He’s always wanted to be a clown.
There are no shortages of those who dream of being cowboys, or champion rodeo riders, but not Dalton Morris.
He wanted to be a rodeo clown, has been for a decade-and-a-half, is one of the most successful around, with promise of becoming one of the best in the country.
“My dad, Tim Morris, was a trick rider and bull rider, so he always wanted me to be a rodeo cowboy. My sister, Clara, runs barrels. They convinced me to get in the button busting when I was three-years-old, even though I was really scared,” Morris, now 19 remembered.
“Well, when they opened the gate on that runaway ewe, I landed on my head in the dirt, and it hurt my body. Right then, I knew I was not set out to be rodeo rider. I was even more scared, but I sure did like the clowns and the fun they seemed to be having. I guess my future was set then and there,” calculated Morris, or better to refer to him as Dalton, as that’s what rodeo crowds throughout the Midwest know him as today.
So, even at such a young age, the little cowpoke buddied right up to the rodeo clown and was soon gigged out in grease paint, wild straw hat and oversized suspendered Wranglers getting right in there saving tiny fallen cowboys and cowgirls from stomping runaway sheep.
“I started fightin’ sheep at the next rodeo,” Dalton contended. “Really, I’d just run across the arena after the sheep, or they’d run after me. Then, I’d help the clowns with their acts.”
That wasn’t just a one time, one summer little kid’s fascination. Dalton continued “clowning” at rodeos, and there are those who have contended at most other places as well.
“I put on my clown getup and assisted with the main clowns on and off at rodeos and bull riding every rodeo season. Then, last year Chuck and Regan McKellips hired me fulltime to be clown and funnyman at the C-R McKellips Rodeo Company events,” said Dalton of Odessa, Missouri.
Relating stories and jokes with the announcer and others at the rodeo is a key part of the young clown’s dutiful scenario.
“I love to go into the audience and visit with people. That’s the best part really. Last year, I talked to a man in the bleachers whose name was Twister and he chases tornadoes. You meet all kinds,” related Dalton, a freshman studying ag education at Sedalia (Missouri) Community College.
Serving as the man-in-the-can, the barrel man during the bull riding, Dalton said, “I chide the other clowns and the announcer sometimes even the cowboys, and get out of the barrel sometimes to assist at a distance. I’m learning the techniques to be a bull fighter, and I may get into helping fallen riders more in front of the chutes sometime later .
“It works pretty good from the barrel now. I haven’t had any too serious wrecks, but last year I almost got hit by a new bull they were trying out at Hume, Missouri. It wasn’t a split second after I jumped in the barrel, and that mean bull really hit it hard,” continued Dalton, explaining that his 200-pound steel barrel is covered with padding held on by yellow duct tape.
Music and dancing are a key part of Dalton’s entertainment for rodeo audiences. “You’ll see me doing plenty of dances. I can really get wound up with some rock and roll tunes,” claimed Dalton, whose abilities have rated him duties as his college mascot, a Roadrunner.
“I dress up as the Roadrunner, go around and do goofy things. I was at the Sedalia State Fair and also other college events,” the real clown admitted.
His repertoire has continued to expand. “I started trick riding last year, which obviously pleased my dad. The Double Trouble Trick Riders, a sister act, works several of the McKellips Rodeos, and I’ve been learning tricks riding on their horses,” Dalton said.
Riding the bay gelding Comanche, Dalton does the hippodrome (standing up running around the arena), side and back layouts, and a couple of vaults. “I can do a lot of tricks, and I’m learning more. I don’t have my own trick riding horse yet, but I’m getting one as soon as I find it,” related Dalton.
However, the young clown has a trick horse, actually a three-year-old Miniature Horse, the black and white gelding called Skiddboot.
“He will already bow, lie down, pull a cart and I’m teaching him more tricks all of the time. Because I’m so tall, my feet touch the ground when I’m riding Skiddboot, so I help him along and take some of the weight off his back. I use Skiddboot in parades, and then let kids pet him and set on him to have their picture taken at rodeos,” said the six-foot-three clown
Trick roping is the clown’s latest endeavor. “During my senior year at Odessa High School, we were assigned a project to learn something new, and I have learned to trick rope. My grandparents got me three trick ropes, and now I can already do several tricks,” said Dalton, who has just added a 100-foot trick rope to his collection.
Rattling off the rope tricks he does, flat loop, wedding ring, Texas skip, vertical jump and others, Dalton said, “I do trick roping some during rodeos between events, and I’m perfecting my routine to be choreographed with appropriate music and the announcer as a contract act.”
Dalton the student may not be easily identified on the college campus, but consistent makeup and outfit assure that everybody knows it’s Dalton the Clown when coming down the rodeo parade route or prancing into the arena upon announcer’s introduction.
“I wear a raggedy straw hat and my face paint is always the same, white eyes, red nose, blue tear drops and white chin. I wear a white shirt with vertical red lines, a big blue scarf and really oversize baggy insignia Wrangler jeans, held up by wide suspenders,” Dalton described.
He has brightly colored un-matching socks and usually wears wrestling shoes for ample traction dancing and most importantly getting away from the bulls running on his tail.
Spreading the word about rodeo while helping others is important to Dalton the Clown with visits to schools, senior homes and hospitals on his future agenda.
Although Dalton has been a connoisseur of rodeo clowns all of his life, consciously and unconsciously incorporating knacks, routines and styles into his own “Dalton the Clown,” he commented, “I’d have to say Keith Isley is my mentor. I met him at the American Royal in 2005. He’s a clown, funnyman, has a trick horse, is a trick rider, and trick roper, too. He does it all, and that’s what I want to do.”
Already working three dozen performances annually, Dalton’s highlight rodeos to date he said have been the Youth Invitational Rodeo and the New Year’s Rodeo Stampede, both at Kansas City’s Kemper Arena.
“Both of them are four day rodeos, and the Youth Invitational attracts more than 8,000 kids in the grandstands each day. It’s really cool. The New Year’s rodeo is the yearend finals for McKellips Rodeo Company, so it’s big deal, too,” Dalton insisted.
Between rodeos and a tight summer contract schedule, Dalton is intent on making his grades at college and graduating qualified to be a vocational agriculture instructor. “I’m going to be a rodeo clown as my profession, but being an ag teacher will be my backup if rodeo don’t work out,” he declared.
However, right out of college, Dalton said, “I want to work for the Dixie Stampede at Branson, Missouri, to expand my abilities trick riding, roping and clowning. I think that would be a great experience. I can learn so much from those fulltime professionals.”
While continuing his present contracts as clown and funnyman at rodeos throughout the Midwest, Dalton looks to getting his card to work International Professional Rodeo Association events.
“That’ll just be a stepping stone though. Hopefully, I progress to work Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association sanctioned rodeos and get contracts throughout the country and someday be at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas,” Dalton forecasted.
The perfect chance to see Dalton the Clown before he moves into the brighter city lights is at the Santa Fe Trail Rodeo, Friday and Saturday evenings, May 16 and 17, at Burlingame. I’m looking forward to seeing and visiting with you there, too,” Dalton the Clown welcomed.