ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Rodeo events kicked off once again on Thursday, September 14, for the final weekend of the West Texas Fair and Rodeo. While the riders put on a show and spectators cheered, a noticeable absence can be felt in the arena. That of 26-year-old Bronc rider Skee Burkes, who lost his life in a riding event on the Saturday before.
“I had just met him. Just the sweetest young, polite young man,” said Rodeo Announcer Bob Tallman.
Tallman recalled the night the accident happened. He said Burkes sinch had broken in the back, and his saddle flipped over the front of his mare. Though staff and emergency services provided immediate aid, Burkes succumbed to his injuries and passed away that night.
“I do believe that a young man like that would have been gracefully saved in the moment and sent on to meet his lord and savior,” Tallman shared.
It’s that kind of belief that Tallman said he saw on display as the crowd watched the incident unfold. While rodeos are known to be dangerous, Tallman said nothing could have prepared those watching for the heartbreak they saw.
“They were in a trance… They just held tight. It’d be very difficult if you were one of 5,000 people to stand up in a red shirt and walk,” said Tallman.
Tallman shared that he took to the mic in hopes of bringing the crowd together, and that’s just what happened.
“I always ask people… don’t wring your hands. If you’re gonna put your hands together, have a reason to do it… And the longer it took, the longer the prayers got,” Tallman said.
The following day, a Facebook post was shared with photos depicting a cloud formation of a cowboy in the sky, captioned ‘Skee Burkes riding in the sky one last time over Abilene, Texas.’
On Saturday, September 16, the Rodeo will open with a ceremonial wreath laying in memory and in honor of Burkes. This event is open to the public.