July should have been a month of competition and traveling across Wyoming for Dusty Tuckness. But like so many athletes around the world this year, the 34-year-old bullfighter’s plans …
July should have been a month of competition and traveling across Wyoming for Dusty Tuckness. But like so many athletes around the world this year, the 34-year-old bullfighter’s plans changed.
The COVID-19 pandemic scrapped two of the main events Tuckness was set to compete in: Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo in Casper. But instead of competing, Tuckness used his notoriety in the rodeo community to teach the next crop of young bullfighters.
He hosted five rodeo clinics at Cody’s Stampede Park throughout the month of July, with the last one concluding on July 23. Tuckness, who grew up in Meeteetse, said it was memorable giving back to Park County.
“This means a lot for me coming back to this arena because this is pretty much where I got my big start,” Tuckness said. “It’s always something I look back on, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity I was given here.”
Before Tuckness reached star status in the rodeo world, he began by working the Cody Nite Rodeo in 2004, his senior year in high school. A year later, he became a PRCA member and got his start in bullfighting.
In 2007, Tuckness worked at the Cody Stampede for the Xtreme Bulls event, and he worked the entire multi-day Fourth of July rodeo in 2008.
Since then, Tuckness has become the gold standard in the bullfighter community, winning PRCA Bullfighter of the Year seven times. For Tuckness, hosting local clinics was more than just giving back to his stomping grounds; it was a chance to give back to the next generation of athletes.
“As I look back at my career, there’s plenty of people who gave me the time of day and really influenced me in a powerful way, whether that be physically or spiritually,” Tuckness said. “It’s good to be able to give back and help. I was that kid once.”
Cheyenne Frontier Days is considered the mecca of rodeo, with nearly 200,000 people in attendance annually. Tuckness has competed at the event since 2012. When the event’s organizers announced its cancellation in May, Tuckness leaned into a higher power: his faith.
“God’s got a plan for this all, and that’s the perspective I’m going to keep on this,” Tuckness said. “Just having a strong faith and understanding that we’re going to have trials and tribulations and adversity, but it’s getting through all that that shows your character.”
Tuckness’ Christian faith is evident from a quick glance of his social media profiles or even just a short conversation with him. While preaching new bullfighting techniques to youngsters, Tuckness hopes his spiritual side also made an impact.
“I just let them know out of the gate, spiritually speaking, that I’m here if they need to talk about anything,” Tuckness said. “You can be in the best shape of your life and watch all the film and all that, but if you step into that arena and let your mind take over, it can be a really tough go.”
Not only has the pandemic affected Tuckness’ life, it has also created hurdles in the young careers of his students. Many of them were set to compete in full seasons, but those were axed due to the virus.
Even so, the students’ dedication was on full display in each of Tuckness’ clinics.
“They’re still pursuing their goals and passions and trying to sharpen their crafts,” he said. “They’re going to keep working hard.”
Tuckness is honored on the Cody Stampede’s wall of fame, listed with other rodeo legends who started their careers at the grounds.
“To have my name on a list with theirs is pretty neat,” Tuckness said. “Really reminds me that anything is possible if you keep the faith. I tell them, ‘Keep chipping away at it and good things will come.’”
His legacy is already cemented in Park County and in the rodeo world as a whole; now it’s his turn to help add more names to the list.