A Benefit for Texas Rodeo Bullfighter David Burnham is set for Saturday July 23 at Longhorn Saloon in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Starts at Noon and lasts all day.
Please come out to the Longhorn Saloon and help our friend and a true legend in the bullfighter sport.. There will be great live entertainment, a silent and live auction, and tons of Rodeo friends across the US are coming in for this event. David Burnhams hospital bills are huge and he will not be able to work for a long time.
Here is a cool article about Dave from Dec 16, 2011 in the The Graham Leader
Rodeo Hall of Fame honors Burnham
The first time David Burnham stepped into a rodeo arena, he realized what he was up against: the fury of an 1,800-pound animal bent on destruction. Understandably, he was a bundle of nerves.
"I was really scared I was going to make a mistake," Burnham said. "I was out there for one thing and one thing only: to protect a guy getting off a bull -- so that guy is not ever going to get hit." After an outstanding 18-year career as a rodeo bullfighter, Burnham has achieved the ultimate reward for a rodeo bullfighter and clown: his recent acceptance into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame.
The retired bullfighter now lives in Fort Worth. The cowboy comes to Graham as often as possible to visit his mother Ludonna Burnham. Forest "Juke" Burnham, his late dad, was a rancher, and provided him daily lessons for an aspiring bullfighter could hope for. Burnham can't remember exactly when he was first put on a horse or saw his first rodeo. But by the time he was 8 years old he knew that he wanted to be a bullfighter and never thought of another career. Working with livestock and horses had taught him daily lessons for facing almost two-tons of raw fury.
"I was used to being around animals my entire life," he said. "Being around large animals was nothing new so it wasn't strange to be in front of an 1,800-pound bucking bull. I knew how fast they could move and how much damage they could do." In the early days of rodeo, bull fighters had to learn the sport the hard way from experience in the ring where mistakes could be deadly. But fortunately, Burnham attended the first bull fighting school. During his career he taught 30 or 40 schools where bullfighters learn the fundamentals for staying alive. Burnham said that bullfighters can learn the basics in the ring from experience, observation and mentors, but it takes longer.
"You can learn in three days what it may take you three or four years to learn on the road," he said.
Developing bad habits is always a possibility, and schools offer the quickest way to correct the problem.
"I found out my major trouble was moving too fast," Burnham said. 'I had trouble slowing down enough to be able to turn faster than the animal.
"To do this you actually have to slow down to turn sharper. That's your only advantage and most the time, the bull is smarter. But he has four legs and can't turn as fast." Burnham has the utmost respect for rodeo bulls and has found that many are smarter than humans. "They've seen all the tricks, and they pick up on those," he said. "They learn to lay traps for us to step in." Some bullfighters are known for their trademark skills such as their speed or clowning. Burnham can't pinpoint any one thing, but feels his bullfighting skills are God-given.
"It's' a lot of fun and very physical," he said. "I have very quick feet. I can go from standstill to full speed in two steps. I can be out of the picture and all of a sudden, be in the picture." "It's a God-given ability. All I care about is the bull rider and that nobody gets hurt." Rodeo fans may think that bulls are meaner today than the old days. "I don't think bulls are meaner," he said. "Some are mean, some aren't, some want you dead. They're born with it.
"You can't make a pet out of any of them, but some are gentle and only buck. Some will take out their anger on anyone in the ring. They want revenge." He said the bulls buck harder and higher because of 20 years of specialized breeding. Rodeo animals and athletes are better today just like in other professional sports, he said. But the bulls' improvements have resulted in a sport where the athletes are at most risk for injuries and fatalities. "If you're doing your job, you're going to have wrecks," Burnham said. "That's part of it." The old familiar saying for bull riders and bull fighters is that it's not if he'll be injured, but when.
"It's like driving a race car," he said. "You're going to get hurt. Injuries are part of the game." Burnham has received many awards during his career. He has worked large and small rodeos, traveling thousands of miles, working 30 to 35 rodeos that included an estimated 140 performances each year. He worked everywhere from Fort Worth to Madison, Wis., laying his life on the line each time they cracked open the chute gate. Injuries are an expected thing.
He's had lots of broken bones and time in rehab, three knee surgeries and surgery on a ruptured spleen. "Today my knees are blown, I get stiff and sore and have some aches," he said.
But he feels bullfighting has been good for him and kept him physically fit just from working in the ring.
"I worked out quite a bit when I was bullfighting, but more today," Burnham. "I worked so many rodeos and had so many performances, that the job kept me in shape.
"I never had enough time off to be out of shape except when I was in rehab." It is ironic that in the top most dangerous sport in the world, a bullfighter has the least financial security when injured. Should he be injured and have to spend time in the hospital or rehab, he doesn't get paid.
"I don't get a dime if I have to be out the ring," Burnham said. "'You don't get hospitalization insurance, much less your paycheck. You only get paid when you're working in the ring." He could always count on the support of his wife Scatia, who if worried about him being a bull fighter, didn't show it. He seems to think that his wife being anxious was never an issue.
"I was a bull rider when she married me," he said. "She knew that was my career." Burnham's career of almost two decades has helped him to stay strong. He now works three weeks on and three weeks off in the harshest conditions in America. He is a lead pipe header for oil wells in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
He thinks back on all the bull rider and clown days with satisfaction and no regrets. The intense bond between the cowboys he worked with are something he'll never forget.
"There's such a camaraderie in the sport of rodeo even more so between bullfighters and bull riders because you depend on each other to stay alive.
"I don't know of anything in this world where an individual's life is all up to the rodeo bullfighter." Burnham said he has a thousand stories about the cowboys he met and the bulls he's faced. He can't tell what his favorite story is.
"The favorite stories are the ones that sum everything up. It's about all the saves of a bull rider .... that a bull rider was able to make it out of the ring where I had to be Johnny on the spot.
"There were no seconds to spare, just a split second, and I had to do it over and over again. I had a sense of what would happen where the cowboy would land..." "It's a God-given ability," he said.
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