HOUSTON -- Leon Coffee has delighted rodeo fans for 44 years. He's the famous rodeo clown, or barrelman who stares down bulls for a living.
But, Leon almost didn't make it to Houston this year.
Leon is a master showman, who walks a fine line between danger and delight.
After multiple surgeries and 140 broken bones, he’s used to working with pain. But last, May he had a health scare bigger than any bull.
“I woke up on a Sunday morning, I was going to feed my horses and I had a tremendous headache," Leon said.”I violently shook like crazy, not in control and I didn't know what was happening."
Leon was rushed to a hospital in San Antonio, where he was diagnosed with meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
"Doctors told me I was two hours from being dead," he said.
Leon spent seven days in the hospital being treated with antibiotics.
"Meningitis compared to being in the barrel with the bulls? I'd rather be in the barrel," Leon said.
Doctors told him to take it easy, but Leon's passion for the rodeo, trumped common sense. He was back dodging bulls, two months later.
"I cherish it,” said Leon. “I cherish the days that I have left in my career."
Leon is back at RodeoHouston, where he's delighted crowds for decades. He knows he can't do this forever, but he refuses to say when he will retire. It's not his pride, but his faith.
"I'm going to tell you like this, I've never wanted to step down and quit, because I feel like God gave me the ability to do two things, and that's make people happy and help people out," Leon said.
As long as he can move, Leon Coffee will be working a rodeo and entertaining a crowd.