Two Tucumcari natives traveled to Lubbock last week and took part in a rodeo, but it was unlike most rodeos. There were no horses to be ridden, no steers to be roped and no bulls to be survived. The reason for the lack of animals was that the two competing, Joe Barnett and Royden Lopez were taking part in Xcel Energy’s 14th annual Lineman’s Rodeo which during its contests has its competitors hanging around scores of feet above the ground.
“It’s great” said Barnett about the rodeo which he annual takes part in. “It really gives us a chance to use our skills and compete with others that have similar skills.”
Journeymen linemen Barnett and Lopez form two-thirds of a three man team they do the climbing and work at up to 40 feet in height while the third man on their team Kenny Hawes of Clovis serves as ground crew.
The two who work for Xcel Energy and form a team professionally as they travel through out the Eastern New Mexico/Panhandle of Texas area handling electrical problems for the energy company.
Barnett and Lopez have competed in the rodeo in Lubbock for 12 of the rodeo’s 14 years of existence and have even gone further afield, as far as Denver to take part in other lineman rodeos. In fact the two hope to be selected to next year compete in Minnesota’s Lineman Rodeo.
The trio from Eastern New Mexico competed against 21 other teams coming from five different states including military teams and had to take part in six different events. The events included carrying an individual who was simulating being injured down from a pole, rope splicing and climbing a 40-foot tall power pole carrying a raw egg to test how smoothly they climb (the decent part of the climb is done with the egg in the climber’s mouth). “A lineman’s rodeo demonstrates a lot about how electricity is delivered and about the jobs linemen do. Our work affects everybody’s life,” said Bill Weems, Xcel Energy Rodeo chairman.
This year the Tucumcari duo and their Clovis groundman placed 13th but in the past they have finished markedly higher. “It’s so easy to get gigged,” said Lopez about losing point at the competition. “You can lose points for time, for misuse of tools, for hot dogging while climbing – whatever they see that’s wrong.” Despite not taking first yet in their dozen competitions, they still feel they have a good chance.
“Maybe next year we will do it,” said Lopez.