Back then—as it is still today—when you ride for the brand, it means you signed on to the mission, you committed, you were a dedicated team player.

In the Old West, a brand was a ranch's trademark, representing pride, duty and stewardship, while inspiring loyalty, dedication and camaraderie.

This week linemen Marlon Hernandez and Felix Strauss are "Getting the Hell Out of Dodge" and trading their spurs for gaffs and pistols for shotguns to represent Victory Electric at the 35th Annual International Lineman’s Rodeo.

The 2018 International Lineman’s Rodeo and Expo will be held Oct. 10-13, in Bonner Springs, Kansas.

The rodeo is designed to recognize journeyman and apprentice linemen from the U.S. and abroad who are the best in their field. In most industries, employees strive to prove their skills are better than or comparable to their peers through award ceremonies, certifications, or public recognition.

For electric linemen, it’s called a rodeo. While there is no bronc or bull riding, ropes are still used, just not for lassoing livestock.

"The International Lineman’s Rodeo is like the Super Bowl of lineman rodeo’s," said Mikey Goddard, Victory Electric’s vice president of safety and the "unofficial coach" of the Victory Electric duo. "They only compete in one rodeo per year and it takes a lot of guts and determination to put your skills to the test on such a grand platform."

Last year, Hernandez and Strauss made history as the first linemen from Victory Electric to ever participate in the International Lineman’s Rodeo, and they are both excited about competing again.

"We had a ton of fun, learned a lot, and met some cool new people," Strauss said. "But my goal is to do better than I did last year. I’ve been practicing the most on pole-top rescue to prefect my technique and form to shorten my time."

The lineman duo has dedicated their time practicing after hours and working with Goddard to review various safety measures before running drills in preparation for the event.

"I love to climb and the thrill of climbing," Hernandez said. "I also strive to always do my best, so this competition is perfect because I get to compete against the best linemen, and that motivates me to keep going. It’s just fun."

The International Lineman’s Rodeo attracts the best linemen from around the world to compete in events based on traditional lineman tasks and skills.

The rodeo consists of several events in which contestants are scored on their ability to follow safety protocols and proper procedures, and are timed on how efficiently they perform those tasks.

In the hurt-man rescue event, for instance, a dummy (simulating an injured line worker) hangs from atop a 40-foot pole and linemen are judged on how safely and quickly they secure the dummy and pulley it to the ground.

As apprentice lineman, Hernandez and Strauss have fewer than four years of utility experience. Apprentices compete in separate classes than journeyman linemen, who are classified as having more than four years of utility experience.

"Linemen provide a critical service to our communities, and we are proud of the highly trained workforce at Victory Electric," said Shane Laws, Victory Electric CEO. "We have some of the best linemen, and the International Lineman’s Rodeo allows them the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and showcase their pride of the lineman’s trade."

Hernandez and Strauss are already in Bonner Springs attending safety training and pre-conferences leading up to the completion on Saturday. Victory Electric asks our members and our community to join us in wishing Marlon and Felix the best of luck at the 2018 International Lineman’s Rodeo. To follow Marlon and Felix’s journey at the rodeo, visit Victory Electric’s Facebook page at facebook.com/VictoryElectric.

"A lineman’s job is to ‘keep the lights on," said Goddard. "This is a great opportunity for Victory Electric linemen to show the public and members their technical skill set, and the intense training linemen go through to effectively face a multitude of obstacles on a daily basis to ensure our members have safe, reliable power."