Their funny, painted faces and baggy britches belie the seriousness of their missions. The rodeo bullfighters and barrelmen, often referred to as clowns, are in the arena to save the bull riders after they come off the backs of the big animals with their menacing horns and they often put their own lives on the line.
The bullfighters work on the ground, near the action, and the minute the cowboy comes off the back of the bull, they move in to distract the bull long enough for the rider to get out of the way. Often, the rider is on his knees scrambling or he is running toward to barrel in order to get behind it and use it as protection. The bullfighters, in the meantime, are luring the bull’s attention away from the cowboy and toward themselves.
They are as dedicated as paramedics and other service individuals who risk their lives trying to save others. And they are athletes. They work out and stay in training in order to outrun the bulls and out-maneuver them.
The barrelman in the arena is often a retired bullfighter who no longer feels his reflexes and timing are good enough to be in front of the bulls. He still wants to stay in the business so he works in the barrel. He will pick it up and walk to move the barrel closer to the action so that the cowboy can get to it if he needs it for protection. His job is also dangerous as there have been times when a bull got a horn into the barrel and hooked the barrelman, who occasionally requires hospitalization.
Growing up around rodeo and livestock all his life, rodeo has always been a natural fit. At the very young age of 3, Matt started roping and always knew his life would be rodeo. Fighting Bulls walked him into what God's true calling for him would be...being a rodeo clown.
With his quick wit and passion for making people smile and laugh, he has become someone to watch both in and out of the arena.
As a clown and barrelman, he is a great man with a great attitude and high standards for himself and his family. Matt strives to be a great role model for any age. Matt, his wife Stacie and their son Bransen have made their mark as a young family with a long future ahead of them in Pro rodeo and are a great asset to the rodeo industry.
Matt and Stacie would like to thank Maury and Nikki Tate of the "Mo" Betta Rodeo Company for all of the opportunities at the Cody Nite Rodeo. Big thanks to Justin & Ashley Rumford, Kanin Asay, Doug and Dee Mathis, Kade Rogge, Drew and Jon Taylor, and Dusty Tuckness for all of their help and support. Also his mother Peggy Tarr for raising him to follow his dreams and being an inspiration throughout his life.
Jimmy Lee was born and raised in Lowake, Texas, and spent his childhood in a farming and ranching environment. After high school he went to college and attended firefighting school.
It was there that he developed a passion for helping people caught up in dire situations. He says, “As fulfilling as firefighting was, it kept me away from the cowboy culture I was born and raised in.” Jimmy found his way back to the cowboy life and in the sport of rodeo as a bull rider in his mid-twenties. His career in bull riding was short-lived but routed him back to his passion. By developing his art and athleticism as a bullfighter, the 34-year-old Lee is able to attain both of his goals: helping people and staying close to the cowboy culture through the sport of rodeo. In three short years he has accomplished a lot in his event in both the PRCA and the Professional Bull Riders Association.
Zach Devol -Bullfighter
Zach Devol from Elbert, Colorado is 24 years old and started out as a competitor, entering both roughstock and timed events in the NLBRA. He went on to rodeo for Otero Junior College and found instead that his niche was face to face with the bovine athletes and went on to Miles Hare and Rob Smets bullfighting school. "Riding bulls so long, I could read certain situations and know where the bull's going or the cowboy's going, so I think that made it a lot easier for me."
He qualified for the CPRA finals in 2013 and has worked the finals for the last 4 years. Another big step in Zach's bullfighting career is working the PRCA rodeos and he's in the process of being evaluated to get his card. Every bullfighter, their end goal is to fight at the NFR.