Spending a summer in Nevada is like living inside a rodeo arena, seriously. There have got to be at least a dozen to choose from throughout the summer months… each one bringing something new to the table. The tough part is trying to decide which one to attend.
I’m not new to the wild world of rodeos…with the thick of my family from Nebraska, I would be kicked to the curb faster than you can say ‘howdy do’ if I was. Besides, [although I’m not sure this technically counts] I have frequented the infamous Jack Daniel’s tent at the Reno Rodeo more than I am willing to admit. Aside from the undeniable fun inside the debaucherous JD tent, I ultimately was drawn to the Reno Rodeo mainly because of one specific event: XTREME BULLS. Not having ever seen an Xtreme Bull event in the flesh, or in fact bull riding of any sorts, I had made up my mind.
I showed up, not really knowing what was ahead of me. Word on the street was this was the most action-packed night of the rodeo, and also the kickstart of the 10-day experience. So as you can imagine, aside from the bulls themselves, the crowd was jacked up and raring to go. Something about the smell of it all made me feel pretty alive. If you can't handle the ‘ranch-hand fresh’ aroma, or the delicious fragrance of fried foods there’s something seriously wrong with you. That’s just straight up un-American.
On my way into the arena, I had the delight of bumping elbows with a guy with a bit of a confusing get up…a tie-dyed shirt with cutoff overalls [goofy, right?] with an “I’m a hardcore son-of-a-gun” look in his eye. It hit me: this was a rodeo clown. SCORE. Lucky for me, I think most guys that sign up for the rodeo clown gig are willing to do just about anything, and I convinced him to wear my Go Pro. This night was getting better by the minute.
As my new friend Eric was wearing the camera, that meant I now had access to the ‘clown gate’ [which is still hard for me to say without smiling.] I was led through the ‘back alley’ of the arena and, before I knew it was on the other side of the grandstand, and about 3 feet to the right of many seemingly irritated bulls. Things got REAL pretty quick, huh?? Thankfully, to my other side was a full squadron of EMTs. Now I just had to pray this didn’t turn into one of those ‘everything is alright and then suddenly turns into deadly disaster’ viral videos.
A siren blared and we were off and running, folks. The first rider out of the gate—stunning athleticism by the way—managed to stay on the powerful beast for what felt like minutes before getting bucked off. Eric and his posse, positioned between the clown gate and the bull, jumped in front of the animal and calmly corralled the creature off to the side. Insert jaw dropping here. Just another day at the office for Eric, right?
As I stood there, bewildered, trying to absorb what had happened just a few feet in front of me, the show went on. Rider after rider, Eric was alert, but remained oddly composed. The lines were blurred on what was more daring: the audacious riders, or the limit-pushing rodeo clowns who eagerly jumped in the path of these enraged beasts, front and center. It was mesmerizing and addictive, almost like watching a horror flick you feel compelled to hide your eyes from, but refuse to actually turn off.
It was my understanding the clowns were familiarized with the bulls, and somehow felt safer if they recognized a specific one. Putting myself in their shoes, I have a difficult time conceptualizing 'safe' car-sized animals versus 'un-safe' two-ton extreme bulls. Call me crazy. I felt like a child, yelling out "Woah did you see that?! What the heck is even going on?!?" while my new friends behind the clown gate looked at me like I was completely insane. They weren't surprised, but I was eating it up. Hook, line and sinker.
Moral of the story: no matter the Nevada location, if you ever are handed a chance to hang out with a few rodeo clowns for the night [or just want to see if your blood pressure medicine is working], I promise you, it will not disappoint. Best 20 bucks I've ever spent. Consider that one checked off the ol’ bucket list!