ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – In the words of Garth Brooks, it’s the broncs and the blood, the steers and the mud that make up a rodeo. But how much preparation does it take to feed and care for the 560 animals put to work at the Texas State High School Finals Rodeo (TSHSF Rodeo)?

It all starts long before the sun comes up over the Taylor Telecom Arena, even before the rooster crows. It’s a 5:30 a.m. call time for the rodeo crew, who begin loading and transporting the animals to the arena that will be used in the events starting at 8 o’clock.

While a team readies the bulls and broncs being used, another group goes to feed the rest of the THSRA’s contracted livestock; including 70 bucking horses, 40 bulls, 250 calves, 200 roping steers and 15 saddle horses.

It’s a lot of mouths to feed and prepare for a group of six men. These men, each morning, start early, work in the humid 100° temperatures and don’t hit the sack before 11:30 at night.

But, that is just one aspect of their daily duties during the 10-day rodeo event in Abilene.

“At 8:00, we’ll go start the rodeo and fight bulls, help as the perf goes on and come back out here, do some more sorting and start over about 2:00,” Cagney Anderson listed.

Anderson said he grew up around rodeos. His father was a roper as he was growing up, and the sport quickly became his passion. But what brought Anderson to work with the THSRA is a unique skillset.

“Well, I like to fight bulls,” Anderson said. “The association hires me to fight bulls here.” 

At 5:30 a.m., Anderson is hauling bags of Purina feed to the stalls of bucking bulls. By 8:00, he’s in his tattered jeans held up by suspenders, tall socks and Nike running shoes- distracting bulls as riders fall off.

“It’s my job to get the bull’s attention and get him away where the rider can get out of there safe,” Anderson explained.

Don’t confuse him with the timeless rodeo clowns! While their jobs are similar, Anderson laughed, “he just doesn’t tell jokes.”

Between his daily tasks of feeding and prepping the animals, as well as keeping the high school riders safe, he and his team are led by Stock Contractor, Jason Murray. Together and together only, the rodeo happens. Without the animals, there would be no bull or bronc riding and without the food, there would be no animals.

“I tell people there that don’t understand what the Texas State High School Finals are, its like the state championship football game,” Murray equated.

Murray started in the rodeo business in 2000, leasing cattle out to other contractors – which quickly grew into his own contracting firm. Now, he’s the full contractor for the THSRA Finals Rodeo and the Junior High Finals Rodeo, providing all of the livestock used aside from competitor’s personal horses.

As an 18-year-old, Murray went to work for Sammy Andrews, a legendary stock contractor who owns Andrews Rodeo Company and has had nearly 80 bulls on tour at one time. Andrews produced some of rodeo’s best bucking bulls and broncs, like Bodacious and Skoal’s Roly Poly. Andrews Rodeo Company has also been the full contractor of the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo since 1998.

“I’ve been addicted to it ever since,” Murray lovingly said.

Working under such a prestigious contractor like Andrews, Murray said he knows how important their jobs are each and every day during rodeo season.

“We don’t have much time for a turnaround, so you’ve got to have everything in pretty good order and not get behind,” Murray said.

For some of the kids competing, Murray said having these animals could make or break their dreams of climbing to the professional rodeo ranks. By being there, he knows he and his team can keep those dreams alive.

Purina sponsors the THSRA Finals Rodeo, providing anywhere between 11-12 tons of food to feed Murray’s 560 head of rodeo livestock.