Rural Missouri - August 2013 - (Page 40)
N E I G H B O R S
Life is Kinda Funny
Bob Courtney has been getting laughs as a rodeo clown for nearly four decades
various shows in Branson as an animal trainer
or a comedian. He and his wife, Alta, met in
the entertainment mecca when she was
singing at a show. They’ve now been
ob Courtney faces a
1,700-pound bull with a smile
married 17 years.
on his face. His job may look
His tireless dedication and abilities
as a rodeo clown haven’t gone unnolike fun and games, but not
ticed. He’s been voted Rodeo Clown
everyone has a knack for his particular
of the Year 16 times by various rodeo
line of work.
Bob takes his job seriously — for the most part
his 37-year career. Bob says
— as he enjoys entertaining crowds as a profesthe fact he works so hard
sional rodeo clown.
at being unique and
Thirty-seven years ago, the Kansas native
keeping his act fresh
was calf roping and steer wrestling at a rodeo in
is what makes him a
Strong City, Kan., and found himself in need of
a ride to the next event in Prescott, Ariz. A stock
contractor said he’d get Bob to the rodeo if he
drove a truck for him.
During their journey, stock contractor Harry
Vold received a call and found out the clown
he’d booked for the year couldn’t fulﬁll his contract. So for hours, Harry tried to talk Bob into
giving the job a try.
“Little did I know that by the end of that
trip, I’d have taken on being a rodeo clown,”
says Bob, now 57.
“Honestly, it just ended up being something I did well,” Bob adds. “From Arizona,
I went on to Wyoming, Colorado, then
Nebraska, all the big rodeos. That’s how I
backed into being a rodeo clown.
“I was painfully shy back then,” he adds.
“So Harry really had to do some talking to get
me to say ‘yes.’ But I found that when I put the
makeup and costume on, I could talk to anyone.
Being funny just came naturally.”
Bob eventually joined the Navy and while
serving, worked for the Flying U Rodeo Co. in
California whenever he got the chance. After
the Navy, Bob moved back to Kansas and hit the
rodeo circuit full time, adding bullﬁghting to his
He also got a white yearling colt and started
training him to do tricks for his act. By the time
his horse, Oxidol, was 3, he started performing
“Really, he is probably more famous than me
in rodeo circles. He was in several movies, including ‘Frank & Jesse’ with Rob Lowe and Randy
Travis, and ‘Rhinestone’ with Dolly Parton,” says
the horse trainer. “He had fans at every rodeo. He
passed away in 2006 at age 30.”
During the last years of Oxidol’s life, Bob
began training a young paint horse he named
Houdini. Bob says the 12-year-old is a great ﬁre
jumper and does magic tricks, too.
As the years went by, Bob hit the road for
an average of 110 performances a year as a
rodeo entertainer, pretty much living out of a
“I’ve performed at more than 4,000 rodeos,”
Bob says. “But it’s not been all fun and games.
I had a family that I should have stayed home
with more and that suffered. I regret that.”
In 1990, Bob moved to Sparta and worked at
by Heather Berry
Bob’s reluctant to talk about the times he’s
been injured while saving riders from an angry
bull. A few bulls have gored him and a few bones
were broken, but it was “nothing that kept me in
the hospital,” he says.
The performer says there’s probably been hundreds of times he’s helped get a bull away from a
tossed rider, but it was just part of the job.
Although clowns are entertainers, sometimes
they ﬁnd themselves in danger, too.
At a Nebraska rodeo this summer, Bob was
entertaining in the arena when suddenly the
“I turned around and a bull had gotten loose
from the guys and was running full blast toward
me — and it was about 15 feet away,” says Bob.
“To survive, you’ve got to stay calm, then stand
still until the bull nearly gets to you, then move
to the side. I did that and he ran right past me.
They key is trying to stay calm while the bull
runs toward you.”
While the rodeo life has been good to him,
Bob says it’s time to switch gears. His rodeo
schedule hasn’t slowed down much as the
years have rolled by.
“I’ve been in this business 30 years,
and that’s a long time for a
About a year ago, Bob
began a new, humorous
chapter in his life as a Christian comedian, portraying
a character he dubbed “Pastor Pudge.” Alta joins him as
he takes his comedic ministry to
churches, youth groups and various
events around the Midwest.
Through funny stories, jokes
and gospel music, Bob says he and
Alta “minister and motivate” those
Why the character Pastor Pudge?
“Well, you should talk about what
you know,” says the clown who
jokingly says he’s been “ﬁghting
anorexia all his life.”
Bob credits this career change to
divine intervention, which gave him
the boldness to speak in public.
“Looking back, I believe the path my
life has taken is God’s way of getting me
to where I could minister to others,” Bob
says. “Most of my life I’ve been paid good
money to have people laugh at me, so
why change now?”
You may contact Bob via e-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 417-8494170.
Professional rodeo clown Bob Courtney
of Sparta uses animals in many
of his entertaining acts. Here he
poses with one of his trusty
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - August 2013
Rural Missouri - August 2013
Table of Contents
Mining a lead-lined history
Out of the Way Eats
Hearth and Home
Rural Missouri - August 2013