After nearly two decades, Severance bull fighter still in action at National Western
March 26, 2013
Thousands of people attend each of the National Western Stock Show's 28 rodeos, yet Lance Brittan, of Severance, CO, gets what he considers the best seat in the house for every event – although some might debate his description of optimum seating.
From the dirt-floor ring of The Denver Coliseum, Brittan is responsible for helping every bull rider get out of harm's way after they're hurled off the 1,500-pound-plus bucking beasts.
By Monday morning, Brittan said he'd already had nine collisions with heated, high-kicking livestock during the National Western – and he still had a full week of shows to go.
Through the entirety of the two-week National Western Stock Show in Denver, Brittan said he'll have close encounters with about 250 bulls, some of the strongest and meanest in the world.
Chances are, there are more collisions to come his way.
But that's nothing new to Brittan, nor is the pain enough to make him give up a job that brings him more joy than any other career ever could, and more success than he ever imagined would come his way.
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In nearly 20 years as a rodeo clown, Brittan has broken every one of his ribs at least once.
But he's also won a world championship title, and his best friends are those he's met and whom he sees repeatedly during his 20,000 miles and 125 days of traveling to rodeos each year, he says.
Some people tell him he's crazy, Brittan admits.
"But I think it's crazy to sit in a traffic jam in Denver, two hours every day, going to a job you don't really enjoy that much," he added.
While there's been plenty of bumps and bruises, performing the job he loves at what many call the "Super Bowl of stock shows," this month only reminds Brittan of why he does what he does.
"It's just the best," he says.
At 38 years old, he's starting to need the help of a knee brace.
And it was a little eye-opening, he noted, two years ago when his two daughters – ages 6 and 4 at the time – saw him get knocked unconscious during a show.
"It was a little tough for the girls to understand," he said.
But the family members – including his wife, Cami – give Lance their blessing to keep doing what he loves, regardless of how many times a bull thrusts itself into the father and husband they love.
"Oh yeah. Each time it definitely hurts some," said Brittan, who mentioned that, following the 1 p.m. rodeo Monday afternoon, he'd probably pay a visit to what will likely become a familiar face during the next few days – a chiropractor. "But I love it too much.
"My family supports me. They join me on the road … and I plan to keep doing it as long as I'm physically able to do the job."
The reason Brittan can land such high-profile gigs as the National Western Stock Show is because of his decorated past.
He was only in his fourth year as a professional rodeo clown in 1999 when he competed against four former world champions in the Wrangler Bullfighter Tour Finals and won the world title for himself.
He began riding bulls, with limited success, he said, in 1994 when he was about 19 – shortly after he moved to Colorado from Kansas to take a welding job in Eaton.
About two months in, he was bucked off at a rodeo and received little help from the bull fighter on-hand.
He complained and was told by rodeo organizers that, if he was so upset, he should show up the next week and see if he could do a better job at it.
Whether they really thought he would or not, Brittan did show up the next week, and his clown career was born.
And only about two months later, his signature bull-fighting move was established – by complete accident.
While helping a rider to safety, Brittan briefly took his eye off the bull in the ring, and when he located it, the bull was right in front of him – charging.
With no time to react, the former high school basketball player from Scott City, KS, vertically leaped over the bull as it ran underneath him.
It was a move the rodeo clown world hadn't yet seen, but a crowd-pleasing one that Brittan would perfect, and then take to national and world competitions and rodeos everywhere.
"My phone started lighting up after that," said Brittan, who, when home from the rodeo life, runs a construction business. "And here I am now."
Along with his leaping ability, Brittan said he also had the guidance of rodeo clown veterans – Kevin Rich from Eaton, and the world-famous Leon Coffee.
Brittan is now doing the same for those younger than him.
"There's so many reasons I'll stay at this," he said. "Great events like the National Western, the people.
"It's just great."