Clowning Around

A cowboy's health may depend on the man with the big red nose

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Since the age of 6, Bert Davis dreamed of becoming a rodeo clown, and his dream came true. He will be this year's funny man for the 116th World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo in Payson.

Raised in Oakdale, Calif., Bert was exposed to the sport of rodeo at a young age, but he wasn't interested in riding bucking broncs or raging bulls. He wanted to entertain rodeo fans and be the safeguard for the cowboys he wanted to be the rodeo clown.

For the past 24 years, Davis has made audiences smile and laugh with his animal tricks and knee-slapping jokes. But until two years ago, clowning around in the rodeo arena was just a hobby for Davis, who made trucking and family life his primary occupations. With time and patience, however, his childhood dream came true and Davis became a full-time traveling rodeo clown.

"This is really hard for him because he is such a family man," his wife, Rhonda Davis, said. "He's only home for about three days every six weeks, but he does take our son with him for up to two months sometimes."

Davis' two children, 13-year-old Cody and 15-year-old Cheyenne, often help their father perform and have amassed extensive rodeo resumes of their own.

Davis began his rodeo clown career at the age of 16, making him one of the youngest performers in the business. He performed with his trusty steed, Professor, considered to be one of the smartest trick horses in the business.

Professor has since died, but Davis still doesn't leave his performances to chance. He faithfully conducts a good-luck ritual before each performance. A full face of red with white circles and dots make up his trademark clown's face, and although he might slightly alter his act from time to time, the face makeup goes untouched. His outer appearance isn't his only good luck charm,

"Before he leaves for every show, Bert prays at Professor's grave, thanking the horse for the start and wishing he were still his partner in crime," Rhonda said. "(It) makes me cry every time."

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