SILVERTON, Texas – A century ago, the Harrisons may have been classified as gypsies – traveling the country and working his way from town to town.
John, Carla, Addison and Cazwell have come to enjoy their nomadic lifestyle, one in which they celebrate Americana as much as anyone. You see, John Harrison is a rodeo clown and entertainer who spends a couple hours most evenings helping folks relax and celebrate.
The family will be in Briscoe County for Silverton’s Buck Wild Days Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16-Saturday, Aug. 18. It’s another part of the Harrisons lives together on the rodeo trail.
“I do this for the love of the sport,” said Harrison, of Soper, Okla. “Growing up with it, you enjoy it. Now I can actually make a living at it, so that helps.
“The friends and the ‘family’ you meet on the road is a big deal for us. Plus, if it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it.”
Harrison was raised in southeastern Oklahoma to a rodeo family. His grandfather was Freckles Brown, who, in 1962, won the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association bull riding world championship at the age of 42 – five years later, Brown mastered the previously unridden bull tornado during the 1967 National Finals Rodeo.
Yeah, Harrison comes from a pretty good pedigree, but, really, he’s making quite a name for himself as one of the premier barrelmen and contract acts in rodeo.
“I love what I do, but I’d say the best part is having my family on the road with me,” he said. “So many people have to go to work every day, drop their kids off at daycare, then not get to see them all day. I get to spend a lot of time with my kids. We get to travel, we get to see things, and I get to do something I love. My job’s fun. I love going to different towns, seeing the crowds and meeting new people. That’s great.”
It helps, too, that he’s good at what he does. Harrison spent years as a trick rider/roman rider/trick roper. He still uses those skills at rodeos today, but in a different capacity.
“When I started clowning, I started making a living at rodeo,” he said. “Every rodeo uses a clown, but not every rodeo uses a specialty act.”
So he now has a comedy trick riding act to go along with a substantial repertoire of entertaining pieces he shares with fans at rodeos all across the country. One is Miss Rodeo Universe, a parody on the perception of rodeo queens.
“Any rodeo you go to, you always hear a good rodeo queen story,” Harrison said. “There are queens falling off horses or not acting very ladylike. I just exaggerate all that. I get dressed in drag with a big ol’ hat, big boobs and a big butt.”
The result is fall-out-of-your-seat comedy, and it joins together well with the high-profile action provided by Carr Pro Rodeo, a Dallas-based livestock company that produces the annual Buck Wild Days Rodeo. Pete Carr believes fans want to be entertained by a top-flight production, which is what he’ll bring to Silverton.
“Pete and his crew are very easy to get along with, and he always gets the good cowboys,” Harrison said. “Pete puts on a smooth show, and a show that runs smooth makes my job easier.”