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Cowpokes kick up good time at rodeo

From the "One Arm Bandit'' to "Shotgun'' the rodeo clown, participants and spectators are in for a wild ride at the Odessa Rodeo.

By RYAN DAVIS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 7, 2002

[Times photo: Brendan Fitterer]
Chip Dees concentrates and holds on tight during his first ride of the night on Friday.
ODESSA -- What to ride?

They came to the Odessa Rodeo this weekend with different answers.

For John Payne, with one arm, it was a mustang. He's known around rodeo circles as the "One Arm Bandit." For 12 years Payne has been riding atop horses with a whip in his only working arm. He rides them up ramps, down ramps and around in circles.

The 49-year-old was injured by an electrical shock in 1973 and lost use of his right arm. He launched his act 12 years ago -- just to back up his big mouth, he said.

"If it was safe, grandma would be doing it and no one would be watching," Payne said. "We like a little danger."

For rodeo clown "Shotgun" Rodney Gaston, the answer was anything but the horns of a bull. He's had enough danger.

He broke his left thigh bone less than three months ago in a Tallahassee rodeo. Friday marked his return.

"It's great to be back. I hated it at home," he said.

He limped with a rod in his left leg, taunting his horned nemesis.

For Bob Barthle, the answer was a horse and then a steer -- for as short a time as possible.

The steer wrestler from Darby finished second Friday night in his event. He will try again today.

"I ran him a little farther than you would normally like," he said of his steer. "But once I got him, he went down pretty easy."

For Dylan Klasko of New Port Richey, the answer had nothing to do with horses or bulls.

The 4-year-old came for the carnival rides, especially the yellow motorcycle on the carousel.

"It's cool," he said, "because it goes fast."

And Barthle said, "It's probably safer."

-- Ryan Davis can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245, or toll-free at 800-333-7505, ext. 6245. His e-mail address is

If you go

The Odessa Rodeo continues today off State Road 54, just west of Gunn Highway. Gates open at 11:30 a.m. The rodeo events run from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Parking is $5. Admission is free.

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