By: Jolee Jordan
So far, Pecos Tatum has wasted no time.
The Texan by way of New Mexico finally turned 18 on October 13 and got entered into his first Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) rodeo two weeks later in Lubbock, Texas.
Cook Rodeo Days annually hosts some of the country’s top cowboys and cowgirls. Unfazed by the level of competition, Tatum took third in the rodeo in his favorite event, tie-down roping, beaten only by Riley Webb, who would go on a month later to claim the 2023 PRCA World Championship, and Shad Mayfield, who also owns a gold buckle won back in 2020.
“That was my first rodeo and I won about $5,450 or so,” Tatum, 18, said. “It was awesome to do good at the first one.”
The money meant that Tatum fulfilled ProRodeo’s requirement that a cowboy win $1,000 on his permit before he is eligible for full card status. With that crossed off, Tatum quickly bought his card and launched into his first rookie season.
“My main goal is the NFR [National Finals Rodeo], obviously,” he said. “But I’m just excited to finally get to go. I’ve been dreaming about doing this forever and I’m glad to finally be old enough to go to these rodeos I’ve been dreaming of entering.”
One of those was the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver, Colorado in January. Thanks to a qualifying event offered by the committee, rookies like Tatum were able to rope their way into the first of the winter’s major stock show rodeos despite a limit on the number of entries accepted.
Competing in the qualifier just before Christmas, days after clinching the 2023 Junior World Finals Championship in Las Vegas in his final youth rodeo event, Tatum placed high enough to punch his ticket to the tournament style rodeo.
With a spot secured in the rodeo, Tatum went on to win a go round in his bracket as well as his semi-finals performance to advance all the way to the finals on January 21, 2024.
In the finals, Tatum roped like a veteran, not a rookie competing in just his fifth ProRodeo, earning the bronze medal finish with a final run of 7.5 seconds. He was just two tenths behind the winner, veteran all around cowboy Tanner Green.
“Denver was really good to me,” Tatum agreed. He pocketed $6,650, landing inside the top 25 in the PRCA | RAM World Standings and fifth in the early going of the Rookie of the Year race. “I drew a lot of good calves. We had to make a couple of trips up there but I was blessed it worked out this year.”
This tall, talented and extremely humble and polite young man may be new to ProRodeo but his early success is no surprise to fans of the World Champions Rodeo Alliance (WCRA), who have watched him compete and succeed in WCRA’s Triple Crown of Rodeo events for several years. Unlike ProRodeo, where competitors must reach the age of 18 to compete, WCRA is open to athletes as young as 13.
“WCRA has given me so many opportunities that I wasn’t going to get anywhere else,” Tatum noted of the organization, whose motto is All for Rodeo. He has become a regular in the championship rounds and finished one one-hundredth behind Webb for the 2021 Cowtown Christmas Championship Rodeo for his highest finish.
Like many other youth rodeo athletes, Tatum honed his skills while competing in junior-level ropings, winning an AJRA Championship and the 2018 Jr. NFR, as well as open jackpots, but it was the WCRA that gave him a taste of competing against top level ropers in a rodeo atmosphere with mixtures of average and sudden death rounds.
“WCRA has given me big opportunities to rope at super places against the best guys in the world,” Tatum said. “They pay so well that all the great ropers go to them, and it’s really neat to rope against the best guys in that format.”
Tatum also had the opportunity to compete alongside his mother, 2008 WPRA World Champion Header Keylie Tatum, in WCRA events, making those contests a logical choice for the family that loves rodeoing together.
“It’s great that we’ve had so many opportunities to compete at the same events as a family,” Tatum said. “Mom said she is nominating for the Women’s Rodeo in May [the Women’s Rodeo World Championships] and hopefully Corpus too so we can go down there together.”
That family aspect is huge for the multi-generation rodeo cowboy whose father, Brett, was a top level bull rider who has also been alongside Tatum his entire career.
Which begs the question, where did the name Pecos originate?
“My mom picked the name Pecos because she said, with that name, I would have to be a cowboy,” Tatum said with a laugh.
Not that there was much chance of the roping obsessed kid doing anything else. He recalls tales from his folks about him carrying a piggin’ string in his mouth before he could even talk.
“I have no clue what it was,” he admitted when asked why he chose calf roping over other disciplines. “When I was little I did all of them but I always just loved roping calves and so I started focusing more on the calves only as I got older.”
That work ethic and focus have Tatum poised to reach goals set many years ago now that he is able to rope in the PRCA. In addition to solid standings in the world and rookie races, he currently leads the Turquoise Circuit standings, thanks to that big win in Lubbock.
“You only have to go to nine rodeos and there are five or six that are really good and everyone goes to them no matter which circuit they’re in,” Tatum said of his decision to claim the circuit that was his parents’ home for many years. “It was an easy one to pick.”
Because of his circuit choice, Tatum will spend much of the winter and early spring rodeoing in the Grand Canyon State but he won’t be skipping upcoming WCRA venues either like May’s Rodeo Corpus Christi
, where he competed in the Triple Crown Round a year ago and came oh-so-close to claiming the coveted custom surfboards awarded to the champions.
“I made the final round last year and I broke the barrier,” he lamented. “So I definitely want to go back and hopefully, do a bit better.”
Along with the Corpus Championship and large payoff attached to it, Tatum has an eye on earning a spot on the WCRA’s Kid Rock’s Rock N Rodeo team, the Free Riders, who will compete in the inaugural $1 million event in Arlington, Texas on May 17. The top two contests in each event in Corpus will earn a spot with the Free Riders.
That’s an opportunity that Tatum isn’t about to miss.
“That’s the plan,” Tatum said. “I’ve been nominating everything with the ultimate goal to make the Kid Rock Rodeo and of course, Corpus Christi.”