To a casual observer, Jeremy Sparks is either incredibly brave or crazy. Sparks, a 2001 graduate of the University of Arkansas at Monticello, is a professional bullfighter but don’t be taken in by the images conjured up by the title.
He doesn’t wear a “suit of lights” or wave a red cape. He is a rodeo bullfighter whose job is to protect riders from a charging bull after they’ve been thrown or completed their ride.
Sparks’ journey from small-town Arkansas kid to Air Force officer to hall of fame cowboy is told in his new book, Go West, 10 Principles that Guided My Cowboy Journey. Sparks will be at the Monticello Public Library from 6-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, to sign copies at the official launch of his book.
A Fountain Hill native and a devout Christian, Sparks’ book outlines the 10 biblical principles that have guided his life and chronicles his experiences of surviving a near-fatal electrocution, his acceptance into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and his decision to enlist in the United States Air Force just weeks after the terrorist attack on 9/11.
Sparks earned an Master of Business Administration degree while serving in the Air Force where he was endorsed by the Pentagon as the “only professional bullfighter in the history of the USAF.”
In his book, he answers some common misconceptions about bullfighters – they are not matadors, the bulls they fight are never killed, and bullfighters are not rodeo clowns.
“Rodeo clowns tell jokes to entertain the crowd,” says Sparks. “Bullfighters risk their lives to protect bull riders.”
Sparks was enshrined in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2013 and lives in Fayetteville with his wife, Jamie, and their twin boys. Details: http://www.jeremysparks.com/ and elevatepub.com/product/go-west
— James L. Brewer is director of media services at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.