Most of the attention at a rodeo falls on the cowboys riding bucking broncos and bulls, and women riding fast horses during barrel racing.

Shandon Stalls plays a less prominent but important role.

As one of three pick-up men at the Tucson Rodeo, Stalls helps a rider dismount from a horse by grabbing him from the back of the animal after a ride.

"It's being in the right place and being there when the whistle blows, help the cowboy get off, and get the livestock out of the arena without getting hurt," Stalls said.

Stalls, 30, has been a pick-up man since college - he attended New Mexico Junior College and graduated from Texas Tech. Both schools needed someone to fill the role, and Stalls, who grew up ranching in McLean, Texas, accepted the extra work. He also competes in steer roping at some rodeos, but at the Tucson Rodeo this year, he is focusing on being a pick-up man.

Stalls, who works and competes at 75 to 100 rodeos a year, discussed his job with the Star on Thursday afternoon before he lassoed bulls and led them out of the arena during the bull riding event.

The 85th annual Tucson Rodeo concludes Sunday.

On getting hurt. Two years ago at the Tucson Rodeo, a horse kicked Stalls, splitting his left knee open. He received a half-dozen stitches, then returned to work the saddle bronc riding event. The injury wasn't severe, but the 6-foot-3-inch Stalls said he is not fond of needles.

"I about passed out," he said. "It didn't hurt that bad, but when they got the needle out, I couldn't handle that."

On scary moments. The job can become difficult when a rider's hand gets stuck during bareback riding, and the horse drags the rider around the arena.

"That's when your heart stops," Stalls said. "If you're not on your game, it can really hurt somebody. It hasn't happened here, thank goodness. The last rodeo I worked, there were three of them in two days. You put your rope over the horse's neck and stop the horse. If you're not in the right spot, you don't get there and they keep dragging.

"I wouldn't say it's a difficult event. (But) when they hang up, (stuff) happens really fast, and if you're not there, somebody's going to get hurt."

On getting into this sport. Stalls hails from a ranching family and attended junior and college rodeos. "I grew up roping. We roped every day," he said. He received a rodeo scholarship for college and worked college rodeos for four years, graduating with a degree in agricultural education from Texas Tech.

A friend directed him to longtime stock contractor Bennie Beutler, who is the arena director for the Tucson Rodeo. Stalls has been working for Beutler for about nine years.

He joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 2005.

"I love doing it," Stalls said. "I love this."


• What: 85th annual La Fiesta de los Vaqueros Tucson Rodeo

• When: Today through Sunday

• Where: Tucson Rodeo Grounds, 4823 S. Sixth Ave.

• Admission: $16 to $26 per day unless otherwise specified

• Parking:$5 per car

• Online:


• Today: 12:30 p.m. (Gates open at 11 a.m.) ProRodeo at 2 p.m.

• Saturday: 12:30 p.m. (Gates open at 11 a.m.) ProRodeo at 2 p.m.

• Sunday: 12:30 p.m. (Gates open at 11 a.m.) ProRodeo at 2 p.m.

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