BRAWLEY – Early Sunday morning at the Cattle Call arena, a voice familiar to many local cowboys, Flying U Rodeo crew and contestants rang out over the speaker system. It was the voice of Coy Huffman calling the overflow of barrel racers, or slack, as it is known in the industry. Huffman also calls the crowd-pleasing “mutton busting” contest, where youngsters hop aboard the back of a sheep and hang on as the ram darts across the arena.
But Huffman’s main calling came after the barrel racing slack finished and he called his flock to the stands to hear God’s word Sunday morning, helped by his wife, Donna. Cowboys, their families, faithful locals, and others took their seats to the sound of worship music played and sung by Brawley resident Lloyd Miller on guitar.
In the arena, the crew let the horse remuda run and exercise before the start of Sunday’s afternoon performance, giving the church service an unforgettable background.
In addition to the sight and sound of free running horses, the smell of cooking kernel corn wafted through the stands and mixed in with other food vendors opening shop for the final Sunday rodeo performance.
Huffman spoke about his time leading events like the Cowboy Church and how people are prone to confuse church with a building, instead of a group united by faith. “The people are the church, not a building,” he said.
As Huffman began his sermon, he used no notes, just a worn Bible with dog-eared pages, as he spoke of the power of living for Christ. The meandering approach fit the announcer’s informal, conversational style, as biblical principles were interlaced with personal stories and colorful turns of phrase. His voice traveled through the whole grounds aided by the main speaker system, allowing those in their trailers or working stock to hear his message of hope and grace.
Huffman invited Julie Reeves, a perennial Brawley rodeo team-penner, to share her faith and testimony. The two have been friends for years, like many of Huffman’s friends that he sees once a year through the decades as he travels to their towns.
Reeves spoke on always being prepared to share God’s word, and how one never knows where an opportunity will arise. Reeves recalled working with Brawley high school’s Rodeo Club as she taught them to set up team penning corrals, and she told Sunday’s crowd an opportunity arose for her to talk to the young group about Christ.
An ex-cowboy, Huffman has ministered to the professional rodeo cowboys for half a century following a fateful and career-ending rodeo accident. As he strode across the platform and preached to those in the stands, his weathered boots and faded jeans were in sharp contrast to his wife’s high tech duties of running a video with links to his web page where others across the nation tune in weekly to hear the rodeo circuit-traveling preacher.