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World's Toughest Rodeo

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World's Toughest Rodeo!!!

World’s Toughest Rodeo features champion cowboys from around the United States competing in bareback riding, saddle bronc riding or bull riding, while the ladies will be vying for the championship title in barrel racing.  The top two in each event will return for a second time to go head-to-head to determine the night’s champion.  Before the rodeo each night, fans are invited to come early to meet some of the competing cowboys and the rodeo clown.  Fans will also have an opportunity to get autographs and photos with these real life cowboys.

A new feature for 2013 is the introduction of American style bull fighting, where the bullfighters (or “cowboy lifesavers”) pit their agility and skill against specially bred rodeo “fighting” bulls.  It is a scored competition where the object is to get as close as possible to these fast and cantankerous bulls without getting gouged (or “hooked” as they call it in rodeo vernacular) – it's new to Saint Paul and will surely keep fans on the edge of their seats.

KooLaydium had the chance to Interview a Cowboy!

Jeff Rector ~ Pickup Cowboy


  When you were a boy growing up did you have 'cowboy dreams' of doing this, or is there a different story behind what you do?


  "Growing up as a kid I didn't really have any infatuation with rodeo itself, I really just liked horses.  When I was a kid I used to watch a lot of Westerns on TV, just because I liked to watch the horses.  That was my basic infatuation.  It really had nothing to do with rodeo.  At the time I didn't know anything about rodeo, or that it even existed."


  Can you please explain the level of safety and care that is taken with the rodeo animals?


    "I'm so glad you asked me that, because that is a huge misconception about the rodeo business. 

     For instance, people think that calf-roping is hard on the cattle.  If you have two or three-hundred head of cattle, and they get sick you can't say 'load em up and we're going to the doctor'.  It doesn't work like that.  The actual event was created with the goal of roping the calf to tie him down and administer any kind of medicine or vaccinations that he would need to stay healthy.  That is how it (calf-roping) all started.  With people as competitive as they are, it turned into a rodeo event to see who could do it the fastest.  The overall goal remains the same; it started to help the animal, to give him medicine. 

     One thing people don't realize is that these animals, whether it be a calf, a steer, a bucking horse or a bull - are worth a lot of money.  The last thing that the rodeo company or owners (of the animals) would want to do is hurt the animal, or jeopardize its health in any way.  A lot of people in the rodeo business make their living based on the quality of their stock.  The percentage of animals getting hurt is very low; the cowboys get hurt a lot more than the animals do."


  Can you please describe your relationship with your horses? How many do you have?

        "We actually own five head of horses, and that is usually what we take to a rodeo.  We have had our horses for several years.  Our horses are obviously like our family.  We take care of them like they are our children; we feed them before we feed ourselves, and we always take care of them first.  That is the responsibility of being an owner of not only horses, but of pets in general.  Not only do they make us a lot of money each year, but even if they didn't make us a dime we would still take care of them the same.  One thing about being an animal owner is you have to remember all of the times that they can't take care of themselves.  We love them to death.  They have their own personalities; we know what they do and don't like as well as their strengths and their weaknesses.  We have quite the relationship with them, so that definitely comes in handy."


   Could you tell us what you do as a 'pickup man'?

      "In the horse riding and bucking horses events, at the end of that ride you don't want to have to jump off of your horse.  The pickup men were created to safely assist the riders off of the animal. At the conclusion of the ride, there are always two guys in the arena that help the cowboy get off of the animal.  We also help take care of the bucking horses, because as I said before the animals are 70% of the rodeo and we definitely want to take care of them as well.  We get the animals safely back to the pens, after we get the guy down.  That's basically it, in a nutshell.


  Have you always been a pickup man at the rodeo, or are there other things that you have tried?


       "I roped in college; I actually went to college on a rodeo scholarship.  I team roped, but I really didn't like that near as much as I liked picking up.  Picking up is just such an adrenaline rush, and you're majorly involved with the rodeo.  You get guaranteed paychecks, and you get paid no matter how good or bad you do.  I really liked the idea of having steady work and money, and it's something that after my first rodeo - that's all I ever wanted to do, so I just ran with it."


   How long have you been picking up for?      

       "I got my professional rodeo card in 1995, so I've been doing it for 18 years now."     


   I've found an interesting quote while researching what you do - "The pickup men are respected by contestants as the true cowboys of the rodeo." I was wondering if you could elaborate on that statement, please?

       "Basically, what they mean by that is that in order to be a pick-up man and actually be decent at it you have to have a lot of skills.  That is probably why they said that.  You have to have some type of athletic ability.  You have to be a good horseman and be able to rope well.  You have to be able to ride.  You have to be able to read livestock and know what the horse or bull is going to do before they do it.  That's when knowing animal instincts comes into play.  A lot of times I know what a horse is going to do, or what the bull is going to do probably before he does; just because of experience and knowing how they act.  A lot of that comes into it, and basically that's it.  There are a lot of people who can do certain events; there are not a lot of people who can rope and ride, and handle a horse and rope bulls.  As a pickup man you have a lot of responsibility.  You can't just be good at one thing, you have to be able to do a variety of things and do them all pretty well."


   How many rodeos per year do you participate in?

       "We travel to about 30 different places per year on a 'good' year.  Most of those rodeos have three to four performances, so we're pretty busy with it.  This winter alone we'll go to St. Paul, to North Carolina, head down to Columbus, then Arizona and we'll go to Texas.....we travel a lot.  One thing about rodeo - whether you're picking up or competing you have to be prepared to travel, but that's one thing we enjoy about it." 


    If you were in the audience of a rodeo, what would be your favorite part?      

        "A lot of people like bull riding, because it's more dangerous...but I've always been a fan of bucking horses.  They're just so proud, and so free and so smart. 

     What people don't realize, is that when you go to a rodeo you'll see how big and healthy and strong their horses are.  They're worth a lot of money.  Not any horse will do what those horses do.  If you go gather 100 horses from a field just running lose, there would be only one or two that actually make it in the rodeo business.  Special horses are kind of like special athletes; not everybody can do it.  They're just really, really cool animals." 


        "My wife is wanting me to tell you about the rodeo's big breeding program.  For example if you have mare (which is a female horse) from the rodeo and she's really good and you breed her with a stallion, nine times out of ten their offspring are going to be good in the rodeo business as well."