GUYMON, Okla. â€“ Troy Lerwill is a combination of things: athlete, daredevil and comedian.
It all comes together in the Oklahoma Panhandle the first weekend in May for the Pioneer Days Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 1; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 3, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
â€śTroy is one of the funniest guys out there, not just in rodeo,â€ť said Pete Carr, owner of Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, a Dallas-based livestock firm that serves as the primary stock contractor in Guymon. â€śI try to get him as often as I can, because he brings a whole new dimension to each show. Heâ€™s the best entertainer in rodeo because of how he handles the crowd.
â€śThen you add his motorcycle act into the mix, and itâ€™s just over-the-top. Everybody wants to come back the next day just to see it again.â€ť
The motorcycle act involves Lerwillâ€™s alter-ego, â€śThe Wild Child,â€ť who jumps a Bloomer trailer and a Ram pickup in a showcase of comedy mixed with athleticism.
â€śItâ€™s funny every time I see it,â€ť said Ken Stonceipher, the production manager for Pioneer Days Rodeo. â€śThereâ€™s just something magical in that entire act.â€ť
Itâ€™s the magic that has been on display at Hitch Arena before. Fans in the Oklahoma Panhandle have been asking about Lerwillâ€™s return, so the rodeo committee and Carr made sure he is part of this yearâ€™s showcase.
â€śFor one, heâ€™s a great funnyman,â€ť said Jesse James Kirby, one of the top saddle bronc riders in the country. â€śHeâ€™s also a great motorcyclist. He can do things on that motorbike that you canâ€™t even imagine people doing. Itâ€™s just really great, and heâ€™s a great entertainer.
â€śOn top of that, Troy is just a good person to be around. You can tell heâ€™s doing something he enjoys doing. He puts on a show and makes it look good.â€ť
That happens nationwide. Lerwill is one of the most celebrated acts in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Heâ€™s been the barrelman at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo three times, has twice been named the Coors Man in the Can, and heâ€™s been named the PRCA Act of the Year six times.
All those awards are nice, but what makes Lerwill one of the most sought-after entertainers in rodeo is what he does in the arena â€“ in addition to his fantastic daredevil act, the Payson, Utah, man has the timing of a comedic genius.
It comes quite naturally to Lerwill, the son of a roper who grew up going to rodeos in Utah and Colorado with his father. Though he never competed, Troy Lerwill was hooked â€¦ even if it took a few years for him to realize it.
â€śI had a Shetland pony growing up, and I always like horses,â€ť Lerwill said. â€śI roped with my dad when I was little, but I always wanted a motorcycle.â€ť
His parents realized he was pretty good at maneuvering the machine and began taking him to desert races. By the time he was 12, Lerwill was excelling at motocross.
â€śIt just evolved from there,â€ť he said.
Racing was a big part of Lerwillâ€™s life for a long time. But at age 24, Lerwill had begun riding mountain bikes through the Utah trails instead of the motorized ones over the quick jumps and turns of motocross. Through all that, he found a new rush: Bullfighting. The rodeo arena was drawing him back. He went to a bullfighting school, and a new career was born.
â€śI got my PRCA card in 1993,â€ť he said. â€śI started doing the comedy stuff in â€™95.â€ť
It didnâ€™t take long for Lerwill to step up his game. He has become one of the most sought-after acts in ProRodeo, and thereâ€™s good reason.
â€śPeople just love to watch Troy, because heâ€™s that good,â€ť Carr said. â€śHe can bring people to your rodeo to see what he can do; thatâ€™s a true entertainer.â€ť
For Lerwill, life is about reaching out to people and sharing his passion for the rodeo way of life. He may go about it in different terms than most cowboys, but there is a distinct passion involved in everything he does.
â€śI really donâ€™t want the Western heritage and lifestyle, and the tradition of cowboy to go away, and I want young people to enjoy it like I did,â€ť Lerwill said. â€śRodeo is a huge chunk of our history.
â€śEven though I take a motorcycle to a rodeo and do a stunt, I hope it makes fans of people and they come back.â€ť
KANSAN CLAY ECKERT UTILIZES CALF SCRAMBLE WIN TO PUSH FORWARD IN LIVESTOCK SHOWING
KANSAS CITY, Mo. â€“ Clay Eckert appears to be the typical freshman at Hutchinson (Kan.) High School.
He is active, possibly more than many 15-year-olds. Instead of spending his off time playing video games, the young man has opted for a little more work showing livestock. Itâ€™s paid off.
In the fall of 2013, Clay was part of the American Royal Calf Scramble, where students ages 10-14 have to opportunity to catch and halter a young heifer during the Royalâ€™s ProRodeo. He was one of the winners, earning a $1,250 voucher to purchase a heifer of his choosing in order to start a beef operation.
â€śIâ€™ve learned so much, from taking care of things to how to be responsible,â€ť said Clay, who also competes in football, basketball and track for the Salthawks. â€śIâ€™m so involved with things I canâ€™t get into trouble.â€ť
But he isnâ€™t a farm kid who was raised around agriculture. Heâ€™s chosen to follow a family tradition, even though it means traveling 30 minutes three to four days a week to neighboring McPherson County to the Goering Farm, where Greg, Tammy, Taylor and Trenton Goering have been instrumental in Clayâ€™s passion for raising livestock. Taylor Goering has shown at the American Royal and has served as Clayâ€™s mentor.
â€śTaylor and her family have helped me so much with everything,â€ť Clay said. â€śI was, and still am very lucky to get hooked up with them.â€ť
So did that American Royal voucher. Clay raised his heifer, then showed her during the 2014 American Royal Calf Scramble Show. The animal was named the supreme heifer, and Clay was the champion senior showman among his Calf Scramble peers.
â€śAbout two weeks ago, which is the whole purpose of the program, my heifer had her first calf, so itâ€™s going back into the herd,â€ť he said.
The young man began the lifestyle by following in the footsteps of his father, Bret Eckert, a longtime track coach at Hutch High who still teaches and is an assistant coach for the football program.
â€śI started because my dad showed sheep,â€ť Clay said. â€śI won sheep showmanship, and I got to be in the round-robin, so I got to work with cows.â€ť
The progression has been thorough and award-winning. Not many can claim to such a prestigious title from the American Royal, one of the largest and best known livestock shows in the United States.
But that, in essence, is what the Royal is about. Over the course of each year, the association provides more than $1.4 million in support of youth and agriculture. By being involved in the Calf Scramble, Clay has taken advantage of the opportunities.
â€śMy experience with the American Royal has helped me in many ways,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s helped me get to know so many great people, and Iâ€™m learning new things every day.
â€śYou have to work for what you get. Itâ€™s hard to do school and sports and showing, but itâ€™s what I choose to do so I try to make it work.â€ť