Tyler Robertson in running for pickup man of the year
There are two often-unsung heroes that appear in each rodeo performance, working under the radar to ensure safety and timeliness. After each successful bronc ride, they place the rider safely on the ground and help the bucking horse exit the arena. Pickup men are efficiency in chaps.
Tyler Robertson of Hermosa, South Dakota has been nominated for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Pickup Man of the Year award. The nomination process narrows the field to five men, decided on by PRCA contract personnel, contestants, and rodeo committees. They vote again for the winner, which will be announced at the National Finals Rodeo banquet.
The award itself is relatively new, its inception being in 2015. An anonymous couple, who admires the work of pickup men, is responsible for the initiation and sponsorship of the trophy. “They said there’s an award for everything else besides that in the PRCA, so they wanted to see it happen,” Roberston says. Other award categories include Announcer of the Year, Bullfighter of the Year, Stock Contracting Firm of the Year, and more. The reigning Medium Rodeo of the Year, the Black Hills Roundup, has once again been nominated, while the Days of ‘76 in Deadwood was nominated for Large Outdoor Rodeo of the Year.
Robertson has been picking up professionally for 23 years and recently wrapped up his 19th year picking up the Badlands Circuit Finals in Minot, North Dakota October 4-6. He started his career at the age of 12 and acquired his PRCA card at 18. Throughout his career, he has worked for top contracting companies such as Korkow Rodeo, Burch Rodeo, Brookman Rodeo, Sutton Rodeo, Cervi Championship Rodeo, and more. To be considered for the award, pickup men must work a minimum of eight rodeos and 20 performances per year.
Robertson and his wife, Tiffani, ranch south of Hermosa. Tif regularly works with Tyler on the ranch and on the road. While at the performances, she helps manage Tyler’s pickup horses, his imperative partners. “It takes a special kind of horse. They’ve got to be super broke and willing to do things that a lot of horses won’t. You’ve dang sure got to be mounted good,” he says. When asked how often he uses Tif’s help, he says, “Every chance I get. There ain’t very many [rodeos] I go to that she’s not there.”
At bigger rodeos, Robertson takes six horses, rides four per day, and rotates to keep them fresh. His two current favorites mounts are a palomino, Trigger, and a bald-faced bay named Gambler. “He’s kind of my go-to horse. They’re both pretty good all-around. I think everybody likes my palomino, he kind of catches people’s eyes,” he says.
Having a second (or third) skilled man in the arena is just as crucial as being mounted well, according to Robertson. “The two guys I work with the most are Shane Porch and Brent Sutton. You’ve got to have a good partner. You’re only as good as the guy you’re picking up with.” The three men just worked the inaugural Xtreme Broncs Finals in Rapid City together and regularly team up at the Days of ‘76, which is Roberton’s favorite rodeo. “It’s close to home and I’ve been doing that since ‘97. It’s kind of like a hometowner, in a way,” he says.
Many local bronc matches have been cropping up in and around South Dakota, which seems to give a big nod to the state’s deep roots of rank horses and rough riders. Robertson favors these events. “It’s kind of the classic event in South Dakota and in rodeo everywhere. I kind of like going to them. They’re a one-day deal and in the middle of the week so you can go to them during the week and go to rodeos on the weekends,” he says. According to him, he works from June to August, weekends and weekdays picking up.
Robertson is indubitably honored by his nomination for the Pickup Man of the Year award, but he is possibly more eager for the PRCA to announce the nominations for the NFR pickup men in several weeks, which is a separate process. He has not yet picked up at the NFR but was an alternate in 2013 after receiving the third-highest number of votes. Pickup men at the NFR are exclusively selected and nominated by the top-20 bareback riders and saddle bronc riders from the year.
Other nominees for the Pickup Man of the Year award include: Jason Bottoms, Matt Twitchell, Shandon Stalls, Shawn “Too Tall” Calhoun, and Will O’Connell (six nominees due to a tie).
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News