Just call him the pickup man, that’s what I do
Rodeo fans, meet Jason Bottoms! Nominated as the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Pickup Man of the Year, Jason also happens to be your 2016 RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo pickup man!
In the sport of rodeo, a pickup man carries a huge responsibility. Some of their duties include:
- Ensuring that the cowboys dismount safely from the livestock
- Maintaining the safety and well-being of the livestock in the arena
- Loosening or removing the flank strap from the animals so that when the animal enters the stripping chute (where the animals go after a ride), they don’t get hurt in any way
- Keeping the arena clear of livestock
Aside from making sure the cowboys get back on their feet safely, the pickup men also keep an eye on the livestock and their safety. Stock contractors pay close attention to this since the animals that participate are like family to them.
Jason Bottoms grew up in Corsicana, Texas on his family’s ranch running feeder cattle, auction barns, and helping his dad who owned an amateur rodeo company. Jason’s dad was a pickup man most of his life, so Jason grew up around the sport of rodeo. While Jason’s dad was serving as a pickup man for the Dirt Days Amateur Rodeo in Texas, he tore a muscle in his arm and couldn’t continue working during that rodeo. Dad told Jason, “You’re up son!” And the rest is history.
Jason has been a member of the PRCA since around 1992. Over the last 20 years, Jason has picked up for thousands of rodeos, traveling as many as 200 days out of the year across the U.S. to places like Mississippi, Louisiana, Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kansas, New Mexico, Nevada, and Florida. He has worked over 180 rodeo performances in one year alone.
It is never just guaranteed that you will get selected to be a pickup man for PRCA rodeos. You have to be the best to work the best rodeos. Jason shared with us that he felt truly honored to be selected to pickup for this year’s 2016 RAM National Circuit Finals. He has been a pickup man for the WNFR three times, and twice for the RNCFR. Not only is he excited to return to the RNCFR, he also has the opportunity to pick up alongside his best friend, Shawn Calhoun. Jason said, “It makes it much easier that way, because we already know what the other might be thinking.”
To be a pickup man, you must have great horsemanship skills. In one rodeo, a pickup man can ride up to six different horses! They rotate the horses out during the performance so the horses can get breaks to rest. Depending on the size of a rodeo, they might ride two horses during the bareback competition, two horses during saddle bronc, and one or two for bull riding. In terms of horsemanship, Jason said, being a pickup man requires good balance, good judgement, and quick reactions.
You can certainly tell that Jason has the heart and passion for what he does. He said, “Most of these experiences money cannot buy in this business. It’s not always about the paycheck. You make so many relationships and friendships that stick with you for life.”
A career as a pickup man certainly doesn’t come without bumps, bruises, or broken bones; these men risk a lot to save the contestants and the livestock. It can take a toll on the body. We asked Jason if he had plans on retiring anytime soon, and he said he does plan to retire in the next few years to spend more time with his family. He said, “For all you gain, you give up a lot, too. In the end when you look back, you can say it was all worth it.”
Jason, we look forward to seeing you in action here in Kissimmee! Rodeo fans come check out our pickup man!
From under the hat: “If you ever quit trying to learn, you won’t get any better.” “Always keep learning.” – Jason Bottoms