By: Keith Ryan Cartwright June 18, 2014@ 12:45:00 PM
FORT WORTH, Texas ― L.J. Jenkins spent his formative years as a young bull rider living in Texico, New Mexico, which sits right along the Texas border.
It’s no more than 10 miles west of Clovis, a town that – aside from an annual rodeo – has had a lot in the way of entertainment for the past 20 years.
With less than 40,000 people living in Clovis and without a major interstate nearby there’s simply not a lot that brings passersby two hours northwest of Lubbock, Texas, and likewise two hours southwest of Amarillo.
Things used to be different.
Back in the 1950s, Norman Petty opened a recording studio, where he recorded the likes of Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings and, most famously, Buddy Holly Crickets. He later operated an FM and AM radio station until he passed away in 1984.
It remained an active place to record until the early part of the 1990s.
Now locals keep it open from time to time as a museum for musical enthusiasts’ looking to step back in time, but other than that there’s not much of a draw to Clovis other than a fast-growing PBR event.
The weekend following this year’s Built Ford Tough World Finals, Jenkins will host a Touring Pro Division event in Clovis. It’s the fourth year he’s done so and third as a sanctioned PBR event.
He was born three years after Petty’s death, which is long enough that despite Clovis’ historical importance the soon-to-be 27-year-old merely shrugged when told of the importance of the Norman Petty Recording Studio, before quickly refocusing on his own event.
“It is in a great location,” he said. “We’re going to draw people from Albuquerque, Lubbock and Amarillo. People won’t have to drive too far to come see one of the best events of the year.”
A modern day Petty, of sorts, Jenkins’, who is currently ranked 12th in the world standings, annual event is poised to bring some international recognition back to Clovis.
In just three years, the L.J. Jenkins Invitational has gone from a $10,000 added event to $50,000 this year with $20,000 guaranteed to the winner of the two-day event.
Reece Arnold first met Coli Hunt from Joe’s Boot Shop at a Built Ford Tough Series event, in Pueblo, Colorado, and he happened to be involved with Jenkins’ first PBR sanctioned event.
According to Arnold, the two “hit it off” and consequently Arnold has helped Jenkins with the bull pen – first with Wolf Creek Cattle Co. and recently with Robinson Bucking Bulls – the past three years.
Arnold is currently working with four-time reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Jeff Robinson as a handler and driver for a second time in the past six years. Like last year, Robinson will haul the same set of bulls he’s taking to the World Finals right to Clovis and so too will Circle T Ranch & Rodeo, who have committed to bringing Asteroid as a $10,000 bounty bull following the opening round on Friday night.
Asteroid bucks off J.B. Mauney at the 2014 J.W. Hart PBR Challenge in Decatur, Texas.
H.D. Page is expected to haul a truckload of bulls from D&H Cattle Company as well.
Jenkins is hoping to have eight or nine bulls in the short round that will have competed in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round in Las Vegas a week earlier.
“I thought that was awesome,” said Jenkins. “There aren’t any (TPD events) that you can go to and win that kind of money and it’s great for the town.
“There’s still a lot in the making.”
Jenkins is among the top-ranked riders in the world once again representing the PBR at this year’s Calgary Stampede and admitted he’s always wanted to have his name on a TPD event. More importantly, he’s always envisioned it being one that attracted a majority of the Top 10 ranked riders.
In the past, he’s had J.B. Mauney and Valdiron de Oliveira, and with the money that Hunt and Arnold were able to raise, he’s confident they’ll return along with guys like Guilherme Marchi, Joao Ricardo Vieira and close friends Sean Willingham, Kasey Hayes, Chase Outlaw and Stormy Wing.
After being unable to compete last year due to injury, Jenkins is planning on riding in Clovis this year.
“Yeah, a lot of guys will be wanting to go home,” Jenkins said, “but it’s kind of hard to pass up when it’s that next weekend.
“It’s going to be a pretty good bull riding.”
However, technically the event is one of the first of the 2015 Touring Pro Division season and there’s still a lot of the 2014 season to play out between now and then.
This summer he’s hoping to move into the Top 10 before resuming the Built Ford Tough Series in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Aug. 15.
In addition to competing at various TPD events over the next two months and raising some young bucking bulls, which he’s been hauling from time-to-time, Jenkins will make his annual pilgrimage up to Calgary for the Stampede, which is a city that is the polar opposite of Clovis.
During that week the Stampede grounds and the surrounding streets are filled with fans from around the world.
Back in 2007, Jenkins rode all his bulls and finished second behind Brian Canter for the $100,000 payout. Jenkins said he’s had “good luck” just about every time he’s gone up and said the sudden-death format on championship Sunday is certainly a different “but fun” format than he and the other riders are used to throughout the rest of the year.
“That’s the greatest rodeo that there is,” said Jenkins, who referenced the daily crowds of 80,000 to 100,000. “It’s amazing to go and experience it. I’ve been a handful of times and it never gets old.”
He added, “It’s a great rodeo to be a part of.”
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