By: Kristian Limas
February 23, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – As Eduardo Aparecido sprinted away from Catfish John and fell to his knees as he realized he had just become the 2017 Iron Cowboy, the Matador Jerky bullfighters made sure the still bucking bovine athlete didn’t ruin Aparecido’s celebration.
It was a relatively unnoticed action that was nonetheless important, and just another day of work for Shorty Gorham, Frank Newsom and Jesse Byrne.
Earlier that week, Gorham traded in his jersey for a firefighting suit as he visited with members of the Dallas Fire and Police Departments.
As part of the PBR’s 2017 Celebrate America Tour, the bullfighters wore special jerseys in Arlington, Texas, promoting The Guns & Hoses Foundation of North Texas, which supports the families of fallen policemen and fire fighters.
The jerseys were later auctioned off as part of a donation to the organization by the PBR.
While many athletes support first responder organizations, Gorham and the rest of the bullfighters can relate better than most when it comes to stepping into dangerous situations in order to help.
“I feel like I relate to those people very well because our jobs can be so alike,” Gorham said. “The reason they’re alike is because nobody really notices you and nobody really thinks about you, but that’s not why we do it.”
Many can go about their day without interacting with a first responder, and ideally a cowboy can easily get away from a bull after reaching the 8 second buzzer, but when the worst happens, certain people will always head toward the danger.
“They don’t until life is in shambles and things are at their bottom and at their worse, that’s when you’re the most important person in the world at that very moment to that person.”
The bullfighters were quick to acknowledge that while they don’t fully equate their jobs with those of first responders, they understand what it means to step into dangerous situations to help others.
“I think everybody is aware of how passionate we are about America and our fighting men and women and our law enforcement and firefighters,” Gorham said. “When you hear something like that it’s, ‘Hell yeah, how can I help?’
“It was truly an honor to wear those jerseys and represent such a cool organization.”
According to the foundation’s website, Guns & Hoses has assisted 43 families of first responders in the North Texas area that have fallen in the line of duty since the organization’s founding in 2002.
Included among those are the five Dallas Police Officers that were killed last summer when a gunman attacked downtown Dallas.
The foundation provides immediate financial assistance to families of fallen officers and firefighters, while also contributing to children’s charities that are supported by local police and fire departments in North Texas.
Newsom, who has suffered his fair share of major injuries while protecting cowboys, understands how important that immediate support can be.
“Having to support a family and having a dangerous job it’s always in the back of your head because you know you have to support your family every week and bring that money home,” Newsom said. “There’s been times when I’ve been down and out of work and having the Rider Relief Fund stepping in and helping out is a big help.”
Newsom was eventually able to return to work, and he realizes that may not always be the case for first responders.
“For a cop or a firefighter that actually loses their life, their family is still there and there’s a need there.” Newsom said. “I just think it’s an awesome deal to raise money to fill that need because it’s a very important need.”
The veteran bullfighter noted that, while both jobs can be dangerous, he has always felt more in control while bullfighting. Though he can never predict what a bucking bull will do, it’s a situation that is confined to himself, the arena and the teammates around him, which means situations are less unpredictable.
That makes a big difference in his eyes.
“When you’re in the position that these guys are in, they never know what the next day or the next moment is going to bring,” Newsom said. “That unpredictability is another layer of danger I don’t think we have to encounter.”
Byrne agrees, noting that their technique and team structure limits unpredictability by design.
“We’ve got a pretty good idea of what we’re getting ourselves into,” Byrne said. “It’s not the same by any means each and every time and you really don’t know what’s coming but you know you’re dealing with one bull, one rider and two teammates. It has its basic form.”
When out on the dirt, Byrne and the rest of the bullfighters can rely on instincts and their senses to keep things within their control. They can note which way a bull is going, watch a rider’s core and have an idea of where they will land. They know how to best distract a bull and stay clear of its range of movement.
It by no means makes it a safe job, but it puts things in perspective for the Canadian bullfighter.
“I really respect them for what they do,” Byrne said. “Their life is based on protecting others, it doesn’t get any more honorable than that, and my appreciation and respect for them is as high as it could be.”
For Byrne, who has been fighting bulls since he was 16 years old and has been a part of the Matador Jerky bullfighters since 2008, he has dedicated his life to the craft and lives with a passion for what he does.
That’s essential when his job involves staring down charging bulls every weekend, and it’s an idea that he identifies with whenever he talks to first responders.
“If there is a similarity I could draw it’s just that passion for your job,” Byrne said. “Obviously to do the job they do they’ve got to love doing what they do to be able to put themselves in those positions.”
That passion is universal and, according to Byrne, is absolutely necessary whenever the stakes get higher.
“People often ask us if we’re crazy or what makes you do what you do,” Byrne said. “But at the end of the day, it comes down to that passion and the love for your job. If that wasn’t there then we wouldn’t do it.”
© 2017 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.