Texas cowboy switches from life in the Marines to life of a rodeo clown
August 25, 2016
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The Oregon Trail Rodeo takes place August 26-28 at the Adams County Fairgrounds. Performances begin at 7 pm on August 26-27 and at 5 pm on August 28. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children, ages 4-12. Reserve tickets are $15. For more information, call the fairgrounds office at 402-462-3247 or visit AdamsCountyFairgrounds.com.
Johnny "Backflip" Dudley has gone from being a tough Marine to being the tough guy in the rodeo arena.
The Aubrey, Texas man will be in Hastings, Neb., at the Oregon Trail Rodeo next weekend, serving as the rodeo clown and barrelman. While he used to protect our country, he now works to protect bullfighters and bull riders.
He got his first taste of rodeo while he was a Marine. A rodeo came to his base, and after he was done volunteering as a ticket taker, he got to watch it.
"I found myself watching the rodeo clown," he said. As part of his act, the clown ran into the crowd and jumped into someone's lap. "I thought, this looks fun."
When he left the Marines and went back to his hometown of Dayton, Texas, he went to a local bull riding practice pen and started working as a bullfighter.
"All my buddies were riding bulls, and I thought it was fun to turn one back and save my buddies," he said.
From bullfighting, Backflip evolved to clowning. He clowned his first rodeo in 2006, and realized he liked clowning better than bullfighting.
Now he works 20-30 pro rodeos a year across the nation. His acts vary, from "Cow Patty", with the country song by the same name, to the Redneck Olympics, and the Special Delivery, with his pet skunk.
Backflip's nickname came about in his early days of rodeo. He'd make his entrance into the arena by back flipping. It was his unique way of making people remember his name.
As a rodeo clown, he also "works the barrel" during the bull riding. The barrel provides an oasis of safety for the bullfighters and riders, in case a bull gets cantankerous. He's had a few close calls, and a humorous one he remembers. It was at a rodeo in Wisconsin, when a bull hit the barrel and Backflip was knocked unconscious.
"When I came to, I looked out the end of my barrel, and the bullfighter is laying in the mud, with the bull tamping him down. I'm trying to get out of my barrel to help," he said, thinking that no one was helping. "The bullfighter was actually my clown dummy," he laughed. "I was seconds away from taking a hooking to save my clown dummy." ❖