“No way will I ever be a clown at a rodeo.”
“Oh, come on, you’re so funny. You’re a natural clown. Just go out there, and be yourself.”
“What does it pay? $300? Okay, I’ll do it. Just this one time though.”
The rodeo clown didn’t show up, and stock contractor John Steenhoek insisted that champion bull rider Jason Dent step in for the duties.
“I’ve always been a cowboy, and had a successful run riding bulls. I was still winning, but seemed to have lost the edge. Basically, I was scared, but I wanted to be around my old rodeo buddies,” Dent reflected.
After that first out, though, Dent remained a bit uncertain about the change in rodeo participation. “But, the crowd seemed to like me, and the contractor was pleased, and asked me to do some more rodeos for him. Actually, I really did have a great fun time, and it just keeps getting better,” Dent contended.
Now best known as Whistle-Nut, by rodeo crowds throughout the Midwest, Dent will be featured as the clown-funnyman at the United Rodeo Association Finals in the Kansas Expocentre, Topeka, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, Nov. 7-8-9, at 6:45.
“It is outstanding. I love to dance, have a ton of energy, it’s in my blood,” exclaimed Dent, who has seen sharp increase in demand for his rodeo clown-funnyman talents.
Working for several different contractors and associations, Whistle-Nut has clowned at 18 rodeo and bull riding performances in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri this year.
“This will be my first time as a clown at a Kansas rodeo,” said Dent, who makes his home in Humeston, Iowa.
Whistle-Nut keeps spectators on the edge of their seats, while mingling through the crowd, and spoofing with them, the announcer, contestants and arena crew throughout the entire performance.
And, while not an official bullfighter, this clown-funnyman, with masked white eyes, painted-wrinkles, bright-red nose, psychedelic shirt, baggy-suspendered shorts, and bright colored non-matching socks, always adds plenty of pertinent humor during the most dangerous rodeo event, as well.
However, Oley, his “rodeo-bucking-bull-reject,” typically challenges Dent for getting the most attention at rodeos and bull riding jackpots, wherever he is.
“I just love to ham it up with the crowd, but Oley is now a very important part of my act, and even before and after the rodeo action,” Dent admitted.
Prior to the rodeo performance, Dent generally has the 1,800-pound, red, humped, straight-and-banana horned bull Oley near the arena for youngsters to pet, ride and even get their pictures taken with.
“Then, I often carry a flag in the grand entry on Oley, sometimes barrel race on him and have other acts including a teeter-totter,” Whistle-Nut said.
The story behind this rodeo crowd-pleaser is most significant. “Oley is bred to be a top bucking bull, and he bucked pretty well with the dummy. But, in his first out with a cowboy, Oley just took a couple of jumps and stopped.
“They put him back in the chute, and I got on him, and he didn’t do anything. That bull was headed straight to the slaughter house, but for some reason, I had the intuition to buy him,” Dent remembered.
There were plenty of second thoughts for quite a long time when Dent got the big bull home.
“I’ll tell you that bull completely demolished the heavy round pen when I turned him out in it. These were a lot of wrecks, and I had an uncountable number of bruises for months, before Oley finally came around after about two years of work,” Dent continued.
Oley is a cookie lover. “What finally did it was those wafer cookies, you know those orange and pink ones with the frosting. I started treating him with them, and that was the turn around.
“He just loves ’em. Now, rattle the plastic cookie wrapper, and Oley comes on a run, licking his lips, and sticking out his tongue for a cookie. As long as there’s a cookie for a reward, he’ll do ‘mostly’ what I ask,” Dent described.
But, a bull is a bull, and it was still a long time before Olney became Whistle-Nut’s rodeo companion and featured act.
“I got Olney when he was two, and he’s eight now. Even though Oley was getting better all of the time, I was still leery that he might cause a wreck. Finally, I decided to give him a try, and it’s worked out well. I’ve really only been hauling Oley for two years now,” Dent said.
Ridden with a saddle and a chain-chinned-halter, Oley performs maneuvers readily upon Whistle-Nut’s cues. “He responds well to my spurs and legs, turns both directions, pivots, and side passes,” Dent credited.
Don’t get the opinion Oley is a dead head. “That bull can still run off if he really gets a hankering, and there’s not too much I can do. But, he’ll stop when he gets ready,” Whistle-Nut said.
Bulls are for breeding cows. “I have a herd of Longhorn and Corrientes cows. They’re a colorful bunch, and raise some really flashy looking calves, with a lot of size and muscle. I’m working with some of the bull calves now to see if I can train them, too,” Dent said.
Growing up involved in 4-H, Dent wanted a horse, and finally got a bay mare called Peppy. “She was a great horse, and I rode her everywhere, even to football practice, all around, and then took her to college with me,” he said.
First participating successfully in Little Britches Rodeos, Dent continued winning in bull riding competitions while attending Northwest Missouri State in Maryville. “That was a great time, but one of the big regrets was that I had some financial obligations and sold Peppy,” he admitted.
After graduation, Dent managed a horse facility in Tennessee for a while until it changed ownership, and then he returned to operate a feed mill in Iowa, all the time collecting winning checks in bull riding events, and training horses.
“I have tried some other rodeo events, did a little bulldogging, and do some roping when called to help on ranches, but I’ve never pursued any of them to any extent,” Dent added.
Changing locales a couple of times, and graduating from auction school, Dent, married to his wife Holly, now has a three-fold profession. “I have been having some auctions, am a professional welder and clown at rodeos and bull ridings,” Dent said.
“I really enjoy what I’m doing. The clowning at rodeos fits well with my other interests. I can see that I might get my card and clown at professional rodeos someday,” Dent predicted.
Unlike five decades and longer ago, rodeo has many competitors in family entertainment. “It’s essential to have a complete package of entertainment at a rodeo, so everyone in the family has a good time, tells all their friends about it and is anxious to come again next time.
“My objective as the clown and funnyman is to help make rodeo the most memorable evening a family has ever experienced,” Dent promised.
Now, Whistle-Nut is getting Oley ready for three days in Topeka making the crowds laugh and have a very enjoyable and “most memorable time” at the URA Finals.
“I’ve just built a new bull chariot and will debut it there. I’m looking forwarding to seeing everybody,” Dent invited.