Ethan McDonald grew up in the Abilene area and has been a bullfighter since 2013. He returns to work Abilene’s Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo August 3-6.
Who doesn’t want to live like a rock star/celebrity? I mean there are people that don’t even actually compete that ride that coat tail of the people that actually do, so that must mean it is a pretty awesome life right? I can absolutely say that I have way more positive experiences with rodeo than I do negative by a long shot. The negative experiences aren’t even that negative, just unfortunate. Things like broken bones and sloppy weather aren’t always fun to experience, but we are called cowboys and I don’t think they ever just quit a cattle drive when it started raining.
Some families grew up and were doctors or lawyers and played golf, and before they knew it their kids ended up being successful individuals and followed in those footsteps. For most cowboys and cowgirls, they can’t say much different about their lives. Then for those people that didn’t grow up around rodeo, but had an interest in it, probably started going to a rodeo such as the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo. For me rodeo was something that just came naturally and that feeling is something that doesn’t go away. Even though my father didn’t fight bulls professionally, he did ride them and has raised them since I was in diapers, so I feel it was natural for me to be involved.
Fighting bulls all across the country has allowed me to go places and see things that most people would think you were a gypsy or in a band with all of the travel. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to hang out at the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo for two weeks with one of the greatest entertainers there is out there, Keith Isley. Then I think back to get to work the Strong City, KS rodeo where Robbie Hodges was the barrel man. If anyone knows Robbie, they know about his entertaining and hospitality. Who else just invites anyone, rodeo personal or committee members, into their trailer and tosses them a cup and access to his built in keg while they are playing guitar and jamming out.
I remember being just a kid and my family always taking me back to this rodeo in my dad’s hometown of Abilene, KS like it was a reunion. Little did I know that the things I would see there at the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo were things I eventually got to be a part of! Standing out back with my dad while he talked to Sammy Andrews and I just tried taking everything in and I noticed a one armed man riding a horse around. That definitely had me confused being 10 years old and not knowing any better, but then this act started in the arena. Now it made sense seeing this man ride his horse around and load these longhorns on the top of his trailer. This was something that entertained me as well as every fan in the crowd there in Abilene, KS. That night then leaving the rodeo we went to a guy’s house that my dad used to work for while he was a kid. This old cowboys name was Gerald Roberts, and at the time that meant absolutely nothing to me other than he used to ride bucking horses in his prime as well as bulls. Now 18 years later I completely understand who this past world champion was and it makes sense to me why there were all these signatures on a wall. Again when you are 10 years old and you see some Ty Murray guy or a Billy Etbauer had signed this wall you don’t think much about it.
Abilene was and still is a town that will always be tied to rodeo and has had the best of the best of cowboys to ride in that arena. Fighting bulls to me is a rush and I have been able to go so many places because of it. Looking back if it wasn’t for my dad and coming to that rodeo as a kid, maybe I would have just taken up golf and watched from the stands. I don’t mean that in negative way either, because those people are what allow us to go and do the things we love, the fans! That welcomed feeling you get when coming to a town and they see the cowboy hats will never get old.