Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Cleburne

June 15, 2009

Clownin' around

Funny man Jim Bob Feller

Jim Bob Feller is old enough, 58, to remember times and people that rodeo greenhorns won’t fathom.

“When I was a kid in 1964, I read an article in Western Horseman about George Doak and Junior Meek,” Feller said. “I thought they were cool.”

Beyond cool, actually.

Doak and Meek were Hall of Fame clown-bullfighters and legitimately funny men.

The late Meek, a Cleburne native, pioneered the art of jumping over a bull to entertain the crowds and distract the bulls.

“George was one of my heroes,” Feller said. “Junior was tougher than a road lizard. He played harder than most men fought. The only time I saw him work was when he came out of retirement for the Cleburne rodeo in about 1977. We used to have our convention in Denver. One time, I loaded up with George, Junior, Wright Howington and J.W. Stoker, the trick roper. You talk about scared to death. That was an experience for a kid.”

Forty-two years into his rodeo career, Feller is still collecting memories and experiences. He’ll be the clown in the barrel during the annual Cleburne PRCA Rodeo, which takes place Wednesday through Saturday.

Feller, now a Granbury resident, began working amateur rodeos while in high school in Fort Worth. He competed in bulls and saddle broncs, without great success, for three years. That’s when he turned to clowning, modeling his early efforts after a veteran named Keith Anderson.

‘The earlier clowns did it all,” he said. “They were funny as well as bullfighters. In the business today, there are only three or four bullfighters who do comedy as well.

“In the late ’70s, the comedy bullfighters began to disappear with the emergence of the bullfight tours. The smaller rodeos could only afford to hire a bullfighter, so many clowns were out of work.”

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