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Rodeo clown attends 50 years of Sikeston rodeos

SIKESTON, Mo. (AP)--Sikeston's favorite rodeo clown celebrated a milestone at the Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo this year.

"I've been coming here for 50 years,'' Rick Young said. "Can you believe that?''

And in that 50 years, Young's attendance would have been perfect had he not been under contract with a rodeo booking company.

"I think I missed one in there,'' he said. "I had Kankakee, Ill., on the same date, and they wouldn't let me out of it.''

To make sure they wouldn't lose Young to another rodeo again, the Sikeston Jaycees ended up working with that company, Young said--and he's glad they did.

"I love Sikeston, Mo. In fact, I talk about it all over the United States, about what a good rodeo it is. I invite a lot of people,'' he said. "I tell them, 'You need to come see how they operate their rodeo.'''

Young had a long list of what makes the Sikeston Jaycee's rodeo so special.

"It's everything. It's the people, the fans, the hardworking Jaycees--they're constantly improving their grounds, making sure things are better for the cowboys and the clowns,'' he said. "They love rodeo, and that's what it's all about. This is my family away from my own family; it's just a fun rodeo.''

Young said other rodeo clowns who have followed his advice over the many years and given the Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo a try--end up hooked after experiencing it for themselves.

"They can't hardly wait to get back here,'' he said.

Known here for his many years as the barrel man, Young handed off that job to Rudy Burns in 2007.

"He's working out terrific--I wanted him in here and for everybody to see how good he is,'' Young said. "He's in here solid. I don't miss working the barrel. It used to make me mad when the bulls hit the barrel; now it hurts. But I'm still doing the comedy, advance publicity, the clown acts.''

With his many years of protecting cowboys from bulls as a rodeo clown--and the many aches and pains that come from a long career in that business--Young is focusing more and more on raising horses and running his trailer and hay businesses at home. The Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo is one of only two rodeos Young still performs in annually.

Young said in addition to the many friends who will be attending this year, he is also bringing his wife, Bernie Lee, with him.

"I'm always telling jokes about her at the rodeo,'' Young said. "A lot of people don't even think I have a wife. She's been here before, but it's been awhile since she's come as she has been raising our granddaughter.''

But then, people often get a bit fuzzy on where Young's jokes end and the facts begin.

Young said the late Clem McSpadden, a rodeo announcer, always used to introduce him as being from Baton Rouge, La., instead of Tickfaw, La.

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