Backhoe operator returns from Vegas competition

Brent Paquette of Abbotsford is among 59 competitors who compete in a series of equipment challenges in the Triple Threat Rodeo.

Backhoe operator Brent Paquette competing in the Triple Threat Rodeo in Las Vegas on Jan. 23.

Backhoe operator Brent Paquette competing in the Triple Threat Rodeo in Las Vegas on Jan. 23.

Brent Paquette had two months to think about his berth in the Case Construction Triple Threat Rodeo in Las Vegas.

His 580 wide-track backhoe, the backbone of his owner-operator business, was stolen around Remembrance Day of last year. Since then, Paquette has been off work and unable to find an affordable replacement, so the backhoe operator has only been able to visualize his trial in the skills contest and plan for the future.

The rodeo, which ran Jan. 23-24 as part of the 2012 World of Concrete show, consisted of a series of skill-testing challenges using a skid steer loader, wheel loader and loader/backhoe – three machines commonly used in construction and landscaping.

Home from the two-day event, Paquette says his first time competing in the rodeo was phenomenal. The personal highlights started the first evening, when each operator was called one by one in front of the World of Concrete crowd and introduced.

Each of the 59 competitors had earned their place in the Triple Threat Rodeo by winning earlier competitions locally. Paquette, who owns Get-RRR-Done Backhoe Services and has been operating equipment for 25 years, was the top contender in the local competition in Langley in May of last year, earning him a spot in the North American finals.

The most talented of these operators are able to manoeuvre unwieldy earth-moving equipment through obstacle courses.  One such example is pulling skids from behind narrow PVC pipes using the bucket of a backhoe and carefully removing them from inside the small spaces without jostling the ball markers.

The goal is to have the quickest time, with credit given for clean runs and time added for errors such as the balls hitting the ground.

Narrowed from a field of 1,500 participants in 54 events across the United States and Canada, Paquette and the other semi-finalists vied for the title of North American champion and the grand prize of a new Case TR270 track loader and Towmaster trailer for their sponsoring company. The winner took home a new Dodge Ram.

Paquette said prior to the event he was warned that the rodeo would have bigger challenges than what he was accustomed to, but he enjoyed the heightened competition and placed 21st overall. His operating experience dates back to his childhood on his grandfather’s farm, and Paquette said he had been around machines all his life.

He is already looking forward to the next contest, taking place in the summer, and its grand prize trip.

As that nears, Paquette has accepted that his main source of income is gone and is contemplating heading back to the northern mining camps.

Already a veteran of the Yukon camps, Paquette started Get-RRR-Done when the mine he worked for closed in the collapse of the stock market in 2008. One month after he moved home and purchased his own backhoe, he got a call asking him to come back. He stayed in Abbotsford to work on establishing his business.

Now it looks like he’ll be making the trip north. Potentially returning to his original camp, located roughly eight miles from Juneau, Alaska, on the Canadian side, Paquette expects to be running excavators or working on Bobcats – standard fare for someone who can hold their own in a contest after nine weeks without practice.