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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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A “Disposable” Relationship

That’s what I’d call my relationship with the Lord between 1974 to 1984. I didn’t grow up going to church. In fact, by the time I was thirty I hadn’t even been in a church much. I got saved in 1974. It was in an area-wide crusade in Wheeler, Texas about thirty miles from where I grew up. It was on the first night and I was by myself sitting on the very back row. When it came ‘invitation time’ I knew, somehow, that the Lord was dealing with me. I got up and took the long walk all the way to the front of the High School Auditorium and gave my life to the Lord. Some people gathered me up, took me to an adjoining room with several others who had made similar decisions and there they prayed with me.

It was legit. I mean it really ‘took’. I can still remember the days following that night. When I’d have a thought or say something that was out of the character of Jesus, I’d immediately know it. I now know that it’s just how the Holy Spirit works. Julie had a little paperback Living Bible (before we were married) that she gave me. I just started reading on page 1. I got over into the book of Leviticus and got bogged down in all those ‘begats’ and put it down and didn’t pick it back up. I was rodeoing at the time and didn’t have any Christian friends and drifted away from any real, ongoing, relationship with he Lord. Nobody’s fault but my own.

So for the next ten years or so my relationship with the Lord went pretty much like this. When I’d be in a jam of some kind in my life, I’d run to Him for help. But as soon as that dilemma was over I was back to ‘my own way’. So, in that sense, I had a disposable relationship with the Lord. I treated Him as some kind of ‘possession’ that I’d use whenever I needed and just ignore Him the rest of the time.

Looking back….the incredible part is that even though I really had no sincere devotion to the Lord…..He’d help me anyway! Pretty amazing, huh?! Maybe you find yourself in such a place. Don’t allow your relationship with Him to be ‘disposable’. Life can be so much better….but don’t take my word for it. Taste and see for yourself how good the Father is!

The words to one of my favorite songs goes like this; “One day every tongue shall confess you are God, one day every knee shall bow. Still the greatest treasure remains for those who gladly choose You now”!

You just can’t go wrong!

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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

 

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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!

 

 

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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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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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