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Clown gig is serious for this colorful character at Folsom Pro Rodeo

By: Penne Usher, Telegraph Correspondent
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FOLSOM CA - When a massive bull is headed your way, it?s good to keep your wits about you and have a barrel nearby to hide in. For 22 years, Kansas-native Jeff ?Slim? Garner has been doing just that as a rodeo clown. ?When I was 17 years old I started as a clown and have been doing it ever since,? he said in a recent phone interview. Garner followed in his father?s footsteps into the rodeo circuit as a clown. For the most part during his younger years, Garner would rodeo in the summers. He got his Associates Degree in Animal Science, but his true calling was center stage entertaining the crowds at rodeos. Of his college degree, Garner said, ?the degree and a buck fifty will buy me a Mountain Dew.? Garner said he?s been pretty lucky when it comes to working with bulls in the arena. ?I?ve been thrown about 15 feet in the air by a bull and landed on my head,? he said. ?It would have hurt me if I would have landed anywhere else.? He has broken only one bone ? his arm ? in all his years with the rodeo. ?It has its ups and downs, and I?m fortunate,? Garner said. He obtained his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association card in 2000, and he has been traveling from 25 to 35 rodeos a year. The primary job of the rodeo clown is to protect a fallen rider from the bull, whether the rider has been bucked off or has jumped off of the animal. Clowns provide the distraction to protect the cowboy, but it?s the entertainment that most rodeo-goers enjoy. ?I?m not a big fan of clowns, but at a rodeo, they are funny and really entertaining,? said Sylvia Barnes of Shingle Springs. ?We try to go to the rodeo each year and love the bull riding, and the clown.?