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Farewell performances for bullfighters Barry, Wilson

by Tracy Renck | Jan 17, 2019

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – When the curtain dropped on the RAM Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo, Jan. 13, it spelled the end of the careers of bullfighters Rowdy Barry and Ryan Wilson.

Barry, 52, bought his PRCA card in 1986. He had a memorable career. The Washington native worked the National Finals Rodeo in 1999 and the Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo 18 times. He also worked the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo multiple times as well as the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

“I was attracted to the bulls when I was young,” said Barry, who has lived in Kennewick, Wash., for 25 years. "It seems like my career has gone by in the blink of an eye, and I loved every minute of it. I think I was 13 years old when I went to my first bull fighting school, put on by Skipper Voss, and when I turned 16 I knew I wanted to be a bullfighter. There was no other life in rodeo for me besides fighting bulls.”

Wilson, 33, joined the PRCA in November 2006 and worked the RAM Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo four times.

“I’m just ready for the next chapter in life, strap on the work boots and tackle that now and settle down and be at home,” Wilson said. “It was really emotional this past weekend. It was amazing to get to fight bulls with Rowdy. He’s pretty much a father-figure, my best friend and big brother.”

Wilson has worked eight years for Central Washington Asphalt, a road construction company in Kennewick.

Barry was bitten by the rodeo bug early and acknowledged getting to work the NFR was a thrill.

“To be selected by your bull riders who you are working for all year was definitely a highlight,” Barry said. “I will miss the social aspect of being a bullfighter, getting to travel all across the country and meet all sorts of great rodeo fans and committee members.”

Barry has two sons, Ryan Manning, 30, and Miles Barry, 18, who fight bulls, and a daughter, Clay, 20, who rodeos for New Mexico State University. Barry and his wife, Laura Lee, have been married 23 years.

Barry will remain the president of the Columbia River Circuit, a position he has held for six years. 

“Rodeo is still a passion of mine,” Barry said. “I still love rodeo and I will until the day I die. I’ve got to work with both of my sons at a college rodeo the last couple of years and it was great. Now, father time is taking some things away from me, and integrity of my job has been key to me. If I’m just a tad bit slow reacting to get there to save a bull rider when somebody else could be doing a better job, then it is time for me to hang up.”

Barry also will continue to work in his art studio.

“I will stay involved with rodeo, but from now on the focus will be in my art studio,” said Barry, who paints, draws and sculpts. “I’ve been involved with art all my life.”

Growing up, Wilson was on the opposite end of the spectrum from Barry.

“I was a city kid,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t raised around rodeo ever. I watched the movie 8 Seconds and I wanted to try bullfighting. I met a guy down the road whose grandpa raised bucking bulls. I started hanging out with him and his family, and one thing led to another and I met Rowdy and his family and things progressed from there. Rowdy got me ready for the PRCA, and I hit the road and I was living a dream. I had great teachers in Rowdy, Rob Smets, Donnie Griggs and Danny Newman. It was an amazing career, I couldn’t ask for anything more. Just meeting the people in rodeo meant so much to me. It is one big family.”

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