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May 4, 2014

Bullfighters serve to protect cowboys

DUNCAN — The bullfighter’s task is simple: When a cowboy is thrown from a bull, distract the bull so the cowboy can get away safely.

It’s a job that Jason Gibbs and Broc McGuire — who had those duties at the Chisholm Trail Stampede — are happy to do, even if they may be putting themselves in a tight spot.

“A lot of times you get banged around or have to take a shot to make sure the cowboy is OK,” Gibbs says. “But it’s understood it can happen.”

McGuire finds it helpful to study what other bullfighters do. He looks at the style each bullfighter uses, then tries to put different styles together for one of his own.

What kind of styles, you may ask?

“There’s the kamikaze style, where guys just like to get run over,” McGuire explains, “or there are guys who are, while not really conservative, like to use their hands and move slow, trying to manuever around the bull.”

Some might wonder why a person would dare put his body on the line to distract a feisty bull. For McGuire, it’s the feeling he gets when he steps into the arena and knows he has done his job in keeping a cowboy safe.

“It’s undescribable for that feeling,” he says, “and it’s a big reason why I do it.”

Gibbs used to ride bulls but said he “wasn’t any good at it.” Then he watched a TV show about bullfighters, liked what he saw and decided that was how he could be part of the rodeo.

For McGuire, rodeo runs in his family. His great-great uncle, Gene Peacock, competed in the PRCA National Finals Rodeo in the 1950s and 1960s.

McGuire rode bulls for a couple of years, then he “realized it wasn’t my thing.” Then he met a gentlemen who talked to him about becoming a bullfighter and he “kind of fell into it.”

“It was something I wanted to try, and I had a lot of support to try it,” McGuire says.

To be a good bullfighter, you have to be in shape. As McGuire puts it, your legs and lungs are the body parts a bullfighter needs to be strong.

“You want to be able to outrun one if you have to,” McGuire smiles.

Gibbs, a 14-year bullfighting veteran, adds it’s important to pay attention to the action, and be ready to react at a moment’s notice.

“We make sure we are in the right position to get the bull’s attention and get him away from the rider,” he says.

The two enjoy the chance to travel to different places and meet many different people. McGuire got called in on short notice and was quick to respond. He says he owes much to Dale Hall, the contractor for the Chisholm rodeo.

“He did a lot to get my career started, and this is my way to give back to him,” McGuire says.

Gibbs worked his third Chisholm Trail Stampede. He likes the committee and the people of Duncan.

“The committee, the hospitality, the crowds are great,” he said. “The draw is great, too — a lot of good bronc riders and bull riders.”

The job Gibbs and McGuire do is vital to those riders, and it’s a job the two love to do.

“We’re just the bodyguards,” Gibbs says. “We’re here to protect the cowboys.”

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