Mud Run

photo by Matt Cohen   

photo by Matt Cohen


My flash of inspiration during a rain-soaked rodeo.

by J.J. Harrison

There are people who say I saved the rodeo that year. That’s probably not true, but it does have a nice ring to it.

This was back in 2014, during the Clovis Rodeo’s 100th year celebration. It had been raining for days. They even brought in a helicopter to hover over the arena to try and dry out the dirt so the timed-events contestants had a fighting chance. The mud was up to your ankles, whether you were a horse or a man.

One-hundred years is a big deal, and Clovis deserved a celebration. I wanted the crowd to have a good time despite the miserable weather conditions.

In the middle of the arena, there was a puddle that was probably forty feet wide and seventy feet long. I’d been playing in the mud a good bit, though I was wearing a fifteen-hundred-dollar microphone, and I really didn’t want to ruin it. I kept revving up the crowd, promising that if they did one thing or another, then I would slide through this giant puddle.

When the bull riding started, I realized it was now or never!

I ran to the side of the arena and grabbed a rope. Matt Twitchell was one of the pickup men that year, and I threw the rope to Matt. I told him I had an idea—probably the dumbest idea I’d had in a while. I wanted him to pull me through the puddle. He tossed his head back and laughed. He thought it was a great idea. His horse did not.

I started on my feet and soon ended up on my butt, pulled by his horse across the arena mud. I was yelling, “Faster! You need to go faster!” Mud was getting in some very uncomfortable places.

At some point, the mud whipped me down, and I flipped onto my back and then onto my belly. The crowd was roaring, so I held on the length of the arena.

Afterwards, I used a garden hose out behind a buddy’s trailer. Mud was in my mouth and every other crevice and crack. I spent an hour with the hose trying to get the mud off my body and out of my clothes. Rinse, peel, repeat.

I kind of became known for the mud-skiing incident. I tried it again in Preston, Idaho, a few years later, but this time things didn’t go quite as planned.

They had a gigantic mud hole in their arena. I had told the crowd if they pledged fifteen-hundred dollars for cancer research, I would ski through the mud puddle.

They raised the money really quickly! Apparently a rodeo clown covered in mud is a great incentive.

Well, before I could even get my ski rope, this young pickup man trotted out on his horse and roped me. He roped me! I didn’t really know what he was thinking. Was he trying to be funny? Trying to prevent me from skiing or something?


He dallied his rope around his horn and took off. Before I knew what had happened, he snatched me off my feet, and when I hit the ground, it knocked the wind out of me. 

I mean, that’s how they killed people in the Old West—they dragged them to death! So this bonehead takes off across the arena with me bouncing behind him.

The crowd thought the stunt was hilarious. I broke a couple ribs and ruined one of those expensive mics. I’m lucky the damage wasn’t worse.

But you know, the amount of entertainment something like that brings to a crowd is worth it. And what’s a few broken ribs? You’ve got more right? They heal.

JJ Harrison