LOVINGTON, N.M. – When Jimmy Joe Campbell was a little boy, he looked in awe as his father and grandfather worked around the Lea County Fairgrounds.
A lifelong county resident, Campbell lives at the house in which he was raised east of Lovington. Like so many youths in the region, he made his way to the Lea County Fair and Rodeo every year, where he got to see the work his predecessors put in on a daily basis.
They were the county’s employees, but he is carrying on a family legacy by volunteering his time for the annual exposition.
“My dad was over the maintenance of the facility year-round, and my grandfather took care of the ground specifically for the rodeo,” Campbell said. “My grandfather was there when Troy Fort was there. Troy’s the one who got him to come to work there during the rodeo.”
Fort, a two-time world champion tie-down roper, was a Lovington original and a major influence on many cowboys from that part of the world. He was one of the first cowboys ever inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1979.
As the generations passed, the commitment to supporting the fair and rodeo have continued. Campbell is the superintendent for the 4H horse show and serves on the rodeo committee. His work will be reflected during this year’s exposition, from Friday, Aug. 4-Saturday, Aug. 12. The rodeo is set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday at Jake McClure Arena; that also includes Lea County Xtreme Bulls, which is Tuesday of the fair.
“I actually showed sheep when I was younger,” said Campbell, who won the breed’s showmanship one year. “It proved to me that hard work pays off at the end. You stay committed, and it’ll all pay out in the end.”
He’s passing down his love affair for the fair and rodeo onto his sons, Skylar, 20, and Kelton, 18. He and his wife, Brandy, have raised their sons around the belief that hard work is not only essential, but also it pays dividends. Jimmy Joe Campbell is a farrier and day-worker for ranchers that need help. He’s shared that lifestyle with the next generation of his family.
“My boys were with me when they were in diapers,” said Campbell, now in his 15th year as a volunteer with the expo. “When they were older and horseback, I wasn’t afraid to take them with me for day-work. That instilled a work ethic in them.
“My youngest son has four head of horses that he rides and works on, so now he has his own day-working business. These ranchers have been calling him for two years now.”
It’s the passing of a lifestyle more than an internship. People like Campbell – who cares for animals and spends long days in the saddle – make up the fabric of the rugged terrain in southeastern New Mexico. He learned it from his father and grandfather, and he’s passing it down to his boys.
“The commitment my dad and grandfather had was always 100 percent,” he said. “That’s with any occupation; if you’re going to do it, put everything into it and love what you do. If you do that, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Campbell’s passion for the fair and rodeo comes from the history of the event and the people involved. He’s been around long enough to have seen multiple generations involved in showing animals and preparing exhibits.
He did it, and he worked with his sons as they did it. It’s a piece of who Jimmy Joe Campbell is and why he continues to volunteer for the fair and rodeo.
“To me, the livestock show and the kids showing is the highlight of everything,” he said. “Just watching the kids do their job with the animal. You can tell the ones that put in the time. For us, it’s a family deal. My oldest showed until he was 18; that was 10 years. My youngest one is still showing.
“Every afternoon, all four of us were down there in the barn working with their animals. They knew what they needed to do, and they weren’t afraid to work at it.”
It’s something they learned from their parents, but Mom and Dad got something out of it, too.
“The family time is what I really enjoyed,” Campbell said.