This story originally aired on 1/14/15.
If you’ve ever watched bull riding at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, you may have seen Wacey Munsell. But he’s not a rider. He’s the guy in suspenders and a cowboy hat with a red painted nose, running around the arena.
Munsell and his fellow rodeo clowns, as they’re commonly known, aren’t just entertainers. Technically, they’re called bullfighters, though they're not the same as Spanish matadors. Rather, Munsell says, bullfighters are there to literally fight for the lives of the riders that fly off the back of bucking, 2,000-pound bulls.
Munsell is a world champion in the art of distracting big, angry bulls -- even taking the occasional hit. His methodology?
“Anything from grabbing a hold of a bull to letting him hit you in the air. You gotta do what you gotta do to keep a cowboy safe,” Munsell says.
Munsell is the third generation in a family of rodeo cowboys. The 28-year-old cowpoke lives near Garden City, Kan., and is in Denver this month for the National Western Stock Show. He has attended the show since he was a kid, and he’s experienced his share of hurt. Among his injuries over the years, Munsell fractured his calf bone, but kept working to keep his paychecks rolling in.
The exact number of injuries across the world of bullfighting is unclear. CPR News checked with the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, which keeps information on dangerous jobs. The bureau does not collect employment or wage data on rodeo clowns.
But Munsell has seen friends in the profession injured, too.
“A good friend of mine had a horn run up in him, probably four or five inches," Munsell said. "It dang near killed him. It wasn’t a very good deal.”
His face paint -- a red nose and white streaks -- help the crowd instantly recognize him, Munsell added. As far as hats, he's been fortunate. He rarely loses them.
Learn more about Munsell's work and see videos of him on his website.