the cowboys safe. As the bull riders dismount or get bucked off, it's our job to go in there and distract the bull to take him away from the fallen cowboy to let them get back to the fence safe and sound. We're kind of their insurance factor.
Our uniforms that Houston has provided us with kind of separate us from the joking clown/barrel man. It shows off more of an athlete side of it.
Some of us wear makeup to go back to the tradition of the rodeo clown. That's where it evolved -- the entertainment factor and just kind of the ease factor for rodeo fans. When an animal jumps the fence or a contestant gets injured, it's up to us to keep the crowd at ease. I've always just kept wearing my makeup. People and fans will recognize you for your face, and this is something I stuck with for many years.
Being a bullfighter, if you're going to do it for your career, you're gonna get run over, you're gonna get hooked, stomped on and whatnot. That's just kind of the price you pay to play the game. We all know that, but we don't go into the arena worrying about it or thinking about it. Our main job is to stay healthy, to keep the bull riders healthy.
My craziest story was this year at the National Finals. One of my buddies hung his spur in his rope, and was drug around there for about a minute, minute and a half. Bull run us over, tangled us up. Finally we got out of there and nobody was really hurt, so we kind of got a laugh about it afterward.
When I'm not fighting bulls, I use my off-time to train, stay in the gym five to six days a week, trying to prepare my body physically and my mind mentally by watching video or studying the rodeo I was just at. I try to work on making myself better every time I step in the arena.