GUYMON, Okla. – Peering through the reflective glass at his past, Justin Rumford was a comedy act waiting to happen.
As a high-schooler in south-central Kansas, his actions oftentimes proved to be a mix of his small-town raising, a life lived on the rodeo trail and a hunger for a good time. He carried that on to the next level when he attended Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, and it was a big part of his lifestyle in the early stages of his rodeo career.
There isn’t anything in rodeo that the fortysomething man hasn’t done. He’s been a bullfighter and a pickup man and a bronc rider and a bulldogger. He’s roped calves and roped steers, and through every layer of his life, he told funny tales, oftentimes about his own life. It made his transition into a popular rodeo clown that much easier.
Rumford, who lives in Ponca City, Oklahoma, with is wife and their triplets, will return to the Oklahoma Panhandle for the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 5; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
“We like having Rump around, because he’s funny and he’s a lot like the rest of us,” said Jeremy Carman, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo. “He is a great fit for our rodeo and the people who live out here in the Panhandle. He’s really one of us.”
Whether he’s telling reride stories behind the chutes or entertaining the crowds who pile into Hitch Arena, it’s Rumford being Rumford. It’s the way he was as a 16-year-old in Abbyville, Kansas; it’s the way he is in his mid-40s. The stories are different, but they’re still comical.
“He’s very easy to work with, because he understands rodeo so well,” said Ken Stonecipher, a longtime committee member and one of the announcers who calls the action in Guymon. “He understands what we need as a rodeo production, and he knows the right times to turn on his microphone and entertain the fans.
“It’s almost like he’s visiting with each person in the stands. He makes it comfortable and funny. There’s just something special about the things he does.”
It’s the reason why he’s been named the PRCA’s Clown of the Year 10 times over his relatively short career in greasepaint. Rumford’s storytelling and comedic techniques have come from a lifetime of experiences. He utilizes all that for RümpChät, a popular podcast he does with another rodeo personality, Josh “Hambone” Hilton, who is the sound director in Guymon each May.
“It’s not just a rodeo podcast, but it’s very agriculture,” Rumford said. “We have a lot of farmers, ranchers and oilfield workers who listen. We’re a blue-collar, beer drinking-man’s podcast.”
What’s said on air sometimes transitions into the rodeo arena, and vice versa. With a personality where life imitates art, Rumford is quite at home around bucking horses and timed-event steers.
“I totally adjust everything,” he said. “You don’t want to push somebody on what they want to hear. When you’re in die-hard rodeo country, you have to feel it out and see what happens.
“In Guymon, they’re rodeo-savvy, but they like to party. They are my kind of people.”