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In Print: On News Stands Now

THE EXPLODING CAR IS BACK IN THE RODEO ARENA

by Tumbleweed Smith

I happened to be with legendary rodeo clowns Quail Dobbs and Leon Coffee the day Quail sold Leon his famous exploding car. For decades, Quail entertained rodeo audiences all over the world with his slapstick comedy. His old car reared up, spun around and spewed fire, smoke, car parts and fireworks all over the arena. When he wasn't clowning with his car, Quail fought bulls and was honored many times for his work as a barrel man.

Quail bought the car, a 1910 Model T with a 1927 engine, in 1966. He bought it sight unseen over the telephone and when he saw it for the first time, it looked like a pile of junk. He worked with it and created an act that rodeo fans can still quote almost word for word.

Quail fought his first bull in 1962 and clowned for 36 years at some of the most prestigious rodeos in the world. He performed at Cheyenne 28 years. He booked two years in advance and was in the arena 130 nights a year. Quail gave up clowning seven years ago and put his car in storage. Since 1999, his arena is the courtroom. A sign on his Justice of the Peace office in Coahoma reads 'The Law East of Stink Creek.'

When I interviewed Quail and Leon, it was mutual admiration. Each man couldn't say enough good things about the other.

Leon, who has been in several movies and won a barrel full of rodeo honors himself, is absolutely thrilled with the purchase of the car.

'I know how good that car act used to make me feel,' he says. 'If I can make the people in the stands feel as good as that car act used to make me feel, then Quail's still out there. With him not clowning anymore, I figured my bringing the car act back would be a tribute to Quail. I've always told him he was my hero. I won't try to be Quail, but there will always be part of Quail in the act.'

Quail says the car needed Leon a lot more than Leon needed the car. 'It sat for seven years going to waste. I'm glad Leon has it.'

Leon says he's been rodeoing a long time but right now he's like a kid in a candy store. 'I'm just so excited to get in it and drive it. You can't imagine how troubled I was to call Quail and ask him if he would sell me that act. It's a part of Quail's life. It's a part of history that needs to be seen by generations of young people, to let them know that car's still going. It's such a great honor to be able to have it. In my eyes, Quail will be enshrined in this car.'

Leon left Coahoma with the car and spent 3 solid weeks working with it to get his act together. He tried it out at a couple of college rodeos, and now he's doing it at pro rodeos all over the country.

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