The rodeo and western industry is usually a family affair that’s handed down generation to generation…at least for most people. Most of us have the advantage of growing up with this lifestyle engrained in our being and in…most of us.
For some, they have to work twice as hard to immerse themselves into a new lifestyle and world that others are born into. Ethan Cook didn’t grow up on a ranch but he grew up knowing he wanted to be a cowboy.
“No one in my family owns a cowboy hat or even a pair of boots other than me. I didn’t grow up on a ranch, but I grew up wanting to do this.”
Ethan’s hometown of Fruita, Colorado is by no means a rodeo community. One of their main attractions is the adventure park where you can go whitewater rafting or horseback riding. However, they do have a rodeo arena that Ethan conveniently grew up a stone’s throw away from. Ethan got sucked into the thrill at a pretty early age and started riding sheep at age three or four. He spent as much time as he possibly could there.
By middle school, Ethan was traveling more to rodeos with friends that he had made that also rode bulls and then he was pretty serious by the time he made it to high school. He says, “I didn’t have anything else planned in my life. I wanted to be a bull rider.”
Ethan learned very quickly to surround himself with the right people in order to get where he needed to go. There were only five people in his whole school that rodeoed and just two of the five were other bull riders.
At age 14, Ethan went to a Bible camp and got a taste of the cowboy protection side of things. He wasn’t getting the hang of the bigger bulls and hadn’t had much luck over the last two to three years. He stepped out and tried some other rodeo events and then bullfighting at the Bible camp. After getting his feet wet a little, he decided he needed to focus up and stay serious about riding bulls.
He started getting on higher caliber bulls and practicing as much as he could. He started being able to handle those bigger bulls which really gave him a leg up at the high school rodeos and helped his confidence to soar. When his senior year came around, he was able to claim the state championship title.
“My second year of college, I broke my riding hand twice and was out for five months. Since I couldn’t ride, I started fighting bulls and figured out pretty quick that I actually liked it more. There’s a different purpose for being in the arena but I’ve always enjoyed the comradery that still comes with it. Rodeo is like a family. Everyone helps one another out, cheers each other on, and are usually decent friends. That’s how it should be.”
Throughout his days as a bull rider turned bullfighter, Ethan picked up another talent along the way. At age five, he taught himself how to play guitar. “I can’t read music or anything like that, but my grandpa taught me a few different chords. By the time I was 11, I could play and sing along a little. That’s actually how I got in touch with Vexil. A friend I played guitar with gave me a cap so I wore the cap and tagged Vexil in the videos I posted. Before too long, Shawn reached out and asked if he could send me some things to wear in my singing videos. We talk from time to time online and things like that but I’ve only met him in person twice. The first time was on my 21st birthday at the PBR Rock Bar in Las Vegas during the 2017 PBR World Finals.”
Ethan had written some songs and posted them to YouTube. Well, the night of his 21st birthday he was with a group of friends at the Las Vegas bar to celebrate and Luke Kaufman recognized him from the videos. Luke pulled Ethan up on stage to play and sing while Luke got on the drums. Low and behold, one of the bullfighters that Cody looks up most to, Cody Webster, was standing front and center in the crowd and Shawn Wiese wasn’t far away.
Ethan knew exactly who Cody was but figured Cody didn’t have a clue who he was. The seasoned fighter actually hopped up on stage as Ethan was singing and started singing into the other mic, he knew the original song Ethan had written word for word. Turns out, Cody was a big fan of Ethan’s as well!
After getting off stage, Ethan was flagged down by Shawn who had been standing in the wings waiting to shake Ethan’s hand. Ethan reflected on that night and said, “I really do appreciate Shawn picking me up. It’s helped me get to where I am today and I can’t thank him enough.”
Instagram - @ethanwayne1331
Article by Katie Armstrong @thekatielynn