The only difference between Justin Rumford and a
stand-up comedian, is that he’s doing his job from the middle of a rodeo
arena instead of a stage with a spotlight. Rumford, who lives in Ponca
City, Okla., is a rodeo clown at events from coast to coast. His job
during the rodeo is twofold. He provides the laughs and banters with the
announcer. But during the bull riding his more dangerous job begins.
Rumford is a barrelman: the cowboy who works the barrel, providing an
oasis of safety for bullfighters and bull riders, in case an angry bull
decides to chase them.
Rumford grew up in a rodeo family and competed in junior high, high school
and college rodeo. He was a full time steer wrestler, but then blew out
his knee. While he recovered, he worked as an assistant rodeo coach at
Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. After his knee
healed, he helped with the Cody (Wyo.) Night Rodeo for three seasons, then
began as a livestock truck driver for North Platte’s stock contractor,
Bennie Beutler of Beutler and Son Rodeo. He never considered being a full
time rodeo clown, but after a few tries as clown, he changed his mind.
worked the Pretty Prairie (Kan.) bull riding, and they gave me $1000. And
I thought, why the heck am I working so hard for $800 a week when I can
make $1000 a weekend? So I jumped ship for that.”
And lucky for rodeo fans, Rumford is still clowning, and winning honors at
it. In 2012 and 2013, he’s been honored as the PRCA’s Clown of the Year.
The award is voted on by his peers and rodeo committees, and Justin is
humbled to get it. “I don’t know if I deserve it, but I’m fortunate to
accept it. It’s unbelievable.” In September of 2013, he and his wife
Ashley became the parents of triplets, daughters Livi and Lola, and a son,
Bandy. The babies were already at their first rodeo in Austin, Texas in
March, and Justin can’t wait to take them on the road with him. “I have a
44 foot trailer,” he said, “and I can bring the whole family with me."