Rodeo bullfighters arenâ€™t clowning around
June 21st, 2015
Rodeo season is getting into full swing and at most rodeos, bull riding is the main event. But when the bull ride ends, the work begins for rodeo bullfighters. A young bullfighter is making a name in the business by putting himself in the middle of the action.
At bull riding time at at the Plum Creek Rodeo in Lexington, Neb., the rodeo corral is under the lights and the sun is a ripe orange in the west. Rowdy Moon bounces on the balls of his feet like a boxer waiting for the match to start.[audio:https://kvnonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/444_RODEO_KVNO.mp3]
Rowdy Moon is a rodeo bullfighter with a cowboyâ€™s name from Sargent, Neb. He wears a straw-colored hat, black shorts and football cleats so he can dig in when a cowboy hits the dirt.
A brown bull bursts out of the gate. The rider grips his rope one handed, trying to cling to the bullâ€™s back for eight seconds. The bull bucks and spins – a flurry of hooves and horns. When the cowboy is tossed off, Moon races to distract the angry bull as the rider gets his footing.
â€œYou see the way Rowdy moves in there to keep the bullâ€™s attention?,â€ the rodeo announcer says as he highlights the action for the crowd. â€œIâ€™ll tell yaâ€™, wow! Great job, Rowdy Moon.â€The bullfighterâ€™s job is to get in front of the bull after a rider is thrown off so the cowboy can get out of harmâ€™s way. Basically, he spends the night being chased by angry bulls.
â€œIâ€™ve seen bulls stop at the buzzer. Theyâ€™re programmed to where they just go out there and do their business and walk off,â€ Moon said. â€œBut some of them younger bulls, theyâ€™re a little hook-y.â€
Moon is a bullfighter, but he says a lot of people have the wrong idea about what that means. Heâ€™s not a
matador and heâ€™s also not a rodeo clown.
â€œEverybody who goes to a rodeo thinks the bullfighters are clowns,â€ Moon said.
It used to be that clowns and bullfighters were the same. But Moon doesnâ€™t wear makeup or baggy pants. His job is to get the bullâ€™s attention, not the crowdâ€™s.
â€œYou know I try to do my best not to get hurt,â€ Moon said. â€œBut if I have to take a hookinâ€™, I have to take a hookinâ€™. Thatâ€™s what the job is.â€
Moon is just 18 and a recent high school graduate. But he already has plenty of practice fighting bulls. He started when he was 12. Then he fought bulls at Junior High and High School rodeos. Now he fights in the amateur circuit as a summer job with the Boots and Phillips rodeo company from Lexington, Neb.
Tom Phillips, one of the companyâ€™s ownersâ€™, says he numbers Moon among the best bullfighters.
â€œHe can see where the bullâ€™s going to go before they go there, how itâ€™s going to happen and where to be in time to save the cowboy,â€ Phillips said.
Phillips says Moon could move on from amateur rodeos to make a career bullfighting on the pro circuit. He has a bullfighterâ€™s mindset: The cowboy comes first.
â€œYou know, you can really tell who has the mental ability and (who will) give it all they have to get the rider out,â€ Moon said. â€œIf someone gets hung up I sure try my hardest to get them out of there.â€
Moon says he wants to try professional bullfighting after college. He has a rodeo scholarship to a community college to ride bareback. But when heâ€™s not riding broncos, heâ€™ll keep fighting bulls and taking the bumps and jabs that come with it.
The occasional horn in the side is part of the territory, but Moon says a short memory helps him stay focused.
â€œSometimes when I do take a hookinâ€™ I want to get that out of my mind for the next event,â€ Moon said. â€œSteppinâ€™ in there, if you get a good save, it feels awesome. It always feels good when Iâ€™m out there,â€
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