NACOGDOCHES, Texas – When Pete Carr established his rodeo company years ago, he knew he needed a great team of talented people to help him along the way.
What Carr found was a family atmosphere, one very similar to the rodeo lifestyle itself. Crew members work, travel and celebrate together during the 30-plus rodeo season. Nobody in the sport epitomizes that family togetherness more than John and Sandy Gwatney, the husband-wife tandem that are a big part of the Carr brand.
“Everybody knows their job, and everybody knows where they need to fill in if something goes astray,” said John Gwatney, the production supervisor for Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo, the livestock firm that will produce the Nacogdoches ProRodeo & Steer Show, set for 7:45 p.m. Thursday, March 27-Saturday, March 29, at the Nacogdoches County Arena.
Gwatney and Carr work closely together making sure every aspect of a rodeo’s production goes off as flawlessly as possible. They lean on each other and the rest of the crew to put on the best competition and showcase as possible.
Of course, John Gwatney leans on nobody more than his wife and traveling partner, Sandy, a secretary/timer/do-it-all cowgirl who is a big part of the rodeo’s success.
“She’s my best friend, and she knows as much about the production as anybody going,” he said. “Whether she’s timing or is the secretary or is carrying the American flag, she knows the importance of what we do and why we do it. That’s a lady that there’s no job that’s too little or too big for her.”
That’s a quality that is a shared among the talented Carr team.
“The thing about John and Sandy is that they’re very good at everything they do, and they’re very selfless,” said Pete Carr, owner of the Dallas-based livestock company. “They have been with us since the beginning, and they are an integral part of making each of our rodeos work.
“I believe we have the best crew in rodeo, people who work hard and care about everyone: the fans, the committees and the contestants. That’s important.”
The Gwatneys grew up in California – Sandy in the northern portion, John in the south. They have been together since the fall of 1996, and they’re lives have centered around rodeo.
“The reason why I time or secretary is because I like being part of the rodeo,” Sandy Gwatney said. “Since we’re not competing anymore, this is a way for me to be part of it. I really like my job, and that’s why I do it. I’m a people person.”
She is, and it’s been a tremendous benefit to the rodeos she works, because she knows so many people in the sport. There’s something that comes with having those relationships, but there’s so much more that goes into rodeo. One common theme among members of the Carr crew is a love for the sport.
“I have a passion for horses in general,” she said. “I love watching a good bucking horse work as much as I love watching a good bulldogging horse or calf roping horse work. I absolutely love steer roping horses because they’re so disciplined and so intent on their jobs.
“I love animals and watching the animals work. I’m sure that has a definite advantage in my position. We’re doing our jobs, and the animals are doing theirs.”
When it all comes together, it’s a job well done. That’s what happens when people are passionate about the work they do.
“I love the sport,” John Gwatney said. “While most people wanted to go play football and baseball and stuff, all I wanted to do was go to another rodeo.
“A lot of it has to do with the love of animals, but then there’s the production side. If we can, for two hours a day, help people forget their problems and have a good time, then I feel that I’ve done my job, whether I’m running the bucking-chute end or the timed-event end or competing. I’m just taking people away from their worries for a couple hours each day, and it makes a big difference in my life.”
Rodeo is one of those hybrid events in which quality entertainment is mixed with world-class competition.
“We are always aware that we have an obligation toward the contestant, and a big part of our job is to make sure everybody at our rodeo has an equal shot to win,” John Gwatney said. “Mentally I’m still a contestant. Every stock contractors dream has been to buck everybody off, but without the 90-point ride, there is no rodeo.
“The contestants know I competed. I rode bulls for eight years. I’ll listen, and they know that. I want what’s right for the contestant. I want them all to have the same shot.”
It not only is the respect for others, but it’s a respect for the game. Rodeo is a rare breed in which humans match their skills against animal athletes. It’s a showcase of true athleticism.
That’s the Carr rodeo specialty. In 2013, there were 27 Carr animals selected to buck at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s grand championship. Over the years, there have been three world champion bucking horses: Real Deal, Big Tex and MGM Deuces Night.
“The thing I like about Pete Carr is he keeps people working together who like to work together so their jobs more enjoyable,” Sandy Gwatney said. “You keep your foundation solid. If everybody gets along, it makes it that much more fun.”
That’s the key to a strong team, which is one of the strongest aspects of the Carr product. Of course, it all starts at home for the Gwatneys.
“I’m lucky enough to have my best friend travel with me and make it a successful event no matter where we go,” John Gwatney said.
At the heart of Pete Carr Pro Rodeo is family. It’s what makes everything click.