Bayousphere: Rough Riders at the Houston Rodeo

Leon Coffee has been a rodeo clown for 39 years. Texas Monthly calls him perhaps the most revered and beloved clown in the history of American rodeo. A U.S. Army veteran and "man in the can," the bullfighter is a lifetime member of the United States Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. In 2004, he was inducted into the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame.

He's a regular at the Houston Rodeo, one of a multitude of stars and about-to-be's who iron their Wranglers, keep a tight grip on their fears and carry on the cowboy tradition in the dirt and controlled chaos of Reliant Stadium each spring.

(Click here for a slideshow of images.)

How else do you explain Niki Moran, who stands on top of a horse and gallops around the arena, carrying a flag while fireworks go off?

Or Punkee Schroeder of China, Texas, who lost his arm and most of one ear in a farming accident, but doesn't hesitate to cheer on son Beau, whose bull ride this year ended with a toss into a metal fence post and 11 stitches?

Sharon Camarillo took her years of experience as a champion at the rodeo and parlayed them into a gig as an announcer at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo — proving there is life after the buzzer.

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Daniel Kramer