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Cowboy protectors tested during muddy Saturday at La Fiesta de los Vaqueros
La Fiesta de los Vaqueros

Cowboy protectors tested during muddy Saturday at La Fiesta de los Vaqueros

The fifth performance of the 94th annual Fiesta de los Vaqueros saw plenty of action, but the biggest moments didn’t come from any of the competitors. Instead, the bullfighters were the big names of the day.

Friday’s snowy and rainy conditions left the arena with less-than ideal conditions, especially along the walls and right in front of the chutes. The inches-thick mud made it tougher for animals and the cowboys to maneuver — and served as an added obstacle for the bullfighters, the men charged with protecting just-bucked riders from angry bulls.

“With all the rain and snow the last couple of days, the conditions are tough, but that’s pro rodeo for you,” Dusty Tuckness said. “I mean, we don’t quit or pulled up for rain, snow, sunshine or wind. That kind of separates people from an ordinary job. They can’t call in sick here.”

Wyatt Casper touches down in one of the muddiest parts of the ring after his 82.5-point ride on Holy Water in the saddle bronc competition.

This is Tuckness’ seventh year at the Tucson Rodeo. He is joined by Nathan Harp, who came back for a fourth year, and Wacey Munsell, who’s in his 12th year in Tucson.

On Saturday, Tuckness had a day he won’t forget any time soon.

While helping get a bull away from a bucked rider, Tuckness got caught up in the mud. The bull stood over him, pushing Tuckness down with the head.

Luckily, Tuckness was able to walk away from the incident and continue working, with nothing more than a few bumps and bruises — and covered in a lot of mud.

“It’s like playing with fire — you do it long enough, you’re going to get burned,” Tuckness said.

Tuckness, who has won the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Bullfighter of the Year award for the last nine years in a row, said he wasn’t too worried.

“The biggest thing, in our profession, you’ve got to stay calm,” Tuckness said. “Once you start panicking, that’s when you start getting away from the basics. You lose your control — or what control you can have in that situation. I’ve been in that position before, I got Harp and Wacey here to help pick the bull off me.”

“You’ve got to stay calm,” says bullfighter Dusty Tuckness, shown distracting Radioactive from rider Jed Jones after Jones’ 75-point ride.

Earlier in the bull-riding competition, Pistol Preece got bucked off Mad Hatter 1.5 seconds into the ride. Preece found himself caught in the ropes and on the inside of the bull’s turns.

After falling to the ground, Mad Hatter charged on him and threw him into the air. Tuckness got the bull off Preece so the cowboy could get up and out of the arena.

Preece said he wasn’t scared.

“Not with them in there,” he said. “They’re the best in the business.”

Notable

  • Evan Betony had Saturday’s best bareback ride, with a score of 83.50.
  • Riley Butler had the day’s fastest time in steer wrestling with 7.1 seconds on the run.
  • Only two teams finished with qualified runs in team roping on Saturday. Travis Whitlow and Tanner Luttrell, both from San Tan Valley, had the fastest time, 6.4 seconds.
  • In saddle bronc event, Jesse Kruse tied for the lead overall. He qualified for Sunday’s finals with a score of 84.5.
  • Luke Jeffries won Saturday’s tie-down roping event with a time of 12.1 seconds.
  • Nellie Miller, the 2017 PRCA World Champion, had the fastest time in the women’s barrel racing. But her time of 18.18 seconds still wasn’t enough to send her to the finals.
  • Cody Strite won the bull-riding event with an 85.5 score on a bull named Gladiator.

Contact reporter Norma Gonzalez at 520-262-3265 or ngonzalez@tucson.com.


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Sports reporter

Norma started at the Star in 2017. She's a sports reporter covering all types of beats. She graduated from the University of Texas–Pan American in 2014 and recently graduated from the Associated Press Sports Editors Diversity Fellowship program.

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