By contributor Charlie Coon
His nickname Tuck is stamped on the cleats he laces before fighting bulls in a well-polished pursuit to protect cowboys. After his work at the Tucson Rodeo there is no question that stamp should be altered to read Tough.
Dusty Tuckness is voted ProRodeo’s “Bullfighter of the Year” by the top bull riders on a seemingly perennial basis for a reason. No one does it better. Now viewed as the veteran in most outings, Tuckness is just 27 years old. He has already been out in the face of a thousand bulls in 2014 and is going at it in earnest again at Rodeo Houston. At the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas last December a couple of protégés joined Dusty and their matched styles of darting and swarming toward the heads of bucking bulls had the animals literally going in circles.
Tuckness finished the last three rounds of La Fiesta de los Vaqueros in Tucson which took place Feb. 21 to 23, 2014, with his right ear covered by a white cup under which his ear required 35 to 40 stitches after a fighting bull stuck Dusty the previous night. Veteran rodeo photographer Dan Hubbell said Tuckness somehow managed to stay on his feet and get out of harm’s way after the head-to-head collision and then collapsed. Tuckness told us he did not lose consciousness but wishes that he had because the pain was excruciating.
ProRodeo Hall of Fame Oklahoma-based stock contractor Bennie Beutler likes to put on a show for the fans and almost always ends a rodeo by sending a fighting bull out for bullfighters to run freestyle. The day of the eerie incident Tuckness slipped while making his patented jump off the clown barrel and after a head-on the bull’s horn turned deep into the cartilage of Dusty’s right ear. A Tucson plastic surgeon and his team took several hours to stitch and repair the damage.
The most incredible part of the story was Dusty climbing to the top of the barrel to make the same move as the capper to the 2014 Tucson Rodeo the very next day after he was injured! Watching Tuckness fight through the obvious pain was downright difficult whether you’ve known him personally for years or have never met the devout Christian. He took it all in stride though as you can see and hear during this recap of the Championship Sunday bull riding in Tucson where not one man made the whistle but more than one including Sage Steele Kimzey of Strong City, Okla., made a point of finding Tuckness after the rodeo to say, “Thank you for saving my life.” I’m not privy to what Dusty’s Tucson pay netted in terms of his bank account. I am quite certain those sincere thanks expressed by riders meant a lot more than money.
We are also showing you, as the final sequence of this video clip, Dusty out working again (Friday, Feb. 21) less than 24 hours after his ear was nearly forcibly removed:
Dusty Tuckness wore the white ear cup on doctor’s orders to stave off infection and kept the wound covered during this weekend’s Rodeo Houston.
‘Travels with Charlie’ is a biweekly series of features by Charlie Coon produced exclusively for the Wrangler Network. Using the penname Curtis Scott, Mr. Coon has provided stories for the past 20 years to such outlets as The History Channel Magazine, American Heritage and the Denver Post. He is based in Cheyenne, Wyo. where he serves as coordinator for the state of Wyoming’s cowboy marketing program. Coon and cameraman Mike McCrimmon put together news, sports, and human interest features on a semi-regular basis for TV stations in Wyo., Mont. and S.D.