Saskatchewan

Rodeo clown gets prized Homer Simpson dummy back after it was stolen at Agribition

Dennis Halstead has been working in the rodeo business for more than 20 years and this was the first time his dummy had ever been stolen.

Dennis Halstead's dummy saves him from taking too many hard hits

Dennis Halstead has been in the rodeo business for more than 20 years. He uses a dummy to help distract bulls. (Submitted by Dennis Halstead)

A word to the wise to anyone who plans to steal a rodeo dummy from Dennis Halstead: don't.

Halstead is ranked among the best rodeo clowns in the world. His job is to lure bulls away from cowboys so they can get to safety while he distracts — and sometimes takes hits from — the bulls.

In order to do his job properly and injure himself less, Halstead has a dummy. He uses it as a distraction so the bull will run toward it before it heads for him. It lessens the bull's blow because the dummy slows it down.

"In a rodeo, my job is to make sure that barrel is in a position so a cowboy or a bullfighter has to get behind it. They get behind it; I take the hit from the bull.

"Lots of times it's like a small truck doing 30 miles an hour — the G force — when you get hit."

He said he places the dummy about three metres to the side of him.

"That bull will see that dummy, and he'll hit that dummy first. He'll hit that dummy, slow down and then the hit for me isn't as hard."

That was until Agribition in Regina in November.

"I've been taking a lot of hard hits since November," he said.

After going missing, Homer hitched a ride in a semi to meet Halstead in Calgary. (Dennis Halstead)

His dummy just so happens to be in the guise of the iconic cartoon character, Homer Simpson. At the Agribition, the unthinkable happened.

"We had a TV thing to do and I came down in the morning and I could see that somebody had gone through my stuff," Halstead said.

"Homer Simpson was missin'."

It's a good thing he can't talk. I imagine he's got quite the story to tell.- Dennis Halstead, rodeo clown

Halstead went first to the security footage.

"I live a pretty interesting life, and you know how cowboys can be, so my first thing was I wanted ... to make sure it wasn't anybody that I knew. It wasn't," he said.

The footage showed men walking across the parking lot with the dummy.

"It must have been awful foggy that night in Agribition because nobody noticed three guys carrying my Homer Simpson doll across the parking lot," he said.

As luck would have it, one of the bullfighters Halstead works with played hockey with a couple of other men who started bragging about their friend who had stolen a dummy from Agribition. The bullfighter told them the rodeo clown was looking for his dummy and "was ready to whoop on" whoever had taken it.

After what Halstead called "a little communication," Homer got a lift from a rodeo sponsor and arrived in Calgary as a passenger in a semi truck. The dummy was relatively unscathed when Halstead picked him up.

Homer arrived back to Halstead relatively unscathed. (Dennis Halstead)

Halstead said the men who stole Homer maybe didn't know how important the dummy is for his show.

"Some guys that have had a few drinks after a dance, they don't really understand the importance of it. For them, it's a big joke. But for somebody like me, it's a very important part of what I do," he said.  

As for Homer, Halstead said he looks a little road-weary but OK overall.

"It's a good thing he can't talk. I imagine he's got quite the story to tell."

With files from CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition and Guy Quenneville