Jodi Lea Stewart

Loving and Writing About the Southwest and the South

Just Clowning Around

Rodeo clowns are real heroes. A suspendered dude with a barrel for britches who keeps a 2,000-pound bull from stomping a mud hole in you certainly gets my accolades!

But where are the clowns if you’re not a rodeo star?

I sure didn’t see any a couple of desperate times while growing up on our Arizona ranch. For example, one time a mama cow with no sense of humor took after me across the corral yard.

This non-divine bovine had no idea I merely wanted to pat and admire her new calf. No ma’am. She was prejudiced. She decided, spur of the moment, I was the new serial cow killer in town.

The moment she rolled those big, well . . . cow eyes . . . at me, I knew I’d best be moseying right along, thank you, like r-i-g-h-t n-o-w!

That four-legged express train roared from standstill to 100 mph in one picosecond. My fight or flight syndrome clicked in at about 100.1/2 mph, and the chase was on.

As I hit the corral and shimmied up the slats like a monkey in a tree-climbing contest, I felt  mama cow’s head slam into the boards underneath my shoe soles.

So where were those nice clowns to save my skin that day?

I didn’t see a single one as I wheezed and gasped on the safe side of the fence.

Ol’ Mrs. Udderly let out a snooty bellow, pawed the ground a few times and—I promise this is true—swaggered back to her doe-eyed baby calf.


Another memorable time, I was allowed to go on a day-long, calf-gathering drive. This was way back in the Macho-via era when cowpunchers were mostly gnarly handed males with parentheses-shaped legs bowed from living on the back of a hoss.

Women folk who went on cattle drives had to be 1) amazing cooks, or 2) look like Jane Russell.

Being twelve years old and looking in no way like Miss Russell, I perceived this privilege as very big indeed. By the late hour in which I was granted this exquisite honor, all the good and grand horses were taken by the higher and mightier cattlemen.

Me? I was stuck with Little Shet, a spotted, squatty Shetland pony.

Little Shet was surefooted enough. The only trouble was his gait and style. He bounded up each hill and down each gully with his short pudgy legs working twice as fast and hard as the other horses’ long graceful legs.

The truth is, he looked like a cartoon with all that extra effort and movement.

What else could I do but hold myself as straight as a matchstick in my miniature “Little Shet” saddle and try not to think about how my head was a good three or four feet below the other riders’ heads?

The most agonizing part was that one of the other riders in the cattle drive happened to be a neighboring rancher’s good-looking son whom I had a fierce crush on!

Several times, I caught him smiling at me that day. Or was he smirking? I wasn’t sure.

Everything would have worked out just dandy if that little dollop of a horse hadn’t gotten ornery when we arrived back at the barn that evening. Sometimes horses do that, and I don’t know what triggered Little Shet’s change of temperament. Maybe he was just happy to be home.

I can forgive lots, really I can. But being bucked over Little Shet’s head, hair-first, onto a carpet of fresh cow patties would have tried anyone’s patience!

Stomping off in my high-heeled boots, my head reeking but held high, I remember thinking,

“Where are all the clowns to settle MY horse and escort ME to the chute?”

I’ll tell you where they were…

 They were draped over their steeds whooping, hollering and slapping their thighs!


Copyrighted, original art by Benito, “The Collegian,” Tarrant Community College, Fort Worth, Texas


What is a Cowboy? Read D.B. Jackson’s explanation.


Just for fun . . .


“Wanna hear a secret? Madge was caught with unauthorized media and she’s udderly miserable.”


8 thoughts on “Just Clowning Around

  1. Great post, Jodi! Rodeo clowns are a breed all their own. I knew one who rodeod on weekends and came back to his day job as truck driver with assorted bruises and sprains and more than once with a cast. But he loved it. Shetland ponies have got to be the most uncomfortable horses in the world to ride, and the most disagreeable.

    1. You’re right, Helen. Shetland horses are sure footed, but they ride rough! I bounced through my experience that day looking like I’d never been on a horse in my life!

      Your friend who was a part-time rodeo clown sure had some chutzpah, didn’t he? Those guys would have to love doing that because the pain and shattering of body parts is incredible.

    1. Janice, that illustration fits so well because it was drawn for my original newspaper article. I had a great artist working with me in those days. My hat is off to Benito! Thanks for visiting, hon!

  2. I can just picture 12 y.o. Jodi walking off with her little head held high despite having cow patties in her hair! The essence of confidence and grace under pressure was planted in you early and hasn’t seemed to wane one bit. Thanks for sharing your stories! 🙂

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