Friday Five: Rodeo Deaths

Ken Morton, Jr. | August 5th, 2011

Earlier this summer, the family and I headed to the Auburn Wild West Stampede Rodeo and watched a day’s worth of the festivities. Early in the day, the cowboys were qualifying for the bull riding finals when one of the riders had an awkward dismount and landed in a heap at the bull’s feet. The two “rodeo clowns” hopped into action and distracted the bull away from the cowboy. In the process, the bull lifted one of the clowns up off the ground between his horns and smashed him straight into the metal gate. The bull ran off and the clown collapsed. The sell-out crowd gasped in unison and cowboys from all over the rodeo ran to his side. It looked as if every single one of his ribs must have been broken and every inch of him must have had internal bleeding. But amazingly, after a couple minutes, he was up on his feet and was helped out of the ring.

An ambulance was on hand behind the rodeo ring and I watched as he was loaded into the back. But it never left to the hospital. Less than three riders later, that same rodeo clown was back out in the ring doing his thing- saving cowboys and distracting bulls. A huge ovation swept the arena when he re-entered the ring. It’s one of the more amazing things I’ve seen and a testament to pure toughness—and craziness—of those cowboys. Injuries or not, this wannabe cowboy probably would have stayed in the fetal position for several weeks after being smashed by a one-ton bull.

These stories don’t always end up smelling like roses, however. Country music has its share of rodeo songs that end up with cowboys being on the wrong side of the roses. In classic morbid Friday Five fashion, here are five songs about rodeo deaths.

 

5. Garth Brooks — “Good Ride Cowboy”

While Garth’s “Beaches of Cheyenne” probably is the more appropriate song choice here, it would be a travesty to not include this little tribute to the king of rodeo songs himself, Chris LeDoux. After the death of his idol, Garth released this number written by future star Jerrod Niemann.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAspzKupufg

 

4. Craig Morgan — “Cowboy and Clown”

In this melancholy rodeo song, a clown appropriately named Crazy saves a cowboy, but meets his end down the road. “It ended one night, in a West Texas town/The bulls either got faster, or ol’ Crazy slowed down.”

 

3. Marty Robbins — “Old Red”

This 1963 release from the great western story-song singer tells of the poor tale of old Billy McLean that got the wrong end of the bull. This video is from Marty’s own television show.

 

2. Chris LeDoux — “The Ride”

While LeDoux’s protagonist doesn’t meet his end on any mortal eight-second ride, he does refer to meeting his maker in a rodeo way across the great beyond. “Well I know some day farther down the road/I’ll come to the edge of the great unknown/There’ll stand a black horse riderless/ And I wonder if I’m ready for this/So I’ll saddle him up and he’ll switch his tail/And I’ll tip my hat and bid farewell.”

 

1. Charlie Daniels — “El Toreador”

A Spanish rodeo includes the controversial practice of bullfighting. In this particular case, the bull takes out the handsome El Toreador before meeting his own end.

  1. BLL
    August 5, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    “God Bless Chris LeDoux!!!” I do miss him.

  2. TooColdatHome
    August 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Good topic!
    Chris LeDoux’s got a pack of these that are excellent involving death and the rodeo life:
    Joade the Rodeo Clown
    One Less Tornado
    Caballo Diablo

    I know the intention is the obscure, but there’s always Garth Brooks’ “Beaches of Cheyenne.”

  3. idlewildsouth
    August 7, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    The original Charlie Daniels version isn’t quite as haunting as far as production goes of Cabillo Diablo, but it’s good in its own way.

Tagged In This Article

// // // // //

Current Discussion

  • Leeann Ward: Interesting! I just got an email from Amozon saying that they cancelled my preorder of Jamey Johnson's Christmas album due …
  • luckyoldsun: Jim Z-- I get the feeling Barry was this close to calling you what Kinky Friedman called his guy from El …
  • Leeann Ward: Thanks, NM. I like a good pop hook, to be honest. So, maybe I need to try it again.
  • Barry Mazor: OK, Jim Z. That changes everything. I surrender.
  • Jim Z: to call the Dirty River Boys an "Austin area band" is still incorrect. They are based in El Paso.
  • nm: Leeann, you and I often have similar tastes in more-traditional country. And, to my ears, Sam Hunt's voice and lyrics …
  • Barry Mazor: Matter of fact, as always--I did. The notes say the album was recorded & mixed by and at "The …
  • Roger: Looking forward to picking up the Jamey Johnson Christmas EP - love all of those songs and can't wait for …
  • Jim Z: that record was recorded in El Paso. (you could look it up) and other than appearing in Austin once in …
  • Leeann Ward: Yes, I can always use more dobro in my life! Thanks for the Phil Leadbetter tip! I haven't been able to …

Recently Reviewed Albums

  • walkerandthetexasdangers3
  • deadmanstown
  • tom t hall storytellers
  • paulthorntooblessed
  • duhksbeyondtheblue
  • kelleymickwee
  • sandrarhodes
  • candi staton