Community mourns loss of cowboy Donny Martin |

Community mourns loss of cowboy Donny Martin

Family and friends are mourning for Penn Valley native and professional bull fighter Donny Martin, who died Tuesday in a Reno hospital.

On Father’s Day, June 15, Martin attempted to stop a raging bull from running into a crowd of people at a state high school rodeo championship in Bishop, Calif. The 2,000-pound bull ran into Martin, knocking his head hard against the ground and causing severe brain damage. After spending two weeks in a coma, Martin died July 1 at the age of 42.

“He went out to stop the bull so it wouldn’t hurt the kids. He paid the ultimate price this time,” said his younger brother, Larry Martin.

For several years, Donny Martin has participated in junior rodeo events, protecting young riders bucked off of angry bulls, said friend Bonnie Easley.

“He saved lots of lives,” including Easley’s 17-year-old grandson, she said.

On July 19, a spaghetti feed benefit with live music, dancing, raffle and silent auction will be held at the Penn Valley Rodeo Grounds. Funds raised will help the Martin family cover expenses related to the accident.

On Sunday, July 20, the Outlaw Rodeo Company will honor Martin at a bullriding event at noon.

In 2007, Martin was named bullrider of the year by the California Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association. Just months before, he broke five ribs and punctured a lung while bullriding at the Penn Valley rodeo.

“He has had multiple broken bones,” Larry Martin said.

Donny Martin is remembered as a rough and rugged cowboy who lived a wild lifestyle of bar fights, yet he always remembered to help the little people.

“Even though he was rugged and tough he had a real good side to him. He was the old-style, good-guy-in-a-white-hat cowboy. He lived that life and died that life,” said friend Philip Easley.

His passion for rodeos began as a child, influenced by two parents who loved the lifestyle as well. At five years old, Martin stood before his kindergarten class and announced what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“‘I want to be a lover, a fighter and a wild horse rider,'” recalled Martin’s brother.

Soon after graduating from Empire High School, Donny Martin began a career of riding bulls. He traveled across the West to follow the rodeo circuits.

“This rodeo life has been in his blood forever,” Larry Martin said.

For the past 15 years, Donny Martin lived in Cottonwood, Calif., but always returned to his hometown for the Penn Valley Rodeo, where he had many fans.

“Everyone who knows Donny, knows he marched to the beat of another drum. I think that’s why people were so attracted to him. He was a hell of a man,” Larry Martin said.

Tickets for the spaghetti dinner are $15 and it’s free to children under 6; tickets can be purchased at the gate or online at Gates open at 4:30 p.m., and dinner begins at 6 p.m. For more information, call Kathy Pitts at 432-6626.

Tickets for the bull riding event cost $10 at the gate, and it’s free for children under 6. Entry fees for bullriders is $100. To enter call 633-0887. Entry deadlines are 9 p.m. July 16.

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail or call 477-4231.

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