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January 31, 2012

Barrel guy is important, fun job

BarrelguyRobert McClanahan is a welder/fitter most of the year.

But when January comes, the Haltom City resident is in John Justin Arena 12 hours a day, seven days a week for the Fort Worth Stock Show's full run. And one of the most important jobs he has is barrel guy during the barrel racing competitions.

"If the barrel is off, the horse tends to knock it down and that adds 5 seconds to the rider's time," McClanahan said.

To the casual observer, the task might look merely physically challenging. After every fourth run, the barrel guys run out and pick up the barrels and carry them out of the way so other guys on tractors can smooth out the dirt. Otherwise, all a barrel guy has to do is set a barrel back up when it gets knocked over.

But McClanahan said the barrel has to be level and the pig tail (a length of nylon rope anchored deep in the dirt and sticking up about six inches) has to be just at the barrel's outside edge. Oh, the barrel guy also has to make sure the name on the barrel's side is toward the photographer.

"Gotta get that advertising in," he said.

When he's not moving barrels, McClanahan leads a team of six or seven other guys who do everything from herding cattle during cutting competitions to herding llamas during the llama show, for which he also announces.

"I do whatever needs doing," he said. "It's a fun job and the pay's good."

Story and photo by Terry Evans

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