By Jeff Rebitski, Staff Writer

The Lander afternoon was drawing to a close, but the excitement of the 128th Annual Pioneer Days Rodeo was just getting started. The bulls and broncs were in their pens with their nostrils flared, inhaling as much air as possible in preparation for the best ride of their lives, hoping to unseat each cowboy that was unlucky enough to draw their number. As the stock was getting restless, so were the people responsible for the safety of those athletes of the arena. 

Tristan Givens, former resident of Arapaho, and rodeo clown for the last 6 years was the arena entertainer for the two nights of rodeo action in Lander. I asked Tristan before the rodeo, as a clown, what is the most important thing you have to do to prepare for each performance? Tristan became very serious and as he looked me uncomfortably in the eye, he said, “I have to be ready to protect each cowboy from harm, that means sacrificing myself for their safety if necessary.” 

Tristan, at 47 years old, decided a little late to become an entertainer in the arena after spending many years as a rodeo announcer working at many rodeos around the country. He currently, aside from clowning around in the arena, announces for the Jackson Hole Rodeo for 40 shows each summer that entertain the visitors to the Teton community. His wife supports his activities and Tristan states that without her, he could not do what he does. It is difficult to do a serious interview with a man in facepaint and a red nose, but I understood the seriousness of his statement. The bull riders especially depend on the 3 bullfighters in the arena due to the vulnerability of the cowboy once they are off the bulls back. They come off either by choice, at the end of an 8 second qualified ride or because the bull was just “ rank” enough to unseat the cowboy before the buzzer. 

Kaden Murphy, a 19 year old amature bull fighter who has been putting himself in harm’s way for two years, after attending a bull riding school, states that he enjoys the athletic element and doesn’t think he will do this for a career, but admits that he isn’t sure what is next. Kaden states “I don’t actually get paid, and I know most do, but I do it anyway for the excitement.” His Fiance’ Aspen shared that she loves the fact that he is the hero of the arena, but will support him in all his future endeavors after they are married in September of this year. 

The athletic ability is so often overlooked but considering the clowns are up against eighteen hundred pound linemen with horns who will, if given the chance, kill their opponents even after the whistle blows. Even the playing field is uneven as they are required to run at breakneck speeds through deep and undulating dirt. On top of the lifesaving responsibilities, there is the clown who must engage and entertain the crowds in the stands during the uncomfortable and inevitable delays between riders as the roughstock attempts to hurt the cowboys in the chutes before they ride.  With all the dangers and difficulties, one has to wonder how Rodeo Clowns and Bullfighters qualify for health insurance?   

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