Bull fighter back at StampedeOne of the first memories bull fighter Kaleb Barrett has is watching the rodeo with his father when he was about 3 years old. On the weekend, his dad would make popcorn and the two of them would watch whatever rodeo happened to be on TV.
By: Claire Meador, The Daily Republic
One of the first memories bull fighter Kaleb Barrett has is watching the rodeo with his father when he was about 3 years old. On the weekend, his dad would make popcorn and the two of them would watch whatever rodeo happened to be on TV.
“When you’re that age, you’re really impressionable,” said Barrett, who will be one of the featured acts at this year’s Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo, which starts Thursday at the Horseman’s Sports Arena in Mitchell. “I remember my dad looking at the bull riders and I could see he had a lot of respect for what they were doing.
“Those guys were warriors and they kind of demanded respect. I saw that right off the bat.”
Barrett said watching rodeos at a young age with his dad was one of the most exciting things he can remember about his childhood. He decided at a young age bull riding was something he wanted to do.
“I started competing right out of grade school and really got going when I entered high school,” he said.
It wasn’t until Barrett got into a serious accident while he was bull riding until he start considering becoming a bull fighter.
“I got whipped down on a bull really hard and my helmet smashed into my face and knocked me out and I dislocated my shoulder,” Barrett said. “The bull was dancing all over me and there was a guy that they had hired to be at the rodeo that wasn’t exactly a skilled bull fighter. One of my best friends had to pull (the bull) off of me. I remember seeing the video of my ride and thinking if there’s any way possible for the rest of my life to prevent that, I’m going to do it. It made me want to change.”
Barrett said the mentors he had in his life encouraged him to start fighting bulls. Barrett also participated in football, basketball and track in high school, helping him with his lateral agility and footwork. His dad, along and other guys he did rodeo with, thought he was better suited for fighting bulls. Since then, Barrett’s built up an impressive bullfighting resume.
“The best part about fighting bulls is when a bull rider comes up to you and says, ‘Thank you for being there for me.’ That’s the best thing for me,” he said. “There’s no award, there’s no (prize) money, there’s not anything else that can touch that.”
Barrett isn’t just your typical bull fighter, however. He’s also a licensed practical nurse in Missoula, Mont. Barrett went to college at the University of Montana and said he never really thought about what he wanted to study until he excelled in a science class he took.
Another reason Barrett said he wanted another profession to go along with his rodeo lifestyle is he knows he won’t be able to fight bulls forever. He said balancing the two professions can be a bit challenging at times, but he said being a nurse and a bull fighter is fun and exciting.
“I’ve only got so much time to fight bulls, it’s just that plain and simple,” he said. “If I get to fight bulls into my mid-40s and I still feel good about what I’m doing, it will be a blessing.”
This year, Barrett will make his fifth appearance at the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo. Coming to Mitchell is something he looks forward to every year.
“Mitchell is in my top two to three rodeos that I do every year. It’s just a blast,” he said. “ … The whole community and the way they handle that rodeo is what keeps me coming back, because it’s really enjoyable. It’s so easy to just get in the car and go and show up and have a good time. I know that I can just focus on one thing, and that’s fighting bulls and having a good time.”