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Meet the Members Trent and Wendy McFarland
story by Lily Weinacht
As a child, Trent McFarland was sternly informed by a teacher that acting like a clown would get him nowhere in life. Yet with more than 100 performances and 40,000 miles driven this year alone, the rodeo clown and barrel man from Hope Hull, Alabama, and his wife, Wendy, have happily proven the reverse. Active in the PRCA, APRA, SRA, Tri-State Rodeo Association, and SPRA, they haul one of the largest selections of big acts in the sport of rodeo. Their award-winning acts took first place in the IFR Comedy Act Showcase in 2011 and 2015, and second place in 2012. Trent will work his Total Feeds barrel at the SPRA finals for the third time, and was selected to work the 2016 PRCA Southeastern Circuit Finals Rodeo.
Trent was born a second generation rodeo entertainer in the Rodeo Capital of the World in Cody, Wyoming. His father, Sid McFarland, worked the Cody Nite Rodeo many years as a rodeo clown. A favorite quip of Trent’s is that when most fathers are teaching their sons to throw a football, his dad was teaching him how to put on makeup. Yet the irony of this scenario gave Trent his foundation in what clowning is made of – taking the everyday, the unusual and quirky, and creating slapstick comedy. “I love making folks laugh and bringing joy to someone’s world,” says Trent. “So many people are going through hardships – you turn on the news and never hear anything positive. I enjoy helping provide that moment of positive reinforcement so people can laugh and forget about their struggles for a while.”
Trent was in his first act when he was nine, helping a rodeo clown work his hometown rodeo in North Washington, Pennsylvania. By 1995, he was nearly 15 and ready to assume a greasepaint personality. Since his parents had separated, Trent lived in Pennsylvania with his mom until moving to Alabama to work in the arena with his dad. “That time of being with my dad and rodeoing was a blessing. I served an apprenticeship under him, and he taught me about acts and timing, and how to be a professional in and out of the arena. About eight years ago, he retired from the fire department and served in Iraq a year as a firefighter, so I was able to book my own rodeos, and it took off like wildfire!” This year, Trent worked both his hometown rodeos – North Washington, Pennsylvania, and Montgomery, Alabama – and his schedule keeps him and Wendy on the road January through November.
The husband and wife met around the time Trent’s very own rodeo career shot into the arena. “We met on New Year’s Eve in Montgomery at a country western dance place that had opened up. Wendy was talking to some of my friends, and I busted through the crowd – I had to know her name,” Trent recalls with a laugh. “Later, she was dancing with one of my friends and I came up and told him he looked tired, and he needed to sit down. We’d never talked, let alone danced together, but Wendy and I started swing dancing, I flipped her over, and pretty soon we had everybody on the dance floor watching us! She was literally head over heels for me.”
That evening was the first of many years performing together in their vivacious alter egos, and Trent and Wendy are emphatic about pursuing the rodeo lifestyle side by side, along with their sons, Cody (two) and Ryder (eight months). “I can’t brag more on my family. Wendy makes everything happen,” says Trent. “Being married to a rodeo clown isn’t the easiest, but she’s not afraid to ham it up and be in the spotlight. And our boys were at rodeos within weeks of being born – they have more miles on them than most people.” Wendy adds, “When we first met and started out, I knew what rodeo was all about and had travelled some in the PRCA. Trent and I made a pact in the very beginning that if we were going to make it work, we would do it together or not at all. We both have very strong work ethics, and our passion for rodeo has helped with our relationship because we’re doing what we love.”
Wendy grew up on a cotton and cattle farm outside of Montgomery, competing in barrel races and junior and high school rodeos. It wasn’t unusual for Wendy’s mom to meet her and her sister at the bus stop with ponies so they could go on a trail ride home. Wendy started carrying flags when she was 12, and a year later, entered the PRCA rodeo scene carrying flags for Harper Morgan Rodeo. Her 20 plus years of carrying flags, including the American flag during the opening of rodeos, has been a great asset to the rodeos she and Trent work.
In November of 2015, the legendary rodeo clown, Lecile Harris, who has been a kind of second father to Wendy and a chief inspiration to Trent, approached them about buying his Wrangler Roadster act, wanting a couple that could carry it on and do it justice. “To me, that’s the greatest car act in the sport of rodeo, and I can’t say enough great things about Mr. Lecile Harris,” says Trent, who purchased the act in March. “But now I can’t fit a horse in the trailer!” Wendy adds. Even though they have a four horse living quarters trailer, pulled by a mini freightliner – which both she and Trent had to get CDL licenses to drive – the taxi takes up all four horse stalls. “All Trent’s other acts are smaller and I can still fit a horse in the back. I think we’ll have the ambulance on the road next year, so there’s hope I can throw my barrel horse in the rear.” They have six major acts and up to 20 filler acts, including Talladega Nights Race Car, Big Texas Burger Trick Roping, Dr. Do-Nothing and his Cowboy Ambulance, and Barthal-the-mule. “Wendy put me on restrictions because I have so many things around the farm that could easily go out next week as a big act.”
Trent and Wendy’s sons have a variety of babysitters while their parents are in the arena, from the wives of stock contractors, rodeo announcers, and pickup men, to secretaries and members of the rodeo committee. “If I’m doing an opening, I finish that and literally throw my horse at somebody and run to the trailer to change for the next act,” says Wendy. “When I’m done, I take the boys out to watch their daddy. Cody is at a fun age now where he dresses in his makeup, shirt, and baggies, and I have more people stopping to take pictures of him – he’s his own superstar.”
Behind the wigs and rodeo clown garb, Trent and Wendy are the same professionals, only Trent is an RNFA in surgery, and Wendy runs her own advertising business, McFarland Advantage, and works in sales and marketing for Walker 360 in Montgomery. She takes her laptop and phone on the road, working in coffee shops, the cab of the truck, or even the back of the horse trailer, while Trent has been a nurse in surgery since 2003, following his mom’s example. “It really crosses over great. When patients are in the operation room and they’re scared, I can tell them jokes and help them forget their worries,” he says. “And when a cowboy is hurt, I’m the first one to them and I can make an assessment about how serious it is.
“Lots of folks think we’re crazy to travel the miles we do, but we love it. We’re starting to work bigger rodeos and cover more miles. My goal is to be nominated in the top five for comedy acts, clown, and Barrel Man of the Year in the PRCA. I would love to one day work the RNCFR or the WNFR, but the main goal is to continue enjoying what we do. The thrill you get out of a great performance is such a rush of excitement that it’s hard to put into words. When you have the crowd eating out of your hands, you’re on top of the world!”
For more information, or to keep up with Trent’s schedule, check it out at TrentMcFarland.com.