The Voice

Johnny Pope tells it like it is, from horseback

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The voice of the World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo is back, and if his name doesn't ring a bell, his voice probably will. Johnny Pope will return to Payson this year to be the announcer for the town's 116th rodeo extravaganza.

Johnny and his horse, Dude, have been coming to Payson's rodeo for so many years that even Johnny has lost count.

His style is to announce on horseback, allowing for commentary from the cowboys, queens, clowns and bullfighters. Pope calls the action from the ring, lending an air of extra excitement to each event and causing Pope's wife, Janet, who watches from the announcing booth as a rodeo deejay, a touch of worry.

And sometimes her worry is warranted. One time Dude was not behaving as he should, and a bull was trying to hook him with his horns, Pope said.

"(Janet) was more worried about Dude," he joked.

That was classic Dude, Pope said. The horse has worked rodeos with Pope for 16 years and he likes to do things his own way now and then, the announcer said.

But that's OK with Pope, who isn't your typical announcer. Sitting in a booth behind a microphone just isn't his style.

Pope's career has been unconventional from the start. In 1972, Pope was entered as a bareback rider in a rodeo in Alabama and was roped into announcing the show because the real announcer didn't show up. He's had a microphone in his hand ever since.

Johnny's voice and unique announcing style keep him in high demand by rodeo fans around the country and in Payson.

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