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Labor Day Out on the ‘Ol ‘Lazy J’

Labor Day was instituted to honor the American Labor movement. Oregon was the first state to officially observe it in 1887 and by 1894, when it became a national holiday, thirty other states had adopted it. Not sure what comes to mind for you when Labor Day rolls around but for me it reminds me of how we observed it on the ranch almost every year without fail.

Most people, if not nearly all, get Labor day off….but not us! Nope, we did “labor” on Labor Day! Cliff Taylor, my Dad, loooooved workin’! And he loved it, even more, when everyone else was working too! A lifelong rancher and cattleman, Dad, made sure that we had something significant (at least from his perspective!) to do on Labor Day. We’ve been gone from the ranch since ’88 but I’m pretty sure we got up earlier and worked harder,…and longer on Labor Day than most every other day! It’s how he celebrated it, if you know what I mean!

It seemed that he’d save one of those jobs that you really just ‘didn’t want to do’ for that particular Monday every year. One such example would be when we cleaned out the scales that were used for weighing cattle. The scales were an extremely important fixture on the ranch, in that we sold thousands of head of cattle every year and just about every one of those cattle had to be weighed, coming in….and going out.

For starters, the floor of the scales was lined with bridge timbers; boards about 4 inches thick, a foot and a half wide and about 14 feet long and weighing a couple hundred pounds. We’d remove a couple of them just so we could squeeze down underneath the floor and clean out the ‘knives’ of the scales (a part of the scales that were in each of the four corners, which when they were caked up with dirt and manure didn’t work like they were supposed to and would cause an inerrant weight on the cattle). Keep in mind that Labor Day being the first Monday in September…the weather in the Texas Panhandle can still be scorching hot. Pretend just for a minute that you’re the one doing this. It’s probably about 120 degrees underneath those scales, not one single breath of air to be had. You squeeze down underneath the floor of the scales and head toward one of the four corners with your wire brush to start your work. You’re crawling through thick spider webs….with spiders attached…..some of which I seriously doubt their species has even been discovered yet….and all poisonous, you’re thinkin’! Oh, and did I say you’re using a flashlight to see because it’s pitch black under there?! It’s not a rare thing to encounter centipedes,  a pack-rat or two and even though I never ran headlong into a snake….you just know in the back of your mind, they’re there!

It’s not a quick job by any means, it takes the better part of a half-hour to get the job knocked out, all the while in an uncomfortable position crawling on your belly in powdery dust and dried cow manure. Now, Dad, never bein’ one to half-ass do a job, would coach me from the upside. “Where you goin’?” “I’m going to the other side.” “You ain’t been there long enough ….brush ’em some more.” Finally, when you come up out of there you’re mad,  soakin’ wet, covered in dust, dry manure, and cobwebs and coughing like you have TB! You immediately do a thorough check for spiders that might have ‘hitched’ a ride on you from down under. The last thing to do is to put the boards back on the floor of the scales and they’re good to go for another few years.

That’s just one little example of how we ‘celebrated’ Labor Day out on the ‘ol Lazy J….but, hey, the day’s still young. There’s bound to be some hay to haul, a windmill or some fence that needs fixin’! Happy Labor Day to ‘ya! 

PS – As unpleasant as that job was…I’d give anything if I could get back under there one more time just to hear him coach me from the topside!

 

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This Version of the Taylors’ Est. on This Day 49 Years Ago!

It’s a pretty good sized family. Now, about 18 strong….and getting ready to be 19! This version of the Taylor family was officially established 39 years ago. But 49 years ago today is really when it started, unofficially,….at the Stovall Theater right here in Sayre, Oklahoma. That’s when, at age 13, I met up with the prettiest girl I’d ever seen, to sit by her at the picture show. (that’s what we used to call the movie theater!) I have no idea what the movie was that night but I do remember the girl. Her name was Julie Drake. Our parents had been friends for years but we’d only met less than a year before. There must’ve been something magical about that little date at the movie that night because we did it again…and again, and again. And ten years to the day after that first night at the movie theater we were married. And, now, today it’s been 39 years! It’s almost unbelievable how fast those years have gone by.

So, here we are, now in our 60’s,…after having raised 5 incredible kids (and others that we’ll join up with in heaven shortly) who are in various stages of raising their own families and taking on the world themselves. Add to that 8 of the smartest, best looking grandkids (it’ll be 9 by the end of the month!) that you could possibly imagine. And even the staunchest unbeliever on the planet could not argue that this was undeniably a ‘match made in heaven’….in the truest sense of the word!

I’ve done a lot of dumb stuff in my life but I really outdid myself 49 years ago today when I asked Julie Drake to sit by me at that movie. She’s been the perfect wife, the perfect mother…a truly incredible person by anyone’s standards. People would have to wonder how someone like me could’ve ever ended up with someone like her. It’s more than luck….it’s nothing short of the sovereign will of the Father! We’ve been through all the challenges that couples can go through….and somehow made it to hereIt’s obvious that we were made for each other.

Oh, and by the way…she’s still the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen!

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Definitely Our Most Memorable New Year’s Day!

It was exactly 38 years ago today. That, I remember vividly. It was brutally cold, about 15 degrees with the wind blowing about 40 mph! ….typical Texas Panhandle winter night! Julie and I had gone into Canadian, Texas to meet two other couples for supper. The Stuckey’s, Don & Billie, and the Dickinson’s, Bud & Brenda have been great friends of ours for a lifetime (actually more like Family!). The plan was to go to the steak house for supper and then back to the Stuckey’s to hang out, play a few cards, drink a few beers….at least for the guys. Julie and I were expecting our first baby and she was already about two weeks past the due date.

We brought in the New Year and headed home. It was about 40 miles to our house. The we got home another of my good friends, Kenny Bass was there waiting for us. Julie went off to bed and ‘Catfish’ (his nickname) and I decided we’d have another drink or two. Before we even got the first one poured Julie called to me from the bedroom. When I went in there she was as serious as I’d ever seen her! She calmly said, “I think my water broke”! I don’t know if you can grasp the panic that I experienced at that moment. Julie, on the other hand, remained pretty calm. But here we were, 60 miles from the hospital, our car with less than a quarter tank of gas in it…and she’s having contractions only a few minutes apart. 

We were in the car in less than 3 minutes. And, since we didn’t have enough gas to make it to the hospital we stopped at the ranch headquarters, where my folks lived, to fill the car up. Thinking we didn’t have a minute to spare, I had visions of her trying to give birth in the car on the way. We made the 60 mile trip in about 35-40 minutes…and to be honest, Julie’s brown Gran Torino was never really the same after that!

Not sure exactly the time we arrived at the hospital in Elk City, Oklahoma but I distinctly remember Julie having regular contractions just a few minutes apart….and Clint Ryan wasn’t born until 1:35 pm the next day….New Year’s Day. It was a lot of hours of ‘hard labor’!! And, hey, Clint was the first baby born there in the New Year so we were given lots of gifts and certificates for gifts.

It was an experience we’ll never forget. Our lives were changed for the better that day, and made richer than we could’ve ever imagined. It was definitely our most memorable New Year’s Day!

Happy New Year from the Taylors’!!

*If you’re interested in visiting the ‘Archives’ and getting 2016 off to a good start, click the highlighted link and get started! Thanks for joining me on the journey!

Reflect & Refocus #2

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All-Time Favorite Sports Franchise – Canadian, Texas Wildcats

I guess I’m like most American males, I like sports. Something about the competition that appeals to me. On a personal note, I’m a very competitive person. I have learned over time to kind of keep it in check, if you know what I mean. And, with what I do now….there’s just not much room for competition.

I like a lot of different sports; college football and basketball (in fact college basketball is the only sport that it doesn’t really matter who’s playing…I can watch, enjoy and really ‘get into’ the game). I watch the NBA quite a bit more now since the OKC Thunder are in town. Down through the years I’ve been a fan of: The Minnesota Vikings during the ‘Purple Gang’ era; the LA Lakers when Magic and James Worthy were there; Celtics in their glory days with Bird, McHale, Ainge and others. I’ve been an OU Football and Dallas Cowboy fan forever…..but they’ve both broke my heart so many times, it don’t even hurt anymore. lol; Anytime my kids or grandkids are competing, and it doesn’t matter what sport it is, I’m all in! I enjoy that, sports wise, as much as anything.

But when I think of my favorite team to watch, (‘franchise’ might be too strong a word for HS Football) and especially at this time of year, it’s an easy choice…it’s the Canadian, Texas Wildcats Football Team. If you’re not familiar with Canadian, it’s up in the Texas Panhandle. It’s a small ranching/oilfield town. I was born in Canadian and lived in Hemphill County for 25 years. Some of my good friends have sons and grandsons playing on the team. And the team,….well it’s just about the funnest team to watch of any team, any sport, any era that I’ve ever seen. I make a regular season game or two each year and I’ve rarely missed a playoff game in the last 6 or 7 years. The Wildcats are the current 2A State Champs (basketball, too!). They’ve been ranked #1 statewide all year long and ranked #2 nationally! This season’s games have been lopsided and the starters have rarely been on the field in the 2nd half. And this is in one of the toughest districts in all of Texas with at least 4 State Champs in the past 5-6 years. (Canadian-2; Stratford-1; Wellington-1) They have overwhelmed State Ranked 3-A and 4-A teams this year as well. Example: The Texas State 2-A Game of the Week pitted #1 Canadian against #5 Albany (Runner-up State Champs last season and playing in Semi-Finals again this year!) Canadian won that game 49-0, and Albany never advanced the ball beyond the 50 yd line! They’re currently on a 29-0 run and will play Crawford  (click for info) in Wichita Falls Friday night in the State Semi-Finals. They’re a 24 pt favorite!

There are plenty of individual stars to talk about on the team (several being recruited by D-1 NCAA Teams)  but even they would be quick to tell you, “It’s not about them”. It’s the best ‘actual team effort’, any sport, that I’ve ever witnessed. As you’d guess, they’re extremely well-coached but there’s more to it than that. When I say, ‘team effort’, I don’t just think about the players and coaching staff, I think about the whole town! I’ve never seen a town get behind a team like Canadian has over the past 10-12 years. Canadian will consistently have more fans in the stands on an ‘away’ game than the other team. In their most recent playoff game with district rival, Stratford, in Amarillo…there were 6000-8000 fans in the stands. (Canadian Population: 2937; Stratford: 2073!) This is a high-school program that might just be among the very best in the nation. A program that’s produced an All Big-12 First Team & Sports Illustrated Honorable Mention All-American, Auston English, and currently has alumni in starting positions at Army, Ryan Alexander; and at Missouri, Taylor Chappel, along with several others at smaller institutions. And it’s not just another high school focused on sports they’re way toward the top when it comes to academics with at least one student accepted at Harvard.

As fun as it is to have a team like the Wildcats to cheer for, it’d be diminished in my opinion if there wasn’t a high premium placed on character. It appears they’ve done a great job in emphasizing that, too! So, you can kind of see why I like the Wildcats. You’d like ’em too if you get the chance to watch them play. But, you better hurry….they play Friday night in Wichita Falls….and then hopefully in Houston for the State Championship next Thursday.  #ALLIN

*Check this one out, too:

Tee-Ball…..The #1, Undisputed, Very Best Team Sport of ‘Em All!!

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What If I’d Said, No?

I didn’t….so it’s just theoretical. I’m not going to….so don’t get all uptight about it. But occasionally it does go through my mind…..mostly at times when I’m down or discouraged. Yeah, people like me have those times too. Most won’t admit it…fearing it to be a sign of weakness. And, without a doubt, there are those in every group that could start the ‘feeding frenzy’ when a spiritual leader admits he’s actually human, and vulnerable. And, from what I’ve seen by observing other leaders…church people can be some of the most vicious and mean-spirited of them all. Crazy huh?!

It was in 1986 that I heard the call of the Lord on my life. I remember the day well. I was training a horse in the big round pen at the ranch near Allison, Texas. I got off, tied him up and drove the 7 miles to town to talk to my Pastor, Ronnie Chadwick. *(click to read the account) As I remember, it was pretty clear from the Lord. And also, just as clear, was my response to Him that day. It was an easy, “Yes”! I had absolutely no idea what it all meant but I was ‘all-in’, whatever that was.

It was the same when we said “Yes” to the work in Sayre. I’d been asked a dozen times or more to take the little group (6-8) and be their leader. I hadn’t heard a single thing from the Lord that I should do it. But in one critical week the Lord spoke clearly to both Julie and me. We said, “Yes”, and the rest is history, so to speak.

I’m not sure what I’d be doing….or where I’d even be had I said “No”, on those two occasions. For me it’s kind of scary to think about. I doubt I’d be in Sayre, Oklahoma. I’d probably be doing something involving horses and cattle, or ranching. It’s what I knew best…and what I loved doing. On some of the really hard days that life, as hard as it can be too, looks pretty dang good.

But I think about the things that I’d be missing had I said, “No”. I’d have missed at least some of the amazing things the Lord has miraculously done in, through and around us in the last 30+ years. It’s almost embarrassing to admit the times down through the years that ‘quitting’ seemed the thing to do. But I’m not a quitter, never have been…it’s a family trait. I’ve noticed people down through the years who quit, knowing they shouldn’t have,…and it appears that they don’t like themselves much after that. Of course the call of the Lord is one very valid reason for not quitting. But the thing that’s kept me going all these years is my incredible family (best on the planet!)….and this amazing bunch of people at Trinity Fellowship that actually believe in what we’re doing…..and have bet their lives on making a difference!

So, yep…I’m human, and a pretty flawed one at that! But I’m on a pretty decent 30 year run of saying “Yes” to the Lord. My policy has always been to be ‘real’. I’m not of the, ‘fake it ’til you make it’, variety. I’m glad I said, “Yes”. And I still don’t know what it all means! But, I’m all-in for whatever He says!

If you like this one….You’ll like this one, too:

Thank You, Mother Teresa

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The Gospel According to Shaver!

Billy Joe Shaver, that is. If you don’t know who he is, I kinda feel sorry for you…so I’ve made it so you can ‘click’ on his name above and get in the loop, so to speak. He’s actually one of the great songwriters of our time but as a performer or Top-40 country artist…he’s pretty much been flying under the radar his entire career. Personally, I think that’s perfectly OK with him. From Waco, Texas and well into his 70’s now, his songs have been recorded by many of the iconic performers of our generation, including Kristofferson, Willie, Waylon and Elvis. You’ve surely heard of those guys!

Billy Joe wrote a song years back that was really more of a testimony than a song, his own personal testimony to be more specific. And, if you were paying attention to country radio in 1981 you couldn’t have missed John Anderson’s song, “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal”.  (Shaver’s Version) The song reached #4 on the Billboard Country Singles Chart and still gets plenty of airplay on Classic Country Stations.

“I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal, But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday”; It’s not just his testimony….it’s ours’ as well. And, even though it comes from one of ‘Outlaw Country’s’ most notable icons,….it’s actually extremely correct from a Biblical standpoint! You see, the Word says that we’re being conformed into the image of Jesus. It’s a lifelong process at best and the Lord is in for the long haul. He’s patient and long-suffering with us….and believes in us more than we believe in our own selves.

You may wonder why I’d post a song and a story from/about a bonafide outlaw country artist rather than a familiar Christian one. Fair question. I lean toward a lot of these guys that mainstream religion would reject as having anything of value, spiritually, to say…or sing. Their testimony (songs, art, poetry) is authentic, genuine and it appeals to a generation of misfits who don’t ‘fit in’ with the religious establishment. They’re ‘believers’, (or at least they’d like to be), in the truest sense of the word……they just don’t mesh in a ‘sterile’ church environment where everyone ‘looks’ perfect…and expects it of them. These artists like Billy Joe Shaver have a way of putting it….where normal people can understand it!

I may be closer in proximity to an ‘old chunk of coal’ than I am to a ‘diamond’….but at least I’m headed that way!

If you like this one…check these out:

“Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line”

“If You Ain’t Lovin’, You Ain’t Livin'”

There’s More Christian Music Out There Than You Might Think

“I Ain’t No Fortunate Son”

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Gem City, Texas…….and the Prayer That Should’ve Never Been!

Prayer is an important ingredient of the Christian life. It’s at least one way that we’re able to communicate with the Father. I pray a lot these days. It’s probably not prayer like you might classify it, but it’s prayer, nonetheless. It’s mostly (but not limited to) just a one liner here and there. A lot of times I’ll just say, “Help me Lord”, or I’ll just speak a healing prayer over someone that comes to mind. I pray for Julie every morning when I put my wedding ring on, have for years. Anyway, my point is, prayer is a priority for me and I try to simply follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in doing it.

But there was a time in my life that I didn’t pray much. I mean, I prayed back during my rodeo career…..and daily, when I was getting on bulls every day. There’s just something about climbing down on an 1800 lb bull that makes you want to pray….if you know what I mean. But other than that prayer wasn’t a huge priority in my life. Should’ve been…..just wasn’t.

Life on the ranch was good. One of the yearly events was a little Christmas get-together at Gem City. Now, Gem City ain’t no ‘city’ at all. Matter of fact, all that Gem City consisted of was one house….and a little one room church house that had no regular services. Our nearest neighbors lived in that house. Homer and Georgia Thomas, an elderly….and very sweet couple, lived there. Every Christmas, a few days before, a lot of the ranch families would meet at the little church, sing a few Christmas carols, hear a little Christmas story preachin; and have a little something for the kids. There might be 40-50 people there and it was always a pleasant time.

Well, one year, and long before I’d started going to church, we went to the little program at Gem City. The carols had been sung, the preachin’ about Baby Jesus had happened and it was about time to wind it all up with a prayer when the preacher started lookin’ around the room. Everyone else had their head bowed and eyes closed but me and he made eye contact with me. I immediately thought, “This can’t be good!”. …..and get this!! Out of his mouth he says, “Andy Taylor….would you please lead us in prayer.” I ’bout gagged!! My blood pressure spiked! I broke out in a cold sweat! My whole life flashed in front of me! My hands got ‘clammy’! My mouth went dry! Julie and I looked at each other at exactly the same time….and as scared as I was…..she was scared – er!!! Neither one of us had any idea what I might say!

I have no idea what I prayed that night; maybe something like, “Lord, four-score and seven years ago” or “I pledge allegiance, Lord”  ….Who knows what I might’ve said? I somehow made it through some kind of prayer….and without cussin too’!

We got in the car and let out a huge sigh of relief. We had a good laugh (I bet the Lord even laughed on that one!)….but I was secretly planning what I could be doing next year on that night instead of going to the Christmas program in Gem City!

PS- I’ll bet, if you can find those church pews, you can still find mine and Julie’s ‘claw marks’ on ’em!!

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