The Real Life of Big Brothers Rodeo Clown

DJ Christensen

Des Moines Area Community College

Feature Story:

Jason Dent aka Whistle-Nut


As summer approaches, you might think about what kind of activities you will do. If you’re an outdoorsy person, that might mean packing up your camping gear and heading off to the great outdoors to pitch a tent. Or, if you are lucky, you’ll be packing up your camper to enjoy the outdoors in a more luxurious way. However, to live the camper life, your camper has to be in working order first, which will mean a trip to see your camper repair person. Mine retired last year, and the new owner who took charge of the shop I use was unlike anyone I had ever met before.


Jason Dent, owner of All Auctions Inc., had bought the camper repair center since my last service. He purchased the building so that he could have a place to run his auctions, but he also kept the shop open for camper repairs. Jason, when you meet him, is tall, loud, and hilarious. I had no idea, the first couple of times I was at his shop, that he was so much more than “just a camper repair guy.”


Jason has a wife and three kids. He runs three businesses, was on Big Brother Season 19, and has a lot of energy. He is also the epitome of a good man. He works hard, loves his family and his bull, Ole, and is always willing to help out if you ask, eager to cooperate on this project with me.


Jason grew up in Humeston, Iowa. He graduated from Mormon Trail High School and continued at Northwest Missouri State University, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Business. Jason also competed in the college’s rodeo program. Following his graduation, he continued to compete at rodeos by riding bulls and bulldogging. He moved around to Kansas, Tennessee, and Missouri before moving back to Iowa for good. Jason won Rookie of the Year in 2002 in bull riding for the IRCA while also working, raising, and training quarter horses in Iowa. When he moved back to Iowa in January of 2002, he managed a feed mill for Heartland Coop for a while before breaking away to do his own thing.


After returning home, Jason found and married the love of his life, Holly. She is the younger sister of one of his best friends from high school. They married in 2005 after dating for three years. They have been married for 18 years and have three children: Gatlyn (8), Letti (5), and Kimber (3). He lights up when he talks about his children; I wouldn’t be surprised if they all had him wrapped around their little fingers. If he had any advice for his kids, it would be, “Don’t be scared. It’s okay to be nervous, but don’t be scared.” Jason shows them every day what hard work and determination looks like.


Around 2008, Jason began to create and sell metal art. by consigning them to shops. For both the shops and Jason to make money from these items, the shops would raise the price of the item much higher than Jason’s price. His pieces still sold at this higher price, so he wanted to cut out the middleman and keep that hard-earned money where it belonged. In 2010, Jason decided he wanted to work for himself and never looked back. He thought the best way to do that was to go to auctioneering school and then sell the artwork himself. He would take his pieces to places where he knew lots of people would be gathered and used his auctioneering skills to sell the work. He enjoys auctioneering and has done it for over 11 years now. Through his All Auctions Inc. business, he participates in sales of farm estates, personal property, land, charity, acreages, benefits, and specialty auctions. When he’s not auctioneering, you might find him working in his camper repair shop, much like I did upon our first meeting.


When Jason purchased the camper repair shop in 2022, he didn’t have any background knowledge of repairing campers, but he did have the know-how to repair and build things with his hands. He also retained a few employees when he purchased the shop who showed him the ropes and taught him what he needed to know. While Jason still performs this service for his customers, it’s not necessarily what he wants to do long-term. He has recently started building truck bed camper toppers for auctioneers from scratch and would like to build on that part of his business. He might enjoy these businesses, but you can tell where his true passion lies: Whistle-Nut and the Ole Rodeo Team.


In 2008, at a bull training facility in Iowa, Ole the bull, who was three at the time, was not succeeding as a bucking bull and was slated to be sent to slaughter. Jason saw something in this bull and wanted to show everyone that not only are these bulls trainable, but they can also be amazing representatives of the rodeo lifestyle. Jason asked to purchase him, and Ole’s owners agreed to $1 per pound plus an additional $800 for registration papers. $1,600 later, Ole was Jason’s. Ole was the offspring of Little Yellow Jacket, who was a four-time PBR bull of the year. Ole is now 17 years old. Still Jason’s best friend, he travels with Jason all over the country.


Jason spent three years training Ole. He did 100% of the training himself and had the bruises to prove it. Jason says he had more injuries from those three years than from 14 years of riding bulls on the circuit. He has broken a few ribs, a thumb, and a toe, but according to Jason, those injuries weren’t that bad. He may downplay his injuries when he talks about them, but he did have a severe injury after he got his head stepped on during a performance in Knoxville, Iowa, even being life-flighted due to his injuries. However, Jason thinks that his head injury made him a better person since he doesn’t fight anymore. As he puts it, it changed his personality for the better. In the end, Jason says those injuries were worth it to still have Ole by his side today.


To celebrate Ole and his amazing transformation, Jason asked if he could ride Ole around at a rodeo but was told he could only do it if he performed as a rodeo clown for the event. Jason didn’t have his face paint, baggies (the jeans cut up that form the skirt you see clowns wear), or vibrant colored clothes, but he did have charisma. After all was said and done, Jason made $400 for that event and was such a hit that management asked him to stay on as a clown with Ole. He did, but he asked for $600 to do it. Later in his career, Jason went on to win a PBR nationwide contest called FUN and make it to the finals in Las Vegas. Word of mouth spread about this rodeo clown and his bull, and as Jason became more recognizable and in demand, he knew it was time to raise his price and begin taking things seriously.


When Jason became Whistle-Nut, he received some very sage advice from his mentors, John Steenhoek and Brian Wire: Pay attention to the grandparents and the kids, ignore the adults in between. Jason explains the advice by clarifying: Kids want to have fun, and grandparents want to feel young again, but the ones in between are dealing with the whole work/life struggle and could care less about a clown acting goofy in the arena. Jason took this advice to heart, and while performing, he does precisely that. If there is an adult that isn’t on the struggle bus of the adulting trap we often fall into, he pays attention to them as well, but it is not a deterrent to him when they don’t pay attention to him or his antics. Being a rodeo clown with a popular act even landed Jason a casting call with the people behind the popular show Big Brother.


The show actively pursued Jason and asked him to audition for the show. While he had never watched the show or had much interest in it before the recruiting efforts, he decided to give it a shot. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and he didn’t want to squander the chance he was being given. He was cast as a member of Big Brother 19, which aired on CBS from June through September 2017. Jason spent 79 days inside the Big Brother house until his blind-sided eviction that left him in 7th place and the 5th member of the jury.


Even though the show was six years ago, Jason has remained friends with several cast members: Alex, Josh, Mark, Alena, Paul, and Christmas. When asked if he would do it again, Jason responded immediately that he would. However, he believes he would be louder and more himself if he could do it over. I asked Jason about what the best and worst things were about being a reality TV personality. The best thing, he said, is that it elevated his recognizability. The worst thing? That it elevated his recognizability. The celebrity status the show gave him sometimes hurt his relationships with friends and family. His performances as Whistle-Nut also have the same caveat.


While shadowing Jason at The Appanoose County Fair for his two-night rodeo gig he was working, I watched in fascination. Wherever he went, people would scream his name as they saw him, rushing to him for pictures and autographs and following him around as he prepared for his shows. He always gave these fans as much attention as possible, depending on what he was working on, even learning their names. Jason never turned a single person away. He remained calm, cracking jokes, and never stopped smiling. Through most of the pictures I took of Jason over the time I spent with him, I am hard-pressed to find one without a smile on his face. He truly loves what he does.


I spent quite a lot of time learning all I could about Jason, and I found through my research that while Jason might look like an open book, he is usually a private person. He tells great stories, cracks the best dad jokes, and makes everyone feel special, but you don’t learn much about the man behind the facepaint, the auctioneer stand, the guy building and repairing toppers and campers, not even the guy you might have watched on tv. You can find information about his Whistle-Nut and Ole Rodeo Team all over the internet and tons of stories about him on Big Brother. But the personal stuff, information about who he is, his hopes and dreams, and his likes and dislikes, are not as easy to come by.


But, if you get a chance to sit down and talk with him, you might learn that he’s compassionate, humble, and likes to listen more than talk. You would find out that he wished he wasn’t as candid and frank about himself and maybe not as quick to jump into things. That he doesn’t like how often he cusses and wishes he could control that portion of himself a little bit better. However, you would also find out that he has zero regrets. You’d hear of his motto that people should try everything, because it either works or it doesn’t. You would learn that his parents have been the greatest influences on his life, giving him his work ethic while allowing him to learn how to fall and get back up, being there as a safety net when he needed them, and guiding him without parameters. You might also discover that growing up, he expected to be retired by 36, rich from a dotcom success and flying a helicopter, or that some of his favorite things are pickled eggs, rap music, and the movie How the West Was Won. His favorite musical artist is Chris LeDoux. His favorite TV show would be any of the shows from Saturday morning cartoons from when we were kids, like Tom & Jerry, and his favorite color is green – all of which you’d never learn from the internet or television.


What I learned about Jason is that he believes the best thing about being a rodeo clown might be the travel. He has traveled all over the US, even to Hawaii and Canada. He gets the chance to visit some fantastic places and gets paid to do it. However, he does say that the best thing might also be the buzz he gets from the excitement of an 1800-pound bull rushing him while sitting on a teeter-totter in a round pen.


When I asked Jason what he would do if he didn’t have work that needed to be done, he sat quietly for a long time, puzzling out what he would do. He hasn’t thought about it in a long time, he said, as he is always on the go. Finally, Jason said he would work on training his bulls, siting his guns, going metal detecting, and doing more metal art welding. He enjoys riding his motorcycle and raising rodeo stock crossbreed bucking bulls, Mexican fighting bulls, and Corriente cows. Jason wishes he had more time to enjoy the simpler things in life, like planting a garden and spending time with his wife and kids. (I was surprised nothing was said about getting more sleep, as I know I would put rest at the top of that list if I had his schedule.)


Jason doesn’t know how much longer he will put on the Whistle-Nut persona; he says only time will tell. While that may be the case, he still leads one of the most fascinating lives of a person I have met. I am glad I had the pleasure to get to know Jason, Ole, and Jason’s family and friends. His philosophy on life is to go fast and take chances. He is 100% self-made. He doesn’t have a lucky charm and is not superstitious. He is just a man who loves life and everything that he can get pleasure from while living it.


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Jason Dent, owner and auctioneer of All Auctions Inc calls out for bids at a property auction in Osceola, Iowa on July 15, 2023.


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Jason Dent, working on a counter to be installed in an auctioneer topper, at his shop in Humeston, Iowa on July 18, 2023.


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Jason Dent mig welding forklift rail tubes at his shop in Humeston, Iowa on July 24, 2023.


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Jason Dent (aka Whistle-Nut), his daughters Letti, 5, and Kimber, 3, on Ole, the bull, at Watermelon Day in Humeston, Iowa on July 15, 2023.


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Jason Dent (aka Whistle-Nut) and Frank Arnett, the rodeo announcer test the sound equipment before the rodeo at Appanoose County Fair on July 18, 2023.


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Jason Dent (aka Whistle-Nut) puts on his signature face paint before the Appanoose County Fair Rodeo on July 19, 2023.


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Jason Dent (aka Whistle-Nut) and Ole, the bull, entertain the rodeo crowd at the Appanoose County Fair on July 19, 2023.


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Jason Dent (aka Whistle-Nut) rounds up the kids in attendance while the sound system gets repaired during the rodeo at the Appanoose County Fair, on July 18, 2023.




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Jason Dent (aka Whistle-Nut) fires the crowd up with a Yee-Haw sound off during the rodeo at the Appanoose County Fair on July 19, 2023.




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Jason Dent (aka Whistle-Nut) entertains the crowd during the rodeo at the Appanoose County Fair on July 19, 2023.


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Jason Dent (aka Whistle-Nut) entertains the crowd during the rodeo at the Appanoose County Fair on July 19, 2023.




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Jason Dent (aka Whistle-Nut) and Kale Triplett (rodeo bullfighter) ride the bull teeter-totter while avoiding Widow Maker (one of Jason’s cross-bred Mexican Fighting Bulls) during the rodeo at the Appanoose County Fair on July 18, 2023.


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Jason Dent (aka Whistle-Nut) celebrates after a tense 3-minute round of Bull Teeter-Totter during the rodeo at the Appanoose County Fair on July 18, 2023.


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Jason Dent (aka Whistle-Nut) talks with fans after the rodeo while his son (in red) Gatlyn, 8, looks on at the Appanoose County Fair on July 18, 2023.


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Jason Dent in front of his stock trailer with a few pieces of his memorabilia from his time on Big Brother 19, at his shop in Humeston, Iowa on July 24, 2023. The bull teeter-totter he uses in his Whistle-Nut and Ole Rodeo Team shows hangs on the side of the trailer. Inside the shadowbox case that Jason made are a ticket from the Sugar Shot game from episode 6, The Hex doll of Jason from episode 11, his bag tag and house key from the Big Brother house, and the cowboy hat he wore during the show.

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