It Was A “Test” of Epic Proportions!

Well that might be exaggerating just a little bit….but at the time, ……and considering my ‘new’ standing in the Lord, it really was quite the test. It was in 1985 and my good friend, Danny Mason, invited me to judge his annual bull riding in Mineral Wells, Texas. It was a big event; lots of money up, and some of the best riders in the world were competing there. The crowd was huge. I’m standing inside the arena and Cade, my 2nd son who was about 3 at the time, was sitting in a box seat where I could do my judging job and also keep a close eye on him.

The first section of about 12 riders was completed, there was a 10 minute break and we were about to start the second section.About that time I hear a loud voice coming from the grandstands griping and cussing about the judging. Well , immediately, I assumed that it’s someone that I know just kidding, and giving me a hard time. But I finally saw the guy coming up the walkway to where I was…..and I’d never seen this guy before! He swiftly walked my way and into the box seat section where Cade was sitting…..still yelling and cussing at me. By now he’d drawn the attention of everyone at the event. If not for his yelling voice, you could’ve heard a pin drop….and every eye in the place is on us!

I said to him, “If you want to talk to me, you need to get down here and talk to me!” But he just kept on! Now, I’ve never considered myself a ‘fighter’ but I’ve also always had a resolve to not let anyone push me around, either. In professional rodeo in those days I had to ‘stand my ground’ many a time. And what made this situation even more difficult was the fact that my life had, just less than a year before, been turned around…..and I was growing in my relationship with the Lord. So I knew, to handle things how we used to handle them,….would not be the ‘right’ thing to do.

Still yelling and cussing at me, I told him again, “If you want to talk to me, you get down here and talk to me!” He’s by now leaning over the top rail on the fence and I somehow resisted the opportunity to knock him plumb out, like I would’ve done only a few years before. And without thinking….I grabbed the hat off his head and just whipped him over the head with it! I then pitched it behind him in front of the grandstand and most of the 300-400 people were laughing uncontrollably…..and all my friends….well, they were laughing harder than that! When I did that, I said to him, “Now, I’ve told you about three times….if you want to talk to me, you need to get down here and talk to me! You got anything to say to me?!” He pressed his lips together….shook his head “No”, picked up his hat (amongst all the laughter) and made his way into the distance!

Now that probably ain’t the best way to handle a situation like that….and I doubt that Jesus would’ve whipped him over the head with his hat…..but considering the alternative….I think I did pass the test!

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*If you like Rodeo Stories, you’ll enjoy these: 

*(click on highlighted link to read)

VIP #1 Booger Bryant

VIP #2 Sarge Cook

VIP #8 Monty Taylor

8378 Zulu…..And the Flight That Was Almost the Last One!

First Trip To Calgary

August 12….A Day That Lives in Infamy…..*at  Least For Me!

Avoid the Vending Machine, Microwave, Green Chile Burritos in the Albuquerque Airport At All Costs!

Now, If I Were a Lawyer…..

…..which I ain’t…..but I almost was. I went to college right our of high school on a rodeo scholarship to Eastern New Mexico University in Portales. My grades were good enough but It was mostly all about college rodeo at the time and not much about education. Looking back…not very smart but it was what it was. We did have a very competitive team at Eastern. I was second in the bull riding in the  region with a lot of good bull riders….and our team was 3rd nationally at the College Finals in Bozeman, Montana. But after a year there I’d had enough of college life and headed back to the ranch and to rodeo full-time.

I started thinking about what I would do after rodeo. Actually, looking back, not many of my rodeo friends gave much thought of what they’d do ‘after’! Again, not wise, but it was mostly a fact. I had always had an interest in law and the whole legal system, even as a young adult. I remember watching every episode I could of Perry Mason, then later Barnaby Jones and every other TV show or movie about lawyers. So, I set my mind to pursue that kind of career. My plan was to get a business degree and then on to law school. I put rodeo on the back burner, for the most part. Got another rodeo scholarship to Southwestern State in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Took some summer school classes so I’d be eligible for the fall college rodeo run. All was going right on schedule, made the Dean’s Honor Roll in both my summer and fall classes. 

When the PRCA winter rodeos cranked up I went; Denver, Ft Worth, San Antonio, Houston. I could do that and not miss too much school. I rode good, but didn’t draw good at all and up until the Astrodome Rodeo in Houston I hadn’t won a dime. But the week following Houston I ‘hit a lick’! In rodeos in Montgomery, Alabama, San Angelo, Texas and Phoenix I brought home over $5000, which was quite a bit in those days (1976). It positioned me to make a good run to go to the National Finals Rodeo. I never went back to another class at Southwestern! Again, pretty dumb (seems like I keep saying that quite a bit!), but it was what it was. My run for the NFR was squelched when I got injured at Sidney, Iowa on August 12, resulting in major shoulder surgery.

I never again pursued a law career for a number of reasons. I still think about it every week, …..sometimes daily. I still watch whatever I can on TV and movies, I read nearly all of John Grisham’s books up to a point, and I have a few friends who are lawyers. I still enjoy picking their brains about their career, it still fascinates me.

I think I would’ve made a decent lawyer. and when I’m having a bad week it does still go through my mind to go back to school and get that degree. (dumb again! Way too far behind the curve now!) But, I guess, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Although there’s plenty of people who don’t think so……and at times I really wonder, myself. But, God has a way of getting us where He wants us to be.

So, in the meantime, I’ll just have to live that life vicariously through the few I know that are actually doing it. So, David K, Abby C., Michelle R., Deb M., James W., Lynn F. or Brian H…..if I get on your nerves (it could happen!) questioning you about what you’re doing….you have my permission to tell me to ‘back off’!

*Some great timing; finishing my blog and on the Today Show there’s a story on Dickie Scruggs, a lawyer who took on Big Tobacco…and won! I’ll be busy for a few minutes!

*You might like this one too! *(click on the highlighted link)

August 12… “A Day That Lives in Infamy”….at  Least For Me!

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You Can Live in the Past if You Want To…..But There Is a ‘Downside’

II’s not rare to see people who are living in the past, in fact it’s pretty common by my experience. By ‘living in the past‘ I mean that most of a person’s entire focus is directed on what’s happened before. There are those who live in the regrets and failures of the past…but then there are also those I see from time to time who live in the victories and triumphs of the past. Obviously focusing on victories and triumphs would be a more pleasant thing than focusing on failures…..but either way……..there’s a downside.

I was talking to a friend recently who talked a lot about the ‘bad things’ (his own words) he’d done in the past. He was constantly saying about himself things like….“I don’t deserve for God to bless me”, “I know I’m not good enough”, “I’ve done a lot of bad things”. You don’t have to look far to find those that are hung up on their past. And then on the other hand I often hear those who, for instance, had a successful career in sports and much of their talk is about how good they were. In most cases it was probably true but I’m pretty sure to be focused, even on the glory days, has a downside.

I’ve had my own issues and temptations to ‘live in the past’. And for me it seems mostly centered around mistakes I’ve made and regrets of  not doing things different than I could/should have. It can be a recurring thing for me so I have to discipline myself to ‘not stay’ in the past for very long periods of time or it becomes extremely counter-productive….to say the least.

But the most tragic thing I see of people living in the past is that if your focus is ‘back there‘, so to speak, you are missing out on something today! Our joy and contentment can never be fully experienced if we’re focused on the past. And even more serious is the reality that if you’re missing out on something today….your future is severely impaired.

Most everyone would agree that God has a plan for their life, and for those living in the past…….if something doesn’t happen to cause them to re-focus they’ll surely miss their destiny. We need to learn to live in the ‘now’! It might be profitable to glance back every now and then and learn from our mistakes but we should get our focus back where it needs to be as quick as possible…….and that is on the Lord….and His plan for our lives!

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VIP #8 – Monty Taylor

I have an unlimited pool of people to write about when I write about VIP’s. There’s been so many people throughout the course of my life that have had a profound effect on me in one way or another. I’m grateful for the things I’ve learned from all of them and grateful for the deposits they’ve made into my life.

Monty Taylor, or ‘Mont’ as I’ve called him since we were little kids, is my brother (there’s just the two of us) but he’s been my best friend since the day he was born 59 years ago. Oh, we had our differences when we were growing up like all siblings do but neither one of us ever tolerated anybody else mistreating the other one. We’ve been ‘partners in crime’, so to speak, all these 59 years. We’ve had about every kind of ‘wreck’ with horses, cattle and bulls that you could ever imagine……and some you just couldn’t imagine no matter how hard you tried. We’ve even had a couple of car wrecks; one when we were headed to school in little Allison, Texas and hit a patch of black ice and rolled my pickup up on the side. Another the night before I got married. We’d had way too much to drink and ran off a bridge on the Oklahoma line. It was a miracle that me or Mont….or Ken Henry weren’t killed. Then there was the time when I was about a 3rd grader and  Mont hadn’t started to school yet. Dad had gone to shoe horses at a neighboring ranch and he didn’t let us go. We weren’t happy about that so we got on a big ‘ol tractor. We somehow got it started….and it took off. I bailed out! (Sorry Mont!) But Mont rode ‘er on out…until it hit a cattle guard and spun out ’til it died. It could’ve easily killed us both! And, let’s just say that Cliff Taylor wasn’t too happy when he got back to the ranch and the tractor had run through the fence.

We had no choice but to be cowboys and we took to it full blast. We started our bull riding careers on the arm of the chairs and couches in a little one bedroom ranch house on the Washita River 35 miles SE of Canadian, Texas. We graduated from the chair arm to riding on the back of our dad on hardwood floors. They don’t call ’em hardwood floors for nothin’! You learn early on to try as hard as you can to not get bucked off and bang your head off the hardwood. We went to our first rodeo when I was 8 and Mont was 5. We were determined to practice riding but we had no bucking chute….but we made do! When we’d see the dust from Dad’s pickup go over that last hill….we’d gather every cow, calf and bull we had and ride every single one of them. We’d run ’em in a big pen, rope ’em, snub ’em to a post, put our rope on ’em….and the rodeo was on!! Dad started gettin’ kinda suspicious when the cow herd wouldn’t even come in when he fed….and when he noticed how bad we were bruised and skinned up!! Rodeo was a pretty important part of our lives for the next 20-25 years. We rode in every major rodeo throughout the United States and Canada…..and won money at most of ’em! We were both inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2008.

Mont Taylor is a ‘Man’s Man’! He’s a man of his word, treats every single person with dignity, hard worker, great husband and Daddy, has a thousand really good friends and I doubt if he has an enemy on the whole planet. He’ll ‘loosen up’ with the best of ’em….but wouldn’t ever cause anybody any harm. We live 300 miles apart but I talk to him a couple of times a week. I have a ton of respect and admiration for him. His impact on my life has been immeasurable…..Mont Taylor is definitely a VIP!!

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Check out some more VIP’s:

VIP #1 – Booger Bryant

VIP #2 – Sarge Cook

VIP #3 – Ronnie Chadwick

VIP #4 Paul Luchsinger

VIP #5  & 6 – Edith Yowell & Nellie Millar

VIP #7 – Rick Hudson

‘Nymphin’ on the Big Horn

At least that’s what us ‘professional’ fly-fishermen call it! Actually just kidding. I’m not a pro. Matter of fact, I probably don’t even qualify for ‘amateur’ fly-fisherman status. But I have been nymphin‘ on the Big Horn…..River, that is…..in south-central Montana, ’bout an hour and a half south of Billings. I was invited by my good friend, Ty Bean, from Hobbs New Mexico along with nine or ten other church leaders from Idaho, Washington, Texas, New Mexico….and me from Oklahoma. Some of these guys I know and a few of them I met when I got there. It’s an exceptional bunch of guys; strong leaders but ‘real’ people, humble, authentic and focused.

The Big Horn River is said to be one of the very best trout fishing spots in the world….and after fishing it for three long days, I believe it. We went out with professional guides. These men know their stuff and volunteer their time for these trips. Brian Carpenter, a true visionary, had a dream of bringing people like us in, giving them an opportunity to unwind, relax and recharge while doing some great fly-fishing and relationship building. He started The Refuge Foundation (click link FMI) a few years back and has a full schedule of guys coming in throughout the fishing season. It’s a top notch project.

I’d never fly-fished before. I learned a lot of stuff! ….Like how to cast, mend and strip the line. Then there’s fishing with ‘dry flies’, ‘streamers’ and ‘nymphs’. It’s quite a learning curve for a flatlander like me but it was truly a great time. I’m already looking forward to fly-fishing again sometime in the future.

Fly-fishing is kinda like a religion to these guys that do it all the time. I mean, there’s definite, clear cut, code of ethics about the whole thing. I learned some of that when I caught my first fish, a brown trout……about a 15 inch ‘er. All our fishing on the 13 mile trip down the Big Horn was ‘catch and release’. After taking a picture of me and my fish I just ‘chunked’ the trout back in the river. He made a good sized splash and on we went. Nobody said a word….but later Ty, in his extremely polite and gentle way explained to me that…..in trout fishing we don’t just ‘chunk’ the fish back out in the river. Nope….there’s a right way to do it. You just hold the fish underneath his belly and slowly lower him into the water being ever so gentle with him and then you just kinda wait until he slowly swims away. Hey, you live….you learn. But I’m guessing there’s a nice little brown trout out there somewhere on the Big Horn receiving counseling, and encouragement from some of his fish ‘brothers’ regarding his four foot belly flopper into the river.

It was a great week and one I won’t soon forget. The friendships are strengthened and I got home re-charged. My guides, Dan, John and Larry were THE very best! Great guys, expert fish finders and best of all…..kingdom men! I’ve never had an experience quite like ‘nymphin’ on the Big Horn!

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It Still Ain’t Over!

“It Ain’t Over Til’ It’s Over”; Nearly all of us have heard that quote. We know it’s from Yogi! Yogi Berra  (click on the highlighted link for full biography) died yesterday at age 90. To youngsters today he’s mostly known for his ingenious  and witty quotes….like the one above. But for a ’53 model like myself he stands for a whole lot more. As a kid I was an avid New York Yankees fan. I knew all the players names for the Yankees in those days. I’d call those the “Golden Years of Baseball’. That’s just my own opinion of course but I’ve never been as enthused about the sport since those days. Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle were in a race for the most home runs. Two great athletes on the same ball club. For me, it was unforgettable. It was an era marked by….if you started with a ball club, in most cases you finished with the same club. Not a lot of trading around like there is these days. I liked it better.

Yogi was the catcher in all those great years for the Yanks. Not only was he a great catcher, he was a slugger as well. Five different times in his career he had more home runs than strikeouts (Thanks R Bea). Stop and think about that one for a minute! And get this: Besides being a Professional Baseball Hall of Famer, Yogi was a 3-time American League MVP…..and 10 times World Series Winner (played in 14)! At 5′ 7″ and 185 lbs Yogi hit 358 home runs and drove in 1430 runs in his stellar 18 year career! 

I thought it would be especially fitting on this day to post some of Yogi’s quotes:

“Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical”

“All pitchers are liars, or crybabies”IMG_0668

“He hits from both sides of the plate, he’s amphibious”

“Everybody pair up in threes”

“It gets late early out here”

“I usually take a 2 hour nap from 1 to 4”

“You can’t think and hit at the same time”

“It’s deja vu all over again”

“You can observe a lot by just watching”

“Even Napolean had his Watergate”

“Cut my pizza in 4 pieces, I don’t think I can eat 8”

“Never answer an anonymous letter”

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it”

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else”

“Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded”

“The future ain’t what it used to be”“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore”

“I never said most of the things I said”

“Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours'”

………and…….“It ain’t over ’til it’s over”

And in your case, Yogi…..it’ll never be over! A few of us’ll never forget!

Well done!

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8378 Zulu ….. and the Flight That Was Almost the Last One!

8378Z; That was the ‘call letters’ on my dad’s airplane. It was a great plane, Cessna 205, 6-seats, long-range tanks, STOL Kit (equipped for ‘short takeoffs and landings’), and a real ‘workhorse’ of a plane. By that I mean that you could load it down with weight and fly a long ways. That comes in handy when you’re traveling from rodeo to rodeo in the summertime with several guys and all their gear, and going to two rodeos a day (one in the afternoon/one at night). *(Over the 4th of July we went to 3 rodeos in one day! Cody, Wyoming, Red Lodge and Livingston, Montana)

The year was 1981. I was on track to make the NFR (National Finals Rodeo where the Top 15 in the World compete) in Oklahoma City. I had caught a ride with PRCA World All-Around Champ, Paul Tierney. Paul had leased a twin-engine plane and hired a pilot for the rigorous rodeo run through July and August. We flew to Custer and Aberdeen, South Dakota where I’d won the bull riding at both places. I had left our plane in Sturgis, South Dakota. I’d be back to Sturgis late that night where I’d meet my traveling partners, Gary Toole and Ricky Bolin. We’d leave there about noon-ish the next day for Hill City, Kansas.

The day before one of my main instruments had stopped working in our plane. The ‘attitude gyro’ just quit working. The ‘attitude’ instrument tells you if you’re climbing…or descending, or turning left or right. It’s an extremely important instrument. I had asked the pilot of Paul Tierney’s plane about it. He told me that, as an alternative, I should watch the compass….and that anytime the compass was moving…I was turning. I did not have an instrument rating but was fairly proficient in using my instruments in flying.

I was a good, safe pilot…..unless you ask Julie! Earlier in the year Julie and I, and Denny Flynn were flying to Del Rio, Texas to the Super Bull, the George Paul Memorial Bull Riding…which was the largest, highest paying Bull Riding event in those days. In making my landing approach I came in ‘a little hot’, had to make a fly around and then made a perfect landing. Julie tried every way in the world to get another ride home from Del Rio…but to no avail….she was forced to ride back home with me in the plane. We made it home fine but she was pretty hard to get loaded up in the plane after that!

I made it back to Sturgis sometime after midnight. The next morning the weather around Sturgis and Rapid City was overcast with some thunderstorms and low cloud covering. We were ready to head out for Hill City but I wasn’t going to ‘chance it’ with the marginal weather…and the faulty instrument. The weather reports were telling us that the clouds were moving out and we should be able to fly ‘clear skies’ all the way to Kansas. As soon as we got the good report we were taking off and headed for Hill City.

Only about 15-20 minutes into the flight the weather changed dramatically……for the worse! Heavy, dark clouds moved in and the ‘ceiling’ was only 300 ft. We stayed below the cloud covering, which is pretty dangerous considering that there are communications towers taller that that! The clouds appeared to be about 50 ft thick. We’d see huge gaps in the clouds of blue sky. The clouds were dropping even lower and I knew I had to try to go above the clouds. I told Gary, who was flying the right-hand seat, to keep an eye on the ground and I’d try to take it up through one of those patches of blue sky. Almost immediately we were encased in clouds….couldn’t see up, couldn’t see down. It sounds crazy but when you’re in the clouds like that you can be flying upside down and can’t tell it. It’s like being inside a paper bag.

I remember my flight instructor teaching me that you can just turn an airplane loose and it’ll fly by itself. That’s great if you’re several thousand feet up, but we’re 300 ft above the ground. That wouldn’t work! I looked at the compass and it was moving (which meant we were turning). I turned the yoke (the wheel) loose and the compass turned even faster. Not good! We were all in panic mode when Gary grabbed the yoke and pulled it straight into his chest. A No-No in most conditions…..and if the plane happened to be upside down…it’d fly us right into the ground!

Well, that didn’t happen; within a few seconds we cleared the clouds and our wings were vertical to the ground and we were climbing. I grabbed the yoke and brought it back to a horizontal, straight and level position. We were all exhausted from the stress of those few minutes. In 5 more minutes we were flying south with nothing but blue skies ahead.

I look back at that day often and it seems obvious to me now that the Lord had everything to do with preserving us that day…..and saving our lives.

8378 Zulu made it safely into Hill City, Kansas!

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There Is Such a Thing as ‘Extreme Sports’ ……But This Is Ridiculous!

I’d never heard the term, ‘Extreme Sports’, until about 10-15 years ago. Now you hear it all the time. If you look at the list of extreme sports you’ll find a pretty extensive list of things that any normal person really wouldn’t want to do. I mean, if common sense is involved, you just wouldn’t want to risk your life for this stuff. But there’s plenty of people out there who aren’t satisfied with just a normal existence….they have to test the limits! And nothing, it seems, can stand in their way.

I can relate to that, somewhat. I rode bulls for 20 years…..starting as a kid riding calves, then steers right on up to 2000 lb bulls. And there’s no denying to most that bull riding has to be counted as one of the most extreme of the ‘extreme sports’. Add to that, when we were riding in the ’70’s and early ’80’s there was no such thing as helmets and protective vests. And really, most of the guys back in those days wouldn’t have worn them anyway. It would’ve been wise, I guess, but those who are extreme sports enthusiasts have considered the danger…and the potential for complete disaster, and are still willing to do it.

There’s a growing list of extreme sports; hang gliding, base jumping, motorcycle jumping (flips/back flips, etc), snow skiing (I’m not talking about the ‘bunny slopes’! I’m talking about getting dropped out of a helicopter on a mountain with nothing but jagged rocks and snow!), white water rafting, mountain biking, etc. And, I’ve seen enough on TV of these guys attempting to climb Everest…..and I’m thinking, “Hell no!””. *(click on any of the highlighted links for more information/videos)

The list of extreme sports could go on and on….but of all of them out there this one chills me the most! Free climbing! And this guy, Alex Honnold, (You really must click the link and watch!!) who is the ‘poster boy’ for free climbing/free soloing, is one incredible guy. I first saw him on a segment of “60 Minutes” and could hardly believe what I was seeing. He climbs these ‘unclimbable’ rock faces, some of them inverted, with nothing but his bare hands. Being several thousand feet up with nothing but rock below means absolute ‘certain death’ should he make the slightest slip! But he still insists on doing it time and time again.

I don’t know what Alex would say about bull riding….but I do know what I’d say to an opportunity to do what he does…..NO!! Some would call it machismo, others like me would say, “it’s just crazy”! But it’s a shining example of the human spirit. We’re created to conquer and overcome…..and a few like Alex Honnold really, really believe it!

 

“It’s Just Like Riding a Bike!”

I’ve used that phrase more than a few times. In fact I  used the reverse of it just a day or two ago when someone asked me if I played golf. My answer was, “Well, most people wouldn’t call it ‘golf’!’. I then said, “You know, golf’s not like riding a bike”. Which is true for me! The phrase has been used by people for a long time to indicate, “Something that, once learned, is difficult to forget how to do/easy to recall how to do” (* From the Urban dictionary)

Well, I learned to ride a bike at an early age. My dad commandeered a little used bike from someone. The little bike was fine except for the right handlebar, which had been broken about half off. We made ‘er work, though….and I learned to ride it out on the Thurmond Ranch red dirt roads. And true to form, I’ve been able to ride a bike ever since.

I’m a bit of a fitness addict. You can’t tell by lookin’ but it is true. Several years ago I started thinking about biking and how good it’d be for me. I don’t have much left in the ‘knees’ department; a couple of surgeries and half a dozen injuries down through the years. So, I’m thinking the bike would be a good way to get/stay fit. Julie did some great covert research and bought me a really nice hybrid variety bike for Christmas. She did great….I loved the bike and rode it a lot.

I started getting more serious about the biking thing and began to consider a road bike. I mentioned that to a close friend, who is a hardcore IronMan Triathlon competitor. He said, “Don’t buy one….I have one I’ll give you!” And he did….he gave me a really nice, expensive road bike. It‘s a bike with pedals that are designed to ‘clip’ your feet in. (a first for me!) I mean, once you’re clipped in….you’re ‘committed’!! You can ‘unclip’ by moving your foot with an outward motion but it takes a little practice to master it.

My first ride on the bike, clipped-in, went without a hitch. I took every precaution and made it fine. That was late in the fall. Colder weather set in and I brought the bike in a vacant bedroom in the house. When spring rolled around I brought the bike out and prepared for a 35 mile ride. One of my beautiful little granddaughters, Preslie who was about 4 at the time, was staying overnight with us. She’s a cutie! Tons of personality and not afraid to use it! She has a little lisp which just adds to her personality.

Preslie is standing on top of the dog house on the patio….looking over the privacy fence when I mounted the bike. I clipped in, threw my right leg over. Just about the time I was clipping in on the right….the bike ‘locked’ up and I’m down in the driveway! It hurt. Preslie said, “Pa, are you OK?” Disgusted I replied, “Yeah, I’m OK.” I turned the bike upside down and got the tire turning freely. Obviously the chain had been messed up, somehow. So, I’m ready to go again. Same plan…clip in on the left, throw my right leg over and here we go. Only this time I went about 5 feet and it locked up again. Down in the driveway again….this time it really hurt. Rocks poked a gash in my leg and blood was dripping down into my shoe.

Preslie, still watching from the top of the doghouse as encouraging and consoling as she could possibly be said, “ITH OK Pa, you’ll get the hang of it.”

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August 12…..A Day That Lives in Infamy……*at least for me!

Well, maybe that’s a little overstated…Ok it’s way overstated. But it was kinda devastating for me in it’s own little way. It was 34 years ago today at about four o’clock in the afternoon in Sydney, Iowa. For those unfamiliar with professional rodeo Sydney, Iowa is a great rodeo. It’s one that all the cowboys like and about everybody on the trail tries to get to Sydney if at all possible. It’s a small farming town but several thousand spectators come from miles around to see the great rodeo there. The local, between performances, hotspot was Russ’s. A little, nothing special of a bar except during the rodeo you can get all the homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers and corn that you can possibly eat….and of course the beer was cold.

This was going to be my last year of rodeo. I had decided that before the season ever started. Clint was three years old and there were several times during the season that I’d leave the ranch knowing that I wasn’t going to see Julie and him for 3 or 4 weeks. I could hardly take that. When I’d be leaving on one of those month long trips there’d be all kinds of bawlin’ and squawlin’……and every now and then they’d cry too!

I was having a good year despite not drawing great for several stretches. It had been a dream since I was a kid to go to the National Finals Rodeo. (For the non-rodeo people….it’s like the World Series of rodeo) The previous two years I had been on track to make the NFR only to be derailed by injuries that kept me out of competition, once for a month and another for nearly two months. But this year was going to be different. I was drawing good and riding good and was about to be on a good roll. In the most recent PRCA Press Release I was ranked 10th in the world; I’d just won the bull riding at Yuma, Colorado the day before. I had a decent bull at Sydney that day and then I had about 5 or 6 good ones in a row. It’s a time of the season that you can compete at two rodeos a day for nearly a month. So everything was shaping up for me to make my move…and who knows maybe end up among the top 5 in the world…and pretty much a guarantee to make the NFR.

My bull that day wasn’t one of the best ones but one that I might be able to place on. He was definitely one that I should ride considering the confidence that I was riding with at the time. Well, anyone that knows rodeo knows that ‘what ought to happen’…..rarely does! Lots of variables to deal with, to say the least. The bull bucked me off extremely awkward and I landed hard on my left shoulder, dislocating it. Game over! Season over! Career over! (I laid off for a month and entered a couple of rodeos but the shoulder was far from being stable enough for me to be competitive) Interestingly enough, exactly 5 years before…on August 12, at the same rodeo a bull had hit me in the right shoulder, tore the main ligament, requiring surgery and ending my season.

It sounds strange and probably doesn’t make sense to most but I had a tremendous sense of relief as I boarded my plane in Omaha the next day. An unfulfilled dream was hard to reconcile but the reality of knowing that I was going home to Julie and Clint, for good, sure did feel good. It has bothered me some down through the years that I didn’t make the NFR. It does feel good to have the respect of the guys I rode with and against….but I never regretted coming home to be a Husband and a Dad! 

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