Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

A bull rider’s best friend

link Staff photo: Joshua Lucero

Tony Alarcon, a bullfighter from El Paso, Texas, prepares for the chute to open during the bull riding event Friday afternoon at the ENMU’s College “Daze” Rodeo in Portales.

link Staff photo: Joshua Lucero

Bullfighter Dakota Ebare, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, distracts a bull while the rider (not picture) makes a safe getaway.

By Joshua Lucero

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Don’t call them clowns.

There’s not a lot of comedy in trying to protect a rodeo cowboy from an angry, 2,000-pound bull.

Tony Alarcon, 21, and Dakota Ebare, 23, are professional bullfighters. They take their jobs seriously.

“I’ve got two broken ribs, but I can’t sit out because I’m hurt,” Alarcon, who lives in Lubbock, said on Friday.

“You got to take care of the guys,” said Ebare, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “If someone leaves the place hurt, I expect it to be me.”

They work about 40 rodeos a year, this weekend at Eastern New Mexico University’s College “Daze” Rodeo, which continues with its final performance at 7 tonight.

Ebare and Alarcon are both former bull riders, which helps them appreciate the importance of their roles in the arena. Ebare said anticipating a bull’s next move is the most important part of bullfighting.

“When the gate opens your mind has to be clear, you have to rely on intuition,” he said.

Their work does not go unnoticed — certainly not by the rodeo performers.

“They don’t entertain,” said ENMU rodeo coach Albert Flinn. “They keep the bulls from running over people.”

Bull rider Dustin Muncy, 20, said he has been saved by a bullfighter almost every time he has ridden a bull.

“A lot of people won’t ride without them (bullfighters),” said Muncy, a bull rider for Ranger College in Ranger, Texas.

“I’m too scared to do it (bullfight),” Muncy said, “I give them all the credit in the world for it.”

Alarcon, originally from El Paso, said he got his start in bullfighting by filling in for an injured bullfighter in a practice pen. He continued the job because he saw how important it was to the riders.

“It’s something good to do, protecting the cowboys to the best of my ability,” he said.

While the job is serious, a bullfighter’s face paint and baggy clothes help provide a festive atmosphere for the rodeo fans.

“Some of the younger guys carry on the old rodeo clown traditions,” Ebare said. “Most of the guys have their own thing when it comes to face painting.”

Ebare said he paints a cross on each cheek before entering the ring to remind him of the glory of God while he performs his job.

Alarcon said he came up with his game face while he was sitting in a truck before rodeo.

“I just messed around with it and saw what looked cool,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll change up the colors for different rodeos.”

Once the face paint is applied and the protective vests are on, it’s all business for Ebare and Alarcon.

“As bullfighters we are entrepreneurs, we are our own business and we have to do our job in a professional manner to secure our jobs in the future,” Ebare said.