STEPHENVILLE, Texas – When Chad Decker looks around Lone Star Arena, he knows what will happen the final weekend of September.
“I know the contestants will be ready and the animals will buck,” said Decker, chairman of the Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo committee, which produces the event set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, and Saturday, Sept. 29, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30.
If he sounds confident, he should. Decker knows rodeo, and he expects the knowledgeable fans in the area that make their way to the arena for the three performances will enjoy the show. He also has a lot of confidence in Carr Pro Rodeo, the event’s livestock producer.
“Pete Carr always has good stuff at our rodeo,” Decker said. “You don’t have to worry about the stock being top quality.”
The Dallas-based stock company has been a fixture at Stephenville for several years and provides some of the top animals in the business. Last year, Carr Pro Rodeo had 12 animals perform at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Bareback riders won three rounds on Carr horses last December – Clint Cannon won the eighth round on Real Deal, the 2005 Bareback Horse of the Year; while MGM Deuces Night guided two cowboys to round titles, Ryan Gray on the fifth night and world champion Kaycee Feild in the 10th round.
“We know Pete’s going to have excellent stock, and he and his crew are going to put on a great production,” Decker said.
The crew features some of the top hands in rodeo, like Paul Peterson, a three-time NFR pickup man who now serves as the firm’s operations manager and flankman.
“Paul has been a valuable part of our team since our first rodeo,” Carr said. “Paul is one of the most versatile people you’ll meet, and in rodeo, he can do almost everything. He knows these animals, and that plays a lot into what he’s done with us from the very beginning.
“I want to surround myself with the best people I can, and that’s what I get with Paul.”
How important is it to understand the animal athletes?
“Every horse is going to take a different kind of flank,” Peterson said. “Those older horses, the ones that have been around a long time, they need a little bit more of a flank, but the colts will need less. You’ve got to figure out what’s going to be the best flank for each of the animals to perform at their best.
“You can ruin the horse or get him to the NFR.”
Peterson knows a little bit about that. As an all-around cowboy competing in the PRCA, he just missed qualifying for the NFR a few times in saddle bronc riding. Whatever he’s done, he’s excelled. That means he’ll take to the task of flankman with the same gusto.
“You’ve just got to know the animals,” Peterson said. “You take into consideration where the horse come from and what they’ve done to him in the past and if you’ve raised him. It helps to know a lot about what their mom is and what she was like; a lot of time they’re going to be just like her.”
The NFR is an annual showcase of the very best in ProRodeo, from the top 15 contestants in each event and discipline to the best personnel. Delia Walls of Stephenville is the rodeo secretary, while Shawna Ray and Sandy Garland, both of Stephenville, will time. Jimmy Adams will serve as the timed-event chute boss. Bullfighters Chris Kirby and Dusty Duba not only help protect fallen bull riders, but also they handle many of the behind-the-scenes tasks that go on at each rodeo.
“When you’re in business, you’re only as good as the people around you and the people you hire,” Decker said. “That’s the key component for Pete and the rodeo company. Those guys behind the scenes make the rodeo seem flawless, and they dang sure don’t get recognized enough for the work they do.”