Providence is defined as divine guidance or care. Provenance, a record of ownership of a valuable item, used as a guide to authenticity or quality. Simply, you could say Steve Friskup relies on providence for his faith and provenance for his job as an auctioneer, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. Rather, the world-class horse auctioneer, team roper, husband, father, grandfather and traveling preacher embodies his providence and his provenance within his everyday character.
He is committed to his faith, considers it to be of supreme value and, during this time of coronavirus chaos, he has found an eager internet audience that spans the globe, thanks to his newest endeavor, “Coffee with the Colonel.”
It should be clarified, Steve Friskup is not a military colonel and he means no disrespect to those who have earned their stripes.
“It’s an auctioneer thing,” he said.
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According to a history published by the National Auctioneers Association, the title comes from an era when auctions played a role in the military during the American Civil War. When victory included looting and plundering, only officers ranked as Colonels were allowed to auction off the contraband for a favorable sum. The title fixed itself to the industry and, today, it’s not uncommon for an auctioneer to be referred to as Colonel.
Friskup’s own auctioneer history doesn’t date quite as far back as the Civil War—though he likes to joke about having been around forever—but it does reach back into his Oklahoma adolescence.
“The way I did it,” he said of getting started in the business, “my dad had bought a little sale barn over there in Oklahoma when I was a freshman in high school. I started auctioneering right then. I sold rabbits, chickens, hay, spare tires. I did all that kind of stuff out in front of the sale barn community, auction stuff. I advanced up to baby calves and butcher cows and we had a little horse sale over there every other Saturday night.”
From his homegrown sale barn, at the age of 24, with his wife, Robin—whom Friskup refers to as “the coolest lady on the planet”—at his side, Friskup was discovered.
“A guy that’s a real good friend of mine now spotted me over there and told another guy about me, who was with Triangle Sale Company at the time. He come to our horse sale and he told a guy about me that owned Triangle Sale Company. His name is John Bowling. And John Bowling and his wife walks in the sale barn one Saturday night. He listened to me a minute and offered me a job and I went to work for Triangle Sale Company that January of 1984.”
Friskup started as a ringman—an auction staff member who works the floor, face-to-face with the bidders, and serves as a vital liaison between them and the lead auctioneer—at the Shawnee, Oklahoma, facility, but was allowed to auction off a few head each sale.
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“It was just a God thing,” Friskup said, “because I was dumber than a post and I didn’t know how to do stuff and [John] hired me anyhow. I just kind of picked it up and learned how to do what I needed to do. People seemed to like me and, next thing you know, I’m pretty busy at it.”
From Triangle Sales, Friskup became involved with New Mexico’s Clovis Livestock Auction some 30 years ago and, more recently, became a partner in Premier Equine Auctions, which will be conducting the Select Team Roping Horse Sale at the USTRC Cinch National Finals in Fort Worth this September.
“That’s been the core of everything we do, being in the horse sale business now for almost 40 years,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the auction way of market, the value of the horse nowadays would have never achieved where it’s at at this present time. The auction way of doing things has drawn people in. In my career time, I’ve seen it go to an extremely high level of integrity, quality. The successful part of it, on my side, is not only the ability of it to rattle around there and make noise, but I have a passion for the product. I have a passion for the people who have the same passion as me, and I appreciate the value of a nice horse. I’ve always considered it my job to honor a nice horse by maximizing his value. So, I’ve always been more about the horses and the people than I’ve ever been about the money, and I think that’s probably helped my career. That’s my deal.”
Twenty-five years ago, Friskup also developed a passion for God and ministering. As his career developed as an auctioneer, the family moved first to Canyon, Texas, and then to Muleshoe, where Friskup preaches weekly at the Muleshoe Fellowship—where “what started out as a bible study for team ropers and working cowboys eventually transformed into a diverse fellowship of believers”—when he’s not ministering across the country.
“I have a very deep, solid relationship with the Lord,” Friskup said. “And I have a pretty deep, solid knowledge of the Bible. And when you combine all those things, I could stop selling horses and go into ministry anytime I wanted to. It would probably pay twice as much if I did it right. But that’s not the point. I don’t preach for money.”
Instead, Friskup preaches because he believes. A belief that served him well a few short years ago, when he battled leukemia and won.
“I got really really sick and I got really well really fast. They did two articles about it in some kind of medical magazines or doctor books or something. ‘Cause I did. I kicked the crap out of it really quick. My faith has sustained me now for 25 years, and I just don’t veer off that.”
More than ever, Friskup has been leaning into his faith and sharing it with folks around the world wide web during this complicated COVID-19 pandemic.
“Every day. ‘Coffee with the Colonel.’ It’s my new nonprofit,” Friskup joked.
But “Coffee with the Colonel,” is far from a joke. As chaos ensued this past March and shutdowns were implemented and businesses shuttered, Friskup took to social media’s Facebook to air his thoughts and concerns in a video.
“I’m a huge Donald Trump fan. I’m a huge patriot, so I go all over the country and speak to America out of the Bible. Well, I was in Arkansas doing a deal while this all came down. That first few days, everybody was trying to find a way, whether they were mad or whether they wanted to fight. It was very confusing that first week. I found some solid ground, found some wisdom, and I just shared it. Well, the first couple things I did, it was like 50,000 people listened to it.”
In fact, people were so hungry for Friskup’s no-nonsense, cowboy Christian view that they began demanding more.
“Right there before Easter I said, ‘Okay. I’m going to do eight days leading up to Easter. Help everybody out here. Just give you a little something.’ Well, that eight days has turned into however many now. To the point where I wore out my phone and I had to go buy a new phone. But it’s just, I’ll tell you, in all my 25 saved years, this is the most fruitful time my life has ever had because people are hungry for a little something to go on. They’re ready to do right. They want their country back and if I can help, that’s what I’m going to do.”
So he does. Every morning, Friskup posts a video of what’s become known as “Coffee with the Colonel,” and he’s taking calls from all over the United States, Canada and even Western Australia in response to it.
“A lot of them are livestock people and they rope and whatnot, but, just to be encouraged. There’s a lot of people getting pretty frustrated here. Because, it’s tough for a lot of folks, so if I can encourage them and share some stuff, good enough. And, I’m hoping. I can’t wait to see them all at a roping or the horse sale or something here pretty quick.”
That Friskup is seeing so much engagement in his new endeavor isn’t particularly surprising. Whether he’s on the podium at the auction or in his chair at home with his Bible in his lap and his phone recording his daily videos, Friskup, above all, maintains his place among the people.
“I’m just one of the old Joe Blows down here,” he offered. “I’m the guy that has to wrestle with doing business during this. I didn’t get a bailout. We had big issues when this first started. So, I know. I know. That’s why I can get up and speak to every one of them. Because I get up in the morning and put my britches on one leg at a time just like the rest of them. I’m a horse sale auctioneer.”
Premier Equine Auctions had just wrapped up a very successful initial takeover of the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo Horse Sale in February before the virus hit.
“That was like a record-breaker all the way around,” Friskup said. “And, we were just coming off the high of that one when we had to shut down. But, it’s all gonna be good and we’re excited about the partnership with the USTRC and, then, we’ll go right straight to the Working Ranch Rodeo Finals in Amarillo in November. We hosted the first horse sale ever at that Finals last year and it was really good.”
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Friskup and partner Mike Pedersen had to cancel a spring horse sale in March, but they’re charging full steam ahead with the rest of the year’s sales, and even rescheduled and moved the Clovis Horse Sale to Levelland, Texas, to meet the needs of the market.
“Everybody has stayed really enthused. So, we’ve rescheduled the sale for Clovis for the third week in June. The day I made that announcement, it was like you breathed life into my telephone. It just started ringing and everybody’s wanting to participate. So, people involved in the Western way of life are extremely resilient. They’re very hard to keep locked in their house. They’ll come outside any time you leave the door cracked open. If you’ll schedule a team roping in Ardmore, Oklahoma, the first week in May, they’ll come out in droves and none of them wearing a mask and they’re ready to roll. They’re ready to do.”
Ready to Do
“I live under the Psalms 91, so, God says no pestilence will befall me,” Friskup said.
He doesn’t make light of the virus or that people have lost their lives to it, but he won’t operate in fear of it either.
“Everybody is ready to go. Everybody is ready to live. It’s like I told my mother the other day: ‘Dying and not living are the same.’ So, we’re going to live. I feel very good about America. I feel very good about our leadership. I feel very good about our future.”
Including a horse market that team ropers can sink their teeth into, especially come September, for the USTRC sale.
“The equine world is alive and well. The level of horsemanship and the quality of horseflesh has elevated my entire life. It just keeps creeping forward. We’ve got some pretty cool ideas and I’m really excited about [the sale] being moved to September. We’ve had a great response and everybody is real excited about coming. Fort Worth is an amazing facility, down there at the Will Rogers. So, it will be a great venue. We’re really looking forward to it.”