ProFile: Dustin Brewer

by Siri Stevens

story by Ruth Nicolaus

Dustin Brewer put on his baggies and cleats for the last time Labor Day weekend at his hometown rodeo in Elk City, Okla.
The 46-year-old cowboy has been involved in rodeo for most of his life, as a bullfighter, and now as a clown.
Brewer, born to Lee and Donna in Elk City, Okla., in 1969, tagged along as his older sisters competed at Little Britches Rodeos. He began riding bareback horses and bulls in high school, and it was in the practice pen where his talent became evident.
A bull rider got hung up, Brewer recalls, “and I stepped in, got him out, never got touched, and thought that was pretty cool.”  That was the beginning of a 27-year career.
He worked as a bullfighter at high school and amateur rodeos, and he struck up a friendship with the late Rex Dunn, a bullfighting and bull raising legend. In 1996, Dunn told Brewer he needed to apply for his Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association membership. At that time, the PRCA gave membership to bullfighters after they had worked the Binion Bull Sale, held in Las Vegas during the National Finals Rodeo. A panel of bullfighters and experts judged the rookies, and out of a class of 18, only two were awarded cards: Brewer and Dusty Essick.
From then on, Brewer’s resume grew. He’s worked major rodeos across the country, including Tucson, Ariz., Greeley, Colo., Oakley, Utah, Salt Lake City, and lots of the smaller rodeos: Elk City, Okla., Abilene and Manhattan, Kan., Burwell, Neb., and more.
He competed in the freestyle bullfighting the Wrangler Bullfights held, and was ranked fourth in the Bullfights standing when he broke a leg. That was in 2000, his only chance to go to the National Finals Rodeo, and it turned out to be the last year for the Bullfights.
Bullfighters are prone to injury, and Brewer has had his share, although nothing that took him out of the game for long. In 1991, he broke his jaw in three places when a horn caught him in the neck. In 1996, he ruptured his spleen. In 2000, the broken leg kept him from going to the Bullfights in Las Vegas, and in 2002, he tore an ACL in his knee.
He’s had a wonderful career, and the people he’s worked with and for hold a high regard for him.
He has worked his hometown rodeo in Elk City, Okla. for sixteen years, and he’s been a real asset to the rodeo, said chairman Larry McConnell. “Dustin’s one of those guys that, whatever you ask him to do, he does it. He’s easy to work with, and he’s an icon around this rodeo.”
Former bullfighter and five-time Wrangler Bullfights champion Rob Smets helped Dustin get started in his early years and considers him like a brother. “I mentored him through some of his career,” Smets said. “Dustin’s done a bang-up job. The guy has integrity and has had it his whole career.”
Brewer has grown close to many of the rodeo committees for whom he has worked. He worked the Abilene, Kan. rodeo for fifteen years, and became like family to the committee men and women, so much that Brewer and his wife Tarra decided to marry in Abilene in 2004. “He was a professional,” said Jerry Marsteller, chairman of the Abilene committee. “He did whatever was asked of him.”
Brewer worked closely with barrelman Mark Swingler, and Swingler believes Brewer’s rodeo career was marked with consistency. “He was always there for the cowboy,” Swingler said. “If he had to take a shot, he’d take a shot.” Brewer was able to handle the mental stress of being injured as well. “Some (bullfighters) get injured and get gun shy, but I’ve never seen that in his work.”
Even though he’s retiring, Brewer isn’t leaving rodeo, he’s just switching roles. He has plans to work as a barrelman and rodeo clown, and has already been hired for some rodeos in 2016.  He loves rodeo. “I just love the sport,” he said, “the camaraderie between everybody, the atmosphere.”
His baggies and cleats may go in the closet, but he’ll be back on the road next summer, to another rodeo, just in a different role.
Through it all, Dustin has loved – and still loves – -rodeo.

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