When Evan Allard was a kid, while his friends were playing football under the bleachers during the Vinita, Okla. rodeo, he was glued to the rodeo, watching the rodeo clown.
He loved rodeo, and every time the Will Rogers Memorial Rodeo came to town, he was there, with a singular focus, observing. And when he showed cattle at the Inter-State Fair and Rodeo in Coffeyville, Kan., just thirty miles north of Vinita, he was watching there, too.
And now he’s headed to the biggest stage in pro rodeo: as a bullfighter at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Allard grew up around cattle in a family that didn’t rodeo, but he idolized the rodeo clowns and bullfighters.
When he was fifteen years old, he snuck behind the chutes in Coffeyville and introduced himself to Cory Wall, who was fighting bulls. Wall invited him to a Sankey rodeo school in late August, where Wall was the bullfighter instructor, and Evan went. “I wanted to do it so bad I couldn’t stand it,” he remembered.
He got ahold of a Humps and Horns magazine, with a listing of stock contractors and associations, and started making phone calls, asking for jobs. “I didn’t know any better,” he said. “I didn’t know the difference between the PRCA and the NFL, for that matter. It didn’t matter to me. I sure wanted to fight bulls and wanted somebody to give me a shot.”
He began working a junior bull riding association, two events a month for thirty dollars an event. “I was uptown,” he said, thinking he had it made. Ironically, he was working with Cody Webster, who he’ll work alongside in front of the yellow chutes in Las Vegas. “He was just a pup,” Evan said. “We were just babies.”
In 2005, thanks to Jim McClain, he got introduced to freestyle bullfighting, which became his forte. “That’s where I really made a name for myself,” Evan said. He worked Two Bulls Protection shows, which were owned and produced by McClain.
In 2006, he went to his first freestyle bullfighting competition, and four years later, he won his first freestyle national championship, with two more titles after that, in 2014 and 2015.
At the time, he worked a fulltime job as a journeyman substation technician, testing and maintaining high voltage transformers. His job supplemented his rodeo income, helping him buy his place, the Hookin’ A Ranch, and start his herd of fighting bulls.
Then he got a call to work a rodeo as a bullfighter. He had done plenty of cowboy protection, but freestyle was his main work. He couldn’t refuse this job, but didn’t have any vacation time away from work. “I thought, one of these days, I’ll work when I can’t fight bulls,” he said. “So I quit my job.” It was 2015, and he became a PRCA member.
He estimates he works more than 100 performances a year protecting cowboys, at rodeos from Oklahoma to California and everywhere in between: the Ft. Worth Stock Show, several PBRs, the Texas Circuit Finals, and more.
There’s more to Evan than rodeo. He got his pilot’s license three years ago, with the sole purpose of flying to rodeos. Last year, he got his aerial applicator’s license, to crop dust, and this year, he bought an agricultural plane. He’s growing his business, spraying farmers’ crops and pastures in northeast Oklahoma and southeast Kansas, with his long-time girlfriend, Kelsea Walker, helping out.
When he got the call that he was selected to work the WNFR, it was a surreal feeling. “Getting that phone call was an unreal moment,” Evan said. “I instantly was glad it was six weeks away. I don’t want to lose that feeling.” The two bullfighters who signed for his PRCA card four years ago are the men he’ll work alongside in December; Cody Webster and Dusty Tuckness.
When he was a little bitty kid, he never thought his dream would take him this far. As a kid, all he wanted to be was a rodeo clown, because he didn’t understand the difference between the clown and the bullfighters. Having the natural athletic ability to fight bulls took him in that direction instead of clowning. He knows there might be a kid in the audience who looks up to him, just like when he was young. “That’s why it’s important to me to put on the face paint and the baggies,” he said. He knows that for the kids in the crowd, the bullfighters and clowns are bigger than life. “At the end of the day, protecting bull riders is very important, and it has turned into an art, but without somebody in that crowd, we have no job, and the only way to get people in that crowd is to entertain them. There’s more to it than just fighting bulls and going home.”
Evan knows that when he gets to Las Vegas, the ten days will fly. He’s not ready for that, but he’ll savor every moment. “I don’t want it to be over. I know once I get out there, it will go so fast it’ll seem like it’s over before it starts.”