By Eric Butler: Freedom Newspapers
CLOVIS — As Chance Pettigrew waited for his chance in steer wrestling on the first night of the Pioneer Days PRCA rodeo, the public address announcer reminded the crowd that these athletes have only one chance to get it right.
Pettigrew didn’t need any reminders, although he wasn’t listening anyway.
“To be honest, when I’m getting ready to ride, I don’t hear a damned thing,” Pettigrew said. “I’m in the zone and I don’t hear anything until it’s over.
“I take a deep breath, picture what I want to do and, hopefully, I’ll hear the crowd yelling when I’m done.”
On Thursday night, at the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena, Pettigrew did hear the positive crowd reaction. The 23-year-old Clovis resident wrestled his steer down in 5.1 seconds for the best time of the night.
Now Pettigrew will wait to find out if his time stands up over the course of the three-day Pioneer Days Rodeo.
A football and basketball player when he was going through school in Grady and Melrose, the sport of rodeo didn’t issue an effective siren’s song for Pettigrew until he was almost done with high school.
“Didn’t really get into rodeo until late — my senior year is when I started bulldoggin,’” Pettigrew said. “My family’s always been in it, but ever since I was little I played other sports. Finally, I figured, ‘Hell, it’s in my blood. I might as well go on with it.’”
Pettigrew is trying to gain back the form he had earlier in the PRCA season, when he won one Arizona event.
“I started real good, won in Scottsdale. Then I went to California and things kind of went downhill, didn’t win anything for about a month,” he said. “But I’ve been in Oklahoma the past couple of weeks and things started clicking again.”
Later in the night, Pettigrew teamed with Chance Parson and Portales’ J.D. Kibbe in the wild cow milking contest.
That was the third event in a row for Kibbe, who teamed with Brandal Noe of Belen for the fourth-best mark in team roping and had the second-best time in calf roping.
Kibbe’s mark of 9.4 seconds in calf roping was second only to Matt Carlson of Sweetwater, Okla., who posted a time of 9.1. It was also better, at least on this night, than Hereford’s Monty Lewis — who came into the rodeo fourth overall in the PRCA tie down roping standings.
“I run that one way too far, got down to the end of (the arena),” said Lewis, whose time of 10.3 was tied for third on the night. “Probably ain’t gonna win nothin.’”
For Kibbe, his last chance of winning was in the wild cow milking event.
A more admirable 40-yard dash — wearing boots, running across dirt and holding a bottle full of milk — could not have been run by Kibbe, who sprinted across the arena to give his team a best time of 43.8 seconds.
Although it’s not one of the long-standing traditional events in the pantheon of rodeo events, wild-cow milking at this rodeo has a total prize money of around $1,500, according to Kibbe.
Winning would help the 25-year-old stay afloat enough to enter the next rodeo.
“That’s the whole point of it,” Kibbe said.