Pickup Man

photo by Matt Cohen

photo by Matt Cohen

When there are bad hang-ups, you have to keep your cool and focus.

by Chase Cervi

This is my sixth year working as a pickup man at the National Finals Rodeo. I’ve been coming to the NFR since I was a baby, literally since I was nine months old. My Dad has been a stock contractor for over fifty years. I don’t think there’s been a year I’ve missed it. Guess that’s a perk of having a family in the business!

The NFR is exciting, but it can also be nerve-wracking. I always bring six horses with me—two to ride in the bareback, two for the saddle broncs, one for the bull riding and one extra to rotate in as needed. They all handle the NFR really well. We take stock to Denver, Houston and San Antonio. Those are all indoor rodeos with a lot of lights, lasers and fireworks so they get firework broke pretty quickly.

Follow Cowboy Journal

When there are bad hang-ups, you have to keep your cool and focus. You have to tune out the announcers and audience and just take care of the cowboy.

Unexpected things still happen. Sometimes they happen to the pickup men! In 2015 my hobble strap broke and my horse went to humping up and bucking in the middle of the Thomas & Mack arena. That was pretty mortifying. Thankfully I thought fast and just reached down and undid my back cinch. He knocked off the bucking, and I was able to help the cowboy before fixing my gear. For a split second, I thought I might get bucked off at the NFR—and I wasn’t even competing!

Last week, I was named PRCA Pickup Man of the Year. That is a huge honor. It means the cowboys trust me. They trust that I’m going to do my job one-hundred-percent every time. So far, so good this year. I’m just so grateful to be living this life and have the opportunity I have here at the NFR.

Read more about the rodeo athletes in The Chase for the Gold Buckle. Follow #theCjHASEnfr

More from The Chase for the Gold Buckle