There will be a monkey in the house at the Franklin Rodeo.
When the rodeo kicks off May 16, Whiplash the Cowboy Monkey will be on hand to entertain during all three performances.
The courageous monkey will don cowboy clothes: chaps, a shirt and leggings, and a custom-made cowboy hat. Then, he’ll ride his mount, a border collie, as they round up the sheep in the rodeo arena.
Whiplash, who is cared for by Kenny Petet, lives in Stephenville, Texas. The Capuchin monkey has been doing the act his entire life, and he loves his job, Petet said.
“He gets wound up when it’s time to go,” he said. “He knows the rhythm. When I’m changing into my dress clothes, he knows the rodeo music, and he can always hear it, because we park close to the arena. He’ll crawl up on my lap and put his arms out so I can put his shirt on.”
As part of the act, Petet has designed and built a rat rod to make Whiplash’s entrance and exit out of the arena. A self-described hot rod guy, Petet built most of it from a variety of parts: the cab from a 1946 Chevy, the grill from an International tractor, the headlights from a 1920s model Cadillac and the wheels from a 1929 Model A. The engine, a Chevy 350 Hot Rod, is modern; everything else is hand built and hand channeled. Even the cup holder is a Prince Albert tobacco can.
“It creates a stir,” Petet said. “If I don’t feel like unhooking the trailer (when he arrives at a rodeo), I drive it to the convenience store.”
When he’s not on the rodeo road, Whiplash lives with Petet and his wife, Nicole. He’s quite intelligent, Petet said.
“You have to toddler-proof the house,” he said. “If he can get into something, he will.”
Whiplash eats human food, usually grilled chicken, fish and grapes, among other things. Like most humans, he loves junk food like onion rings, french fries and cake, but Petet limits his intake.
“If it’s good for you, it’s good for him,” Petet said.
Petet said Capuchin monkeys live up to 35 years in the world but 45 years with quality veterinarian care. Whiplash is 25 years old and lives close to the nation’s best primate veterinarian, who helps keep him in top health.
Whiplash’s motto is “There’s one Will Rogers, there’s one John Wayne and there’s one Whiplash.”
He’ll entertain during each night of the rodeo, which runs May 16-18 at the Williamson County Ag Expo Park. The rodeo begins at 7 p.m. each night. Advance tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for kids ages 12 and under. Tickets sold at the gate are $2 more.
For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www.FranklinRodeo.com.