‘Shotgun’ Bob adjusts to travel, hard work to do what he loves

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 27, 2000

Imagine a man in bright clothing and face paint wearing big red shoes, suspenders, and a big smile, making a crowd of people laugh. Now imagine the same thing, but with a 2,000-pound angry bull snorting his way directly at him.

That scene is a real one for Bob Tipton, a rodeo clown traveling with the Tri-State Rodeo Association. Tipton and his group were in Natchez this weekend performing with the Flying J Rodeo Company at the annual Adams County Sheriff’s Rodeo at Liberty Park.

&uot;It’s a lot of hard work, and a lot of travel, but it’s what I&160;enjoy doing,&uot;&160;said Tipton, also known as &uot;Shotgun&uot; Bob.

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&uot;We’ve been out on the road with no break for the last three months, and in the last year, this past February is the only time we’ve had off,&uot;&160;Tipton said.

Tipton, 50, said he has been working as a rodeo clown for the past 27 years, and has been in the rodeo business since he was 13 years old.

&uot;I started riding bulls before I&160;got into clowning,&uot; he said. &uot;I&160;had been riding bulls for 10 years before I&160;got into clowning, and it was not my idea to get into clowning.

&uot;I&160;was getting ready before the show started for that night’s ride, and the owner, who was also the stock contractor, came up to me and told me that the clown for that night had gotten in a wreck, and that I was it.&uot;&160;

Tipton, who was born and raised in Nashville, Tenn., and now resides in Mobile, Ala., continued to ride for several more years, but now he focuses strictly on clowning.

Tipton admitted that while there is an element of danger in being a rodeo clown, he said he doesn’t let it bother him anymore.

&uot;After you’ve been around as long as I have, you know when it’s time to clown, and time to get out of the way,&uot;&160;he said.

Tipton, who was named the Southern Professional Bullriders Association Clown of the Year for 1999, recalled one event that almost sent him out of the business.

&uot;About 15 years ago, I was clowning at a show, and one of the cowboys who was saddle riding that night got his hand hung up on the horse somehow, and part of my job was to hold the horse down while the cowboy got his hand loose,&uot; Tipton said.

&uot;Well, I&160;finally got him wrestled down to the ground, and when the cowboy finally got loose, and I let go, that horse clamped down on my arm, and would not let go,&uot;&160;Tipton said, revealing a scar the wrapped around his entire forearm.

According to Tipton, there’s no secret about how to become a rodeo clown or what to do once someone becomes a clown.

&uot;You’ve just got to have that kind of personality, and I’ve been called a clown since as long as I&160;can remember, so that part’s been easy,&uot; he said.

Tipton said that although it looks easy, not just anybody can be a rodeo clown.

&uot;I&160;know a guy who wants to be a clown more than anything else in the world, but he’s just not funny at all.&uot;

‘Shotgun’ credits Jackie Rinehart as the man who got him to where he is today.

&uot;He showed me a lot of what I&160;know, and has been such a good friend over the years.&uot;

Tipton said he sees the business beginning to go &uot;commercial,&uot; which he says bothers him.

&uot;A lot of the clowns today are in it purely for the money,&uot;&160;he said. &uot;That bothers me a little bit, because the main thing a clown is out there for is to entertain the kids, and if the kids are happy, that in turn makes the parents happy as well.

&uot;I&160;go to rodeos nowadays, and I see clowns with booths set up on the side of the arena, and that’s just not right,&uot;&160;Tipton said.

Tipton said that after Saturday night’s show, he will be leaving to go to do some shows in Tennessee, and then one in Alabama.

&uot;We don’t get another day off until July,&uot;&160;Tipton said.

Such is the life of a rodeo clown.