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 • Sparta 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 associations during 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 crowd favorite. 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 repertoire. 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 with Bob. “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 horse trailer. “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 B 40 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 crowd gasped. “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 rodeo man.” 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 they meet. 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 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 sidekicks, Pepe.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - August 2013

Rural Missouri - August 2013
Table of Contents
Hideout heaven
Mining a lead-lined history
Adrenaline adventures
Out of the Way Eats
High-flying fun
Hearth and Home
Blood-stained dawn
Swarm chasers
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - August 2013