Life takes major turn for Salina school administrator doubling as rodeo bullfighter

Rodeo and athleticism run for generations in his family’s genes.

“I love rodeo, I love kids, I love family. My kids and my family are the most important of all,” insisted Danny Munsell, Salina school administrator and well-known rodeo bullfighter.

“That’s the reason I couldn’t talk earlier. My wife, Lori, and I were at the Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City for a checkup of our son who had brain surgery last month,” Munsell  said late Saturday afternoon.

“My life in rodeo changed completely after our 12-year-old twin son, Keetan, was diagnosed with a tumor,” Munsell clarified.

Diagnosis was made on July 19, and Keetan went into surgery on July 22. “Doctors were successful in removing 99 percent of the tumor,” Munsell detailed.

“Right now, we are making regulars visits to the hospital to monitor the situation and have to wait to see what happens before treatments,” Munsell related.

Prior to the serious setback in the lives of the Danny Munsell family, rodeo had always been an important part of it.

Danny Munsell, Salina school administrator, spends his weekends as a bullfighter saving cowboys from mad bucking bulls, following the long rodeo tradition of his family.
Danny Munsell, Salina school administrator, spends his weekends as a bullfighter saving cowboys from mad bucking bulls, following the long rodeo tradition of his family.

“I grew up in rodeo. My dad, Doug Sr. was a rodeo clown-bullfighter, as is my brother, Doug Jr., and my nephew, Wacey.  My uncles, Dick, Dusty and Darcy, were rodeo contestants. We’ve all competed in rodeo at one time or another, “ Munsell said.

A successful junior and high school rodeo career earned Munsell a scholarship first to Pratt Community College as a bull rider, who also competed in bareback bronc riding.

Transferring to Fort Hays State, Munsell earned his bachelor of science degree in elementary education and became a teacher and coach of several sports at Salina.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with kids and like all kinds of sports,” Munsell inserted.

After completing dual master’s degrees in education and administration at Kansas State University, Munsell became an administer, now serving as assistant middle school principal for Salina’s Unified School District 305.

Initially continuing his rodeo career as a competitor, Munsell reflected, “I stopped riding bulls in 1990, and started fighting bulls in 1991. I traded my cowboy boots for my rodeo cleats, you might say.”

Contracts with Jimmy Crowther’s JC Rodeo/New Frontier Rodeo Company at Roxbury and other producers have kept Munsell busy fighting bulls at amateur rodeos and bull riding jackpots throughout the country every summer.

“I wouldn’t compare myself to another bullfighter, but I’ve watched and studied all of the best like Rob Smets and Rex Dunn. My job is to protect cowboys when they get off a bucking bull, and that’s what I’ve always tried to do at the best of the ability,” Munsell assured.

Not unlike the bull riding sport itself, protecting fallen cowboys is a most hazardous profession, and Munsell has suffered injuries throughout his career.

“A bull got me down just a little over a year ago at Pretty Prairie, did some serious damage, and I was out of commission until this summer. But, I’ve been back fighting bulls until we found out about our son’s tumor, and that changed everything.

“My only concern at this time is to take care of my family,” Munsell repeated.

“When my Dad started as a rodeo clown, he was the funnyman and bullfighter all combined into one. Today, rodeos usually have a clown-funnyman and two bullfighters,” Munsell noted.

“It’s really a lot better now, making it safer for the fallen cowboys, and the bullfighters. One bullfighter can distract a bull from the other, and more often save a cowboy from injury,” emphasized Munsell, who has not worked strictly as a clown like his Dad did.

“Dad has retired from rodeo, but he’s still a clown and does public and school lyceum-type programs,” according to Munsell, who indicated his brother, Doug, and nephew, Wacey, continue professional bullfighting careers, sometimes working together.

“We’ve all worked together at some time or another in the past 22 years,” Munsell added.

Every clown and bullfighter has their signature face as that is how most people know who they are. “I wear the traditional baggies and paint my face at most of my rodeos, but there are some events where I just wear the jersey and shorts. I picked to wear stars on my face, because I was a teacher, and stars came naturally to make,” Munsell commented.

While his personal rodeo career is on hold at present, Munsell said, “I do have concerns about the sport in general. It is so expensive to compete, with travel costs and everything involved.

“It also distresses me that cowboys don’t seem to have the heart and ‘gump’ that rodeo contestants had in my generation, and that of my family, and before. There are fewer and fewer entries in the bucking horse events, and the bull riders don’t seem to have the desire that we used to have,” Munsell evaluated.

Recognizing his twin sons are very athletic, with busy schedules in baseball, basketball, football and other sports, Munsell said, “They’ve competed successfully in sheep riding and steer riding, and assisting me as a protection bullfighter. I’m uncertain where they’ll go with rodeo, but it’s definitely in their heritage.”

Serving as a bullfighter at the Flint Hills Bull Blowout in Strong City in the past, Munsell won’t have his cleats on there this year on September 14, but he emphasized, “I’ve worked many times with Kim Reyer and his family’s Flint Hills Genetics bucking bulls operations.

“They have a great jackpot that all of the cowboys like to compete at, for the major family entertainment event it has become. The Reyer family has taken into consideration everything the contestants and the spectators could ever expect,” Munsell acknowledged .

“I’m certainly not as fast as I used to be, when I’m out fighting bulls and protecting cowboys.  In my heart, I want to get back out in the arena, but I have to make sure my family is well first. Then, time will tell what comes next,” Munsell summarized.