The Unsung Heroes for When Bull Riding Turns Nasty
At Sunday afternoon’s fourth performance, the San Angelo rodeo featured a full slate of veteran bull riders and bulls. Of the 13 bull riders scheduled to ride, over half, or seven, were ranked in the Top 25 of the 2016 world standings. Three were in the Top 10.
When top talent meets angry bulls, it is dangerous. A bull ride is scored based upon half rider and half the bull’s performance. Bull riders wanting to win money want the high scoring bulls.
In Sunday’s competition, two bull riders were almost severely injured. If not for the presence of two rodeo clowns, technically called “bullfighters,” Sunday afternoon’s bull riding sequence may have made a bad turn.
In the second half of the go-round, bull rider Dallee Mason hopped upon the bull named Sully.
“Sully is a smart bull. Usually when bulls get older, they’ll toughen up. But this one also got smart,” explained Jake King, one of the bullfighters for the 2017 San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo. Clay Hager is the other bullfighter. At PRCA rodeos, two bullfighters work close-up to the bull, and a third, called the barrelman, Justin Rumford, is positioned about 15 yards in front of the bucking chutes.
King or Hager, both 150-pound bullfighters, are not going to stop a 1,700-pound bull like Sully. Instead, what they do is distract the bull, and pull it out of its spin or direction, maybe even coaxing the wild beast to trot away from the scene, leaving the bull rider time to run from it.
Getting Sully distracted proved to be difficult Sunday afternoon.
“What happened is when the cowboy (Dallee Mason) fell off, the rope slipped to the bull’s belly. It’s tough on a hang-up, but it’s really difficult when it goes low like that,” explained King.
The procedure is, one bullfighter tends to the head of the bull and the other the tail. But Sully wouldn’t easily allow himself to be distracted.
“That bull just wanted to keep spinning that rider (Dallee Mason), so we were going for a Hail Mary, just go for it,” King said. “At the end, my partner Clay Hager was doing his best to keep the bull distracted.”
From the video you can see Hager get the bull to follow him about 15 feet down the line of chutes, preventing Sully from continuing his bucking turns that could have resulted in Sully stomping on Mason.
Rider Mason said his glove got caught in the rope, and tape was preventing his hand from coming out of the glove, even as the bull made fast and violent twists and jerks.
Luckily, Mason’s hand slipped out of the glove before he was caught underneath Sully’s hoofs that were pouncing up and down with violent force. The Hail Mary move was averted.
Later in the go-round, bull rider Cody Rostockyj, ranked 7th in the world in 2016, had the same type of hang-up, after getting bucked off the bull, his glove was caught in the rope and his hand was stuck inside the glove. At the end of the video we have, you can see King reaching to pull the bull’s tail to give the cowboy time to get detached.
Blair Witch’s hoofs came dangerously close to stomping on Rostockyj’s head as the bull rider fought to detach his hand from the glove and rope.
In both cases, the bull rider walked away. Unfortunately neither lasted eight seconds, and San Angelo’s rodeo is a one shot contest. Their next chance to win money is the next rodeo on the circuit.
For Dallee Mason, he’s headed to Belton.
Bullfighter Hager said the art of his trade takes years of training and practice until you figure out how to read a bull, and are able to get that close to a bucking one-ton animal to deal with a variety of dangerous situations.
“After a while it just clicked,” he said.