When J.J. Harrison fell down in front of a charging, 2,000-pound bull in Hobbs, New Mexico, everything seemed to slow down.
"I just remember thinking this could be the end," he said.
It wasn't. And even though Harrison was pretty beat up that day, he was back at it almost immediately. "I got my check and I drove five hours to get to the airport," he said, "because I've got to keep going."
Harrison says he doesn't like people watching him get hurt, even though that sometimes comes with the territory in his job. "Everyone wants to see the clown get run over," he said, "until I get run over."
By clown, Harrison means the rodeo kind. The Walla Walla resident is one of the region's more famous rodeo clowns. He wasn’t exactly born into this line of work. He comes from a family of teachers and lawyers. He did grow up loving rodeos, though, and tried his hand at some of the classic events.
Still, as he was finishing college, he was headed squarely for a straight job. And he was excited about becoming a teacher. But at one point, he couldn’t shake the itch he had for the rodeo. In this story, he tells us how his clowning career unfolded and why, in spite of the punishment he takes, he keeps bouncing back.