The Idle American: He’ll Do to Ride the River With

Dr. Ronny Collins, the rodeo clown who knows how to juggle chainsaws.

Dr. Ronny Collins worked his way through college as a rodeo clown and became a high school superintendent who juggles chainsaws. 

We’ve all heard of the futility of trying to take “country” from rural lads after they’ve moved to town, and the same likely applies to attempts to take “clown” from rodeo entertainers, even when they climb the educational ladder to school superintendencies.

This seems to elevate truth to a higher level when a clown masters a trick that makes cowboys get back on their steeds, bulls paw in disbelief and fellow clowns watch goings-on from the safety of retreat barrels.

Proceeds from clowning provided most funding for Dr. Ronny Collins’ undergraduate and master’s degrees from what is now Tarleton State University. Setting him apart from most other rodeo clowns was an unlikely–as well as uncanny – act. He juggles up to three chainsaws and “them a’runnin’”….

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   In the words of my late mother–whose exclamation upon seeing unbelievable feats varied little from this–“Now don’t that beat a hen a’peckin’!”

I agree with my mom, expanding the fowl list to include pigeons, ducks, swans, geese, chickens, turkeys and all other pecking creatures.

Dr. Collins’ propensity to feel “at home” with potential chainsaw dangers would be more understandable if he had confined this act to the years of his youth. He hasn’t, though, developing the chainsaw routine a decade ago when he retired from the superintendency. His last public performance was in 2019 on his 65th birthday in Oklahoma City, and last year he performed at the Rodeo Clown Reunion of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, CO.

A given, though, is that none of his six grandchildren are permitted to watch his act–one that should never be attempted at home….

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   Dr. Collins and his wife, Terri – a retired elementary school teacher–now have a small spread near Grandview.

He still teaches agriculture classes from time to time. His twenty-two “superintending” years were in Wellington, Jacksboro, Snyder and Mineral Wells.

I’m not sure how many folks in those communities knew of his kinship with rodeos, but had he mastered the juggling earlier, he likely would have prevailed over most unruly parents, some teachers and a few board members upon pulling the starter cord….

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   Before you ask, he still has all his limbs and digits, never having anything go afoul in his chainsaw juggling.

He still tosses the saws to the same height as he did when he started a decade ago.  Also, they are set at the same speed, posing the same danger at the same level across the years.

At age 68, Dr. Collins admits to wearing glasses for reading, but NOT for juggling….

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   He and Terri are proud of their sons, Drs. Brad and Todd Collins, Midlothian chiropractor and Waco dentist, respectively.

The retirees live a few hundred yards from Brad, his wife Kandace, and their children Carter, 17; Codi, 14, and Kenna, 12. Less than an hour away are Todd, wife Amy, and their children Tred, 11; Cy, 9 and Adelyn, 7.

Ronny and Terri spend considerable time attending youth sporting events and activities, and love to have them visit their country place, where there’s hunting and fishing in the great outdoors.

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     While Dr. Collins spent most of his years in education – including doctoral study at Oklahoma State University – he’s extremely grateful for his rodeo days as a bullfighter and clown. He still is a card-carrying member of the International Pro Rodeo Association.

He was inducted into the Cowboy & Arena Champions Hall of Fame in Kerrville in 2016 as a rodeo clown/bullfighter, and into the Cowboy Protection Association Hall of Fame last year as a bullfighter.

He’s a valued friend who’ll “do to ride the river with,” a description born many years ago when cattle drives stirred up dust. And I’d say that even if his sons weren’t graduates of Howard Payne University, where I did most of my “presidenting.”…

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   Dr. Newbury, longtime university president, continues to write weekly and speak throughout Texas. Contact: 817-447-3872. Email: [email protected]. Facebook: Don Newbury. Twitter: @donnewbury

Don Newbury is author of Life by the Seat of the Pants. Please click HERE to find a collection of his humorous and inspirational stories on Amazon.

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