Showing off for the hometown crowd is nothing new for Dilynn Dodd, twice named rodeo queen and an accomplished barrel racer to boot.
But Saturday (July 7), the Springdale native will try her luck on a borrowed horse that she’s ridden just a couple of times before when she competes at Rodeo of the Ozarks on her 27th birthday.
Nearly 400 cowboys and cowgirls from tiny mutton busters to bulky steer wrestlers have taken the stage this week at Parsons Stadium in near record heat. Dodd is among a handful of local PRCA certified riders competing. The PRCA is the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Dodd is a so-called rodeo brat. Her dad David Dodd is a longtime rodeo board member and mom, Debbie, is an active volunteer at the annual event.
“Dilynn began riding at home when she was still in diapers and participating in various rodeos at age 6,” said Debbie Dodd.
She got her PRCA permit in 2008 and began trying to earn the $1,000 required to become a card member, which Dodd accomplished by 2009.
This marks Dodd’s fourth time to race barrels at this PRCA event, and she’s hoping for a good run on borrowed quarter horse named “Boogie."
“He’s been racing in high school circuit by his owner Whitley Vann, a senior at Kingston High School. Whitley is ranked second in the high school rodeo circuit and she will be going to nationals,” Dodd said.
Without a horse of her own ready to race, Dodd says this will likely be the only PRCA event she rides in this year.
Dodd said her good race horse sustained a major injury to the meniscus which required surgery in 2010.
“The vet gave us a 50/50 chance that he could race again, but he hasn’t yet,” she said.
At the time her horse was injured, Dodd was ranked second in winnings in the Southeastern circuit of the PRCA. Since then Dodd has been seasoning another horse that she hopes to get into a few non-PRCA rodeos later this year once he’s more consistent.
Tom Reed, president of the local rodeo board, said Dodd is a great kid and it’s nice to see a few locals participating again this year.
“I know the home crowd likes it when local contestants come out to rope and ride,” he added.
Dodd said winning or placing in the money would be the best birthday gift she could imagine after a dismal showing last year which she attributed to “pilot error.”
BULLFIGHTING AT HOME
Clay Collins, a recent Springdale transplant from Garland, Texas, dresses like a clown and works some 150 rodeos a year — but there’s nothing funny about his profession.
Collins, 38, is a veteran bullfighter by trade and has the battle scars to prove it. In his 17-year career which began on a dare, Collins has sustained eight concussions, a broken leg, cracked ribs, punctured lung and countless stitches in his face and groin after being speared by the horns of a raging bull.
“I have worked the Rodeo of the Ozarks since 1998, it’s one of my favorites. But this is the first year I can fight the bulls and then go home and sleep in my own bed,” Collins said.
He and his expectant wife recently relocated to Northwest Arkansas from Texas to be near his in-laws as the couple’s first child is due next month.
“With me traveling so extensively in this job, we thought it best that my wife and baby boy be here near her family,” Collins said.
He has worked the National Finals Rodeo three times as well as huge PRCA events in San Antonio and Houston. Last year Collins was a nominee for the PRCA bullfighter of the year, a honor bestowed by the bull riders themselves.
“Springdale was the first large PRCA rodeo to give me a chance when I was just starting out in this profession and I have never forgotten it,” Collins said.
Unlike Dodd, Collins didn’t grow up around the rodeo. As a teen Collins played football, baseball and ran track. After a shot a playing college baseball, he secured a professional tryout but at 21 saw that dream quickly fade. He took a friend up on a dare and got into bullfighting and never looked back.
Collins said it’s a rough and tumble job but he’s one of the lucky few that can earn a decent living doing it full time. He can average around $70,000 working 150 or so rodeos annually, as long as the bulls don’t win too many of the showdowns.
A string of injuries can sideline the professional for weeks on end and he only gets paid when he’s able to fend the bulls off the riders.
“You just keep working the best you can even when you’re hurt. Last year I cracked a rib in Springdale, went on to Ogden, Utah then on to Gunnison, Colo. and by the time I got home I had five cracked ribs,” Collins said.
Rorey Lemmel, of Smith Pro Rodeo contractors, has worked dozens of events with Collins.
“He’s one of the best bullfighters in the game, a natural athlete who stays in great shape year after year,” Lemmel said.
PRCA rules require two bullfighters and one barrel clown that stand ready to intercede and protect the rider as he dismounts or is thrown from the bull.
“It’s a dangerous job but no one does it better than Clay, day in and day out,” Lemmel said.
Bullfighters are typically between 22 and 25 years old, more than a decade younger than Collins, according to Lemmel.
“His experience is superior, that’s why he’s so often requested by the riders and contractors,” he said.
Collins says there’s no greater feeling standing in the line of fire and seeing a rider escape injury. In a sense it’s like the rodeo’s secret service job.