Stock Contractors: The Unsung Heroes

You see them at every roping or rodeo you go to. They’re pretty easy to pick out. They are the guy or gal with their jeans covered in mud and muck, shirt half untucked, pen in their mouth, sorting stick in one hand, draw sheet in the other. They are running back and forth from the office to the back pens fixing draw numbers that were wrote down wrong. They are the ones there hours before the rodeo or roping making sure the stock can be run through before the roping will start and will be the last ones to leave because someone is parked in front of the load-out. They are climbing over panels and tying gates up with bailer twine because whoever set up the back pens and alley didn’t know what they were doing. They are out there in the blazing sun sorting cattle during the day so the performance that evening can go off without a hitch. Their shins are covered in hoof print bruises. They are your stock contractors and they are the unsung heroes of roping.

Don’t complain about being tired to a stock contractor. He knows just how you are feeling and then some. He was up a 2am so he could feed the stock before he had to load them. He knows they haul better on a full stomach. He left the house before the sun was up so he could get to the grounds before it got too hot on the cattle in the trailer, then spent the rest of the morning filling up water troughs and putting up tarps so his cattle can have plenty of shade from the hot sun. He spends an hour having all of the cattle sorted and penned up just right, but is the guy that has to run to the other end when your steer accidently gets let out during the performance. He’s the guy that knows all the moves that his cattle will make, so every cowboy entered is going to ask him, “What’s he like?” when they find out their draw. And the stock contractor will tell you, while climbing over panels and sorting, and he’ll be exactly right. When you are complaining about being in Saturday night slack, your stock contractor will kindly nod his head in agreement, but he is secretly jealous of the nap you took earlier that day. He has been there for every performance and every slack, and barely had time to grab a fast food burger today. And when the slack is over and you are in bed, he will be feeding and watering the cattle, missing that extra hour of sleep just to make sure that #48 calf doesn’t get pushed off his feed by the bigger calves.

The stock contractor is the one shaking his head and laughing when a barrel racer runs through the middle of cattle when he’s trying to bring them up the arena. He’s also the guy dealing with the “dad help,” and while he appreciates the gesture, the wild hooping and jumping around just makes for more work for him. He’s the guy working every gate and latch by himself because the 15 people in the box can’t be bothered to open the catch gate. He’s also the guy that looks like he’s working so slow with his cattle, but everything gets sorted and loaded in a hurry. The roping never gets held up because of him, and that’s because he knows that slow is fast with his cattle.

It’s not just the hours on the weekends that are tough, it’s keeping the stock going at home that is taxing too. There’s always hay to put out, midnight calving checks, cattle to doctor, new calves to break in and team ropers to get trained up. There’s always the calls of people wanting him to put on a roping for next to nothing, and the guy that’s wanting to use his pen of calves because he doesn’t have enough for the weekend. There’s the rodeo producer that’s in a real pickle and has to have him the first weekend off he’s had in 3 months. He spends hours on the logistics of getting all the cattle where they are needing to go, then finds out his hired hand can’t go the last minute. He’s making long drives by himself just to have to turn around and do it again because he couldn’t find a second driver and he needs two trailer loads of stock on the grounds by 10am.

The stock contractor is the first guy to catch the flack when his calf takes an off trip or his steer throws a head trick. That calf and steer was perfectly normal last weekend when the guys won the roping on it. He doesn’t know what happened between then and now, but he didn’t haul that cow knowing that’s what it was going to do. Instead of causing a scene and being a jerk, remember that we all have our off days, animals included, and give your stock contractor a break. He’s got a big group of great cattle, you just happened to draw some back luck. If you did have the opportunity to make a solid run on good steer, make sure you tell them that.

Stock contractors and their crew are the people behind the scenes that are making it possible for you to make your run and go to the pay window, and the job they are doing is for a special breed of cowboy and cowgirl. The long hours of hauling, missed meals and time away from home are all worth it when they get to see great runs and tough competition on their cattle. So the next time you see a stock contractor and his hands working their tails off in the back pens, be sure to thank them for a job well done and tell them that you appreciate what they are doing. And while you are at it… be sure to thank everyone involved in putting that roping and rodeo on. From the secretary, to the timers, to the guy popping the latch, no matter how big or small the job, these are the people that keep the roping going without a hitch and we should be nothing but grateful for all of their hard work. If not for their hard work we wouldn’t have the opportunity to do what we love.

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Laney Snider

Laney grew up in southeast Ohio with two pilot parents, but her passion for horses was apparent early on. She started off her horse career successfully in the pleasure horse show pen before she transitioned to roping. While attending Murray State she competed in team roping and breakaway roping as well as showing on the schools ranch horse team. Even though life doesn’t currently allow for Laney to be competing, she stay’s involved in the rodeo world by working for a stock contractor and growing her herd of corriente cattle. When Laney is not in the back pens at a rodeo she’s working with her husband on their row crop farm and being the head grower at her “mum ranch.”

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