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Huffman spreads word of God on rough-and-tumble rodeo circuit

October 31, 2001|By JIM McVICAR, Special to this newspaper

How many times do we see a baseball player make the sign of the cross when he steps up to the plate? How many football players tell interviewers they owe their success on the gridiron to The Almighty?

How many coaches, teams or groups of players at all levels of competition pray in dressing rooms or on the field of play?

The answer to all of those questions is: "a lot." Displays of faith and prayer in one form or another are becoming almost commonplace, even in the most dangerous and violent of sports.

Rodeo is no exception.

Former all-around cowboy Coy Huffman, who has been coming to Cattle Call Rodeo in Brawley on and off since the early 1960s, is one of the leaders in the cowboy church movement.


According to Cattle Call Rodeo Committee president Danny Williams, Huffman excelled at riding bulls and saddle broncs and steer wrestling before moving behind the bucking chutes.

"That's right," Huffman said. "I was still competing when I first came to Brawley. And I've been partial to Cattle Call ever since."

Williams said, "He has been an announcer, chute boss and an all-around wrangler, and has worked on the crew of the Flying U Rodeo Co., the stock contractor for Cattle Call."

But mostly Huffman — now 61 — is an evangelical preacher. He travels to rodeos throughout the United States and Canada.

This year, Huffman will be doing "triple duty" at Cattle Call. On Nov. 9 he'll be announcing the "slack" competition. At the public

performance of the rodeo Nov. 10 and 11, he'll be chute boss, and at 9 a.m. Nov. 11, he'll conduct cowboy church at the arena.

"I've had crowds of 200, 300 and more in Brawley. Contestants, families, anyone who is around the arena at that time is welcome," Huffman said.

Huffman describes himself as a "stand-up-and-cheer, patriotic, freedom-loving Christian." His wife, Donna, a former barrel racer, often joins himon the rodeo circuit.

Huffman, an ordained minister, is a graduate of Seattle Bible College and attended Oral Roberts and Colorado Christian University. He heads up ProRodeo Ministries and Cowboy Church International based in Tucson.

After Cattle Call, Huffman may head to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Last year Huffman was on hand every night of the NFR in a big white tent just outside Las Vegas' Thomas & Mack Center, giving cowboys a word of encouragement, a reminder of God's faithfulness and a prayer for safety in the arena.

Rodeo cowboys — and cowgirls — tend to be a tough crowd and their rough-and-tumble nature sometimes gets in the way of the word of God. But Huffman and other evangelists persist and succeed.

Take Allen Bach and Clay O'Brien Cooper, world champion team ropers who have competed at Cattle Call many times.

Bach wrote of Huffman, "I remember years ago at the National Finals Rodeo, Coy started a thing called ‘power up.' It was a time when we would pray for safety and have an encouraging word before each performance.

"It started with only four or five of us, and we would take off our hats and acknowledge the Lord when everyone was arming up. Coy was so committed to this, and now almost every cowboy or cowgirl looked forward to ‘power up.'"

Bach adds that Cooper, along with Jake Barnes and Ricky Green — also team ropers who have been to Brawley many times — prayed in their pickup, on a bale of hay or on the ground behind the chutes at the arena.

"Rodeo can be a bitter environment, with a lot of intimidation, mind games, staring each other down and wisecracks," Bach said. "God helps us get through some of the tougher times in our lives."

Cattle Call Rodeo Committee member Joanie Moore said she recently read that some 2,000 rodeo contestants and families attended a cowboy funeral at which Huffman officiated.

Moore noted the rodeo people who attend the Sunday morning service conducted by Huffman are "not necessarily members of Coy's Cowboy Church movement — they just want to go to church."

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