Santee Cooper journeymen detail rodeo preparation, benefits

Journeyman teams from South Carolina’s Santee Cooper have brought home awards from the American Public Power Association’s Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo for the last several years.

The Association recently asked members of Santee Cooper’s journeyman teams who participated in the 2019 rodeo to discuss how they prepare for the rodeo and detail the benefits from participating in the event.

In the 2019 rodeo, which took place in Colorado, a Santee Cooper journeyman team consisting of Benjamin Hardee, Joe Sawyer and Chad Williams took first place in the overall journeyman competition. Santee Cooper is the state-owned public power utility in South Carolina.

What are the key things that you and other Santee Cooper journeymen do in terms of preparing for the Association’s lineworkers’ rodeo? Are there specific activities that you and the journeymen teams do every year to prepare for the rodeo and, if so, what are they?

Hardee: We’re always prepared because of what we do on a day-to-day basis. There are a few events at the rodeo that we don’t get to do at work, and those are the events that are really challenging and cool to participate in. At Santee Cooper, we’re expected to bring our A game every day all day, so the expectations of the rodeo coincide with what we do in the average day on the job.

Sawyer: We will really start amping up for the rodeo about two months before so we can practice here and there. Repetition is important, but as far as prepping we’ll come together and hang out on the weekends, cook out with our families and practice for the rodeo.

Are you participating in the 2020 Association rodeo and, if so, what steps have you and other Santee Cooper journeymen taken to prepare for the rodeo so far?

Hardee: We are participating, and we’re excited to make it out to Kansas City. We just got finished doing the hurt man rescue, which we have to qualify every year and do that within four minutes. That definitely helps us prepare for the rodeo. By nature, linemen are competitive. So the hurt man rescue gets the competitiveness in us going before the rodeo.

Sawyer: Yes, we are going to participate. We think about preparing for it every day. It’s what we do on a day-to-day basis. We don’t do anything special to prepare throughout the year other than putting 100% into our jobs every day. I always like to get the “worst job,” the job that no one else wants. That’s where you gain the most experience and how you put yourself ahead of the competition at the rodeo.

What would you say are the benefits of participating in the Association’s lineworkers rodeo?

Hardee: We get to see how different teams rig things, the tools they use, etc. It helps us build our skills. For an apprentice, the rodeo is good for him to hone some skills that he or she normally wouldn’t get to do. 

Sawyer: There’s so much exposure of different ways to do the same thing. It’s enlightening, and there aren’t always necessarily better ways, but you see people use different materials, tools, etc. that we use on a day-to-day basis. We can take back ideas, try them out and see how they stick. The camaraderie is fun, and so is the competition. If you’re not competitive, it’s not that fun. Our goal has always been to be first and it’s what we work toward every day.

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo, which will be held in Bonner Springs, Kansas, and hosted by the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities.

To register a team for the rodeo, send an email to: [email protected]. Additional information about the rodeo is available here.