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Meet the Member Tuffy Gessling
story by by Naomi Loomis,
WSRRA Association Representative
A rodeo Clown takes his place in the arena lights. Whether or not he’s insane is not important right now. It’s with grit and intensity that the rodeo clown steps in the path of almost certain destruction or brings the crowd to their feet with laughter.
Ranch rodeos date back to the 1880s, cowboys showed off their ranch skills and by the 1920’s the rodeo funnymen (rodeo clowns) were an early feature but assumed the role of protecting cowboys only with the growth of bull riding. Rodeo clowns have become one of the most important parts of the rodeo world today including for the Western States Ranch Rodeo Association.
Tuffy grew up in a Northern Missouri town called Macon. He attended high school in Alanta, Missouri. He is the oldest brother of two sisters. He has six nieces and nephews. His dad past away two years ago and his mom lives close to him. Tuffy attended Missouri University and studied animal science. “I always wanted to be a cowboy and if I see someone without a smile then I want to give them mine,” states Tuffy. Tuffy starting riding bulls when he was 15 and one day the clown/bull fighter that was our rodeo clown quit and so Russ Aurther Rodeo Company hired him to be their rodeo clown.
Tuffy the Rodeo Clown job isn’t always to protect bull riders, in fact, this is only half his job. During the rodeos there are lulls and slow times. This is when a Tuffy uses his other talents. He keeps the crowd amused wiyh his skits, jokes, and funny conversation with the announcer. He has comedic talent, energy, creativity, his cowboy roping skills and a sense of humor. Tuffy’s painted face brings smiles to those young and old. “When I put my clown face on, I am energized and ready for the show.”
Tuffy takes being a rodeo clown very seriously. He is one of the best hands around the arena that I have ever met. His mental prowess and physical strength make him successful at what he does. He says he had many influences growing up. “My grandfather and dad are my greatest influences. They taught to work hard, they taught me about animals, they taught me what to do, and not to do, about farming. They also to taught me to dream big and to do what you love. You can work your whole life at something you don’t love and fail…if you are doing what you love you never fail,” Tuffy says.
Tuffy became interested in ranch rodeo because of the deep traditions and values of the cowboy life. “I was working for my sponsor, CSI Saddle pads at the NFR to promote bronc riding and had a meeting with WSRRA President Marc Page. We hit it off from minute one. He and I have been close friends ever since. On a hand shake, I made a deal with Marc to come to the WSRRA Finals. I have been there ever since,” states Tuffy. “That’s why I love the cowboys. A hand shake is still used and honored.”
Tuffy may find himself in the arena light but he also is pretty handy. From roping to horsemanship skills, training stock dogs, carpentry, welding, teamster work, pyrotechnic work and public speaking he is very talented in all that he can do. “It has helped me to learn different trades because I am able to from promotions to building pens, to negotiating contracts,” says Tuffy.
Tuffy spends about 100 days on the rodeo trail and he takes some pretty neat things with him. First he takes his sense of humor, honor and traditions. “I honor the ones that came before me and made it possible,” he says. Second he takes his trick ropes. “So I always have an act, plus I’m a roping addict.”
Third I take my bed roll from J-D canvas. “I always have a place that is home to lay my head.” Fourth, he takes three coins that his grandparents gave him and his dads ring. “I always them in my front left pocket.” Fifth, I take my phone book and phone. “I have to know what and where I have to go.”
Tuffy is a very successful rodeo clown with winning Rodeo Clown and Bullfighter of the Year by the Illinois Bull Rider Association. He was the first and so far the only cowboy to win these two awards together. He has won Contract Act of the Year 18 times. He has been the MRCA, URA and WSRRA rodeo clown of the year. He also was the MRCA, URA, AYRA Bullfighter of the year. “I work every day to become successful. I got a long ways to go but I’m going forward. Some days it may be slow but I am still a step in the right direction,” Tuffy explains.
Tuffy is one of my favorite cowboys. He works hard at what he does. He brings smiles and laughter to those that are around him. He is humble and keeps his word. I am proud to call Tuffy a friend and a colleague of the WSRRA. Thank you Tuffy for all you do for the WSRRA.
I am leaving you folks with some words of advice from Tuff. “Folks need to put the phones down and talk to each other learn about your neighbor or just a random stranger. Always leave the world a better place. Aim for the moon, if you don’t make it, at least you’re among the stars.”