Opening credits sequence
The song RODEO by Garth Brooks begins
A series of pictures, both old and new, fills the screen. Scenes of
rodeos, cowboys and rodeo clowns in action are shown as the cast
names are overlaid.
The Dixie Chicks
Directed and Narrated by Clint Eastwood
Produced by Lucky Monkey Productions
A New Wave Cinema Release
As the credits end, the music of Garth Brooks is replaced by the
raucous sounds of a rodeo. We see a montage of clips where cowboys
are barrel racing, steer wrestling, calf roping, team-roping,
busting broncos and riding bulls.
Cowboys. Cattle. Horses. Leather. Sweat. Blood.
MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN COWBOYS by Waylon Jennings plays as the
The word rodeo comes from the Spanish word
rodear, meaning "to surround." It’s come a long
way from its roots in the 1860s and 1870s when
the annual branding of cattle encouraged informal
contests among the working cowboys. Once or twice
each year, cowhands rounded up the cattle on the
open range and drove them through miles and miles
of vast, open land to various stockyards across
Once there, competition was a common way to
celebrate the completion of their long trek and
successful delivery of their herd. Cowboys would
issue challenges to each other to see who really
was the best at cutting cattle or throwing a
rope. Spectators would inevitably gather.
As these events grew more organized, the
spectators wanted entertainment during the breaks
in the action.
This is where the rodeo clown was born.
We see a montage showing rodeo clowns doing rope tricks, dog acts,
stunt riding and audience-involving comedy acts.
Emerging from a fusion of circuses and Wild West
shows, the early rodeo funnymen enhanced their
character with minimal clown make-up. Early
clowns often wore an ancient straw hat and baggy,
bright colored clothes. They also usually had a
trained donkey or other interesting animal as
part of their act.
Delighting crowds with their antics, they played
pranks indiscriminately on cowboys, each other or
unsuspecting dignitaries. Their humor was seldom
subtle. After a full afternoon of rambunctious
visual comedy, it’s no wonder the crowd loved the
The clown's job, however, soon became more than
just entertaining the audience between events. He
also had to divert the attention of the crowd -
and often a wild animal - during a crisis.
The scenes shift from the light-hearted side of the clown’s job to
those of their lifesaving work. Narrow escapes from horns and
hooves, pulling riders free whose hands have been caught in the
rigging of a bucking bronco, and the especially dangerous act of
facing down a bull, one-on-one, fill the screen.
In the 1930s, Brahma bull riding became a
standard event. Because the bull will charge a
horse and rider, pick-up men on horseback can’t
be used as they are during bronco busting
competitions. A decoy was needed to distract the
bull while the rider dismounted safely, or to
free him if the cowboy was hung up on his
This job fell to the rodeo clown and a new form
of bullfighting was born. These grease-painted
matadors often appear to play with the bull once
a cowboy has been thrown off. This is actually to
allow the rider to escape any way he can. Unique
to rodeo and the American West, the job of the
clown required protecting the cowboy while
outmaneuvering the menacing bull through agility
We see a clown being thrown high into the air by a rampaging bull.
If necessary, the clown would put his own life at
risk to save the cowboy.
We are treated to another montage of clips, showing clowns using
their bodies and surroundings to distract less-than cooperative
Developing and borrowing numerous techniques
along the way, clowns tossed inner tubes or
flapped Spanish bullfighters' capes at storming
bulls. Today, technology aids the rodeo clown in
the form of safety gear and impact-cushioning
barrels. But most importantly, they’ve learned to
be bullfighters, and its deadly serious work.
CUT TO a clown who is standing next to the chute where a cowboy is
getting rigged in on top of a Brahma bull. The air is tense with
anticipation as he signals that he is ready, and the gate is
The bull flies out of the chute, spinning and bucking, moving
violently back and forth, doing all it can to forcibly remove the
rider from his back. The cowboy digs in with his legs, gripping a
rough-hewn rope within the iron grip of his left hand. His other
hand whips around as he keeps it raised high above his head.
The number 238, printed on the white paper attached to his back, is
a blur as the Brahma starts a sickening spin. The cowboy does all
he can but, 7 seconds after his ride began, he’s hurled from the
bull's back and tossed viciously to the hard dirt floor of the
The bull continues to kick and spin, and it is now that the rodeo
clowns move in. They move to strategic points around the bull, one
keeping a barrel between him and the beast. The second and third
clowns circle the bull, and the taller of the two moves up towards
the bull’s head.
He stares intently into the animal's eyes, and slowly circles
around, controlling the agitated creature as the cowboy walks off
to the applause of the crowd.
Our focus returns to the face-off of man and beast...
Getting as close as I can to the bull and having
the best moves is what it’s all about. The
‘hotter’ the bull, the better I am.
...as the clown playfully pops the bull on the snout and then runs
like hell for the fence. The bull shakes its head and gives chase.
CUT TO the clown who we just saw control the bull as he is resting
between events. His strong, muscular 6' 3" frame is leaning against
the railing of the fence that circles the rodeo ring, but his
attention is on the chutes from where the Brahmas are launched.
In the background we see the emcee of the rodeo riding about the
ring, announcing the next series of events and basically getting
the crowd ready for the rest of the day.
BILL GORDON – BULLFIGHTER
I'm a Bullfighter, plain and simple. When the
rider falls off of one of those Brahmas, it’s up
to me to step in. And when I’m in that ring, I'm
the triple threat. You see, taking on a bull...
(beat as he leans in for emphasis)
(beat as he leans back)
...takes the roughness of a football player, the
physical stamina of a hockey player, and the
mental toughness of a major league pitcher. If
you don't have the right confidence, attitude and
physical ability, well... let's just say you
better not go out there.
The screen fills with a cowboy being thrown violently from the back
of a spinning Brahma bull, and then narrowly escaping the
thundering hooves as the massive creature twists and turns. A
montage of hard throws and crushing landings accompanies the
The relationship between cowboy and rodeo clown
is one of great respect. The fallen cowboy comes
to depend on the bullfighters to distract the
bull while he regains his wits and makes it to
the safety of the fence or gate.
Bullriders account for almost 39% of all
injuries, with Bareback riders coming in second
at 23%. It’s the job of the clown to keep those
numbers as low as possible, and no one clown can
do it alone. Many Bullfighters work in teams to
better their chances of protecting the cowboys.
CUT TO an aging clown, backstage in a thrown together dressing room
that is basically a make-up tray on top of a few bales of hay. He
is slowly putting on his greasepaint, his attention focused on a
small, grimy mirror as he talks.
HANK TURNBULL - BULLFIGHTER
Protection bullfighting is the art of assisting
bull riders, and nothing more. It’s the only
sport where another man's physical well-being
depends on what you do, or what you don’t do.
It’s not about flash, and it’s not about points.
It’s about saving lives.
BILLY walks by and smacks HANK on the back, causing him to drop his
greasepaint into the hay.
See you out there, Judge! Let’s go fight us some
As HANK digs around in the hay, attempting to retrieve his
whiteface make-up, he is obviously bothered by the exuberance of
What I do is more than just technique and skill.
It requires working with your partner, reacting
to situations instinctively as a team, without
thinking. Unlike the freestyle bullfighting that
Billy loves so much, we're responsible for the
safety of not just ourselves, but also of the
rider, and of our partners.
HANK raises his chin to point at BILLY in the distance.
That kid has the talent, but unless he pulls his
head out, he's gonna keep getting people hurt.
CUT TO scenes of the rodeo getting started. The first riders are
just gearing up, so the clowns are out in force getting the crowd
warmed up for along day of rapid-fire events. Moving towards the
center of the ring stands a clown, lean and tough to be sure, but
also smaller than his compatriots.
The shorter clown is strolling out, huge moustache, goatee and
sideburns painted on his face, hands behind his back, apparently
whistling. As the camera pulls back we see that his casual demeanor
is in direct opposition to the fact that he is "walking" by rolling
out atop a huge yellow barrel, much as a lumberjack does on a log
in the river.
As he hits the center of the ring, he starts loosing his balance,
turning the casual stroll into a hilarious balancing act that he
eventually "wins" with the assistance of two other clowns, who we
recognize as BILLY and HANK by their costumes.
As the shorter clown stands atop the now upright barrel, hands
clasped and waved to the crowd in triumph, BILLY turns and
"accidentally" bumps the barrel. This topples the balancing
champion who falls into the barrel, disappearing from sight.
As the crowd roars hysterically with approval, we CUT TO the
balancing clown, backstage, preparing his barrel by packing all
kinds of props inside of it.
SAM ORR - BARREL MAN
I got into clowning because I love the rodeo. I
have nothing but respect for the cowboys -
especially the bareback riders - and so I do
everything I can to help them out of trouble. I
also love entertaining people - especially kids -
so that part of my job is something I take real
I'm pretty flexible, so I like to use physical
comedy, illusion and even sleight-of-hand to make
folks smile between the rides.
CUT TO a continuation of the previous scene as SAM pops up out of
the barrel like a jack-in-the-box.
He reaches into the barrel and pulls out a ridiculously large foam
cowboy hat, which he snugs down onto his head. He continues to pull
out costume parts and is quickly decked out in oversized chaps,
vest, gloves, and then firmly pins a gigantic five-pointed star
with the word SHERRIF on it to his vest.
SAM reaches into the barrel, pulls out a pair of impossibly large
six-shooters, and then swaggers off after BILLY. As he taps the
huge clown on the shoulder, BILLY spins and is shocked to see that
"The Sheriff" has arrived.
SAM makes excited motions with his guns towards BILLY, the yellow
barrel, and back to BILLY again as the other clowns run for cover
from the flailing sidearms. BILLY just looks shocked at the little
lawman and then breaks out into huge guffaws. This just steams up
SAM, who then makes motions indicating he’s going to take BILLY
into custody for laughing at an officer of the law.
This is met by a look of amazement from BILLY who shakes his head
"no". The crowd continues to howl with laughter as SAM does his
best to move the mountain of a man, with no success. Finally,
panting from the effort, he points his revolver at BILLY who now
realizes that The Sheriff is serious!
He runs off, with SAM in hot pursuit. Mass chaos breaks out as
clowns start running all over the place, and finally SAM corners
BILLY right near a group of kids in the stands. SAM takes aim and,
just as he squeezes the trigger, BILLY ducks. Streams of water
squirt out from the end of the oversized six-shooters and spray the
laughing kids as SAM looks embarrassed, smiles, and runs off.
The audience bursts into applause as the clowns take their place as
the first rider of the day has finished his preparations and is
ready to come out of the chute.
An old-time bullfighter named Jasbo was the first
to use a barrel after he grew tired of losing the
race to the fence with the bull. The barrel, or
'clown lounge' as it’s sometimes called, is also
a valuable tool that allows the clown to be
creative in their craft.
And in the competitive world of rodeo clowning,
any edge, any way to stand out is essential to
rising through the ranks and getting work at the
biggest and best rodeos around.
CUT TO scenes of each major rodeo venue when its name is mentioned
in the narration.
Rodeos are especially popular in the United
States and Canada, and about 2,000 rodeos are
held annually in these countries.
Today’s leading rodeos include Frontier Days, in
Cheyenne, Wyoming; the National Western Stockshow
and Rodeo, in Denver, Colorado; the Houston
Livestock Show and Rodeo, in Houston, Texas; the
Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, in Calgary,
Alberta and the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo,
in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Being a contract performer in the rodeo business
is one of the most challenging and competitive
careers you can choose, and no one starts at the
top, no matter how good they are.
CUT TO a shot of a venue that, while not tiny in any respect, is
obviously a smaller rodeo.
6TH ANNUAL SILVER SPUR ROUNDUP - POCATELLO, IDAHO
We move to the ready area for the clowns and cowboys who are
mingling more than usual due to the smaller size of the event. The
day is well underway. A local trick-roper artist is currently
entertaining the crowd, giving everyone else a much-needed rest.
Man, when I booked this I thought the contractor
said it was the Silver Spur rodeo. This looks
like the Silver Spud to me.
Stop your bellyaching and stay focused on the
next event. This may not be a big show, but the
Brahmas here are the same size as in Texas.
Yeah. Big and slow. I'm barely working up a sweat
out there. If I didn't need the money, I'd leave
after today’s show.
Look kid, you signed on for a three-day event,
and you'll finish out your contract.
Will you two stop your arguing? You're worse than
two broncs fighting over who gets to throw the
(getting into Hank's face)
Well, maybe a fight is what some people are
Times like this, I like to follow the advice of
And what's that, Hank?
Never approach a bull from the front, a horse
from behind, or a fool from any direction.
HANK turns and walks away as BILLY visually gets more upset. SAM
steps in front of the big clown and lays a calming hand on his
Billy? Billy, you look at me.
BILLY's angry gaze drops from the back of HANK and he glares down
into the eyes of SAM.
You just let it go. You know he's right, and you
gettin' into a scrap with him won't change the
facts. It’s only a couple of more days, and then
you're headed to California, right?
BILLY slowly calms down, easing off of his anger.
Yeah. Salinas. Meeting some old friends there and
doing some pick-up work before hitting Oklahoma
in a couple of months.
All right, then think about the bulls and drop
the bullshit attitude. Do your job and then go
out to sunny California while the rest of us are
stuck here in Podunk for another few weeks.
BILLY looks up one more time in the general direction of where HANK
walked off, looks down at SAM, and then flashes a winning smile.
Well, there is this one waitress in town who was
smilin' at me last night over dinner. Maybe I can
stand it for a couple more days.
SAM just nods and walks off
CUT TO interior shot of an old, beat up RV. HANK is behind the
wheel. A stream of oncoming headlights illuminates his face as he
drives down a busy section of the interstate.
On the radio, we hear the strains of MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN
COWBOYS by Willie Nelson.
The damned kid wants to be in the big game so bad
it’s startin' to cloud his sensibilities. The
problem is, he's all balls and no brains - just
like the bulls he fights. Let me break it down
for you this way, just like I do for the kid.
First and foremost, being a professional
bullfighter means getting your card.
Sorry, your Professional Rodeo Cowboys
Association card. The PRCA is top dog in the
rodeo game, for cowboys and for clowns. When I
used to ride, it took me 4 years to get my
Anyway, last year there were 150 active
bullfighters with their cards. There were also
about 700 sanctioned events. That means if all
the rodeos in the PRCA were divided up equally
among all the bullfighters in the PRCA, each
bullfighter works about eight rodeos a year. And
trust me; the rodeos are not divided up equally.
(beat as he looks down the highway)
What are your chances of making a living
bullfighting and working eight rodeos a year?
Piss poor, that's what. So if you ain't in it for
the money, you have to be in it for the fame or
the love. Me, I'm in it for the love. But
HANK shakes his head and just looks down the road
CUT TO an exterior shot of the bustle of a crowd, milling about and
filing into the stands of a large arena. There is obvious
excitement in the air.
REBA MCENTIRE PRO CELEBRITY RODEO - LAZY E ARENA, OKLAHOMA
As the crowd takes their seats, a man decked out in western finery
rides to the center of the arena. He has a wireless microphone in
his hand and, as the music is pulled down, he addressed the crowd.
Ladies and Gentlemen. Cowboys and Cowgirls.
Children of aaaaaaaaaaaaaaall ages. Welcome to
the Reba McEntire Pro Celebrity Rodeo. I am proud
to announce that we have once again sold out the
gate so give yourselves a fine round of applause
for putting your hard earned dollars towards
supporting the Oklahoma Children's Medical
The crowd breaks into heartfelt applause. As the clapping dies
down, the announcer starts his spiel back up.
And now, please help me in giving a warm,
Oklahoma welcome to the Queen of Country Music.
As the crowd bursts into a massive wave of applause, Reba McEntire
rides out, waving to the fans from the back of a dappled white and
gray mare. She is decked out in a costume similar to the one she
wore on stage in “Annie Get Your Gun.” She also has a wireless
microphone and as she and her horse sidle up to the ANNOUNCER, she
addresses the crowd.
Thank you all so much for coming to the rodeo
this weekend. All the attention that this event
is getting feels real good, and I thank God for a
lot of that. Things are rolling along right now,
and we're sure not stoppin' anytime soon! We’ve
worked hard, and this is the payoff for all that.
The crowd bursts into spontaneous applause and Reba waits
patiently, smiling and waving, until it subsides.
I want to take a moment before we get things
going to wish each and everyone of our cowboys
out here today the best of luck. Ride 'em hard,
cowboys, 'cause we're all with ya'!
And speakin’ of people we’re all with, please
rise and join us in singing the national anthem.
Here to lead us are some special friends of your
and mine – The Dixie Chicks!
As the crowd breaks into cheers, whistles and applause, REBA and
the ANNOUNCER ride off. The Dixie Chicks move to the center of the
arena, wave lovingly to their fans in the audience, and then settle
in to start the rodeo off with a soul-filled rendition of THE STAR
The camera pans around the arena, focusing on the heartfelt singing
of those in attendance. As the camera shifts it focus, we see every
cowboy, handler and clown, hats over hearts, singing along as well.
It is obvious that these are people who have as much pride in their
country as they do in their sport.
As the National Anthem ends, the crowd explodes into its loudest
applause yet. The scene of the enthusiastic and patriotic crowd
cross-fades to a picture of a Reba McEntire as a very young girl of
perhaps seven or eight years of age. The narration picks up as the
Born in McAlester, Oklahoma in 1955 to a musical
rodeo family, Reba McEntire grew up barrel-racing
and harmonizing with brother Pake and sisters
Susie and Alice. She was discovered while singing
the national anthem at the National Finals Rodeo
in Oklahoma City in 1975 and soon left the rodeo
life for a singing career in Nashville,
CUT TO Reba McEntire is seated in the living space of a fairly
luxurious RV. It is obvious by her stature and grace that she is
used to giving interviews, and she is at ease before the camera.
My roots with the rodeo run deep, so being
involved with a charity rodeo was as natural as
anything. Watching the cowboys out there, pitting
their minds and muscle against those horses and
bulls in good, clean fun. And watching how the
kids react, especially to the rodeo clowns, is
Those clowns go all out, one hundred percent,
full-fledged, all the way, every day. I just hope
that I can keep working as hard as they do.
CUT TO a close up of a cowboy, strapping himself onto the back of a
coal black bronco. The sound of Chris Ledoux’s CABALLO DIABLO
punctuates the excitement of the scene. The horse is literally
kicking at the gates of the chute, and explodes into the ring the
second the gate drops to the ground.
The cowboy lasts all of about three seconds before he is hurled off
of the back of the horse. The clowns move out to protect the cowboy
and a rider moves out to handle the bronco.
Man, look at the spirit in that one. They don't
call him Diablo for nothing, no sir. Now THIS is
what I call a rodeo.
CUT TO a shot of BILLY, in the stands at the Reba McEntire Pro
Celebrity Rodeo, wearing a simple outfit consisting of a T-shirt,
faded blue jeans and a Levi's denim jacket. The action continues
This is the kind of stuff I was born to do, but
you have to have your card, here. This is a
pretty high profile rodeo, so a lot of clowns
want to work it, to get seen.
Hank works this one, and Sam pulled in some
favors with the contractor to do one of his
specialty acts during one of the breaks. I'm not
so impressed by the bullfighters they got here,
Oh, they’re good and all - just not enough style.
I guess it’s who you know, sometimes, but I can
do anything they're doing out there.
CUT TO one-on-one interview footage with HANK. The footage seems to
have been shot during a break in the action at one of the rodeos.
The sounds of MAMA DON’T LET YOUR BABIES GROW UP TO BE COWBOYS by
Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings plays underneath the interview.
Just like the cowboys, we all make better money
and get better bookings if we can get into rodeos
that are on TV or ESPN. You can be the best at
your game, but if folks outside the rodeo never
see you, you don't go very far. That's why
getting on a televised rodeo is such a big deal.
Television is legitimacy.
CUT TO scenes of SAM entertaining the crowd by bringing out a HUGE
barrel. It’s so big he needs the help of two other clowns to roll
it out. The three tip it up on end, and SAM's assistants run off.
Someone like Sam can get good bookings because he
has the clothes and the comedy and the crowd’s on
his side all the time. I have to be the absolute
best at protecting the cowboys. I mean, it's a
great feeling when the crowd applauds and
appreciates your efforts. But the greatest
feeling for me is when a cowboy comes up and lets
you know how much he appreciates you being there
The act continues as SAM pulls a gigantic, oversized wand out of
the barrel. He moves around the arena, waving his arms about in an
overblown imitation of a stage magician. SAM grabs one of the
cowboys who is finished for the day, and did fairly well, and drags
him towards the barrel.
The crowd cheers and applauds, both for the cowboy and the clown,
excited to see what happens next.
SAM bangs on the side of the barrel, and then indicates that the
cowboy should do the same. He does, and seems to nod in agreement
that the barrel is solid. As the pair moves all around the barrel,
banging away on the sides, SAM quickens his pace enough to move
just out of sight of the cowboy.
SAM starts whistling for the cowboy to come ahead, to hurry up, and
in short order has him chasing the clown around the barrel. The
crowd howls with delight as the cowboy finally stops and SAM plows
headlong into the cowboy’s much larger frame and goes sprawling off
in slapstick fashion.
Picking himself up and dusting off while giving the cowboy a
comedic evil eye, SAM silently instructs the cowboy to move closer
to the barrel. When he is in position, SAM starts to wave the wand
around, and then accidentally drops it into the dirt.
SAM makes a sad face and the cowboy, with all the manners expected
of a Texas gentleman, bends over to pick it up. As soon as he is
bent double, SAM races over and uses the cowboy as a step up and
leaps to the top of the oversized barrel.
The cowboy buckles only a slight bit, stands strait up, and looks
around the arena, unable to find the clown. As SAM whistles down
and waves to the cowboy, the crowd applauds in approval of the
gymnastic feat. Just as quickly, SAM salutes the cowboy, salutes
the crowd, pinches his nose with thumb and forefinger and then
jumps down into the barrel.
As the cowboy backs up to get a better look at the barrel, it
starts to shake and shimmy. Loud, cartoon sound effects of banging
and boinging come from the public address system, and after about
10 - 20 seconds, the sound effects are replaced with a snare drum
Then, just as the anticipation of the crowd reaches it's peak, the
barrel falls apart into four pieces, and standing in the middle of
debris is an attractive, young, longhaired blonde in a cow print
one-piece bathing suit! SAM is nowhere to be seen and the crowd
bursts into raucous applause.
As the applause dies a bit, the girl points to the top of the
announcer’s booth where we see SAM firing off two oversized guns.
I'm not very funny and I don't do tricks. I'm a
bullfighter, not a clown.
The crowd goes wild as the girl runs off, the barrel is removed,
and we CUT TO
The strains of SUMMER’S COMIN’ by Clint Black fill the air as we
see a fourth of July celebration and parade in full swing.
Patriotic dress is everywhere, and a couple-of-hundred American
flags decorate the parking lot and entrance.
THE CODY STAMPEDE - CODY, WYOMING
HANK, SAM and three or four other clowns are backstage, treated to
almost proper dressing rooms. BILLY saunters in, with his kit bag
of protective gear, costume and make-up slung over his shoulder.
Hey, hey. Who let you in here?
Well, even though I don't have my card, there’s
an open freestyle bullfighting competition this
afternoon, so I signed up. I have to get noticed
Now that's finally some good thinking there, kid.
You sound almost surprised, Judge. You think I
can't put two ideas together, don't you.
(sensing another impending flare-up)
Hey, um, Hank. Why is it they call you The Judge?
Yeah. Go ahead and tell him, Hank. Why do we call
you The Judge?
Well, some folks say it’s because I'm so hard and
serious on the younger clowns.
(beat, looking at BILLY)
And others say it’s because I'm sober as a judge.
Yeah, you are now.
(angry, a bit ashamed, but proud)
Yep. For the last 12 years and 121 days.
Well... that's great Hank, really great.
I have to get ready for my show.
And I have to finish getting ready for my job.
CUT TO shot of Billy entering the arena as a bull is being prepared
in the chute. A tinny voice can be heard through the P.A. system.
Ladies and gentlemen, hailing form the great
state of Texas, Billy Gordon!
The crowd applauds politely as Billy waves in acknowledgement.
P.A. (cont./ V.O.)
And coming out of chute six, the meanest, rankest
bull this side of the Mississippi - TORNADO!
Suddenly, the gate is dropped and the Brahma bursts forth, spraying
dirt and mud as it spins and twists across the ring. BILLY starts
moving in circles, gauging and watching the erratic motions of the
bull. As he kicks and turns, it is easy to see where TORNADO got
CUT TO a one-on-one interview with BILLY, shot in the back parking
lot of a rodeo arena. Trucks used for moving livestock and tour
buses can be seen in the background.
The bull is like my dance partner, except we
ain’t never practiced together. The judges’ score
is 50 percent on what the bull does and 50
percent on the bullfighter’s style. If you're
lucky, you get the craziest bull they’ve got to
fight because it’s hard to earn points if you get
a tame bull.
CUT TO a continuation of the freestyle match between BILLY and
TORNADO. As the bull continues to kick and twist, BILLY starts
making his move inward, getting closer and closer to the huge
BILLY yells to gain its attention, and it settles just long enough
to grab a bead on the clown. BILLY moves in cautiously, maintaining
eye contact with TORNADO as he continues to slowly circle inward.
The closer I get to the danger zone, the braver I
get. I've gotta be aggressive and outsmart the
bull. If the bull doesn't work with me, then I
don't get any points.
Suddenly, TORNADO bursts forward, charging right at BILLY. He
dodges left, escaping a goring of his backside by the narrowest of
margins. As the bull spins and almost falls trying to change course
to pursue the brightly clad clown, BILLY bolts, zigzagging, running
towards the fence.
When the fence is close, BILLY stops, spins and faces the bull,
which is still charging. BILLY tips his hat to the oncoming
TORNADO, waves to the crowd, and then dives left just as the bull
bears down on him.
Again, the escape is narrow, and for the first time we notice that
the orange handkerchief that usually hangs from BILLY's back pocket
is actually stuck on one of TORNADO's horns. BILLY skids out from
harm’s way, vaults the fence, and jogs back to the waiting areas as
the crowd applauds in appreciation.
CUT TO the one-on-one interview with BILLY, shot in the back
parking lot of a rodeo arena.
I'm fast, strong, and as good-looking as a young
Tom Selleck, even behind all that whiteface. Now
that's just a hard combination to beat.
CUT TO a one-on-one interview with TOM SELLECK, shot at his ranch
in Southern California.
I was born in Detroit and grew up in a suburb in
the San Fernando Valley, but somehow, I’ve been
cast in quite a few westerns. I think it all
started with the mini-series, The Sacketts. I had
to learn to ride for that movie, and I had to
learn the whole idea of playing a cowboy. I loved
it. Unfortunately, I have never been the best of
CUT TO a clip from one of TOM's childhood home movies, showing him
at the pony rides. It's pretty ugly stuff as he looks scared and
can barely stay on the palomino.
I like to go riding with my daughter Hannah, but
she does it a lot better than me.
SELLECK starts chuckling.
SELLECK (cont. / V.O.)
Unlike me, Hannah began riding when she was four.
She's grown up with horses. She also loves to go
to rodeos, and she’s been pestering me to make a
movie about "those funny men". I'll bet they have
some really amazing stories to tell...
CUT TO a shot of HANK, going through an old trunk filled with
posters that he keeps in the back of his RV. He pulls out one in
particular, and pauses, as he looks it over.
Man, this one takes me back. I was still riding
at this time, bronco busting. I think I placed
third overall that year. I could have done
better, but that was in my hard drinkin' days.
Funny thing is, it was a hard of night of
celebrating a first place victory a couple of
weeks before that got me into this rodeo in the
You see, this was the last year of the Texas
Prison Rodeo. And since I was officially a
“guest” of the city of Huntsville - and they were
trying to drum up support to keep it going -the I
CUT TO scenes of cowboys and clowns doing their jobs in a somewhat
odd rodeo setting. The footage is a bit grainy and it becomes
obvious that this is archived footage from the late 1970's and
early 1980's. The song, FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES by Garth Brooks,
accompanies the images.
The Texas Prison Rodeo was launched in 1931
during the depression years, being first held at
a Huntsville baseball park outside the "Walls"
Unit. It was the brainchild of Lee Simmons,
Manager of the Texas Prison System.
With a lifespan of more than 50 years, the Prison
Rodeo evolved into a Texas tradition, held every
Sunday in October. Guest stars began appearing
starting with the 1951 rodeo, including Eddie
Arnold, Guy Willis, Curley Fox and Texas Ruby.
This started a yearly tradition that attracted
big names like Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb, Johnny
Rodriguez, Dolly Parton, John Wayne, Tom T. Hall
and Willie Nelson.
Due to the cost of much-needed renovations, the
rodeo was shut down after the 1986 event.
CUT TO the interior of a small distillery. WILLIE NELSON sits
comfortably on a stool, wearing his iconic headband and ponytails.
In the background are large, oaken casks, and bottles of Old
Whiskey River Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey can be seen sitting
atop the barrels.
Yeah, I remember those prison shows. They were
wild rodeos. All the cowboys and clowns were
inmates, so an old outlaw singer like me felt
right at home.
I hear that one time, one of the meanest cusses
in the state prison was riding and got thrown
hard by a bull. Well, it seems that the nearest
clown was a fella who blamed the thrown rider for
getting him into jail in the first place. Folks
figured the clown might just leave him there to
get trampled, but sure enough, he ran out and
whooped and hollered until the rider could get
As the story goes, when the cowboy asked the
clown why he saved him, he said, "It's my job.
Besides, I didn't want you hurting that poor
bull." Just goes to show how strong the bond
between the folks in a rodeo can be.
Of course, once the rodeo was over, those two old
boys beat the hell out of each other in the yard
and got six months added on for bad behavior.
CUT TO BILLY and HANK in a sparse dressing room, filled with
lockers and long benches. As we shift scenes, TWO OLD SIDEWINDERS
by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings plays in the background.
HANK is suiting up and BILLY is standing there in his street
clothes. HANK is surrounded by various pieces of protective gear,
from pads for his thighs, hips and tailbone to shin guards and
cleated shoes that cover the ankles.
Its like my granddaddy used to say, It's not if
your going to get hurt... it's when, and how bad.
As HANK tightens up a bulky protective vest, SAM walks into the
room, already dressed and ready to go.
Sam, you have to be the most together person I
know. You're always dressed and ready before some
people even have their gear on.
Why, thanks, Billy.
That's why Sam is going someplace. Aren't ya,
You know, that brings up something else that's
been botherin' me. Why don't I have a nickname?
I said, why don't I have a nickname? I've thought
up a few, and...
You don't give yourself a name - you earn it. For
better or worse.
Well, I think that I should start workin' out
what name would be good for me and then I can...
Look, kid, you need to figure what the hell it is
you really want. We're back here tryin' to get
ready to go and do our job and you're jawin’ on
about a nickname. You have to establish some
goals for yourself.
If your goal is to work the Wrangler National
Finals Rodeo as a bullfighter, you have to have
your card. If your goal is to work rodeos like
Cheyenne, Reno, San Antonio, Houston, Denver -
you have to have your card. If you want to be
recognized as one of the top bullfighters in the
world, you have to have your card.
(pausing to catch his breath and his composure)
If you want to earn a name for yourself, the
first step is to earn that card, kid. You've got
the talent. Now stop wasting it and you can start
working rodeos like these.
HANK turns and leaves a stunned BILLY and SAM behind. The two
clowns look at each other and SAM is the first to break the
He's tired and his leg’s hurtin' him today.
He just cares about you, Billy. A lot of us care
I'll be watching from the chutes today. Do a good
SAM nods quietly, pauses as if to say something more, and then
walks off. As he exits, the music subtly shifts to the opening
musical strains of CATHY’S CLOWN by Reba McEntire.
As the camera stays on BILLY, the music fades until it is overtaken
by the sounds of the crowd. The wave of sound builds until we...
CUT TO the rodeo in full swing. A bronco rocks and bucks with
amazing ferocity, whipping the cowboy around the arena.
SIDNEY IOWA RODEO
The camera pans from the action to the staging area where a group
of cowboys are gathered - eagerly and nervously waiting their turn
in the ring. As the group mills about, TWO COWBOYS come into focus.
Last night I had a bull camp on me, and the clown
got me out. Earlier today, that same damn bull
was fixing to camp on me again. If it wasn’t for
the fighters, I’d be in the hospital.
They're real lifesavers. You can't say enough;
they don't get enough credit.
Yeah, you know, I asked one of the clowns why he
kept comin' back out here year after year,
runnin' at those Brahmas. He said it was for the
same reason I rode 'em. To meet cute nurses.
The TWO COWBOYS laugh, but are interrupted by an audible gasp
rising from the crowd, the camera swings wildly and moves, jerking
about as the cameraman runs the 20 feet or so to get a look at what
is happening in the arena.
Near the chutes, a freak accident has occurred where the bull in
competition has kicked open a gate and another bull has broken into
the arena. As the clowns move to separate the two animals, the
rider on the first bull falls. As he struggles to maintain his
balance, his spurs get tangled in the ropes, and the bull kicks
off, dragging him along.
The cowboy is in serious danger of being trampled, and the majority
of the clowns who are trying to deal with the second bull don't see
the fallen rider. HANK, however, does and spins to distract the
Brahma. As he turns, his cleats get caught on a rough crack in the
arena floor and he wrenches his inured knee. His scream of pain
momentarily distracts the bull and alerts the other clowns, but
they have a huge problem of their own as the two bulls have now
seen each other.
Suddenly, a form rushes out from the chute area, waving his arms
and screaming like a wild, wounded coyote. It’s BILLY, racing
towards the bull that has already landed a hoof or two on his
The Brahma spins to take the distraction head on, but BILLY doesn't
slow - he just keeps coming. The crowd tenses and time seems to
stand still as BILLY runs full speed towards the bull. At the last
second he jumps right over the animal’s head, lands on it’s back
and barely hangs on to the rope.
As the bull sways under the clown's weight, BILLY works to free the
cowboy. Although the crazy stunt only buys him a few precious
seconds, it’s all he needs. The jarring motions of the ride,
coupled with BILLY's urgent manipulations, ends up breaking the
spur assembly, freeing the cowboy.
As the dazed rider stumbles to his feet, SAM comes over, rolling
his bright yellow barrel. He has an air horn that he’s blasting,
which quickly attracts the attention of the Brahma. SAM rapidly
sets the barrel into an upright position, and as he continues to
taunt the bull with loud blasts, he reaches into his back pocket
and pulls out an oversized, purple handkerchief, which he begins to
wave wildly in the air.
As the bull moves towards the new sights and sounds, BILLY grabs
the stunned cowboy and drags him to the fence near the chute.
CUT TO the interior of a darkened, country bar. This is definitely
not one of those boot-scootin' Electric Slide joints, but a place
where serious people do serious drinking. The dark-paneled room is
mostly empty, but we are right next to HANK who is sitting at the
end of the bar.
KILLIN’ TIME by Clint Black plays over the tattered speaker of the
old Jukebox that dimly illuminates the corner of the bar.
His head is down and he is staring at a slightly dirty tumbler
filled with whiskey. The voice of the CAMERAMAN can be heard above
the music playing in the background.
Hank? Mr. Turnbull? Are you...
(not looking up)
It was too close. No room to move that close to
the chutes. And my damned knee gave out. I just
lay there and yelled, trying to make that bull
look at me.
He stares at the drink, slowly moving his hand to its rim. He
continues as he runs his fingers along the smooth edge of the
I couldn't do my job out there today. Not that
I'm saying a man in his forties with over twenty
years of rodeo work, 14 different broken bones, 3
concussions, a dislocated jaw and occasional
internal injuries is cause for slowing down...
but I couldn't do my job. And a man almost died
because of it.
HANK's hand stops and he carefully grabs the whiskey glass. He
lifts the tumbler up to the dull light, and stares into the warm
luminosity of the alluring, amber liquid.
We can see the gears of his mind turning as he weighs the events of
the day against those of his life. He slowly puts the glass back
down, reaches into his shirt pocket, and pulls out a five-dollar
bill. He puts it across the top of the whiskey, and, without ever
It’s time to go.
CUT TO a huge parking lot outside of a large arena.
WRANGLER NATIONAL FINALS RODEO - LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
HANK is unloading his gear from the RV. SAM pulls up in his Ford F-
150, a small trailer in tow behind, and the song SIN WAGON by The
Dixie Chicks blaring on the radio. Painted on the trailer is a
fanciful depiction of SAM's make-up motif and the name THE SHERIFF
in large, western block letters.
SAM gets out of his truck, and walks over to HANK.
How the leg, Judge?
It'll get me through one more show.
That's how I look at it. If I can get through
just one more show, then...
No. I mean this is my last show. I'm done after
Sam, I almost took a drink after that fall in
Iowa. I got my knee braced up by the doc, came
out to the old girl, here, and drove straight
away to one of my old haunts.
As I sat there and stared down that whiskey, I
realized that the one thing that had helped me
make it through all the years since I had to stop
riding had finally driven me back to the bottle.
I love the rodeo too much to disgrace it by
having it be the reason I fall off the wagon. I
can't do it any longer, Sam. My body just won't
do what my mind tells it, and I can't afford to
lose my mind trying.
As SAM reacts and is about to speak, an older, black Dodge Ram
pulls up and skids to a stop. BILLY opens the door and literally
leaps from the cab.
I got it! I got it! Hot damn, Hank, I got it!
HANK and SAM turn as BILLY rushes up to the RV.
You impressed the lead bullfighter out there in
Iowa, so he was glad to sign for you.
The contractor told me that since I jumped that
bull and it made it onto all the sports networks,
he wanted to be on the Wrangler tour. He said
there was a spot for a bullfighter opening up
next season, so here I am!
Don't you have to have two bullfighters and a
stock contractor sign for you? Who was the
HANK and BILLY look at each other, and after a moment, BILLY offers
his hand to the veteran clown.
You were right, Hank. Do things right, earn your
card, and they hire you. From now on, I want to
do it right.
That's all you can do, kid. And it’s about time.
As the two grin at each other, SAM rushes forward and kisses BILLY
full on the lips!
BILLY's eyes go wide with shock and surprise, and after a second,
he pushes the smaller man off of him.
WHAT THE HELL?
HANK explodes into laughter as SAM looks around the parking lot,
just as stunned by his own outburst as BILLY is.
AND WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU LAUGHING AT, OLD MAN?
As BILLY looks back and forth between the other two clowns, his
face shows a mix of confusion and anger.
I didn't ask you a damn thing, you... you...
Both SAM and BILLY turn, their faces now frozen in a look of
stunned surprise. They speak at the same time, their words
What do you mean?
How did you know?
It’s simple, when you take time to look at it.
You always show up dressed. You leave without
changing. But your biggest tell was that you
started out by working the barrel. Oh, you're a
fine clown, Sam, but the barrel is usually the
spot for those folks who can't work the bull,
Wait, wait, wait. You're trying to tell me that
(points at SAM)
...is a she?
Yes, he is... and I am.
But... Ah, man, what the hell?
I've always loved the rodeo, but papa wouldn't
ever let me ride. When I turned 18, I wanted to
start working towards getting my Women's Pro
Rodeo Association card, but even though I had the
right, I didn't have the heart to go against the
wishes of my papa.
So you became a clown?
(seeing the light)
Hiding behind the make-up.
Exactly. Clowning is an old boy’s club, but it
also meant that if I could get in, no one - not
even my father - would ever guess I was a woman.
I love entertaining, so I focused on specialty
acts, physical comedy, and working the barrel.
I worked every single rodeo that I could, no
matter how small, for five years. This year, I
finally got a shot at working at that PRCA event
in Oklahoma. Maybe it was the stress at having to
hide myself away for so long, but I couldn't help
it Billy. I'm sorry.
SAM turns and slowly starts to walk to her truck.
Billy, you know my granddaddy used to say?
BILLY turns his gaze from the retreating SAM to look at HANK.
No, Hank. I don't know what he used to say, and
He used to say, "Fighting a bull is like dancin'
with a girl. The rider has to match the rhythm of
Don't let a good partner get away, kid. Hmm...
Billy the Kid. Could stick...
HANK turns back to the RV, and continues collecting his gear,
preparing for his last day at the office.
BILLY thinks it through and, true to his word, does it right as he
jogs over to SAM.
WHAT THEY ALL CALL LOVE by Vince Gill begins to play as the camera
pulls back as we follow HANK who is now walking towards the arena's
back entrance. The morning sun draws his form into the silhouette,
his bag of gear over one shoulder.
With more than 170,000 fans attending the
Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, and
more than 13 million viewers tuning into the
finals on ESPN, rodeo is more popular and more
competitive than ever.
Within this courtly arena, the rodeo clown is the
royal jester. The quality of his performance
fascinates the crowd without distracting the
clown from his primary duty of keeping the rider
safe. Although his face is painted, his clothes
are wild, and his antics are sometimes
ridiculous, the ability of a rodeo clown to keep
the cowboys out of harm’s way shows us time and
again why they he is the unsung hero of the
CUT TO a still frame of each of the rodeo clowns with the following
text overlaid on the appropriate image.
BILLY GORDON went on to finish second in the
Wrangler National Finals Rodeo bullfighter
competition and is currently slated to appear in
four nationally televised PRCA events. He and
Samantha June Orr are engaged and plan to
sometime before the summer season starts.
SAM ORR left active clowning to open a
consultation service dealing with specialty acts,
costuming and make-up. Her greatest trick, The
Sheriff and The Cowgirl, was easy when changing
from a clown to a cowgirl is as simple as
stripping off one layer of clothes and putting on
a blonde wig while an understanding brother
waited patiently hidden atop the announcer’s
HANK TURNBULL is currently teaching at the
Colorado River Rodeo School in Arizona and judges
local and national bullfighting competitions.
He’s been sober for 12 years and 302 days.
End Credits roll to the sounds of IT AIN’T THE YEARS, IT’S THE
MILES by Chris LeDoux.