Sparkle City Buckout: Bulls, Broncs, and Barrels Benefit for Eugene Fowler

Eugene Fowler knew exactly where he wanted to go with rodeo. He just didn’t know where the pursuit would take him.

“Right out of high school, I thought I wanted to ride bulls,” he said. “I was into skateboarding and grinding down rails and I thought I wanted to try out bullriding. I knew a guy who I went to school with, and I got hooked up with him and found out where I could go get on a bull.”

The results were decidedly mixed.

“The first one I got on, I went 4.89 seconds and I thought ‘Hey, I can do this!’,” Fowler said. “The second one, I got hurt a little bit. But I figured it out, and I rode bulls from 2002-2005. Then I was asked if I’d like to ride a bucking horse, and I figured it would help with my bull riding. I decided to do both of them.”

It was the best of both worlds for Fowler.

“Growing up not having much, it was a way to see the country and loved what I was doing,” he said. “You’re betting with your life, but I put my faith in the Lord and He provided a way for me to do it.”

In 2007, though, things changed.

“I broke my neck down in Evans, Ga.,” Fowler said. “I thought that was going to bring a stop to everything I’d built up. I’d gotten really good at riding, and I’d slowed down on bulls and started concentrating on bucking horses and doing better. I followed up with doctors, and my neck started getting better. I went back to riding a couple months after that.”

During his injury, though, is where Fowler’s rodeo future opened up.

“While I was out, I knew I wanted to stay involved in rodeo in any way possible,” he said. “I always liked the rodeo clowns, being a class clown in school. One who I really liked was Charlie Poteet. I saw him in 2006 at the Spartanburg Fairgrounds Rodeo. I always wondered how that old 1928 Model A Ford would drive by himself and the window would fall down without him even touching it.”

So with time on his hands, Fowler set about finding out. He got hooked up with Poteet, and off they went.

“I just got in the car with him and we took off and he taught me how to be a rodeo clown,” Fowler said. “He became like a grandfather to me, and I was like a son to him. Neither one of us had those in our lives.”

As Fowler’s clowning career took off, the demand for his services outstripped his time. That helped draw Poteet out of retirement. Sometimes they split the duties. Sometimes they clowned together. Fowler continued to ride as well.

“Many times I’d have on my clown makeup and my rodeo pants,” he said. “I’d go out and try to ride for eight seconds, then go clown for the rest of the event.”

Fowler transitioned to clowning full time in 2012, picking and choosing his destinations. He’s been active ever since.”

Active, that is, until an accident while Fowler was working his day job brought everything crashing down.

Fowler owns a landscaping business, and in November he found himself 35 feet off the ground in a lift, cutting a tree. Something went wrong, but Fowler can’t tell you exactly what. He remembers touching the tree with his chainsaw. His next memory is five days later, in the hospital, as he began asking questions.

He’s pieced together a little bit of what put him there.

“The tree had gotten pulled, and it bounced back into the basket of the lift,” he explained. “It catapulted me. I landed on the tree, and it launched me about 30 feet to the ground. I landed on my right chest with my arm tucked under me. I broke 10 of the 12 ribs on my right side, collapsed my lung, broke my clavicle, which already had a small plate, and broke some ribs on my left side. I’m lucky that I didn’t break my neck, and I didn’t have a mark at all on my face or head.”

Doctors and family were unsure that Fowler would make it. He’s still suffering aftereffects from his injuries today.

“I have a plate that covers my whole clavicle,” he said. “I have a lot of nerves that aren’t working. I’ve got a lot of superficial pain with the nerve damage that you can’t do a whole lot about. But I’m back putting one foot in front of the other. One week out of the hospital, I really jumped into therapy to try to get back out. People were telling me they missed me, and I was really missing doing what I love to do. And I’m just trying to be a friend and brother to people.”

That aspect is evident in the fact that Fowler doesn’t hesitate to give back. He’s run benefit rodeo events in Spartanburg in the past, events that raise money for various groups or individuals in need.

“We can do so much more for others than we can do for ourselves, and I appreciate that,” he said. “The past two years we’ve had the opportunity to put on a pro rodeo event at the Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds, and we’ve actually won an award for being in the Top 5 new rodeos produced by the International Professional Rodeo Association.”

When he went to Oklahoma to accept that award, Fowler showed a little Palmetto State pride.

“While I was there I competed with all the other rodeo clowns in the Barrelman competition,” he said. “It’s a whole different ballgame. There’s no funny joke-telling or acts in that arena. You really have to be there for cowboy protection. I won first place in that, and took the title and the buckle.”

He also took first place in a talent competition in Oklahoma, thanks to his act involving Poteet’s old 1928 Model A, which was passed down by the man himself at the 2022 event in Spartanburg.

The events at Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds in August have benefitted the Hejaz Shriners, with funds benefitting the Shriners’ Hospital for Children. This year, a new April event will benefit Fowler himself, to help offset some of his medical expenses.

“This event was planned and prayed about last year to benefit someone locally on hard times,” he said. “We didn’t know then that at the end of November, my fiancé would have to make decisions about whether to postpone this rodeo or to go with it. We talked about it and decided that we would do it, and this will benefit the medical expenses I’ve acquired since the accident, and more that are going to follow.”

The local benefit from the April events will continue in the future.

“Next year, as this comes along, we’ll be finding someone else that we can benefit with this event,” Fowler said. “We’ll keep this event in April, and then do a rodeo in August.”

This weekend’s event will feature bull riding, bareback broncs, saddle broncs, and barrel racing.

“We call it a roughstock event with the barrel racing,” he said. “The only difference is the roping events, which we will have in August. But we’ve kind of pumped this one up a bit. There’s more added money there for the cowboys to have a chance to win, so you’ll see different contestants coming, and they’re already coming from all over the country, and even Canada and Brazil. We’re also adding bands to kind of spice it up a little bit as you come in prior to the show starting. We sought out local talent, and we’re tickled to death to have those guys want to be a part of what’s going on.”

The event is April 5 and 6 at the Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds. More details can be found on Facebook by following Pro Rodeo Spartanburg.

To donate directly to Eugene Fowler’s medical expenses, you can visit his GoFundMe

To keep up with Eugene, follow him on Facebook 

1 comment

Tonn Logan

Tonn Logan

Prayers for great and mighty favor from God to evolve from your fundraisers and for you. In Jesus name amen.

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