Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation hosts the Tennessee Valley Lineman Rodeo, where lineworkers test their skills and adherence to strict safety guidelines.

Spectators braved Tennessee’s midsummer heat June 29–30 to head to the rodeo. Only at this rodeo, there wasn’t a bucking horse or mean-tempered bull in sight. Instead, there were utility poles, electric lines and working linemen from all across the Tennessee Valley and as far away as Colorado. Instead of events like steer-wrestling and barrel-racing, electric linemen, including many from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives, competed for the best times in events such as hurtman rescue, A-6 bell change, skill climb and dead lift.

Dusten Padgett, Clinton Utilities Board, competes at the Tennessee Valley Lineman Rodeo.

Electric service is such an integral part of our daily lives that we don’t often think about it. We take that service for granted until we flip the light switch and nothing happens or it’s miserably hot outside and the air conditioning doesn’t work. And sometimes that service is not just for convenience but also necessity. People’s lives can literally be at stake without reliable electric service. So when car accidents, storms or even an errant squirrel cause outages, it’s the electric linemen who hurry to the scene, sometimes in the worst of weather conditions, to restore power.

“Linemen work very hard every day, building and repairing lines, ensuring the overall reliability of the electrical grid in their service territories,” says Chris Jones, president and CEO of Middle Tennessee EMC, which hosted the rodeo this year. “They are the unsung heroes who stand at the ready to respond to outages caused by storms, accidents or anything else that may knock out the power. They are the ones who, through their tireless efforts, help ensure the system reliability of member-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.”

Chris Gossett, Middle Tennessee EMC, competes at the Tennessee Valley Lineman Rodeo

While their jobs are serious, the Tennessee Valley Lineman Rodeo allows linemen to display their skills in a fun and competitive environment when lives aren’t on the line — only bragging rights.

This was the 21st annual event, and MTEMC crews worked hard to prepare the competition grounds at Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro. More than 100 utility poles and other structures were erected to simulate typical situations linemen encounter on the job. On the days of the event, more than 165 linemen from 35 utilities in several states, their families, fellow employees and other spectators were able to see that preparation pay off and appreciate the hard work these linemen perform every day.

Competition is divided into events for apprentices, journeymen teams of three, individual linemen and seniors (ages 45 and up). The events are designed to showcase safety, skill and knowledge of the field and end up cultivating a pride in the trade and a kinship among participants. They get to meet others who know intimately the ins and outs of what the day-to-day life of a lineman on the job is like. Participants were judged on safety procedures, work practices, neatness, ability, equipment handling and timely completion of each task.

Employees from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives had a good showing, especially these linemen who placed in competition:

Apprentice

  • Johnathan Fitzpatrick, Middle Tennessee EMC, first place overall; second place, hurtman rescue; first place, B-1 tie in; first place, dead lift
  • Chase Patterson, Middle Tennessee EMC, third place overall; third place, dead lift
  • Ireneo Rose, Caney Fork EC, first place, hurtman rescue
  • Dalton Stephenson, Southwest Tennessee EMC, second place, A-6 bell change
  • Donald Young, Southwest Tennessee EMC, third place, written test

Team Event

  • Volunteer Energy Cooperative, first place, hurtman rescue
  • Cumberland EMC, third place, hurtman rescue

Individual Journeyman

  • James Grant, Middle Tennessee EMC, first place, overall; second place, hurtman rescue; first place, cutout change; second place, skill climb
  • Brad Kinkaid, Middle Tennessee EMC, second place overall
  • Danny Crawford, Middle Tennessee EMC, third place overall
  • Chris Gossett, Middle Tennessee EMC, fourth place overall; third place, cutout change
  • Thomas Carlton, Southwest Tennessee EMC, third place, hurtman rescue

Senior

  • Bo Asbury, Middle Tennessee EMC, second place overall; third place, hurtman rescue; second place, B-7 insulator; second place, dead lift
  • Chris Couch, Holston EC, third place overall; second place, hurtman rescue
  • Trent Cary, Gibson EMC, fifth place overall

Middle Tennessee EMC’s Bo Ashbury.

Middle Tennessee EMC’s B.J. Bobo.

Fallen Lineman Memorial

Middle Tennessee EMC’s Brad Kincaid, B.J. Bobo and Bobby Buttrey.

Middle Tennessee EMC competitors Rusty George, top, and B.J. Bobo.

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About Author

Trish Milburn

Trish Milburn wrote her first book in the sixth grade and has the cardboard-and-fabric-bound, handwritten, and colored-pencil-illustrated copy to prove it. That “book” was called Land of the Misty Gems, and not surprisingly it was a romance. She’s always loved stories with happy endings, whether those stories come in the form of books, movies, TV programs or marriage to her own hero. Trish grew up in Kentucky and worked as a newspaper and magazine journalist for a number of years. She still does freelance work, but she devotes most of her time to writing novels. While working toward her first sale, she finaled in the prestigious Golden Heart contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America eight times, winning twice. She was also a finalist in Harlequin American’s Great American Novel contest, which led to her first sale to American. Other than reading, Trish enjoys traveling (by car or train – she’s a terra firma girl!), hiking, nature photography, and visiting national parks. Two of her life goals are to visit every unit of the U.S. National Park Service and hike the Appalachian Trail. While many authors buy themselves a piece of jewelry or gorgeous new shoes to commemorate their first sales, Trish bought herself a TiVo so she doesn’t miss any of her favorite shows while she’s typing away at the computer keyboard to meet her deadlines. In addition to romances for Harlequin American, Trish writes young adult novels under the name Tricia Mills for Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group.

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