Steve Friskup of Muleshoe, Texas, left, talks to Bill and Ginger Sneed, of Talpa, Texas, on Sunday after a cowboy church service at the sale barn in Clovis. Photo by Eric Kluth.
By Janet Bresenham
The Clovis Livestock Auction’s four annual horse sales attract buyers and sellers from across the United States and even other countries.
But for longtime horse sale manager and auctioneer Steve Friskup, the sale has another purpose.
“We are definitely a professing Christian business,” Friskup said. “Jesus — that’s the best part of this horse sale. People call in between sales to get prayed for. We’re all a big family here. We care about the people who come here.”
During last weekend’s three-day Fall Horse Sale, Friskup led a cowboy church service in the sale ring building early Sunday morning. About 200-250 people of all ages, dressed mostly in blue jeans, starched shirts, boots and cowboy hats filled the seats to sing and share their faith and fellowship in a down-home atmosphere.
“It’s been fun to see a lot of these guys come to know Jesus,” Friskup said. “When we started these services at the horse sales about four or five years ago, we had about 30-40 people coming.”
From the moment the message began, it was clear it was going to be a different type of service.
Friskup opened by asking everyone to “let God get close” and talking about how cowboys and horse owners look for their horses’ ears to flicker to see if they are dead or alive.
“Just imagine Jesus walking down the feeding alley at the livestock auction, looking to see whether your ears are flickering,” Friskup said.
Friskup related a story about his horse named Handy and drew an analogy between raising Handy from a colt and learning to trust that Jesus is a friend who cares and wants the best for people’s lives.
“When Handy first landed at my house, he didn’t know I really had a plan for him,” Friskup said. “He didn’t know I would take care of him. Now, he likes me and he wants to be with me. In the same way, I want to bless God. I want to live a life that pleases (God).”
But Friskup readily admits he didn’t always feel that way.
Friskup, 43, said he became a Christian about nine years ago. Since then, he’s seen his own life change in addition to the lives of many of the people he knew in the horse business.
“I was coming home from the horse sale about nine years ago one night on I-40 and the Lord just got hold of me that night,” Friskup said. “My environment never did change after I got saved, but I did. I didn’t care about anything but what Jesus wanted me to do.”
So, rather than leaving the horse sale environment at the time, Friskup said he stayed and shared his faith with his co-workers and customers.
He recalled one customer and friend in particular, a man named Jimmy Diribio who traveled from New Jersey every time there was a horse sale in Clovis.
“Jimmy started out coming just for the geldings and later, he came for the fellowship,” Friskup said. “This has been his church family until he died of cancer about three weeks ago. We talked and prayed together a lot.”
The cowboy church services have become a popular tradition every time there’s a horse sale.
“It’s changed the horse sale tremendously,” said Kent Thiessen, who has been coming to the sales in Clovis with his wife Lindsey from their home in Elk City, Okla., for years.
Ginger Sneed of Talpa, Texas, said she and her husband Bill have been traveling to all four horse sales a year in Clovis for about six years.
“The Cowboy Church Services Steve does are the main reason we come, really,” Ginger Sneed said. “We come for the horse sale, too, but we get such a blessing from this. We have made such good friends here.”
Similar cowboy church services also continue the rest of the year at the Clovis Livestock Auction’s sale barn, with Ryan Figg leading them at 6:30 p.m. every Monday.
Friskup, who grew up in Meeker, Okla., where his parents owned a sale barn, moved to Muleshoe about a year ago from Canyon and works regularly at the Clovis Livestock Auction.
When he is home in Muleshoe, Friskup leads a cowboy church service at 7:30 p.m. every Thursday that meets in the arena pavilion in the summer and at a church building at 117 E. Birch St. the rest of the year.
In addition, he travels more than 30 weekends a year to serve as auctioneer at various horse sales across the country and conduct cowboy church services in Shawnee, Okla., and sometimes at other sales.