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SEND IN THE CLOWN
E. M. Swift
October 03, 1994
THE AUTHOR (RIGHT) THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE FUN TO BE A RODEO CLOWN, AND IT WAS—UNTIL THE DULLS NOTICED HIM
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October 03, 1994

Send In The Clown

THE AUTHOR (RIGHT) THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE FUN TO BE A RODEO CLOWN, AND IT WAS—UNTIL THE DULLS NOTICED HIM

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See the funny little clown...Ev'rybody thinks he's happy Cause you never see a tear in his eye
—BOBBY GOLDSBORO

It was not until the next morning that the pain, like a summer heat wave, settled in for a stay. The top of my head was scraped raw, both my elbows were bruised and swollen, and my back, which featured two diagonal welts, was lumpy and realigned. The simple act of brushing my hair made me wince. An insistent humming, like that of a radio tuned to dead airspace, rose from the general vicinity of my brain stem. Something was amiss in my throat. I cleared it and coughed up a tiny pebble.

I share this with you at the risk of being shunned by my new peer group. Rodeo clowns—or bullfighters, as they are also known—do not talk about pain. They will talk till the cows come home about infamous bulls. They will talk till their chew falls out about broken bones, getting "hooked," being "freight-trained" and having their "chili cooled." They never mention the pain that comes along with these exciting adventures.

I'm not made of such stuff. The night after the rodeo, it hurt to sleep.

Wick Peth, a famous rodeo clown now retired, has a prescription for rookies like me. "The best thing that can happen to a guy is if he gets run over good the first few times out," he told Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor, author of Greasepaint Matadors. "It weeds them out fast. If a guy still thinks he wants to do it after that, he'll make it."

The rest of us? The sorry lot of would-be clowns who decide that being tap-danced into sausage patties by 1,500-pound Brahmas is not our calling in life? Well, as the bullfighters say, we've smelt the slobber. That's enough for some men. More than enough.

"How old are you?" the lady barked over the phone.

"Forty-two," I said, immediately feeling self-conscious. Was there some sort of age limit at bullfighting school? Surely not. Peth fought bulls until his mid-50's.

"Do you have insurance? When you send your deposit, you've got to include proof of medical insurance."

"I have insurance," I told her.

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