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Rodeo clown Denny Halstead’s job is more serious than it sounds

Posted at 3:45 PM, Jul 27, 2018

HELENA – Climbing on top of a two-ton bull or bucking bronc is just about the most dangerous sport in the world. But strapping yourself on top of an angry beast is made just a little safer thanks to bull fighters/barrel riders and rodeo clowns like Denny Halstead.

Safer, at least, for the riders.

“There’s not close calls, bud. In my business it’s a call,” said seven-time Canadian Pro Rodeo Entertainer of the Year Denny Halstead. “I mean, I’ve had everything. I’ve broken every bone I have, but that’s the nature of my business. I’ve lost all my teeth, I got open-ended in here, broken ribs, been knocked out I don’t know how many times. If I was a hockey player, I would have been retired years ago.”

Halstead is kind of an expert in that area. Before he started entertaining crowds and fighting bulls for a living 20 years ago, Halstead was a hockey goalie and firefighter. Naturally, climbing that ‘Most Dangerous Jobs’ ladder lead him here, and he still can’t believe it.

“I’m living the dream,” laughed Halstead. “I truly never dreamed I’d make a living doing what I do. I live a very, very unique life. Of course in my job, I have two jobs. I’ve got a fun job and a serious job. The fun job is making people laugh and have fun. Of course the serious job is the bull riding and working the barrel.”

That’s the thing that many people forget when they see the face paint and baggy pants. Sure, he’s a rodeo clown and gets to entertain arenas full of people all over the world. But much like when he was a firefighter, the dangerous task of keeping his fellow humans safe is still Halstead’s main calling.

“People are a little naive to my thing. They think we’re kind of like a birthday clown, but I’ll be honest, I’m not very good at birthdays,” said Halstead. “The serious end of it, of course, is the barrel and the bull riding, and it’s my job, this is an island of safety. My job is to make sure that this barrel is set in a position of a bull rider or bull fighter is in trouble, they can get behind my barrel and I take the hit. I always get people going, ‘Hey, it must be fun.’ I’ll tell you right now, it ain’t fun. The best description I give people is it’s like being thrown in a dryer, turn the dryer on and throw it down a flight of stairs. That is exactly what it’s like to ride in this barrel. You can’t teach somebody to be a rodeo clown so much, there has to be a lot of natural ability.”