CLAREMORE, Okla. – Dale McCracken has multiple personalities, but it’s not a disorder.
It’s quite the opposite, really. Like a superhero donning his cape, McCracken covers his face with greasepaint and enters the world of his alter-ego, Gizmo, the funnyman/barrelman who has entertained rodeo crowds for much of his life. It’s as if Dale drives and Gizmo does all the work, but it works well for McCracken.
“The guy that wears the makeup gets paid better, that’s for sure,” said McCracken, who will be one of the featured acts at the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 27-Sunday, May 29, at Will Rogers Stampede Arena. “The name came along several years ago. I worked on a music show in Branson (Mo.) for about eight years, and there you’ve got to have a stage name.
“So with all the gizmos and gadgets I had, they came up with the name, “Gizmo, the Ozarks Greatest Inventor. So instead of selling a particular act, I sell a character.”
That character carries on several personas, but they’re all comedic. His entertainment includes the Buchin Ambulance, Gizmo’s Sir-rink-in Machine, Mustang Sally, Chicken Rocket and a golf act. During much of the rodeo, he’ll do what is called the “walk and talk,” sharing his comedy with the audiences each night of the three-performance rodeo.
“We’ve got a lot of stuff planned for Claremore,” said McCracken, still referring, possibly, to his multiple personalities. “It’s been awhile since we’ve been there, but we’ve got a lot of friends and fans there. It’s always good to go to a rodeo where you see a bunch of fans.
“The big thing we do is the ‘walk and talk,’ and we work it from the hello to the end. I’ll bring out a lot of characters throughout the rodeo, because I think if you come for more than one night, you should see the different characters.”
McCracken joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1992 and has earned several honors in that time: he’s worked several PRCA circuit championships and has been a nominee for the association’s Comedy Act of the Year. Five times, he’s been named the ACRA Clown of the Year and has worked the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days, quite possibly the most prestigious regular-season rodeo in the country.
“Probably the hardest part of the job is just leaving the house,” said McCracken, who lives in Wheaton, Mo. “You need to read the crowd, and we change our stuff up to blend in. If the crowd is a rowdy bunch, then you have to work a little faster. If the crowd’s laid back, then we’ll slow it down a little.”
At each rodeo, there are a variety of duties for McCracken. As a comedian, he will interact with the crowd throughout each performance and put on skits that tend to leave fans in stitches. During bull riding, he continues to provide comedic relief as well as a necessary tool for the bull riders, bullfighters and others that are in the arena.
“First of all when I’m in the barrel, my best friend is Jesus, and my second best friend is the barrel,” he said. “It’s your safe haven there a lot. It also has its important part for cowboys and bullfighters to use, a place for them to go in the arena if they’re in a bind. That barrel is like that one tree out in the middle of the desert that gives you a little protection.”
And it’s also a heavy object with which some of the feistier bucking beasts love to play. So what’s it like for McCracken to be hit with that much force?
“It’s like getting into an aluminum trashcan and put into the back of a pickup going down the road at 35 miles per hour,” he said. “Then when you get up to speed, you have your buddy throw you out of the pickup, and you just bounce along down the road.
“The first time they hit you, it’s like a carnival ride. Then they hit you again, and it’s more like a car accident that turns into a carnival ride. It’s a pretty exciting tilt-o-whirl.”
So is McCracken’s life as a rodeo clown. He spends many weeks on the road, working events in several states, but he loves what he does. He enjoys the crowds and the excitement that comes with rodeo, and loves to see the smiles and hear the laughter.
“I really enjoy seeing people have a good time,” McCracken said. “Maybe there’s a guy that’s had it pretty rough, is struggling some. If we can just get him to the rodeo and use our last American heritage sport to help him forget his troubles, then he’s had a good night, and we, as a rodeo, have had a good night, too. Laughter is pretty good medicine, and the way things are right now, everybody needs a shot.”