Climbing life’s mountain. 

Woke up this morning and strolled around our property despite the 30+ mph winds. There is so much that needs to be done, it sometimes feels incredibly overwhelming. Taking care of this place, our children and my wife weighs heavy on me all the time. Yet this morning is different. Yes the amount of work gave a bit of panic, but then I looked across the way and spotted our dirty ole horse trailers, still hooked to their respective trucks, I paused, I smilied and I felt really great.

You see all to often we look at our lives as a continual shit pile (mountain) we need to climb. (Myself very much included) What we don’t see or fail to recognize are the smaller climbs we need to make first before we reach the top. We as humans naturally tend to complain which then becomes a habit so we complain about everything. Before long complaining is as normal as putting on our pants (which is a complaint because damn they make me look fat) and it remains the norm. It’s then that we struggle to make a change as we have decided enough is enough. (Myself also included in this category) I don’t understand why we become this way, or why it seems there are some who always see the positive. I guess it just is the human way. 

Today I didn’t feel that way. Because today part of me realized we have been traversing those smaller climbs all along. Sometimes those smaller climbs just take so darn long you lose sight of the mountain. 

All I could think about while staring at our parked traveling circus was our kids and a wife who against her own advice packed up her best clothes, a supply of all her medications, her portable oxygen machine in case of emergency, threw on a wig to hide her once again balding head, then set out with a beautiful, giant smile on her face and a super positive attitude for an entire weekend of rodeoing! She had such a great time surrounded by her friends-our friends. She was able to finally witness in person her youngest son throw a steer, her daughter run barrels and poles and her middle son bulldog. She was no longer alone at home stuck in bed unable to move, waiting for me to send a video. She will undoubtedly pay for it today, as her body I am sure will protest but the price of admission was well worth it. 

The oldest son is in college and doesn’t partake in our traveling side show. He has a life of his own, training hunting dogs, fishing, hunting and counting down the days until he can test then become employed with either an out of state troopers or in state CHP position. We are blessed to have him around to keep an eye on things while we travel. He of all of us has steadily chipped away at the mountain before him with tenacity and will power. 

Our middle son has had a rough year on the rodeo trail and although he doesn’t see it this way, I think it is good for him. He has always been in the hunt. Always fighting for first position. This year not so much. His skills are there, his attitude when he nods his head once backed into the box is solid. He helps every bulldogger who crosses that line into the arena. And although he doesn’t feel like he has anything to show for all his hard work and positive attitude I think quite the contrary. 

God is teaching him patience and humility.

His time will come. He needs to remember we are climbing that mountain in small segments. This is one of them. His mother and I are very proud of him, we only want the best for him. And although he thinks at times we are to hard on him, or we don’t understand,​​ I know one day he will look back and thank the lord for all that was provided.

I smile at the thought of our daughter and how far she has come. Once terrified of going fast on a horse she is slowly gaining ground on her fears. She loves nothing more than being at the rodeo with her giant second family. Each rodeo she performed a little better and that is all anyone can ask for. Right when we thought it was all over for her this year the good lord through a good friend blessed us with the best horse possible for her to improve her skills. Our daughter has grit, and when she wants something she gets after it. Her mother and I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes in the off season. 

My smile broadens at the thought of our youngest yesterday. A boy who once screamed and cried: NO RODEO, I HATE RODEO. Running around receiving high fives from all who watched him drop a steer in roughly 4 seconds! 

Parker rode horses every day, then during a  jr. rodeo season he was bucked off three times with three trips to the hospital. After the third trip he said no more. It took over a year to get him riding again, this was his mountain to climb. He cried every time and after riding a few of our horses, my horse Tank became the only one he would almost willingly climb aboard. Then unexpectedly Tank died. His mountain to climb just got bigger. 

Three quarters of the way through the rodeo season the lad still hadn’t tossed a steer in competition. He was feeling discouraged. Then last month he not only tossed one, but two!!! After a great Bulldogging seminar and some more practice his timing was coming together. We started talking about the possibility that if he could throw both steers at next months (this last weekend) rodeo he may just barley qualify for state. He became excited, and the light and love for something he has accomplished both on his own and with the help of his brother began to grow. 

Yesterday that’s exactly what he did! By throwing that one steer he qualified for state. To say he is excited is an understatement! He cannot wait for another opportunity to throw steers! He looks up to his older brothers, the oldest for fishing and the one for Bulldogging. To follow in their footsteps makes his chest swell with pride. Knowing that in two years he will need to bulldog from a horse, he is looking forward to riding again. 

His mountain just got a little smaller. 

So I guess what I am trying to say is we ALL have mountains to climb in our life. From our grandparents to our children. Complaining about them is fine, it lets us express our frustrations, deal with our emotions and relieve the pressure associated with realizing there are problems. But in the end, if we do nothing about anything other than complain all the time we miss the beauty of watching those who have figured out just how to chip away at that mountain of troubles one hill at a time, we miss out on the shared elation as one day those troubles are gone and a beautiful view from the summit can be seen. 

Just a thought from a windy morning walk. 

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7 Habits of a grateful Rodeo kid

 

parker-rodeo

 

I read an article today on being a grateful athlete in todays world.

The article was called; 7 Habits of a grateful athlete. It was authored by Brian Smith and can be found at www.athletesinaction.org

As I read through this article I found it refreshingly mirrored some of the very qualities we have been teaching our children. I then sat back and pondered what the 7 habits of a grateful rodeo kid would be? Using my own beliefs and the beliefs of many of my fellow rodeo parents, I came up with my own spin on the topic. My list holds a few similarities but also a few sport specific beliefs that many parents such as myself and my wife uphold on a daily basis.

Before we start though lets have a refresher for those who are unfamiliar with Rodeo and its concept.

So what exactly is rodeo?

Rodeo

The American English word “rodeo” is taken directly from Spanish rodeo ([roˈðe.o]), which roughly translates into English as “round up

Rodeo is a competitive sport that arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later Central America, the United States, Canada, South America, Australia and New Zealand. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States, western Canada, and northern Mexico. Today it is a sporting event that involves horses and other livestock, designed to test the skill and speed of the cowboys and cowgirls. American style professional rodeos generally comprise the following events: tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing. The events are divided into two basic categories: the rough stock events and the timed events. Depending on sanctioning organization and region, other events such as breakaway roping, goat tying, or pole bending may also be a part of some rodeos.

Many rodeo events were based on the tasks required by cattle ranching. The working cowboy developed skills to fit the needs of the terrain and climate of the American west, and there were many regional variations. The skills required to manage cattle and horses date back to the Spanish traditions of the vaquero.

Early rodeo-like affairs of the 1820s and 1830s were informal events in the western United States and northern Mexico with cowboys and vaqueros testing their work skills against one another.[9][10] Following the American Civil War, rodeo competitions emerged, with the first held in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1872.[10] Prescott, Arizona claimed the distinction of holding the first professional rodeo, as it charged admission and awarded trophies in 1888.[11] Between 1890 and 1910, rodeos became public entertainment, sometimes combined Wild West shows featuring individuals such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, and other charismatic stars.[10] By 1910, several major rodeos were established in western North America, including the Calgary Stampede, the Pendleton Round-Up, and the Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Rodeo-type events also became popular for a time in the big cities of the Eastern United States, with large venues such as Madison Square Garden playing a part in popularizing them for new crowds. There was no standardization of events for a rodeo competition until 1929, when associations began forming.

In the 1970s, rodeo saw unprecedented growth. Contestants referred to as “the new breed” brought rodeo increasing media attention. These contestants were young, often from an urban background, and chose rodeo for its athletic rewards. By 1985, one third of PRCA members had a college education and one half of the competitors had never worked on a cattle ranch.[12] Today, some professional rodeos are staged in large, air-conditioned arenas; offer large purses, and are often telecast. Many other professional rodeos are held outside, under the same conditions of heat, cold, dust or mud as were the original events.

~Wikipedia~

My wife and I have always preached being grateful as an adult and I believe that comes from a tempered or aged wisdom which allows adults to see what the youthful eye cannot. For when we are young it is very easy to become self-centered; forgetting the where, why and how of it all. Believing there is only one person in the universe that matters and that person is yourself. Parents often times inadvertently help with this self-absorption. Creating often times a very self-centered child by constantly praising their failures, awarding them for mediocre performances while never allowing them to work hard after recovering from the sting of defeat. These parents will purchase the newest greatest next everything including horses at the drop of a hat without any consideration the equipment they have is fine and the horse may not be the problem, but the child themselves. As a parent, in my opinion constantly bowing to a child whenever things don’t go their way is a set course for disaster! This often leads to a rodeo athlete who doesn’t understand just how lucky they are to be where they are, doing what they are doing, all why relying on a partner who speaks no English, knows nothing of what the game plan is other than a learned skill and has no way to say afterwards; Hey dude that wasn’t me this time it was all you! Hence ungratefulness and emotional meltdowns ensue.

I will constantly tell a child to smile while leaving the arena, no matter the outcome of a run! A simple reminder that this moment you are in was the luckiest, best thing you could have done today! Who else gets to do these amazing things on horseback in front of a cheering crowd? Who else but you and your closest friends? You have already beaten the odds by even being here! Smile! Smile big! You practiced and this time it didn’t work out, but next time it will! Just remain grateful and keep working hard.

I tell my children no matter how poorly you may have done, get up, knock the dust off and smile! People always remember the kid who gave it their all with a smile on their face! You can be mad at yourself, mad at the run, hell even mad at your horse because yes, even though I always preach look at yourself first before being angry at the horse, horses have bad days too! But take your time, wait until you are out of the arena, away from everyone else before you let any evil out of the jar!! Take a few minutes, compose yourself and remember you participated and did something most people only dream about. Hell most parents envy you a little because we can no longer compete! So you did something most people don’t get to do and your parents secretly envy you? Yeah I’d say that is pretty freaking cool!

One day coming out of the cutting pen my son reminded me of just how important my own words had become by throwing them right back into my face. I had worked hard during the winter on getting my horse just right. I strolled slowly into the herd as confident as I had ever been. I knew what cattle I wanted, my horse was supple and relaxed, Hell as far as I was concerned they should have already written the check out to me! After pulling my first cow out for a clean cut, I dropped my hand, sat back, turned out my toes and completely relaxed. This was going to be a kick ass run. In the end it was an; I got my ass kicked run. Nothing and I mean nothing went right after the second or third jump and I ended up schooling my mare. Instead of winning the round, I walked out with a zero.

As I passed through the gate, angry as hell, dejected and wanting to punch something (I am a little competitive) my son said; Great job dad! Smile! Who else gets to go out and do what you just did!

The son teaching the father. I smiled because I was in fact grateful.

With that little story here are my 7 habits of a grateful Rodeo kid

  1. Always thankful to God. We get up each morning and from the minute we pull our boots on we should be counting the many blessings put before us. Riding rough stock, training and riding horses, learning to rope, steer wrestle, goat tie and chute dog, it all takes time and skill. Thank God each and every day for the gift of life, the ability to thrive for everything you have achieved or will achieve. Thank God for the ability to fail! For failures are what eventually leads to improvement and a solid winning attitude.
  2. See’s the run in their head. You have practiced it, you have done it a million times the right way at home. Enjoy the very moment coming before you by closing your eyes and seeing yourself completing an amazing run, rope a steer perfectly, or wrestle a steer to the ground with ease. Riding bulls or Broncs? Who is your favorite rider, picture yourself making the very same ride your hero has, using the very same technique and effort! Enjoy this moment and use the power of your mind to see the perfection locked inside.
  3. Helps someone every single chance they get. Rodeo is a giant family and somewhere, someday you might need help in return. Always sharing knowledge you have gained, what you’ve seen while comparing notes you have taken. A truly grateful rodeo athlete knows that by helping others you are raising the competitive bar and that makes for a better rodeo all the way around. Be the first to congratulate another competitor when they have done well, always have an encouraging word, share a smile, a pat on the back, a high five! Your support will be returned tenfold, I promise!
  4. Always remains humble. Rodeo athletes who come across as entitled just don’t get it. They aren’t thankful, grateful and their attitude can bring about resentment and hate. Remain humble, honest and true to the values your parents gave you. Honesty, good sportsmanship, empathy and desire to be the best (best partner, contestant, coach, friend etc.) Buckles are great, money is awesome but those things should never define who YOU are. Remember you are only as good as your last run.
  5. Listens, listens, listens. You are never too good to take advice. The learning process never ends and someday when you are older you will hopefully feel the desire to pass everything you learned to another, whether it be your own children or clients. Remember to treat others the way you expect to be treated and that sometimes means to listen more and talk less..
  6. Treats ALL animals as if they were their own! You cannot compete without livestock! Don’t treat your horses, cattle and goats like a piece of machinery to be fueled, worked and thrown in a garage never to be seen until the next rodeo. Be grateful for their existence and abilities. Care for them like they were family because in some cases if you are really lucky that is exactly what they become. I have seen many of the meanest bucking bulls in the arena act like little puppies loving on their human for some ear scratching outside the arena! These animals truly love their jobs when treated right and in the end there is no greater bond than a grateful child and their horse.
  7. Continually thanking everyone that helped you along the way. Your parents, grandparents and even in some cases your brothers and sisters, they spent countless hours getting you where you needed to be when you needed to be there. Trainers, horses, cattle, ropes, saddles, tack, everything you need mom, dad and even sponsors did their best to make it happen. Nothing says you are a grateful human being like showing gratitude for the sacrifices these people all made so that you could ride into an arena, good, bad or otherwise and ride out with a smile on your face.

There you have it! How I feel our children should approach this great American sport. I know my children hear this all the time. It starts from the minute I remind them to remove their hats during the national anthem and continues until the moment they are asleep in the truck during our long ride home.

Our children should dream big! Shoot for the stars! But at the end of the day where ever they end up, these days here rodeoing with friends will be some of the best, most memorable days of their lives. Why not help by building a solid foundation that will lead them out into this world with a grateful attitude? It can only bring them success in life.

Let’s go, lets show, lets rodeo!!!

 

 

 

 

 

In the rodeo arena; from my point of view.

I read a story today. (I know shocking right) This story was in regards to ethical behavior, sportsman like conduct and the fine art of propping your competitors up instead of tearing them down in and around an arena. It was a great read focusing on industry and personal growth through teamwork, leadership and mentoring. Although its main reference was rodeo or equestrian sports its message can easily be applied to any discipline.

It also got me to thinking.

Our children learn how to behave early on by emulating us, their parents. As they grow and expand, their brains began telling them to separate from mom and dad, create their own identity and show the world an individualistic side. Yet at the end of the day you, your spouse or significant other have created the very foundation for which they stand upon.

In saying this I have taken note on each one of my children and how completely different they all have become. With differing skill sets, likes and dislikes, mannerism and of course beliefs. Yet underneath it all their mom and I expect them to carry on the very values for which we have instilled. They may shape those values, build upon them, add or subtract certain aspects but at the end of the day there had better be some basics that never wain otherwise I feel we as parents have failed.

Today after reading this story titled: 6 reasons to ignore arena chatter. Found on a FB page named Earn Your Spurs, it also became clear to me that I care about your children as well. I may not know them, but I care about them as only a parent can.

Every rodeo you can find me somewhere around the arena. Whether helping at the stripping chutes, manning a gate, working turn back for the cutting, announcing in the small arena or just being there for our kids and their friends behind the bucking chutes. You will undoubtedly find me with a smile on my face and a kind word of encouragement for your kid, my kid, their kid, hell any kid. I don’t need to know you, I don’t need to personally know your kid, and it is just something I have always done for as long as I can remember. Baseball, swimming, soccer, school events, you name it, I can’t keep my mouth shut.

I used to think I enjoyed working the events because I hate sitting still ( I really do hate sitting still!!!) or because as parents we need to put our time in; events don’t run themselves and it takes a small army to put one of these rodeos on! But I was wrong. I enjoy doing all these things because I believe what these kids are doing is amazing! No matter the sport or dedication, and although for this articles reference my point is centered on rodeo, it makes no difference. To have the guts and heart as a child to participate in these activities we put in front of them, to overcome fear and just participate, well that’s amazing in itself. Yet in this instance from the beginner to the seasoned senior, this sport, this way of life, takes drive, dedication and heart. It is not just you and a ball, or a bat or a pair of pads. It is you and a horse, steer or a bull! A 200-1500 pound animal who at any time can either have the best or worst day possible. It takes dedication away from the arena and the power of a positive attitude to even begin dreaming about winning! It takes an even stronger positive attitude to brush off a loss or mistake and move onto the next event ready to accept any challenge with confidence! But what makes this sport even better is knowing there is a wall of support behind you! That’s right everyone and I mean EVERYONE has your back! Your friends, your parents, and your fellow competitors! These are the people you will rodeo with your whole life, and if you are lucky one day you will meet back here at these hallowed rodeo grounds as parents to foster the next generation of athletes! What an amazing honor!

And that’s what it is for me! It is an honor as a parent to be able to participate in these jobs. To work with other dedicated parents! To be by your or my own child’s side with a positive attitude and some kind words whether they nailed it or messed up big time! It is a privilege to catch their horse, pat them on the back, help them shrug off an awful run and even remind them from time to time that in most cases they need to check themselves before becoming angry with their horse. It is our job as parents to nurture that next generation, teach them that winning at all costs is not fulfilling! Winning comes from hard work and drive, fulfillment comes after giving back and if you are lucky as a competitor you will experience both! If we as adults show this attitude then teach our children correctly, we can stand back and watch with pride as it trickles down or is payed forward.

Having our children give or share knowledge with the new kids on the block is the key to success! Never excluding, but always including them into the imaginary “inner” circle. Showing these scared young new kids they a part of something big! Then sharing their secrets on how to succeed, better themselves, maybe ride their horses a little better, come out of that chute centered and solid, or drop into the pocket quicker and smoother or simply offering to practice on one of their own tie down dummies. Giving back at its best!

When you see this happening, it should be fostered. We are a team. Even though these kids are competing against each other, they should always be propping each other up, cheering each other on and never looking down upon another competitor in our arena. Because in reality if we are all working together, (parents as well) we all win! The goal each and every year is to bring our best to state, then front load the National team with as many of our districts kids as possible! That can only be achieved if we take an as a team attitude right here, right now! Not after the season is over, and we are headed to state and definitely not after state is over, because by then the ability to recognize the importance of supporting one another or our “team” is long lost. If that is the case then we as parents, and our children as competitors will head out into the ring of competition with an “it’s all about me” attitude. It’s hard to compete feeling alone, it’s even harder when you are alone. And for a child, nothing is more devastating than learning the people who supposedly had your back are now tearing you down (parents included) from behind you.

So this year, we should all take a moment to say; good job! Tell a kid they did great, doesn’t matter whose kid it is, let your kids see you propping up others. Re-enforce the amazing benefits of being a team player, a mentor or coach to your children. Remind them they started at the bottom once too and point them towards a new kid to the show. Parents make a point of meeting other parents, new parents and help them along the way. A friendly face and helping hand builds trust. Trust builds confidence and confidence breeds winners.

And the way I see it from my point of view that is what we should all be remembered for.

Not just winning an event, but winning at life….

 

Rodeo

Sun slowly rises from the east, it’s that time of morning when neither dark nor light can decide who has a larger grip on the atmosphere. There is softness in the morning light engulfing all within sight while a single dull ray tries it’s hardest to squeeze through the blinds into my sleeping area. A rattling, squealing noise rambles off in the distance, my groggy head rises from the pillow instantly recognizing it to be a John Deer carefully dragging a plot of dirt that will soon be either a place of speed and scores or a cushion for the unfortunate. It is time to rise.

Coffee brewing brings a smell that always snaps me into the present. My bones hurt and joints crack as I carefully pull my pants from the floor while checking my shirt for damage, or wrinkles that may indicate I slept on it last night. Real estate is a premium inside our 3 horse trailer and it’s not uncommon for clothing, bedding and blankets to become a tangled web easier to let be than untangle. Some days it’s so bad we head out the door wearing whatever comes easiest. When the day is through it really doesn’t matter as most everything we own is covered in a mixture of dust, sweat and animal fluids. It is just the way it is and you wear it with pride.

My son and daughter have risen, our horses need to be fed and so do they prior to today’s activities. Microwavable breakfast sandwiches a cup of coffee/ orange juice, brush your teeth (not necessarily in that order) and its check in time. Afterwards they hook up with friends then start warming up horses. Their day is full, between caring for horses, warming them up, performing, helping in the arena, helping buddies during events then cooling horses off and feeding for the evening they are constantly moving from sun up to sun down. It’s good for them both as hard work, camaraderie and competition help mold them for adulthood.

Stepping outside words of good morning are echoed from our trailer neighbors as well as every parent you come across. Hands are shook, smiles, laughter and stories are the topic of the morning. These are wonderful solid people, many come from ranches and are second or third generation rodeo families. In the distance an announcer is checking his equipment with a repeated; TEST, TEST echoing across the grounds. The grandstands slowly begin filling as family and friends file in to watch the show. It is the very beginning of a weekend that will not disappoint.

A few words from the announcer, the National Anthem then goat tying starts the day with poles running in the big arena. Seniors and juniors vying for opposite space. The sound of two announcers reverberating gives notice to those not surrounding either ring that competition has in fact begun. Nervous parents run back and forth ensuring their kids have all they need while others move about on horseback with all the confidence of seasoned rodeo veterans.

I love the smell of horses and saddles, there is just something about it that leaves me feeling content. When I am around horses, either walking or on horseback my brain quits moving at a hundred miles an hour, my heart rate slows and the world just seems to be, well, at peace. Horses have kept me grounded, given me purpose and I’m always trying my hardest to learn each and every ones personality and quirks. These four legged creatures have kept me sane while missing my wife, both at home and during every rodeo for the last two years. Standing alone, along a fence line watching my daughter tie her goat after jumping from the dizzying height of her little pony there is nothing for me to think about, no stresses, just pride at watching her do something she was terrified to even attempt not that long ago.

As quickly as I am at parental peace with my daughter, my son texts me that it is time. Saddling his rope horse, climbing aboard and heading into the warm up pen we slowly work up from walk, trot to lope. Some good solid stops getting lighter in the mouth each time and he is ready to go. My son is aboard the Steer Wrestling horse trying his best to clear his mind, readying himself for competition against some of his closest friends. In no more than two hours’ time we shift gears and horses warming up the turn back horse and cutting horse. There are many events in rodeo and his events of choice are Tie Down Roping, Team Roping, Cutting and Steer Wrestling. My daughter competes in Goat Tying, Poles and Barrels.

When not warming up our horses, I enjoy helping during the cutting with turn back duties and then it’s off to the return chutes where hanging with my friends watching the performance while moving calves and steers keeps us all busy for the remainder of the day. We stand tall and constantly yell, cheer and help these kids feel good no matter their outcome in the arena. For little do they really know just how amazing they are and as parents standing in the same spot every rodeo we have the privilege of witnessing their continued improvement from countless hours of practice throughout the year! It is a great weekend that’s all about them, a payback for their hard work.

Red sky and a setting sun shining through a permanent layer of dirt hovering in the air tells me the day is done. There are scrapes and bruises, kids kick the dirt from their boots and clothes, while chaps and bull ropes are hung with care. The announcers’ booth powers down, arena lights begin to glow and the stands are emptied. Horses are washed and fed, bbq smoke and laughter comes from every camp as war stories are told with glee. A perfect tie-down, the best team roping time of the year, did you see the air under my but when I got bucked off? Laughter and friends after a long day helping knock off the day’s highs and lows, chuckle at knuckle head moves and pat those on the back who lead in their events. Young men and women forging friendships they will have for life over a shared love of friendly competition and the ranching way of life. These kids or small adults wander the grounds in packs like coyotes looking for their next free meal or easy place to crash. They are funny little versions of ourselves who pretend to the best of their abilities to appear grown-up. I love watching them interact with each other, they are truly funny. At the end of the day these are the stories we adults will share with our grandchildren.

Country music blares from every corner of this place as I sit in my chair, boots off, enjoying a beverage, soaking it all in while wondering just how much longer I am going to make it before falling asleep. Before long I have my answer. It is dark, chilly and a fire is blazing for warmth, most everyone has already crashed with the exception of a handful of us. My son heads in to hit the hay letting me know what a great day it’s been, my daughter is out cold in her tent. Once inside he is out cold in two seconds. Turning everything off and checking our horses one last time after bidding a goodnight to our friends I slowly make my way inside, my pants hit the floor and somewhere there is a clean shirt hidden inside my messy bunk. Oh well, stretching carefully across it, before I can completely exhale my lights are out and tomorrow the smell of coffee will start this cycle all over again. What a great life!

Let’s go, lets show, lets rodeo…

 

The Barn is a great place to think.

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Sitting in my barn this morning listening to the horses eat while chattering with each other, the sun crossed over with warmth entrenching the very entrance for which my bum was planted. Smiling at a state of relaxation which overcame my body, a bit of gratitude for all God has placed before me enveloped my being.

And so I pondered…..

Staring at standing water, which was everywhere, in times of past my frustration level would have risen. Instead I am pleased, for even though this means mud all around and frustrated horses it equates to much needed water and lush turnouts in the spring.

It was a heavy soaking rain and a portion of one of our barns that for years no matter the adjustment would flood instead remained high and dry after a summer rebuild. We are slowly gaining ground and this quirky piece of land will continue to challenge us, but seeing the west side high and dry was a huge win! My arena is a small lake, yet the water allows me to see where it needs to be floated and readjusted creating a better arena next year to ride and train.

The back piece where we began building a roping arena before Ms. Jacy went into the hospital has held up perfectly with water shedding in the direction we planed the ground. This means come spring we will add the permanent footing with no adjustments and before you know it the long summer nights will be filled with horses, people and fun. The way it should it be.

I am thankful for the people God continues to place in my life.

We are not supposed to agree or get along with everyone, that would be insane. But as of late I have learned to forgive, forget and understand that many times the problem isn’t with them, it is with me (short of someone intentionally hurting you). A person who rubs you wrong or continually pushes your buttons is who they are and you cannot change that so (as I tell my children) when you are wits end remember that and understand you are the one that has a problem with them! Limit your exposure, take your own stress away and appreciate them, for they have taught you how to become a better you.

An entire community has surrounded our family during these last two years and that support has seen us through many rough spots. We are very blessed to live in a town filled with so many loving caring people. I have sat and watched with pride as our little population has stepped up for the benefit of so many as it seems we are in a weird slump when it comes to survival. The numbers of those in our town reeling from the effects of Cancer, Leukemia, and unexplained tragedies is astonishing! Yet we come together, strap our boots on tight and march to help. Our town folk don’t help for notoriety as I have seen in some places, but because we are still small enough that everyone knows, everyone and genuinely care! There for it is done out of love. There is no greater reason to help.

If you build it they will come. When we built our first barn we hoped to have a bigger family here, a horse family of like-minded individuals who not only loved their animals but enjoyed the company of those around them in the barn as well. We have all been to those barns where everyone complains and the atmosphere is filled with unhealthy competition and all feels toxic. But I can say almost four years later I feel as though we have accomplished that goal. When I walk into our barn I am surrounded by an extended family. Fantastic people who are fun, caring and look out for each other without an inkling of malice or complaint. I am a fan of getting to know each horse and their owners, understanding their personalities, how they behave and react to any situation. We are filled with quite the group and they are all wonderful. My barn manager is also a huge blessing as without her drive and enthusiasm, especially during these very trying times for our family I am convinced without a doubt our place would have suffered greatly. She is my go too, a solid foundation for what we have that I can stand upon; we are very blessed indeed.

Rodeo is a big part of our lives and without an escape from reality into this world I love so, I am certain I would have gone crazy by now. As many of you know I love cutting horses! I love riding them more than anything in this world (thank you Wes and Jalinda) but with my wife being sick that has taken a back seat for the last two years. Rodeo is my son’s passion and to witness this foundation we gave him and our daughter in regards to horses and riding flourish and expand under the tutelage of many great caring and giving adults has been a Godsend for certain. Every weekend we pack up and head out is another opportunity for him/her to reach their goals, take another step forward in competition, and to meet new people even if to only shake a hand and say hello. The rodeo family is huge and they all look out for each other. It is amazingly fun to see so many adults come together for the benefit of not only their children but everyone’s children! Offering help and support while coaching them hopefully to the next level. For me, to be able to help on horseback during the cuttings and in the chutes with other friends during the roping events has allowed me to cheer on so many kids while still feeling like my normal horseman self. To share in this experience is like no other! I hope other parents see it the same way when they are tending a gate, loading a bucking chute or pushing cattle through the chutes. It’s being able to pass on your knowledge, your love for the sport, your passions all while doing nothing more than being the support crew! It has kept me sane through this time of hardship. I thank every family that has adopted me over the last two years. Made sure I was ok, asked how my family and wife are, and ensured I was never excluded or left behind. It’s tough being the lone man out, even tougher when you think about how you can’t share any of these experiences with your wife, your son’s mom, but thanks to this new family I have become a part of I have never felt out of place or alone. I am truly blessed and thankful for you all…

My second family has been behind us all the way and staring here across our fields, I am thankful for the opportunity to do so. Being in the fire service is tough, long hours away from home (especially in the summertime) at times mentally and physically exhausting. But there is no other job quite like it. It also allows you to forge a bond with others like yourself. Living someplace else for a third of your life you become a family, and family always takes care of family. I don’t know how I would have been able to keep my head on straight without the love and support I have received from my fire department family. They have been there from the beginning two years ago, covering shifts, making sure my family is taken care of and always leaving me with these words no matter the time or place. “Whatever you need James” I have been humbled by them all.

Looking over at my dad’s house, I wish I knew it was going to be his last Christmas. I don’t why? It just is resonating with me that maybe we could have carved out more time for him between running around to the hospital and two separate families. I know there is nothing I could have changed and what is done is done. My dad and I hardly saw eye to eye on anything and he could be a touch over the top when he was cranky. But I just wish I could have told him one more time I loved him and given his frail old body a hug. Oh well, I am blessed they allowed us to move them here, where at least he died with his family around him and as we put the finishing touches on his memorial at the end of the month I hope he looks fondly upon all who come to say goodbye and know he was loved.

Staring at the back of my house I think of my wife. How lucky are we she is still with us today? She still hasn’t made it home and it has been almost 7 long months since we drove out of the driveway headed to Stanford for what was supposed to be at the most a 4 month turnaround. Once again the word family rings loud as without this tight, crazy group of misfits that we are I am sure without a doubt this entire process would have been a complete nightmare. Jacy’s family has been by her side every day. Helping with our children, jacy’s care and ensuring she is never alone. Her sisters have brought smiles and laughter and her step mum quit her job to care for her every day! The true definition of a strong family is enduring even the hardest of times and never faltering, no matter the circumstances. To her mom, dad, step mum, sisters and brothers I love you all and admire all that you are as a family. I feel very blessed to be a very small part of what and who you are. Thank you for caring for my wife.

I am also thinking about my oldest son. It has been quite the year for him. Coming home from Humboldt and deciding to join a local junior college to save money while helping me with his siblings. I joke he is my domestic partner, he thinks it’s funny, well not really. We are hoping Jacy is home before August and healthy so this young man who has placed his life on hold to live at home, help raise kids, while going to school can step foot upon Sac-States campus and finish his education. I worry about his ability to grow as a man trapped at home like it’s his senior year all over again. But it is a good deal, he lives for free, helps me and has no bills while going to school and working. Plus he has his beloved dog Cricket by his side! He seems ok after finding his grandfather in the driveway a few short weeks ago, but that is another thing he will live with forever. Thankfully Cody has very broad shoulders and seems to be able to handle a lot. A gift that will serve him well as he chases his dream to become a CHP officer. Blessed to have such an outstanding young adult for a son.

We will continue this fight, hourly, daily, weekly and monthly. Ensuring sanity remains while hustling here and moving about over there, remaining blessed and appreciative for all that we have and hold. Jacy’s fight is far from over. She is slowly regaining a bit of strength but no great progresses have been made. She is very comfortable in her new apartment and continues making her scheduled appointments at Stanford. She still has pretty severe GvHD of the lungs and is battling the very same condition in an eye. Today she is at Stanford getting poked and prodded while receiving platelets. She is also feeling the love this morning as her mom and step mum share the duties of caregiver and transport coordinators. Jacy wakes up each morning, wishes she was home, but is very thankful for her family and to still be here with us!

In summary, I guess it just comes down to what you want out of each and every day. These are things I am thankful for right here, right now. They will not fade away tomorrow or the next day, but instead be built upon, stored in the “forever appreciate” locker inside my head and used for the day when it’s my turn, to show some love, compassion, caring, encouragement, excitement, admiration, and humility at some point during someone’s day.

And for all of that I am truly thankful…

One last thought comes to mind.

You can curl up and die in the shadow of some perceived misery or gather yourself up, stand on your own two feet while learning, absorbing, adjusting and reinventing along the way.

One life right? So I have chosen the latter….

 

 

A Conflict of Emotions

Conflict

Noun: a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one:

Verb: be incompatible or at variance; clash:

Emotions

Noun: natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others

A conflict of emotions best describes the last 7 days. One minute jubilation for my wife’s ability to walk away from Stanford Hospital, then while walking our property, gazing upon my parents home, sadness, knowing my father will never walk out the front door again.

Seven days ago dad perished in our driveway, six days ago Jacy walked free from six months of medically induced incarceration. Seven days ago I was having one of the best shifts ever, working towards a year end that would top our best ever in regards to calls for service. Then in the blink of an eye it was over. Six days ago sadness hovered over me like a bully, pushing me, calling me names, slapping me in the face, then happiness as my eyes witness an event we all prayed would happen, but to be quite frank at times wondered if it would come to fruition. She (Jacy) stood up, untethered and walked out of the hospital a free woman to the raucous cheers of all involved.

During these last seven days I have endured the worst migraines ever, slept very little for a few days then slept and slept and slept some more! Moving about like a lost butterfly chaser, over here then over there and due to our very hectic lives have only been able to spend three days with Jacy. I have helped my mother gather up and organize her life while working on a proper way for all who knew my father to say goodbye. I have fielded more emails than ever, talked with family and friends, tried my best to let everyone know what is happening in regards to both major events and with the help of my second family (work) I have been blessed once again to have the freedom to do so!

I worry about missing someone, anyone, in regards to this constant flow of information. I have a tablet which I am constantly filling with notes to help keep me on track. It feels as though these two things just shouldn’t go together! That for some reason it is an unfair request for someone to handle this all at once. Life and death. A friend once made this statement; People die every day what are you going to do about it? She was right and my problems are so minor compared to others so I end up feeling ashamed for complaining.

But in reality, life is about turning the page.

Today, I loaded up the trailer and headed over to a friend’s house. There, my son (Jake) and I worked horses, surrounded by wonderful people. Three laps walking was all it took for every stress knot, tension spot, pain and ache I had been feeling to go away. Five laps into trotting my disorganized thoughts began to fall into line, categorized for processing. Moving into a lope a clarity overtook me, leaving me with a sensation similar to floating. Dropping into the herd to select one cow for practice I felt focused, at one with my horse. Carefully taking it from the herd and placing it into the arena to be worked a darkness lifted from within. Moving across the arena to bump, stop or turnback that cow while a young horse was being schooled and everything became right with the world. There was no conflict inside, I no longer had a headache, my body was loose and free, there were no unanswered questions, I didn’t feel alone anymore. Just me, my horse, some friends, a few cows and some good old fashioned horse work.

In that moment, I thanked my dad. Former president of Napa Valley Horsemans Association, Owner of Town and Country Western store, the man who first showed me what horses were all about and even though I ran away from them as a teenager. I came back. I felt I could continue that passion by instilling it further within my own children and hoped one day they (even the two who don’t ride) would feel thankful for it after I am gone.

In that moment I also thanked my wife, for without her constant vision of what our family could be; we would never be where we are today. She always has a way of seeing what I cannot, showing me a vision with clarity, then allowing me to pick up the ball and run. If it weren’t for her my successes would be fewer and farther between. To have been able to be by her side these last two years has been my privilege. She always tells me how proud she is of me, and then apologizes for all she says she has put us through. I see it a little differently. I am incredibly proud of her! She has accomplished a feat of great magnitude in regards to her health. She has nothing to apologize for, without her there would be no me and without me there would be no her. The way I understand it, that is what marriage is supposed to be. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her.

Later in the day my oldest Cody took me out to the refuge where we sat in a blind, decoys in front of us we waited. Sitting there gazing at the incredible young man he has become I am filled with pride and more happiness. We only got a couple ducks in the three hours we were out there, but today it really wasn’t about the hunting for me. This young man, my son, sat there and quietly explained every move, where the ducks were going to come from, how his decoy pattern is planned using patterns or duck socialization he learned while at Humboldt. He knew every breed that flew overhead, talked about how beautiful it was where we were at, and relished at the evil cloud formations forming over us as rain poured down. In other words he spoke with passion for something that makes his world turn, that brings him happiness, which makes him relax when everything is crazy. I was in heaven and all I could think about was how thankful I am for him and lucky I am to still be here to enjoy this very moment.

So we move forward. As the week draws to a close and another sun sets off in the distance we make progress. Jacy is doing well. She continues to sleep a ton, she joked with me today that she stayed awake for a whole 45 minutes! She is surrounded by family and her children as Jess and Parker have been with her every day since she arrived at her dads! There are twenty three daily meds, eye drops, 4 breathing treatments a day, an IV line connected to a portable pump and trips back to Stanford every other day or so. None of that matters as Jacy smiles that famous smile simply because she can.

My mom is also doing well, she has reorganized the house, started preparing for the future with her own personal needs and is focused on making sure dad’s memorial is exactly the way she wants it! They have been together since they were 15, I am not sure what that means to her emotionally right now, but as she put it; I am a tough Old Italian woman, at some point I will cry again, but until then there are things to be done. She checks in with me almost every day and the boys and I have been checking in on her just the same.

I have no idea what I have been worrying about, just take it one day at a time. Right?

A turning of the page…

So I sat in a barn..

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Yesterday after cleaning house, shuttling children, and spending the better part of an afternoon fixing my tractor (something I hadn’t planned on) a feeling of failure for accomplishing none of my daily goals swept over me yet again. Frustrated and tired, I fight a daily battle of just giving up. Wanting more than anything to walk into the house, climb into bed and pray that maybe I’ll just sleep until this is all over. Lucky for me my will is stronger than my lazy ass, feel sorry for myself attitude so I did something I haven’t been able to do in a while.

I walked into the barn and just sat down.

Now for some there could be no understanding of just how important that moment was for me. You see with life running at a hundred miles an hour there is one thing that has been cast aside day after damn day. My horses.

Jake is doing a good job. He is riding them when it’s not raining, making sure stalls are cleaned and they are fed in the morning. One of our borders Ms. Lisa takes care of them all in the afternoon, spreading the very same love and care I would lay upon them if I were here myself. But I am not and that is my mental meltdown.

Mornings of days past haunt me like an elderly hunting dog who can no longer hunt yearning for one more chance. Feeding, walking, riding, cleaning stalls then heading over to another ranch where the rest of my morning and early afternoon are filled with more horses to ride/train and of course working cows. To enter a show ring, scared to death and no matter the score when it’s over ride out having learned something new. A dream constantly plaguing me, that one day I will ride into Fort Worth on a good sound horse, under the lights with fresh cows. It’s all there, teasing me, feeling father and farther out of reach.

So what does sitting down in the barn have to do with anything?

It is where it all begins. We move so fast every day we forget about our dreams, putting them aside as life throws roadblock after roadblock in our path. Every second centered on the next dollar, the next moment with our children, appointments, sports and well LIFE. Our priorities and supposed priorities.

So instead I chose to stop and sit in my mares stalls. Cassie is my rock, she is a special horse for me. Most stories about people and horses for some odd reason revolve around little girls. I am sure it has to do with ponies, then unicorns, oh wait, pink unicorns and of course countless books written about a girl and her horse! Yet I have seen more than my fair share of grown, tough, grizzled men shed a tear over the loss of their riding partner, their friend. The same dynamics apply for us boys/men as do the girls/women, these animals we’ve spent countless hours riding, training, growing to know and understand become a part of you. As a boy you are John Wayne or the Lone Ranger, Quigley down under or the Man from Snowy River! As a man they are your roping partner, cattle mover or cutting friend. They become a sounding board for your day, they listen to your frustrations without arguing back and keep you in check when your emotions filter into the riding experience. These four legged beasts continually teach us every single time we are around them, whether its patience, empathy, kindness, sharing, determination or love. It’s all there every time they are around, and if they get sick of your attitude because you are the one not listening to them, well you just may find yourself looking up from the ground as a muzzle is looking down upon you. If we are smart, we slow down, take measure of ourselves and reward them for all they have given to us.

Sitting in Cassie’s pen, she snorts at me, walks a few circles as if to ask what the hell I am doing there in her space. Then realizing there was much more on my mind than just occupying her space, she walks over, tips her ears forward and slowly leans up next to me. Once my hands are upon her neck her head drops and she leans a little more. For the next 30 minutes she listened as I apologized for having not been around. She is a funny horse, if she knows you she will talk back, little grumbles here and there but for me it’s like sharing a cup of coffee with an old friend.

I looked around the barn, not at the barn, but actually looked around it feeling disconnected. I think I needed to feel that moment to help me reconnect and reaffirm that although this journey has been a very long two years, in the grand scheme of things it is only a blip in time. Leaving Cassie’s stall she whinnies at me as if to say; hey dad, don’t go! I gave her some fresh hay and moved on, heading over to my daily rider, my amigo Mr. Tank. Checking in with him was much the same, except this old boy is still a proud stud, therefore he doesn’t have much to say unless you are a mare. Then, well he is the Barry White of the barn. Walking around I checked on the other 15 horses in our barn, said hello to each one with a little pet/scratch time in between and by the time I was done, my world was a bit more centered.

I am blessed for all that I have. A great family, good kids, a wonderful place to call home and barn full of some of the coolest animals on earth. Tomorrow is another day, so we will keep trying.

Jacy is still fighting hard. As I have said before we are in for a long tough battle. We were lucky enough to participate in an E-wing Christmas party the other day and it really brought some wonderful Christmas spirit to those who attended. Christmas Carrols, hot coffee and cookies, plus handmade stuffed animals for everyone! I never tire at the caring that comes from each and every staff member in this wing. In a place where it would be easy to only see the negative there is nothing but positive all around! It is never a place one would dread to be, and I am speaking from the patient/family member side of things. I can only image how it must feel to work there, they are all truly special people.

Jacys bladder continues to bleed, we are still hoping for a miracle but know this invasive procedure is right around the corner and as Ms. Jacy says; if it gets me outta here well then so be it! Her diet has been increased again and as of yesterday I watched her eat a turkey burger!!!! It was awful and she could only stomach half of it, but what an incredible step towards walking out! She almost has a full covering of hair upon her head and she is walking a little more each day! Her lungs are still giving her trouble but the breathing treatments she receives twice a day seem to help. What an amazing fighter my wife is, she inspires me everyday.

So hopefully we continue gaining ground, nothing would make our family and of Ms. Jacy happier than seeing her at her dads sometime in January! Please keep us in your prayers.

Christmas is coming, be thankful for all you have for it is not a gift that makes your life wonderful it is the gift of life that makes it all worth living.

 

 

A boy finds a horse…or did a horse find a boy?

When the dust had settled he stared into the soft, red dirt scattered around his partners feet.  Frustration filled every fiber of his body, anger brewed deep inside as he coiled up his rope slowly, deliberately as if this woven, intertwined piece of apparatus had feelings to be hurt by such forcefulness.  He had missed his throw again, leaving his header dragging the steer alone. Team Roping* is his new rodeo sport of choice, it has a pretty big learning curve and right now this boy is bearing that weight.

Looking at his partner from a distance the appearance was one of a nervous looking paint horse standing silently, waiting, hoping not to fall upon the wrong end of youthful rage.  But nothing could be further from the truth. The boy leaned over gently petting his friend, his amigo, letting him know that he (the horse) had in fact done his job, and done it quite well.  The sole responsibility fell completely upon the boy and as they rode out of the arena only a blind person could not see the anger this boy had within himself.

Toowey is a 12-year-old paint, purchased for the staggering sum of $5 dollars.  Toowey was born to be a cutter * He was purposely bred from a fine stallion to a mare of substantial quality all in the hopes he would someday reign king of his craft. But for poor Toowey that was not to be, for this horse was a thinker, so much so that he repeatedly would get into his own way, not allowing the natural course of action to take place. Thus leaving him without a job. A sorry thing for a horse with such a sharp mind. That was until three months ago when a proposition was laid before this young lad; You need a horse to rope from and this horse needs a job. The owner absolutely loved this horse and could not bear to part with him. The deal was simple, if he works he is yours, if Toowey cannot do the job, bring him home, no questions asked. And just like that a union was formed, and my family is forever grateful for this amazing gesture.

Now don’t think for a second it was that easy, you see two months ago I may have paid $10 dollars to send him home. (joking) But you see the thing about Toowey that makes him different from every other horse (besides the astronomical purchase price) the thing that continues to amaze me about this very animal is not that he needed a job, but that he needed a boy.  You see as I previously stated; Twooey is a thinker, he is also a very fast learner, and yes his ability to over think a situation still gets him into trouble on occasion, but he has an uncanny way of saying he is sorry. Roping gives him the release of responsibility that cutting does not and that fits this horse just fine.  He is also incredibly loyal.

That’s right I said he is loyal, loyal like an old bloodhound or your best friend.  I have been around many, many horses in my 48 years and yes they are all different, they all have personalities; traits we love, behaviors we try to correct and we may even like some more than others.  But I have never seen a horse that loves and loves to be loved by just one person like this horse. I am not talking about leaning into a good scratching or nuzzling up I am talking about devotion shown directly towards one human being.

Twooeys engine is huge! He can go and go and go, and just when you thought he was done, he would go some more.  When we sent him off to roping camp I warned the trainer about the size of this horses engine. It was big! Two weeks in, after checking in with the trainer it was confirmed just how big this horses motor was by him stating he almost gave up. But then like a light switch Twooey started to give, and just like that, everyday he learned more, became faster and stronger, and calmer all at the same time. Twooey finally had himself a bonafide job.

When we went to see him the first time is when I noticed Tooweys love starting to show.  As we walked towards the arena his head hung low, he sat still not a muscle twitching (unusual for him) and then he heard Jake’s voice. The boy who brushed him everyday, rode him in countless circles, walked him in the back and talked to him on the way back towards the paddock.  Tooweys head popped up, ears twitched forward and a loud whinny echoed across the arena.  As Jake approached Toowey could barely contain himself, scooting from side to side, licking his lips, quivering his lower lip.  Jake slowly reached out, placing his hand on Tooweys face and neck, slowly stroking him, whispering; hey buddy I’m here.  The horse stopped moving, dropped his head and leaned into my son.  A heavy sigh released, an eye softened and for a moment all was right in this animals world.

It broke my heart to leave him that night, as we drove back I could tell Jake missed his new buddy as well. Two weeks later when we picked him up, I have never seen a horse jump into a trailer so fast, ready for the long ride home, ready to be back with his rider.

Since that time it has been non stop practices and one official rodeo. There have been little successes here and there as far a this young boys roping goes, but no matter what happens or how it ends each afternoon after leaving it all in the arena; no matter how upset this boy becomes with himself or his performance his horse is there, always leaning into him, sighing heavy, lip quivering, happy to be his partner, his friend.

To have that kind of friendship with an animal as a young boy fighting the throes of testosterone coursing through his veins, competition, hard work and the sting of failure is priceless.

It appears as though the boy didn’t just need the horse, but the horse needed a boy. Some matches we just don’t understand, like a 5 dollar horse who unknowingly needed a home, a job and a frustrated boy who unknowingly needed a new partner and a friend. I believe the lord works in mysterious ways…

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*Cutting is an equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a single animal away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time.

*Team roping also known as heading and heeling is a rodeo event that features a steer (typically a Corriente) and two mounted riders. The first roper is referred to as the “header,” the person who ropes the front of the steer, usually around the horns, but it is also legal for the rope to go around the neck, or go around one horn and the nose resulting in what they call a “half head.” Once the steer is caught by one of the three legal head catches, the header must dally ( wrap the rope around the rubber covered saddle horn)and use his horse to turn the steer to the left. the second is the “heeler,” who ropes the steer by its hind feet after the “header” has turned the steer, with a five second penalty assessed to the end time if only one leg is caught. Team roping is the only rodeo event where men and women compete equally together in professionally sanctioned competition, in both single-gender or mixed-gender teams.[1]

What if??

calvinWhat if?

As of late I have written about many aspects of our family, between watching my oldest graduate, the 13-year-old head off to compete in Junior High National Finals Rodeo, my two little ones finding their way around horses, softball and the thrill of competing associated with both, and of course my wife’s almost year-long battle with Leukemia. There has been plenty to lament over.

As most of you know I am an advocate for youth and horsemanship. So many of our youth are missing out on the joys associated with horses and the many disciplines that accompany these amazing animals. I feel as though we have the perfect life, its hard and gritty, exhausting and at time debilitating, but it is perfect.  Our children and our animals being the key or center of this perfect life. But being that as it may often times we sit images-8around the back yard with friends, a couple of beers and play the “what if” game. Usually revolving around “what if” you had a million dollars? Or “What if” you won the lottery? How would that change you and would it create the perfect life?

For me the answer is always the same.  While others conjure up majestic fantasies of philanthropy, travel, education, expensive colleges for their children and houses beyond what anyone really needs, all I center on revolves around children and horses.  (Ok maybe a new cutting horse for me, and a new kitchen for the house, but hey it’s my fantasy right?)

My dream centers on taking what hard work, luck and Gods guidance has provided our family, then building upon it.  An entire facility to help kids learn how to rope, cut, run barrels, chute dog, bull-dog, tie down rope, goat tie, etc.. A place where our local kids could come and practice, enjoy their horses, while also enjoying the camaraderie that comes with practicing surrounded by like-minded individuals, friends.  A place for kids to go have fun while learning every aspect of rodeo long after I am gone from this earth.

I can hear you now. Cant you already do that? What on earth would all that money be for? A fully functioning covered roping arena with cattle, ground improvements for year round work, a larger safer all-weather barn, every training aid available for the kids, a covered hot walker and simply put ( I know its selfish) a larger horse trailer and a truck without 200,000 miles on it.

Hey it is my dream.

The funny part about this whole crazy dream of mine, is 10 years ago if you had asked me if I’d ever step foot on a horse again, I would have told you no…..

As I have become older and through the eyes of my own children I have learned of my own short comings, the opportunities I gave up simply by quitting. Whether it was a fight with my parents, the hard work associated or my longing to be anything but what I was; trying to hide from my reality.

1534362_10203543583096759_624480372_nI grew up on a horse ranch. We moved from a very small place in Napa when I was 5 to a nice spread in Sonoma.  My parents had a very large barn, hot walker, paddocks, of course horses and a fully functioning roping arena. I vaguely remember trainers and the occasional times when as a small child I would sit atop the cattle chutes. My parents belonged to Napa Valley Horseman’s Association so once a month we attended dinner meetings and once or twice a month we loaded up and headed out for horse shows.  For me as a small child it was fun, horses were around, trainers and their kids and sometimes we would wait until no one was looking to hitch rides aboard the Hot Walker by clipping our belt loops to the lead lines then hanging on for fun! (This always got us in really huge trouble)

But as I grew older my opinions changed. It has taken me until just recently to understand why? We never had much money so my parents fought a lot about finances and the horses. As young children this was particularly scary. My father’s booming voice was always frightening but never more so than directed at my mother.  I wasn’t a particularly popular kid, early on my social skills were indeed lacking and wearing boots, buckles and western shirts to school didn’t help much either.  But as I said money wasn’t falling from the sky so we wore what we wore and even though I was teased at times I did like my boots.

By the time I hit junior high, 4-H consumed my life, and raising sheep to show at the fair was fun. Thank God for the whole Urban Cowboy thing, cause I was able to wear my cowboy hat with pride. I still dabbled with riding now and again, but gave it up as I felt 546605_3926690932288_428394999_nthere was no way I was ever going to get it right. My mother’s standards were high and I was always looking for the easy way out. This of course caused friction. I still remember everything she taught me to this day, including basic horsemanship principles.  Always accused of never listening or being too lazy finally took a toll upon my spirit as I began believing this to be true of myself as a whole.

My parents had a stud-horse. He was dappled and dark, tall and elegant looking, he was a race horse and had won on the track; he was also a complete asshole.  We were always warned to stay away from this horse although secretly I always wanted to kick his ass.  Even at a young age I can remember daydreaming about being big and strong enough to walk in grab this horse, throw everything I had ever been taught about horsemanship out the window and just plain old-fashioned choke this bastard out! I would stand near his paddock, alongside the shavings pile and stare at him. He would charge the fence, rear up and slam his hooves on the ground, kick, ram gates, and bellow at the top of his lungs. If he ever got out we would have to hide in a stall or the house out of fear.  He pushed my mom around and loathed my father as dad wouldn’t put up with any of his shit! The sad thing is no amount of training changed this horse’s disposition! Being at the barn meant constantly looking over your shoulder out of fear as he would charge the stall door, slipping out of the darkness to take a bite of your head or shoulder as you walked by. In the end, between my own frustrations, my mother’s stern way of teaching or my finding it easier to just quit, any desire or strength I had towards wanting to be around horses finally came crashing down the morning I watched this four-legged piece of crap grab my dad by the chest, pick him up shaking him like a rag doll thusly sending my father to the hospital. It was then and there I put to rest any aspirations of ever becoming a horseman.

Through Jr. high and high school I worked hard at surrounding myself with people who didn’t have anything to do with horse shows, rodeo and the such.  I still dabbled back and forth occasionally, we had a local rodeo for a few years and I always spent the weekend working in the back with my friends, pushing calves and steers, telling a good yarn about how I could do those events if I wanted too, but in the end it was nothing more than a lie, my overwhelming fear of failure or being around any four-legged creature just pushed me further away.  I was lucky enough that my friends who did ride never truly gave up on me. Oh I wasn’t a part of their groups anymore, but friendships remained, I was tolerated and some friendships remain casually to this day.  In truth, looking back I envied them, all of them, but hid in my own shadow for so very long.

430938_10200295633180041_80963042_nI fought for years against who I really was, but every job I ever held, new friendships acquired led to rodeos and occasionally trying new things all leading me back to ranch life.  Looking back now so many years later it was obvious what I wanted, what I needed in my life, I was just too stubborn to accept the reality of it. And as in most cases it took an equally stubborn woman (my wife) to snap me out of that funk some years later, opening my eyes to the possibilities and what I had to offer not only myself but our children.  In the end I feel as though I missed out on the very best years of my life! Training, competing, loving, these wonderful creatures and all they bring to my spirit. Sadly I feel now as though time is running out. The moment in life when I should have been running hard at achieving all that I missed was spent with blinders on using the excuse I was too busy working hard supporting myself then eventually supporting my family; it will always leave me wondering “what if”.

Fast forward to today-to my dream.

My wife and I have worked very hard to develop a place where kids (and their parents), my kids and their1507829_10202417311105686_2144312239_n friends can come, ride their horses safely, without ridicule or demoralization, instilling solid guidance starting with the most basic of horsemanship skills; the very same principles my mother instilled within me.  Where riders can excel; not by just jumping on their horses and running a barrel pattern as fast as physically possible, but by becoming one with this animal that allows them to climb upon their backs. So many children I see today have mom and dad purchase them the fastest, greatest horse; no questions asked and then never take the time to learn about their animal.  What it can do, what it can’t do, why it even wants to do anything at all for you?  These horses are smart and willing; they need guidance, reassurance, praise and most of all love, understanding and patience.46435_10151860711046649_451436046_n

I purchased my first cutting horse when she was two and half.  She was ornery, feisty, with 248288_2071612476486_214666_na huge engine and a strong will. She was also agile, cowy and loved to work.  I was told as a new cutter this wasn’t the horse I should buy.  A fully trained, finished horse was the horse for me. But like so many times in my life, I used my gut to make a decision and it was the very best decision I could have made.  I had something to prove to myself after all those years of running from who I was, and this was the opportunity to put all those doubts to rest.  Her name was Cassie and we didn’t exactly get along from the start, but using what I knew and what a very good friend (Wes) was patient enough to teach me along the way we slowly became one.  Cassie tried my patience and left me eating dirt a few times. (Which in our barn will cost you a case of beer.) We would scrap, things would go south and I would always go back and spend the evening figuring out what I did wrong first; then slowly methodically work on it until we got it right.  We went from black eyes and bleeding knuckles (a term, we weren’t really punching and kicking each other), bent feelings and frustration to inseparable team mates.1380273_10202277018473435_1379866202_n

Today when I come home from work she (Cassie) whinny’s at me, when I leave for work she whinny’s, when I load up the trailer without her, she pushes against the stall door, and if I work another horse before her she mean mugs me and paws the ground every time I pass by her stall.  It took 3 years of steady everyday work for this horse to become good at what she does, but all that aside the very best part of all of this is when I walk her out to the middle of the arena, gently tighten her cinch one last time, climb aboard and feel her sigh a happy sigh of relief as we warm up for whatever today’s lesson is going to be.  When I go in to feed her, change her blanket or just pet her, she leans into me and sighs, dropping her head, letting me know it’s ok as I gently pet her letting her know how much I appreciate her.

Everyone hopefully has something to bring them that much joy after such hard work.

So there it is, my dream and I how I got there. I want that feeling for every child who loves horses, who loves rodeo, who loves and is willing to put in the hard work it takes to achieve, succeed.  I want to provide that opportunity for so many, so one day when they are middle-aged they don’t push back from a desk, step out of their truck, punch out from their job and ask themselves; What if?

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Junior High National Finals Rodeo-Iowa 2014

 

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“Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear or a fool from any direction.” – old cowboy proverb author unknown

8 months spent practicing, working hard, traveling, keeping our horses and children healthy have all led to this one moment in time.  Jake and I standing in awe at the spectacle that is the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The Junior High National Finals Rodeo! A compilation, a cross-section, a melding of all the very best junior high students who have competed their hearts out in multiple divisions! Some have bested competitors and friends in several categories, some made here in only one, but they are here and ready to do battle!

Just so you understand why we are in “awe” here is a sample description of what our eyes behold, straight from the ISF web page. No better description could have been penned.

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The internationally acclaimed Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. Annually attracting more than a million people from all over the world, the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines is Iowa’s great celebration, a salute to the state’s best in agriculture, industry, entertainment and achievement. It is the true heartbeat of the Midwest, unequaled and reduplicated.

The Iowa State Fair, the inspiration for the original novel State Fair by Iowan Phil Stong, three motion pictures and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway musical, is without a doubt the country’s most famous state fair.

National media frequently rank the Fair as one of the top events in the country. In 2004, USA Weekend named the event the #2 choice for summer fun in America, topping New York City’s Times Square, Cedar Point Amusement Park Resort in Ohio and Disneyland in California.imagesIMG_0910

Midwest Living magazine named the Fair one of the “Top 30 Things Every Midwesterner Should Experience.” The Fair is also the only fair listed in The New York Times best-selling travel book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die, and the subsequent travel book, 1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. and Canada Before you Die.

Iowa’s Fair is also known as “America’s classic state fair” because the event features all of the traditional activities associated with state fairs in a park-like, 450-acre setting (the Fair’s home since 1886). The grounds and the adjoining 160 acres of Campgrounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the buildings pre-date World War I; many are priceless examples of American exposition-style architecture.

Throughout its history, the Fair has been a unique institution, serving to educate, inform and entertain people from all walks of life. It is an outstanding agricultural showplace, boasting one of the world’s largest livestock shows. Also home to the largest art show in the state, the Fair showcases visual and performing arts with a variety of special exhibits and activities.

We (the California team) have been graciously welcomed to Iowa. The people here are fantastic! Polite, friendly and caring.  The show that has been put together for these IMG_0928kids is without a doubt unrivaled! From the moment we arrived on Saturday each and every contestant (all 1000+ of them) have been treated as if they all had gone pro! Nowhere have I seen such generosity towards giving each and every child “their” moment. Yes at the end of the week there will be winners, and there will be losers, but each child will have had “their” moment in the sun!

It starts with a green lush campground, where care has been made to keep each state together, golf carts have been provided (at a fee) to help travel across these expansive grounds with saddles, feed and nervous competitors.

Moving to the center of the fairgrounds, the entire area is closed of to traffic (golf carts only) to lessen any chances of injuries to spectators, competitors and animals.  Every manufacture is here in one gigantic pavilion, showing the latest in rodeo gear, tack and animal care products! There are numerous raffles, covering clothing, boots, saddles and yes even a new Dodge truck! Practice roping stations are everywhere for fun and another large building is set up inside as a kids zone for competitors and their family members to go play games, shoot pool or practice roping some more!

The California team consisted of the top competitors in their divisions determined at the state level (just as with every other state). This band of misfits have banded together and for those who didn’t know each other they all are becoming fast friends.  Many of the other states are joining up as well cheering each other on and everyone (parents included) seem to be having a great time.

Sunday morning started with a two-hour meeting which filled the main arena. The rules were laid out and policies explained. The grounds are filled with eyes and any infraction will cost a participant the chance to compete! Sitting in the stands you could feel the electricity as the building was filled to capacity with rodeo kids, friends and family! Flags from all the states represented are flying, including Canada and Australia! Each performance is comprised of 5/6 states with next Saturday being the short go!

The first go was Sunday night, it was a real testing of the waters as far as competition goes and man did the kids live up to the hype! The performances put forth were outstanding! Large groups of parents cheering for their states, kids cheering for friends and the ability to watch everything from both arenas on a large split screen television overhead made the events very entertaining for all involved. By the end of the evening it became clear it was definitely going to be a long week but one they all would remember for the rest of their lives!

 

More to come!