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!

 

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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No Country For Old Men

That was a great movie in my opinion. I like about everything Tommy Lee Jones does, and Javier Bardem does a stellar job as the bad guy. If you haven’t seen it, you should. This blog is not about the movie. But “No Country For Old Men” seemed to be a great blog title to me after enduring about 6 minutes of the CMA Music Festival recently. Actually 6 minutes was about 4 more than I could take. I stayed hooked for 6 thinking it might get better. It didn’t.

I’m a music lover. I like all kinds of music. My iPod playlist includes a broad variety of everything from Blues, Soul, Rock, Tex-Mex, Jazz, Country, some Christian, very few Rap…. and even a little Classical. I can appreciate and artist’s craft no matter what kind of music they’re laying down. I don’t particularly like it all but I can appreciate it. I cut my teeth on Country. I was listening to it….and liking it since I was a little kid. In my folks vehicle the radio was always tuned to a Country station. When I started driving I bought an 8-track tape deck for $20 and mounted in the glove box of my dad’s pickup. My first 8-tracks were Hank Thompson, Johnny Cash, Charlie Walker and Waylon Jennings. Those are still to this day some of my all-time favorites. And if you want to get started on Country Music…those 4, any or all, would be a great place to start.

Nashville, in my opinion, has sold out. I wouldn’t argue that the stuff they’re putting out there today does sell. They’ve done a good job of marketing to younger and, in my opinion, less sophisticated listeners….and have ignored the ‘purists’…..the ‘real’ Country Music lovers. There are a few out there today who hold fast to the genuine. Jamey Johnson stands out, newcomer Chris Stapleton looks good out of the box. Dale Watson, who you’ve probably never heard of does the real thing. There’s a handful of artists still around who’ve got the goods. Alan Jackson and Dwight can still get ‘er done; No more George, Jones or Strait, Buck and Waylon are gone, but Willie and Merle are still out there gettin’ it done.

I guess my gripe is this; I can appreciate the talent of some of these young guys…although none of them are near as cool as they think they are. I can deal with their skinny, girly jeans (although I ain’t wearin’ em!) and I can tolerate their bad hats. I can even ignore the fact that they buy an acre or two, turn out a cow or a pig and call it a ranch. I do, however, think someone ought to tell ’em that pickups……ain’t trucks!

All I’m saying is this…..don’t call it Country Music…..when it ain’t!!

You don’t have to agree….it’s just my opinion….and you have a right to your own. And don’t waste your time trying to ‘set me straight’. It’s sad for the entire, so called, Country genre that there ain’t no more Hank’s, Lefty’s. ET’s, Faron Young’s, Webb Pierce’s or Ray Price’s coming up. Those guys songs will still be being played long after we’re all gone. The stuff you’re hearing today….listen up ’cause ain’t nobody gonna be playing it a year from now!

There’s No Country For Old Men!

**(Click on highlighted links to listen)

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First Trip to Calgary!

I’ve been seeing different  people’s posts on FaceBook this past week about the Calgary Stampede and it brought back a memory of my first trip up there. Very memorable to say the least. I was 19 and about the biggest town I’d ever seen was Amarillo. Well, Calgarys’ just a tad bigger’n Amarillo, if you know what I mean. And the Stampede…..there’s nothing like it. If you’ve never been, you oughta go at least once. It’s more like a Worlds Fair; It’s the biggest thing that happens in Canada, for sure. And, while I was going there for the rodeo, which is one of the biggest on the planet, there’s tons of other things going on besides the rodeo.

It was me and Barney Brehmer and Doug Shipe. We hit the Canadian border about 4 pm the day before I was to ride at the Stampede. When we went in to the border crossing office Clyde Bullard, a calf roper from Comanche, Oklahoma had the border boys as mad as they could possibly be. I mean he had ’em stirred up! They weren’t letting him across for dang sure and maybe not anyone else, for that matter. Well, their argument went on for a while and the crowd of rodeo people was building all the time of people trying to get to Calgary.

We started our drive through the checkpoint and when they stopped us they told us we had to have at least $50 cash each. Well, this is the truth, we had about $50 amongst all three of us. We’re big-time rodeo hands, you understand! lol So they’re not letting us cross the border which is a problem because I’m up in the bull riding the next day. Another carload of veteran cowboys were in the same shape that we’re in and they’re not letting them across either. Barney borrowed some money from somebody and went ahead across the line. Well, about an hour after he’s crossed I realize that he also took my only set of pickup keys! So now, not only are we stranded at the Canadian border…but now with no keys! Quite the little dilemma….and the clock’s tickin’!

About midnight Rusty Riddle and Clyde Vamvoras showed up. Clyde hot-wired my pickup so it was drivable and the plan was for me to borrow enough cash to have that $50 they required and I’d head out to Calgary. First thing the next morning I fired my hot-wired pickup up, got me $50 cash from a couple of buddies and went on my way to Calgary by myself. At the border they didn’t ask me one thing about how much cash I had….they just waved me on through. I guess the border boys got over their mad spell!

I hit Calgary about 1 pm. My ‘ol hot-wired pickup made it just fine. It was bumper to bumper traffic, I had no idea where I was going and to top it all off it started coming a ‘monsoon’.  I mean, the bottom fell plumb out! That’s when I learned that my hot-wired pickup windshield wipers wouldn’t work. So, I’ve got my drivers side window down getting completely soaked. I’ve got a t-shirt with my left hand and I’m hanging out the window trying to wipe my windshield so I can see through the flood.

I finally found my way to the Calgary Stampede. To this day I can’t remember what bull I had or what I did on him….(must not’ve been too memorable!) but I’ll never forget the trip up there as long as I live!

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Camp of Champions XIII

The Camp of Champions is an amazing project. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the most unique church camp you could ever find. It’s a Christian Rodeo Camp for kids ages 6-16. This year marked the 13th year for the COC. In the previous 12 years there’s been no less than 1000 boys and girls who’ve given their lives to the Lord during the camp. It’s the largest camp of it’s kind on the planet It’s a camp hosted by our church, Trinity Fellowship in Sayre, Oklahoma.

There’s been many Junior rodeo champions, High School champs, Collegiate champs and even a PRCA World Champion Bull Rider who  have been enrolled in The Camp of Champions. We’re proud of all the boys and girls who have attended and have gone on to success in the rodeo arena….but we’re more proud that we have been able to influence, in a small way, kids who learn to be successful in life due to their relationship with the Lord. We’re “Developing Champions in, and out, of the Arena”!

The Instructors at the COC are literally a “Who’s Who” of the rodeo world. But they’e not just great rodeo hands…..they’re great hands for the Lord! They’re men and women who understand what their career is/was actually about…..INFLUENCE! They don’t come here for the money. To be honest…it’s not all that much. They come here to help give these kids a ‘leg up’ in their rodeo events, and a ‘leg up’ in their relationship with the Father.

Unlike a lot of Christian youth camps we intentionally do not try to scare them with hell so they’ll make a decision for salvation. We don’t try to manipulate or coerce them in any way. We believe that the Holy Spirit is good enough at His job that we don’t have to resort to those funky, non-Jesus, tactics. If I were a parent of a kid in the COC….I’d really appreciate that.

It takes a lot of people working selflessly to pull it off each year. We’ve got the greatest bunch of volunteers around here that I’ve ever seen assembled anywhere! Many take their vacation to help with the COC.

Highlights of Camp of Champions XIII: 

* 50 + decisions to receive Jesus as Savior

* Young adults who have came up through the camp and are now top notch instructors…and great speakers in the tent

* A lot of tired, but extremely rewarded helpers who were instrumental in kids experiencing relationship with God

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Business = Finished!

If you’re not familiar with the Professional Bull Riders organization this post might not mean much to you. And if you’re not familiar with the PBR….maybe you should be. Bull Riding is the most extreme of all the extreme sports. If you have a disagreement on that thought, go get on a bull and, chances are, you’ll quickly change your mind. Bull Riding as a sport has evolved over the past 20 + years into a high-profile, spectator friendly sport that has made celebrities of the bull riders, as well as the bulls. Sports arenas around the country are filling up when the PBR comes to town much due to the overt, raw danger of the sport and the vanishing individualistic nature of the, authentic, American cowboy.

An event was held this past weekend in Decatur, Texas unlike any Bull Riding event ever before, and almost assuredly, will never happen again. “Unfinished Business” pitted eight of the most high-profile PBR Bull Riders in the organization’s history, all retired for a number of years, riding for a, winner take all, $160,000 payoff. Cody Custer and Mike White, PRCA World Champions; Tater Porter, J.W. Hart, PBR World Finals Champions; Justin McBride, Chris Shivers and Michael Gaffney all PBR World Champions and Ross Coleman, perennial PBR World Finals Qualifier.

To say that these men had ‘unfinished business’ in the arena couldn’t be further from the truth. These eight guys left it all in the arena every single time they ever competed, without exception. Their primary reason for coming out of retirement for this, once in a lifetime, event was in the name of charity. I don’t care who you are, you gotta appreciate that! *(consider that a couple of them are nearing 50 yrs of age!)

Shivers and Hart rode their bulls and split the $160,000. The other six didn’t complete their 8-second ride. But, just like always…..they gave it everything they had…..one last time! I care about Bull Riding; I’ve been directly involved with it in one way or another pretty much my whole life. I’d like to see Bull Riding continue to come to prominence as a sport. My reasons are personal. But I look at the field of bull riders today and I wonder who’ll take the place of these men. I don’t see very many out there on the radar screen, today, the caliber of these guys in the way of sheer effort….and the desire to be ‘ambassadors’ for the sport. The door’s wide open for some ‘young guns’ to step up!

Thank you Cody Custer, Mike White, Tater Porter, J.W. Hart, Justin McBride, Chris Shivers, Michael Gaffney and Ross Coleman….for showing unprecedented ‘class’ with every ride and every interview your entire career! Thanks from us older guys that never had the opportunity to ride for a million dollars.

Thanks for showing the rest of the world what the sport of Bull Riding is really about! You finished your business…..and you finished it well!!

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

Rodeo season was in full swing. In the spring of 1980 I was traveling with Gary Toole from Mangum, Oklahoma. We had ridden in Lake Charles, Louisiana then drove most of the night to Ft. Worth where we met a pilot from my hometown with our plane to go to Tucson to ride that afternoon. We made a routine stop in Albuquerque for fuel and to stretch our legs a little bit. Walking down the hall of the airport there was a strategically placed vending machine with several choices of food, none of which looked edible to me. One of the choices was the Green Chile Burrito! First time I’d ever seen that in a vending machine! We made a quick restroom stop and then headed back down the hallway toward the plane. Gary stopped at the vending machine and started digging in his pocket for some cash. He retrieved enough cash for, not one, but TWO of the Green Chile Burritos! As soon as he pulled them out of the machine I took one look at ’em and said, “MISTAKE”! (to which he paid absolutely no attention to at all) Well, he microwaved those burritos up just right and in nothing flat we’re back in the plane headed for Tucson.

I’ve always had a pretty strong stomach, not much makes me sick. In fact I’ve only thrown up 5 or 6 times in my whole life. But the one thing that will make me give it up…..is to be around someone else throwing up. Yep, that’ll do it for me every time. I don’t know, maybe it’s the sound of someone gaggin’; it’s the smell of it for sure….but nothing can get to me any quicker than that!

After driving all night we were both dead tired. As soon as we cleared the runway I immediately went to sleep. Gary, as soon as he wolfed down those burritos, was going to get him some sleep too. We were about 30 minutes from Tucson when ‘that’ smell I was just talking about filled the plane. I woke up and looked across at Gary. He’s found a small zip-lock bag, about sandwich size, that had a good size tear in one corner. He’s got the hole pinched off and he’s throwing up in this teeny-tiny zip-lock bag! (which by now is full …and running over!) The hole in the bag is too big to get completely shut off by his thumb and forefinger…..so the puke is running down his hand, down his elbow and dripping in the floor of the plane. Well, I guess you know what that means for me!! I immediately grabbed a denim jacket and pulled it over my head, and plugged my ears all at the same time. It’s gettin’ serious for me now! I’m not sure what I had to eat the night before but I gagged it all right up to my gizzard about 40 times before we FINALLY got on the ground in Tucson. I never did throw up but I was as close as you can possibly get for 30 minutes.

Why do I tell this story, you ask?? Just to give you a ‘heads up’. If you’re ever in the Albuquerque airport and a hunger pain hits ‘ya…….avoid the vending machine, microwave, Green Chile Burritos at all costs!!

 

“The Best Straw Hat I Ever Had!”

One of the things we’d do every year at the Houston Astrodome Rodeo was go to the American Hat Factory and pick us out a good straw hat for the summer. Bill George, a great rodeo hand from the previous generation, was from Canadian, Texas (where we were from), and he’d look me and Mont (my brother) up every year we were at the Astrodome. We’d have a beer or two and an enjoyable visit. Bill and his wife owned The American Hat Co. there in Houston.

I was traveling with Russ Baize this particular year and as usual we went out to the factory to pick us out a hat. Oh, and we’d get a heck of a deal on those hats too. Of course it’s been some years since we did that but we were buying good straw hats for $6 that’ll now cost you near $100! I picked through about 20 of the Bangora style and found the best straw hat of the bunch. Russ did the same. I creased mine just right and, dang it looked good! To this day it was the best straw hat I ever had!

We left Houston to ride in Montgomery, AL. Tommy Sheffield, a rodeo clown and bullfighter, and good friend, had an act back in those days where he’d buy a real cheap little hat of some kind and put it on a committee man. His act was about ‘cleaning’ the hat. Of course it was all staged (*usually…but not this night!). The committee man would act like he was mad and he’d chase Tommy around the arena and finally give up the chase. Then Tommy would place the hat on his ‘hat cleaner’; long story short he’d push the lever and a huge explosion would blow the hat up!

Well, I thought….you know it’d be really, really funny if I could get Russ out there in front of the chutes when Tommy did his act and let Tommy get Russ’s new straw hat! I’d already set it up with Tommy. I didn’t think I was going to get it done but just in the nick of time I lured Russ out in front of the chutes as the act started. Coliseum lights were all off and the spotlight was on Tommy, as usual. I’m talking to Russ and his back is turned away from Tommy sneaking up on him. Well, Tommy grabbed Russ’s new hat and took off! Now it’s on!! No! I mean it’s REALLY ON! Russ is NOT faking….he’s as mad as he can possibly be, still in the spotlight chasing Tommy and cussing as loud as he can! All the cowboys are now watching and laughing uncontrollably, as well as the five or six thousand spectators! He finally gave up the chase and just like always Tommy put the hat on his hat cleaner and just like always, BOOM!! Russ’s new hat literally hit the ceiling of the Montgomery, Alabama coliseum, then landed back on the arena floor in about 6 pieces! Russ was threatening to whip me, Tommy and anyone else he could think of. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen!

He cooled off a little….but not much! We rode that night and headed for San Angelo, TX, five of us in my Delta 88 Oldsmobile; Russ, myself, Jack Ward, Jess Knight and John Gloor. We pulled over late in the night to change drivers and took off again. We’d got down the road a few miles and I started looking for my hat; nowhere to be found. I started asking questions only to find out that when we stopped Russ had put my brand new hat right in front of the back tire and peeled out on it when he took off! Well, now I’m the one that’s mad!! I’m telling him to pull over cause I’m fixin’ to whoop his butt! We got out, talked a little trash, cussed each other a little bit then got back in and headed for Angelo! We’re still great friends to this day! That’s the story of “The Best Straw Hat I Ever Had”!

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VIP #1 Booger Bryant

Well, for starters, just the name “Booger” gets your attention, right!? Booger Bryant could be described in a lot of ways; Cowboy, Bull Rider, Bull Rope Maker, Believer…..A Man’s-Man! Booger lived in Hagerman, New Mexico, not far from Roswell. He was probably 8-10 years older than me when I started my professional rodeo career at 18. Back in those days when you were a ‘rookie’ and just starting out most of the older, seasoned cowboys wouldn’t talk to you until you had ‘paid your dues’ and proven yourself. But Booger wasn’t that way at all, at least with me.There’s no telling how tough Booger really was but he didn’t try at all to push that persona. But you could obviously tell that he wouldn’t get pushed around by anyone.

In the mid to late ’70’s there was a surge of Christianity through professional rodeo. And as it often happens with people who first experience salvation, there was a lot more zeal than common sense displayed by a lot of these rodeo people. Many of them were in-your-face with it; they meant well but to be honest it turned me off and I avoided most of them the best I could. I’d gotten saved in a countywide crusade in Wheeler, Texas in 1974, but I pretty much kept it to myself and wasn’t doing a very good job of living it out.

But, Booger Bryant was different than the others. I knew he was a Christian, but it was different, I wanted to be around him. We had quite a few visits about the Lord. He hardly ever initiated them, it was mostly me. I knew he’d be ‘straight-up’ with me; I knew he wouldn’t be pushy about it; he didn’t have some subtle agenda like the rest of them. I knew I could trust him. He knew I wasn’t doing a good job of walking it out but he never, ever mentioned it. He stood his ground between the over-zealous believers and the hard-ass, old-school cowboys who didn’t want any of it, and would dang sure tell you about it if they needed to!

He got cancer but never complained about it; he’d just say he was trusting the Lord with it. He fought the good fight for sure but finally went to his reward. He left behind his wife, Bonnie and a little boy, Blu. He made my bull ropes for several years, he was always a trusted friend, kinda like a big brother I didn’t have. But most of all he showed me what a ‘real’ Christian ought to be like and his impact on my life was deep, even though I didn’t know it at the time. 

I never got the chance to talk to Booger after my life had really ‘made the turn’ in ’84, he was already gone. But I did get the chance in the mid-’90’s to tell his son, Blu, who was leading the world bull riding standings at the time, how much I admired him and how much of an impact his dad had on my life. It felt pretty good!

I’ll forever be grateful to Booger Bryant for helping to show me the Way!

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