It happened in Reno- 1982. A syndicated photographer snapped this picture, after Ron Jesser had just been bucked off his bronc. But his infectious smile remained in good times and in the bad. This picture was eventually printed in 56 newspapers nationwide and earned him the title of "The most photographed gay cowboy in the U.S .A:' Many of today's finalists remember his encouragement as he helped tie them down for their events.
Ron Jesser succumbed to AIDS in October 1986. Subsequently, the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association has awarded the Ron Jesser Memorial Award, for dedication and sportsmanship, each year at the Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo. The Ron Jesser House has served as a temporary hospice for AIDS patients in Denver and the Colorado Aids Project has used Ron Jesser determination to live, as an inspiration in their counseling programs. We know that Ron's spirit, as well as many other gay rodeo contestants, is here wishing for a safe, fun, and successful Finals Rodeo.
Ron Jesser in our Hall of Fame
Normal people receive awards for saving the lives of other persons. However, the rodeoclown has saved the lives of many men but does not receive recognition for it- for him, it is part of his work. The rodeo clown puts his life between a fallen bull rider and a ton of angry man-hating bull. This is what he gets paid to do.
Aside from the serious business of distracting bulls from the contestants who ride them, the clown will do what clowns have always done- entertain an audience with comical antics.
The rodeo clown is a walking paradox. His main job is deadly serious and years of study, practice and painful lessons go into his ability to successfully out maneuver twisting, turning bulls to safely get their riders away from them. On the other hand, just as much study goes into compiling a list of comical acts for family entertainment. The clown, like other specialty acts, provides a relaxing pause to the serious, dangerous sport of rodeo. At times, the clown combines the two parts of his work, often making a well-timed move in front of the bull, hilarious in the way it is done, actually daring the bull to hit him while being funny about it!
Rodeo contestants must be in good physical condition but there is hardly a man in the arena who is a better athlete than the clown. In order to stay close to the bucking bulls, the clown will run almost continuously during the bull riding event. Not only running, but twisting, jumping, spinning and sometimes performing an acrobatic trick or two, the clown leads the bull away from the rider.
Any bull rider will tell you that the clown is the most important man in the arena during the bull riding. If a rider is thrown, the clown is his only protection. Even if a bull rider rides his animal for the required six seconds, he still has to jump off since it is impossible for pickup men to take him off the hull's back. So, even for those who ride successfully, the clown still has to be there.
Unlike rodeo contestants who are paid only what they can win, the clown is paid for his work in the arena, and the clown who is funny AND has the courage to jump onto the head of a bull to save a cowboy is in great demand.