The Buffalo Bill Rodeo will have a new bullfighter in the arena this year — Zach Call of Thedford.

It will be the 25-year-old’s first time to work the North Platte event.

The cowboy from Mullen will work the rodeo alongside a family friend.

Quirt Hunt from Gordon, was working high school rodeos as a bullfighter when Call’s older brothers were riding bulls.

Call “grew up watching Quirt when I was really young,” he said. The two worked a Professional Bull Riders event in Kearney last winter.

Call started his rodeo career as a bull rider, competing in the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association and qualifying for the high school state finals twice.

He competed collegiately at Dodge City (Kan.) Community College for two years, then continued at PanhandleStateUniversity in Goodwell, Okla.

His sophomore year of college, he was fighting injuries and things weren’t going smoothly with bull riding. So he tried the bullfighting, and found it to be to his liking.

“I enjoyed it a lot more,” he said and slowly, the bullfighting: protecting the bull riders after their ride, overtook the bull riding.

He went to a bullfighting school put on by world champion bullfighters Rob Smets and Miles Hare. Hare, who grew up in Gordon, took a liking to the young Nebraskan and gave him pointers and tips.

It was at the school that he began freestyle bullfighting. In freestyle, there is no bull rider to protect: it’s a competition among bullfighters with points awarded for how well they maneuver around the bull, how close the fighter gets to the bull, and how well they stay in control.

Call shows a particular affinity to it and has competed in the Bullfighters Only (BFO) events for two and a half years. He finished the 2016 year in sixth place in the BFO world standings, and the next year in ninth place.

In North Platte, Call will be doing cowboy protection — bullfighting — only. He likes a mix of both types: “you get to change it up every once in a while.”

Call works as many as thirty events a year, counting both freestyle and rodeos. When he’s not in a rodeo arena, he’s day working for several ranchers around Thedford, where he now lives. It’s a nice balance.

“I work (rodeos and freestyles) in the big city but get to go home to the hills,” he said.

This year, in addition to North Platte, he’ll work rodeos in Nampa, Idaho; Garden City, Kan.; Dickinson, N.D.; Cave Creek, Ariz.; and Hastings and Omaha.

His parents, Craig and Lori Call, will likely be in North Platte to watch their son in action. The Buffalo Bill Rodeo is the closest pro rodeo to Thedford, and Call was pleased to be asked to work it.

“I was excited when I got it. That’s as close to home as it’s going to get,” he said.

Call will be in action during the bull riding — the final event each night.

The rodeo is June 13-16 in North Platte; it starts at 8 p.m. each evening. Tickets are on sale online at www.NebraskalandDays.com, at the gate, and at the office at the Wild West Arena in North Platte.

For more information, visit the website or call 308.532.7939.