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DUNCAN, Okla. â€“ Much has changed in the life of Justin Rumford over the past two years.
Since he last worked the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo in October 2012, Rumford twice has been honored as the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Associationâ€™s Clown of the Year. His triplets were born in September 2013.
He returns to this yearâ€™s championship â€“ set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16-Saturday, Oct. 18, at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center in Duncan â€“ with a whole new legacy, both in and out of the arena.
â€śThis clowning deal is the best thing Iâ€™ve ever had,â€ť said Rumford, who grew up in a rodeo family at Abbyville, Kan. â€śItâ€™s something in rodeo that I can have a lot of longevity in. Thereâ€™s not just a ton of risk, and itâ€™s something I enjoy so much.â€ť
Itâ€™s as if he finally found his niche. There isnâ€™t much in the sport of rodeo that he hasnâ€™t done, from bullfighting to picking up to working as a flankman to riding broncs. Heâ€™s roped and bulldogged. Heâ€™s driven thousands of miles with bucking beasts loaded behind him.
These days, though, he totes his young family with him from one rodeo to another. He and his wife, Ashley, make sure the triplets are a big part of everything they do.
â€śThis yearâ€™s been way better,â€ť he said. â€śLast year was really hard, because Ashley goes with me and takes care of everything for me; she couldnâ€™t go last year because of the triplets.â€ť
Thatâ€™s definitely changed. In fact, the Rumford clan has worked several events in the Prairie Circuit, the ProRodeo region made up of events and contestants primarily from Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. This summer, Justin Rumford has worked rodeos in North Platte, Neb.; Kansas events in Strong City, Pretty Prairie, Dodge City and Coffeyville; and Oklahoma stops in Elk City, Altus and his hometown of Ponca City.
In addition to being the reigning two-time clown of the year, Rumford also was named the 2013 Coors Man in the Can for his work as a barrelman. Itâ€™s the all-encompassing aspect of the cowboyâ€™s life as one of the premier entertainers in rodeo.
â€śIâ€™ve been involved in rodeo my whole life,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™ve never done anything else, and Iâ€™ve never wanted to do anything else. Iâ€™ve always wanted to be successful. A (few) years ago when I started this venture, I knew if I worked really hard and tried really hard that I could get to the top in a hurry.â€ť
Heâ€™s there, and he has the opportunity to play before the crowd in Duncan for the second time in three years.
â€śPeople want to laugh at each other more than they want to laugh at something,â€ť Rumford said. â€śWhen Iâ€™m in the arena, Iâ€™m saying the same stuff Iâ€™d say if I wasnâ€™t clowning.
â€śItâ€™s just me being me.â€ť
He is a three-time circuit finals qualifier in steer wrestling. He worked the finale in 2011 and 2012. Last Octoberâ€™s Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo marked the first time in Rumfordâ€™s life he hasnâ€™t been part of the championship.
â€śItâ€™s something Iâ€™ve always done,â€ť said Rumford, who also worked the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in 2013. â€śIâ€™ve flanked bucking horses there, been the chute boss, flanked and untied calves. Iâ€™ve made the full circle.
â€śI just feel blessed to do something I love this much.â€ť