Standing on the red dirt floor of the rodeo arena, three men have gathered to discuss their professions. It turns out that one of the trio is fairly normal.
The other two are crazy.
There’s no exaggerating that Robert Blue Jeanes risks his life so that others may play games. And John Harrison will stand before a creature that will slam into his body as would an accelerating car with a wet nose. He will also make us laugh, help us forget troubles, at heart a performer.
The third man is Greg Simas, whose job is to report to us what Jeanes, Harrison and others on the red dirt floor are doing from his perch far above the madness. He also needs to work the crowd, to make us “ooh” and “ah” as things unfold.
The three men are in town for the Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo, the 91st edition at the Mosaic Arena, which starts today and runs through Sunday. There’s also a rodeo parade Saturday morning in downtown Arcadia. Expect surprises there too.
Rodeo tickets are a hot commodity, partly because of the trio on the red dirt floor.
Blue Jeanes, understating that his parents had a sense of humor, works as a bullfighter, one of two men in that role this week who distract bucking bulls as cowboys dismount or are ejected from their wild ride aboard the thrashing animal. His job gets more dangerous if the rider is hung up on the roping he holds to keep on the bull. These bullfighters place themselves before a steaming, twisting locomotive that could crush them into powder if it so wished, Jeanes will tell you. The object of his trade, he said, is to work in circles within inches of the bull’s front end. “You don’t get behind them and you don’t run a straight line,” said Jeanes, who is based in Texas, “because they’re faster than you are.”
John Harrison is another layer in the insanity on the red dirt floor. As rodeo clown and barrelman, his job is to protect the bullfighters and the cowboys, using his barrelsuit as his shield, also playing off Simas to entertain thousands of awestruck fans expected at each show over the four-day run. Harrison, based in Oklahoma, fell into his trade. The grandson of a champion bullrider, the rodeo clown at an event he worked failed to show. “And I filled in,” Harrison said of his now full-time gig. “It’s a thrill to entertain the crowd.”
Simas is a former U.S. Marine called upon a few years back to fill in when a rodeo announcer pulled the same no-show as Harrison’s rodeo clown. As an announcer in the modern Big Leagues of rodeo, Simas views his role historically. Authentic rodeo, pioneered in Florida between competing ranchhands 500 years ago, is vital to American tradition, he said. “It’s a big part of our Western heritage,” he said. arcadiarodeo.com