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Pearsall’s JP Gonzales advances in television reality show challenges
Wednesday nights have not been the same in this small town since Pearsall cowboy John Paul “JP” Gonzales became an overnight celebrity.
With its sixth episode airing this week, viewers of “Ultimate Cowboy Showdown” are anxious to see if JP wins the reality show hosted on the INSP network by country music performer Trace Adkins.
Last week, JP shone in the “Immunity Buckle Challenge,” earning protection from elimination.
“This win is because of my horse, Boone; he put me right there to win,” the cowboy says, beaming with pride over his new buckle. “What is kind of funny is I have been struggling a little bit, but I have this confidence slowly building and it is awesome.”
“They better not overlook this South Texas cowboy,” Adkins said as JP received the buckle after the challenge.
Filmed in the sweltering Texas heat, the television dow features JP facing 13 other cowboys and cowgirls in a number of grueling challenges as a panel of experts judges their skills, knowledge, grit and passion.
Admittedly timid, the horseman says his decision to come out of his comfort zone and throw his name into the hat to be on the show was about his desire to establish a legacy.
The third-generation cowboy learned to ride a horse at a young age and spent countless hours with his dad on ranches throughout South Texas.
Today, the 31-year-old cowboy has made a name for himself all over Texas as a horse trainer and through his work with various ranchers.
Those ranchers, he says, are another reason he has come out of his shell, and he aspires to be like the well-respected men who employ him.
“Over the last three years I have watched JP as he has moved from a good horseman to a great horseman,” Lew Thompson of South Texas Cattle Marketing says. “There is a big difference between a cowboy and a horseman. JP has light hands and he has learned how to feel what the horse needs and not what he wants.”
JP’s talent mixed with his humble and kind nature is not only noticed by Lew but by other cattle owners and cowboys.
“JP is one of the most trustworthy, reliable guys I know,” Jody Tschirhart says. “He is someone that I can call when I am in a bind and he won’t hesitate to help me out. His word is reliable. You can trust that when he is along on a job, the job will be done right and in a timely manner. He is a hand with the rope and a horse. His training ability with horses is unmatched. He is definitely one of a kind.”
Working alongside JP for many years, Colby Mangum says he admires the cowboy for his talent and work ethic.
“He never shies away from a task,” Colby says. “He reads cattle well, is skillful with a rope and most of all treats people with kindness and respect. I am proud to call him a friend.”
Not allowed to tell when or where the show is filmed, the South Texas cowboy talks about the overall experience of the challenges and undesirable accommodations.
The contestants sleep in tents near their trucks and trailers and endure extreme humidity and other difficult weather conditions. All of these aspects of the television show are aimed at pitting the contestants against steep odds as well as making them endure mental strain.
“I had a mishap on the way there,” JP says, frustrated. “It was a mental struggle, it was hot and humid and it just took a lot out of me.”
The renowned horseman has left a mark on this South Texas town not only for his cowboy skills but for his love of music. An inspiring songwriter, he was playing his guitar one night and his teammates encouraged him to come over to the common area and play some tunes.
Family, friends, local bars and restaurants are hosting watch parties for the native on Wednesday nights.
“It is kind of weird, seeing myself on television,” he chuckles. “It felt so good to see the way I presented myself and the viewing party knocked down my nerves.”
The cowboy says he remains humble and is appreciative of all those who have supported him in his journey so far.
“I learned to rope and ride from my dad and my mother was always hard on me in school and pushed my academics,” he says. “They both support me strongly and they are what makes me, me.”
Long-time bank president and owner of Gates Cattle Company, Jim Gates has had a front-row seat to JP’s success as he has watched him grow into the man he is today.
“You know, I know that whole family. They are like my family,” Gates says. “I have worked cattle with his father and uncles and JP was always with them. He is the real-life South Texas cowboy. His honesty and integrity are something that so many have lost these days. His word is his bond.”
Gates lauds the cowboy’s talent in the roping arena but makes sure to emphasize JP’s character.
“Most importantly, he is a gentleman,” Gates says. “He has matured into a fine father and family man. He has the maturity to understand the hard work that goes into achieving his goals as well as the self-discipline to remain focused and diligent until those goals are reached.”
JP is a 2007 graduate of Pearsall High School and lives in Pearsall with wife Celena and their two sons, John Luke and Jace.
After a disappointing performance by his team during the fifth episode, JP says he is thankful for Adkins telling him to ‘go sit on the fence,’ which means he made it to the next round.
“It is not about the money for me, it is my legacy, it is proving to people I deserve it,” he says. “Being a Hispanic cowboy I had to earn my respect. My dad worked from sun up to sun down and it never was enough to buy a herd of cattle. It was to make ends meet, to put food on the table.”