DUNCAN, Okla. – Much has changed in the life of Justin Rumford over the past two years.
Since he last worked the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo in October 2012, Rumford twice has been honored as the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Clown of the Year. His triplets were born in September 2013.
He returns to this year’s championship – set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16-Saturday, Oct. 18, at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center in Duncan – with a whole new legacy, both in and out of the arena.
“This clowning deal is the best thing I’ve ever had,” said Rumford, who grew up in a rodeo family at Abbyville, Kan. “It’s something in rodeo that I can have a lot of longevity in. There’s not just a ton of risk, and it’s something I enjoy so much.”
It’s as if he finally found his niche. There isn’t much in the sport of rodeo that he hasn’t done, from bullfighting to picking up to working as a flankman to riding broncs. He’s roped and bulldogged. He’s driven thousands of miles with bucking beasts loaded behind him.
These days, though, he totes his young family with him from one rodeo to another. He and his wife, Ashley, make sure the triplets are a big part of everything they do.
“This year’s been way better,” he said. “Last year was really hard, because Ashley goes with me and takes care of everything for me; she couldn’t go last year because of the triplets.”
That’s definitely changed. In fact, the Rumford clan has worked several events in the Prairie Circuit, the ProRodeo region made up of events and contestants primarily from Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. This summer, Justin Rumford has worked rodeos in North Platte, Neb.; Kansas events in Strong City, Pretty Prairie, Dodge City and Coffeyville; and Oklahoma stops in Elk City, Altus and his hometown of Ponca City.
In addition to being the reigning two-time clown of the year, Rumford also was named the 2013 Coors Man in the Can for his work as a barrelman. It’s the all-encompassing aspect of the cowboy’s life as one of the premier entertainers in rodeo.
“I’ve been involved in rodeo my whole life,” he said. “I’ve never done anything else, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I’ve always wanted to be successful. A (few) years ago when I started this venture, I knew if I worked really hard and tried really hard that I could get to the top in a hurry.”
He’s there, and he has the opportunity to play before the crowd in Duncan for the second time in three years.
“People want to laugh at each other more than they want to laugh at something,” Rumford said. “When I’m in the arena, I’m saying the same stuff I’d say if I wasn’t clowning.
“It’s just me being me.”
He is a three-time circuit finals qualifier in steer wrestling. He worked the finale in 2011 and 2012. Last October’s Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo marked the first time in Rumford’s life he hasn’t been part of the championship.
“It’s something I’ve always done,” said Rumford, who also worked the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in 2013. “I’ve flanked bucking horses there, been the chute boss, flanked and untied calves. I’ve made the full circle.
“I just feel blessed to do something I love this much.”