BIG TIMBER, Mont. - As professional rodeos crisscrossed the nation this Cowboy Christmas, some of the most important cowboys were the ones rarely noticed.
"We roll in there and try to control the chaos, you know," Browning's Manny Boggs explained to MTN Sports a couple hours before Big Timber's Summer Series Rodeo.
Boggs is a pickup man inside rodeo arenas. Cody Williams, one of his partners, is from Cardwell, Montana.
"We're the guys who rescue the cowboys safely on bucking horses, then escort the animals out of the arena safely," Williams told MTN Sports.
Rarely are they noticed when cowboys and livestock are smoothly ushered.
"We kind of go unseen in the arena if we're doing our job right," Boggs continued. "If we get noticed, it's for something we didn't do right."
Pickup men do their best, but sometimes a young, stubborn horse has its own ideas. Sort of like when a child throws a tantrum, but still needs the balance of correction and delicate care.
"These animals are worth a lot of money," Williams said. "There's a lot of finesse to it. We just want to take care of these animals to the best of our ability and escort them out of here safely."
Boggs and Williams have both spent their share of time competing in various rodeo events, but those cost entry fees and don't promise a cash return. The pickup man is a guaranteed check.
That doesn't mean there aren't interesting occasions when a cowboy accidentally tackles a pickup man straight off his horse.
"Yeah, out here last year I had a guy take me off my horse (while) picking up," Boggs said with a smile. "You know, it's just something that happens."
Williams recalls his own incident.
"NFR saddle bronc rider Chase Brooks, when he was in college, he pretty much flying squirreled me," he said. "Wrapped his hand around my neck and pretty much choke slammed me down to the ground. I've dang sure been ripped off my horse a couple times."
No matter the mishap, a pickup man's bottom line remains the same.
"I like to have a guy be able to look over the chute at me and know that he's going to be safe," Boggs said. "That's the biggest goal for us, make sure we do our job so they can continue to do theirs."