If you saw Bill Bass at work, you'd probably call him a clown. But his real title is bullfighter, the one at the rodeo who gets between the bull and the rider after a buck or dismount. Sure, he wears a bit of makeup and a cowboy hat with the top cut off, but his job is serious and dangerous.
Bullfighters also compete in freestyle events, where they're judged on how well they keep the bull's attention and how close they stay to the beast. In this sport, Bass, of Colorado Springs, is a world champion. He'll be at the PRCA Rodeo at the Colorado State Fair late this summer. The Independent caught up with him well in advance.
Indy: Do you ever want to turn around and run?
BB: No. No. I can't say that I've ever been scared, but I like the adrenaline rush that it gives ya.
Indy: What's the worst injury you've had?
BB: I don't know. I've had several injuries. I had one last year that almost cost me my life, but I wouldn't say it's the worst one. I had a horn ran through the back of my leg that almost ended my life, almost bled to death from that one there. But the worst injury I think I ever had, I had my head stepped on. I lost a lot of my memory. I can't remember much anymore. I'd say that there's the one that caused me the most trouble.
Indy: Some people call bullfighters "rodeo clowns," but you're not exactly clowning around.
BB: No, sir. The term "rodeo clown," that's how most people associate you, as the bullfighter. But whenever they ask what it is I do, they say, "Oh, you're the clown." And I usually end it up by saying, "Yeah, but I'm not funny."
Indy: You often wear a cowboy hat with the top cut off. Is that to keep you cool-headed when you fight?
BB: Nah, it's just something I started doing when I first started fighting bulls, and nobody else was doing it.
Indy: And you teach bullfighting at your schools?
BB: My bullfighting schools basically consist of freestyle bullfighting and cowboy protection. First and foremost, I like to teach cowboy protection, because that is, for the most part, what your job is.
Indy: The cowboys, I'd imagine, are pretty appreciative.
BB: Uh, yessir. I can't say that you do get a lot of recognition from the cowboys. But a lot of times, if a cowboy gets bucked off, and you take a hit for him, and he comes up and gives you a hug and says thanks for being there for me, that's more of a paycheck than any paycheck you'll ever get.
Indy: But they don't ever tip you or give you a cut of their winnings?
BB: Oh, no. I can't say that's ever happened. I know it's never happened to me. It'd be nice.