Daily photos by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Hanson McBay practices being a rodeo clown at his family’s farm in Athens, standing on a barrel specially sized for a child.
8-year-old serious about clowning around
Limestone youngster has tail-busting good time practicing to be rodeo clown
By Holly Hollman
ATHENS — At age 8, Hanson McBay has chosen a career that requires wearing face paint, falling on his butt and dodging more than 1,600 pounds of fury.
His mama couldn’t be more proud.
Hanson’s aspiration is to be that suspenders-wearing, painted-face-grinning, barrel-diving character in the arena who entertains the crowd between events and protects cowboys from bulls.
Yep, a rodeo clown.
“I just like putting on the makeup and having fun,” the Creekside Elementary second-grader said before his appearance at a rodeo in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Hanson’s mom, Jennifer McBay, said her son became enthralled with Lone Star Rodeo Co.’s rodeo clown/bullfighter “Mighty” Mike Wentworth three to four years ago.
Hanson saw Wentworth perform with a rubber chicken, outlandish outfits and fireworks at the annual Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo in Athens.
“He can mimic Mike, walk like him and do his routines,” Jennifer McBay said. “Hanson gets us to announce him when he’s playing around the house like he’s actually performing before a rodeo crowd.”
Hanson runs from a young bull he provoked more than he intended.
Wentworth, 26, has been a rodeo clown since he was 15. Aware of the hero worship, Wentworth has incorporated Hanson into his routine.
“Hanson is a character,” Wentworth said. “I see a lot of myself in him.”
So did the crowd at Murfreesboro.
Hanson donned tattered, baggy Wranglers held up by suspenders, just like his idol. Wentworth then covered Hanson’s face with white and red paint, plopped a cowboy hat on his head and told him to stay out of sight.
Hanson waited near the horse pens while the opening ceremonies started so the crowd wouldn’t see him. His curiosity about the goings-on in the arena peaked, however, so he clamored up the fence rails to see Old Glory outfitted with lights that shine during the National Anthem. He held onto a rail with one hand and put the other on his chest and said, “You gotta put your hand over your heart for the soldiers.”
His patriotic duty done, Hanson then weaved his way around stomping and galloping horses as he waited for his cue.
“I gotta hide in there,” Hanson said, and opened a door on a white box labeled DR. IBEN CRAZYS TIME MOSHINE.
After cowboys got bucked and thrown from horses in the bronc-riding event, Wentworth pulled the box with Hanson inside into the arena. During the skit, Wentworth told the crowd he could send things into the past or the future with the “time machine,” but when he put a live chicken inside, it came out featherless and smoking.
Daily photo by Holly Hollman|
Hanson McBay with his idol, rodeo clown Mike Wentworth, at the Murfreesboro rodeo.
The cooked chicken was actually a rubber chicken with powder stuffed down its throat.
The rodeo announcer taunted Wentworth into getting inside the “time machine.” After the machine emitted smoke and popping noises, Hanson, meant to look like a younger version of Wentworth, ran out of the machine holding to his hat and hightailed it out of the arena.
“I didn’t trip,” Hanson said, catching his breath. “I was worried about tripping on a clod of dirt.”
This doesn’t appear to be just a phase for the youngster. For Halloween, he went to Creekside garbed as a rodeo clown.
“One girl is scared of clowns, and she screamed at me,” Hanson said.
For Christmas, Wentworth helped Hanson’s parents find a man in Florida named Hollywood Harris who makes child-sized rodeo barrels.
“If that’s all he was getting for Christmas, we were going to get him that barrel,” Jennifer McBay said.
Hanson will perform with Wentworth again at the Limestone Sheriff’s Rodeo on May 18-19.
Hanson practices with his barrel at the family’s arena on Cambridge Lane. During a recent practice, Hanson dragged his barrel into the arena and kicked dirt around the base to hold it in place. He walked backward six or seven steps, hunkered down and ran and leapt on the barrel’s top.
“I can stand fine,” Hanson said. “When I move a lot, I end up busting my tail.”
Cajoled by his audience — that would be Mama and his grandmother — to show his bullfighting skills, Hanson tiptoed through the dust toward an unsuspecting young bull in the pen. When the bull noticed him, Hanson waved at it and stomped his foot.
“Will that bull charge? I don’t think it will,” Jennifer McBay yelled to her husband, Mark, who was in the barn.
Hanson screeched and scampered lickety-split toward his barrel as the provoked bull charged. After it established who is master of the arena, the bull backed away.
Hanson leaned on his barrel and wiped a hand across his forehead. He furrowed his brow as he looked at his laughing audience and said, “I about went in that barrel head first.”
Save $84.50 a year off our newsstand price:
Subscribe today for only 38 cents a day!