Before I was destined to be an artist, (a life I never knew existed until half way through college), I had two ambitions in life: be a trapeze artist or a rodeo clown. My expectations for a career were quite low according to my friends who had ambitions of going to college and becoming doctors or teachers or marine biologists, but, here I was with rodeo clown as my number one goal in life. (We'll talk about the trapeze artist another day). Rodeo clowns were fast on their feet and very agile. They saved lives. After all, I was on the gymnastics team in high school and quite agile myself, I could do back flips over those bulls, I thought. This was quite appealing to me, knowing that other people’s lives depended on me and my agility. This seemed the ideal career choice. My friends could not understand why I would desire living so dangerously. “That's part of the excitement,” I told them. “You get to run and jump and entertain people and save lives on occasion. That's what a rodeo clown does, saves lives,” I told them. I secretly dreamed of being the hero, rushing and distracting the bull that was ready to gore the rider that had ridden him for eight seconds or had just been thrown. The adrenalin rush was intoxicating.
While friends were enjoying normal teenage life on weekends, I was content to hone my skills by jumping over barrels or riding my horse trying stunts like the rodeo trick riders.
One of my favorite horses was Goldie, a beautiful palomino with a flowing golden mane.
I felt like Roy Rogers on Trigger when I taught her to rear up.
At night if I couldn't sleep I would sneak out of the house and just be on that beautiful horse, quietly riding about the pasture, bareback, or just lying on her hugging her neck. ( I'm sure she really loved me for that.) Goldie is the one that I tried my riding stunts on, like jumping in the saddle from the garage roof like Zorro, or bouncing on the ground and back in the saddle or trying shoulder stands while she was galloping full steam down the pasture lane. The thought of breaking bones never occurred to me. Nor did it really bother me. After all, I had broken bones several times up through high school. Nine to be exact. I'm surprised I never had a concussion.
Living on a farm had prepared me for such a career. I was a country boy and it was almost a daily routine to wrestle horses that needed to be corralled or branded. Horses were in my blood. In fact, I had been given a beautiful sorrel mare for my first birthday. There exists, in some long lost box, a picture of daddy leading me around the yard sitting high in the saddle in my diaper. Where that elusive picture is, I can't tell you. If I ever find it I will certainly share. As a teenager I never missed an occasion to ride. I lived on my horse. Many times I would sit and eat a meal or read a book on Sheba, a huge plow horse with feet so big she could walk across the cattle guard. She never did, but only because she never thought of it.
We lived on Jackson Street Extension in the 50's and early 60's, from the time I was in the 4th grade until I finished high school. It was out in the country at that time with nothing but fields of cotton or corn from MacArthur Drive all the way to Twin Bridges. Our farm included the area of Mohon Street, Brame Jr. High and the Camellia Place subdivision on Prescott Road in Alexandria. Brame Jr. High was my father's cotton field and my racing ground. We were, also, raising Shetland ponies showing them around the United States and, of course, we had horses and a few cows.
I attended rodeos every time one was around, like Ted Johnson's in Hinston or Jimmy Thompson's near the traffic circle on MacArthur Drive. Some of my riding friends and I were usually the first ones at the gate for the Grand Entry. We would gather at our house on those evenings, saddle our horses and ride to the rodeo.
This was when I fell in love with the rodeo clowns and all things rodeo. I loved the sights, the sounds, the smells. I loved the way the clowns kept the spectators entertained while bull riders prepared for their eight seconds of glory. I loved their makeup, their outfits, their ability to jump over barrels and sometimes over bulls. These individuals exposed themselves to great danger in order to protect the cowboy. This was the life I dreamed of. Now it is true, I did consider being a bull rider or a bareback bronco rider, and this would have been fine, but they were not like the clowns. Rodeo clowns are the glue that hold everything together. Without them there could be no rodeo.
I believe it was a parent that put the brakes on my dreams and decided it was too dangerous a career for a boy.
I still,to this day, dream of what joy it would have been becoming a rodeo clown, or bullfighter as they are known today. Sometimes I regret that I never had that opportunity.
Ha! Maybe this should be on my bucket list.
© Nippy Blair 2015. Posts and pictures on this blog cannot be copied, downloaded, printed, or used without the permission of the blog owner, Nippy Blair.