So: Bullriding. You get on the bull in a chute, and the gate opens, and the bull comes out and bucks, and you stay on as long as you can, and then you fall off. Or, if you manage to stay on for eight (8!) seconds, then they blow a horn and you can jump off. And then what happens? You’re on the ground, in an enclosed area, with a pissed-off 2200-pound animal with big testicles, big horns, and also possibly ’roid rage. (There was a bull-doping steroids scandal in 2007.) For your protection, they bring in the clowns.
The traditional rodeo clown was a guy in make-up and baggy pants and a barrel, who distracted the bull long enough for the bullrider to get out of the arena. It was (and is) a super dangerous job. In the past, being a clown in the rodeo seemed kind of analogous to being a geek in a carnival: you’d imagine a broken-down alcoholic ex-cowboy, traveling from town to town with the rodeo, making a fool of himself and risking his life for a place to sleep and enough money for a bottle of whatever it is that Cohost Jay drinks. But no more! Now “rodeo clown” is a profession, it’s a valid career choice! You can go to school and get a degree in it! Rodeo clowns are called bullfighters now, and are separate from barrelmen (who have a barrel, but maybe not clown make-up) and straight-up clowns (who perform during the interminable interludes between eight-second bullrides). There’s a professional association (the PBF), and professional competitions in “protection bullfighting” that don’t require any preliminary bullriding at all. These are epic matches that sometimes last as long as 60 or even 70 seconds!
I sort of miss the down-and-out messed-up, old-school rodeo clowns. Michael Kraiger, the excellent comic book writer and artist, had a book about a rodeo clown detective that I thought was genius. Sorry I can’t remember the name of it, but I found this one sketch online. (I think Michael Kraiger might even have been a rodeo clown himself once, but I could be misremembering that.) And back when I used to play a lot of country western music on the old Truckstop Teaparty show, I came across Moe Bandy’s big hit, “Bandy the Rodeo Clown.” Although, when I went looking for it online, I got his name wrong and was looking for Way Bandy. That’s someone else entirely.
Next week: The exciting conclusion of “Pickle Backs and Saddle Sores” here on Beware of the Blog