MARSHALL, Texas – Jeremy Hight and Jeremy Willis took very different paths to their careers as pickup men.
Hight grew up around livestock but never competed in rodeo; Willis rode bareback horses professionally before transitioning to his existing role. They bring it all together quite well as pickup men for Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo, which will produce the Marshall Pro Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 6-Saturday, March 8, at Marshall City Arena.
“I grew up around some amateur rodeos, but I never did really rodeo. I was more of a cowboy, working at ranches,” said Hight, now in his fifth year on the job. “I went to Texas A&M and stayed down there for five or six years working for big ranches.”
Now he spends most of his time at the Carr Ranch near Athens, Texas, where he cares for the animal athletes on a daily basis. When he’s not on the ranch, he’s at a Carr rodeo, where he handles continues his trade of livestock care while also tackling all the chores of some of the most versatile cowboys in the game. In addition to handling many of the behind-the-scenes duties that help make the rodeo happen, Willis and Hight will assist cowboys who ride bucking horses and bulls for a living.
“I think it takes someone who is well mounted, who can read livestock and can do all the things that need to be done in and out of the arena,” said Willis, of Elkhart, Texas. “When I rode, I always liked guys who rode bucking horses before they started picking up. I felt like they could read the horses more. I can tell by what lead the horse is in where he’s going to be.”
Though he played college baseball, Hight understands all the intricacies that come with the job.
“One of the biggest things is in the horses you ride,” he said. “You have to keep good horses coming along all the time. As long as they’re working good, you look good. It’s also important to be able to read the stock and read the situation so you can be in the right place at the right time.
“You also need to be able to work with a team with whoever else you’re working with. There are two of us out there for a reason. It makes things more fluid, easier when we’re working together and when the horses work good.”
Willis and Hight have worked together for several years. They know what it takes to make things work, especially when they’re in the arena together.
“The biggest thing I like about Pete Carr Pro Rodeo is that Pete hires the best guys he can get,” Willis said. “When he hires them, he trusts them to do their jobs, and he doesn’t micromanage what we’re doing. It’s also a nice thing working with guys that know the horses.”
Hight and Willis do. They’ve seen the animals perform and know how to work each animal that comes out of the chute.
“What we shoot for is a good, smooth performance, and a big part of that is that we spend the least amount of time with that animal,” Hight said. “We want to get that flank off them so they get that release. I’ve been told by very smart rodeo people that the best pickup men are the ones you never notice; they don’t do anything wrong, they don’t rush things and they’re don’t get in a bind. We want to shoot for that every time.”
That push for excellence is what defines Willis, Hight and Pete Carr Pro Rodeo.