An Abilene native will be honored with his likeness on the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo buckle.
Ethan McDonald, who grew up in Abilene and now lives in Paola, Kan., is the feature on this year’s rodeo buckle.
The son of John and Mary McDonald, the McDonald family returned to Abilene when Ethan was an eighth grader, after living in Colorado and Minneapolis, Kan. As a kid, Ethan and his family traveled with John, who transported bucking bulls to pro rodeos across the country.
But every year they’d be back for the Abilene rodeo. Ethan remembers those days. “Abilene, to me, was ‘that’ rodeo,” he said. “You’d see the big rodeo names, like (multiple-time world champions) Trevor Brazile, Matt Austin, Ty Murray, the who’s who of rodeo.”
John raised bucking bulls, and at practice sessions at the arena at their house, Ethan was called on as bullfighter. While in college at Ft. Hays (Kan.) State University, he helped with college rodeo practices. In college, he was encouraged to get his PRCA membership, which he did in 2011.
From 2011 to 2019, he worked as a bullfighter at rodeos across the nation, including the Abilene rodeo, from 2014-2018.
He loved it, especially when he worked in front of his hometown crowd in Abilene. “Being able to be part of it, I really enjoyed it. At first, I was the guy at the back of the chutes, watching, then I became part of the production.”
It was fun for him to showcase his bullfighting skills to his friends and family in Abilene. “A high school coach or teacher would come up to you and want to say hi, almost like you were a celebrity.”
Ethan retired from bullfighting in 2019, to spend more time with his wife, Madison, and their growing family, including daughter Landri, age six, and sons Calvin and Miles, ages 5 and 1 and ½.
He misses it. “I miss the adrenaline and the camaraderie,” he said.
He follows in his dad’s footsteps as a feature on the buckle; John is on the 2002 buckle.
He’s honored to appear on the 2023 buckle. “It’s cool, knowing you’re part of a niche group.”
The annual buckle auction for the rodeo will be held Sunday, July 30 at the Abilene Elks Club at 417 NW Fourth Street. Buckles numbered one through ten and number 500 will be auctioned off.
Social hour for the auction begins at 6 pm, with the auction to follow at 6:30 pm.
The rodeo takes place August 1-4 at 7:30 pm each night in Abilene at Eisenhower Park. For more information, visit www.WildBillHickokRodeo.com
Story by Ruth Nicolaus for the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo
Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo Buckle Features
1989 – Bruce Miller, saddle bronc riding
1990 – Cary Bryant, calf roping
1991 – Jon Greenough, bareback riding
1992 – Tracy Brunner, steer wrestling
1993 – Donna Samples, barrel racing
1994 – Paul Whitehair, bull riding
1995 – 50th anniversary of the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo
1996 – Gerald Roberts, saddle bronc riding
1997 – Phil Bryant, calf roping
1998 – Mark Brunner, bareback riding
1999 – Jim Janke, steer wrestling
2000 – Guy Winters, Sr. and Guy Winters, Jr. team roping
2001 – Stacy Krueger, barrel racing
2002 – John McDonald, bull riding
2003 – Steve Davis, bareback riding
2004 – Ty Brant, calf roping
2005 – Jared Roberts, saddle bronc riding
2006 – Bob Pound, steer wrestling
2007 – Scott Bankes and Billy Randle, team roping
2008 – Shaleigh Smith, barrel racing
2009 – Geff Dawson, bull riding
2010 – Jerry Short, bareback riding
2011 – Wayne Bailey, steer wrestling
2012 – Keegan Knox, saddle bronc riding
2013- Duane Carson, tie-down roping
2014 – Karl Langvardt and Steve Zumbrunn, team roping
2015 – Micah Samples, barrel racing
2016 – Jimmy Crowther, bull riding
2017 – Glen Dawson, bareback rider
2018 – Andrews Rodeo Co., stock contractor
2019 – Mike Mathis, rodeo announcer
2020 – 75th anniversary buckle (no rodeo due to Covid)
2021 – Lecile Harris, rodeo clown and specialty act
2022 – Dustin Brewer, bullfighter
2023 – Ethan McDonald, bullfighter