A devastating incident at the West Texas Fair & Rodeo in Abilene, Texas, resulted in the death of a local bronc rider, Skee Burkes. The 26-year-old’s family is now opening up about his life and their intentions to preserve his memory by supporting others in the rodeo community.
Burkes was fatally injured on September 9 when he was thrown from a horse. His mother, Dee Ann Littlefield, remembers him as a man of many talents, including an oilfield supervisor, a skilled leatherwork craftsman, a horse rider, and even a stage performer at Blue Light. She warmly remembers his enthusiasm for life, stating that he derived more pleasure from a single day than most people do in a week.
Burkes was known for his larger-than-life personality, kindness, and generosity. His sister, Kalico Burkes, has been moved by the numerous accounts she’s heard about her brother’s selfless deeds. She expressed, “Everyone saying he’s one of a kind, he was one of a kind just solid that we knew about him.”
Bronc riding was more than just a hobby for Burkes; it was a lifelong passion. As a child, he would pretend to be a bronc rider, and as he matured, he turned this childhood dream into reality. His first experience riding a ranch bronc was in his hometown of Henrietta, Texas, during his high school years.
The night of the West Texas Fair & Rodeo was supposed to be a routine ride for Burkes. His mother emphasizes that the tragic incident does not reflect his riding abilities or his character. “He had been doing this for 10 years,” she said. “He has won a lot of belt buckles bronc riding; he was an incredible horseman…this was truly a freak accident.”
Upon learning of her son’s accident, Littlefield experienced an immediate sense of loss. She later discovered that he was thrown off and the horse stepped on his head. Despite the tragedy, the rodeo continued, a decision that Kalico believes her brother would have endorsed.
In the aftermath of their loss, the family has found comfort in their faith. Littlefield believes that her son’s spirit continues to serve a greater purpose. To honor his memory, the West Texas Fair & Rodeo and Taylor County Expo Center Board of Directors have initiated a fundraiser for the Burkes family. The funds raised will cover funeral costs, with any surplus money going towards a rodeo scholarship in Skee Burkes’ honor.