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…

 

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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]

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!

 

Reflection

Your eyes squeezed tight, small arms wrapped around my neck with the grip of a sailor, a body so small and warm, full of love, wonder and amazement.  I can do no wrong, say what I please and its funny. You love me.

A lizard in a hand, dirt under your nails; you ask questions about anything and everything.  Why is the sky blue dad, why are the stars bright dad, why do cats hate water dad, when is mommy coming home dad, why do you burp when you drink soda dad? They never stop these questions.  Secretly, even though I sigh the heavy sigh while moving in and around the house with you in tow, I like these questions.  You son are developing a sense of inquisitiveness that is inspirational. I answer each one the very best I can and the look on your face after each answer is priceless.  You love me.

Crying, screaming, it can’t be done dad! There is no possible way! Horrible shrieks of nonsensical gibberish spew forth from your mouth as time after time I push, you fall.  Peddle I scream, leave me alone you bellow in return, NO I retort; now point it straight and peddle the darn bike! Gritted teeth, glare of a thousand deaths and finally you are riding your bike! No more falling down, no more drama or tears, no more hearing “I can’t” leaking from your lips! You ride by me, big gaping smile, laughing, giggling, and then laughing some more. I have set you free, you love me…

Getting up to one knee, tears streaming down your face, I walk towards you fighting every urge to run. As a young person striving to become every bit the man you envision nothing would destroy your self-proclaimed reputation more than your father running towards you after you have fallen down. For the tears are not for any pain you may feel, a scrape, broken bone, or sprain. No the tears come from the second of fear you felt as this 1000 pound animal got the best of you, the tears also hold a smidge of anger.  Anger within yourself as you didn’t sit that ride; you knew better than to give to this studs unyielding ways but as he charged and bucked at another horse you looked where you shouldn’t have looked, pulled when you shouldn’t have pulled squeezed when you shouldn’t have squeezed and he got the best of you.  Oh don’t get me wrong, you rode him long and far (for that I am beaming with pride) but in the end the horse won out and that tear of embarrassment stings the most.  So up you stand dusting yourself off, clearing your spurs, wiping the dirt from your face.  Walking across the arena you gather him back up as he stands patiently waiting for you, wondering himself what just happened.  You have forgiven him because it’s in your nature, but he will not get the best of you again.  You ride by me; smile a dirt covered smile and then slide slowly back into the herd.  You love me…

Got one! A message relayed time and again from both sides of the boat as fish after glorious fish are reeled in, then landed.  My daughter on one side, my youngest son on the other with my oldest and middle son working the lines helping me keep tangles from happening and hooks filled with bait.  Somewhere in the middle of our journey I gave up fishing for myself.  The two older boys seeing their dad tire from keeping lines jump in to help take the pressure off.  We all laugh as the middle son talks my daughter into kissing the fish! But kiss the fish she does and then tosses back into his face! We laugh and laugh some more as stripers are caught and tossed back into the water. One child hooks a flounder and another lands the largest crawfish I have ever laid eyes upon! As the sun slips out of sight our old blue boat slowly putts its way back to the dock. Not a noise can be heard as they all stare off into the distance, tired, well fed and filled with family.  They love me..

You left in a hurry, a trip of great importance, wishing I hugged you one more time, I am left here wondering how things are going, what is happening, who you are meeting, if it’s all you dreamed it would be! Time ticks away and I act like it’s no big deal but inside my stomach is turning in knots! You have spent your entire life trying your best and with small adjustments here and there you always have succeeded.  I know this is what you want, I know it means a new start and I must let you go, but my heart aches at the prospect.  So I wait..  12 hours, 14 hours, like a faithful hound dog, I wait and wonder..  You send me a picture of you and your childhood friend, smiling from ear to ear holding acceptance certificates! You have succeeded like I always knew you would, my eyes are filled with tears, my throat is tight and dry, and soon you will be leaving us. It hurts but feels so good at the same time.  The first on my side of the family to get into a four-year college, your mother and I are beside ourselves!  Pride, joy, and excitement fill my senses as we look forward to all that awaits you.  As your father, you became everything I dreamed you would be and the world is just waiting for you to take it and do with it what you want.  I love you…

I am a lucky man to have four children to love; they have filled my life with emotions I never dreamed possible.  Each one of those paragraphs describes a moment spent individually with a child, starting then ending with my oldest.   These are moments that will forever resonate inside me for one reason or another; a look, a smile, a tear, some pain; They are all important and weave the fabric that is our family.

I am lucky to be so loved…..

 

 

 

I have finally discovered it’s a lie!

 

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It’s a lie, it’s all been one great big fat lie! I don’t know what to believe anymore! My inner self-worth has been annihilated, any resemblance of an ego obliterated and then there is the whole trust issue! Yeah that’s right I said it, T R U S T….. How on earth am I to trust anymore? Huh? Huh? What? Yeah I know, its like impossible now!

Maybe I better go back to the beginning.

(flashback mode) diddledoooo, diddleeeedooo, diddleeeedoooooo

Fourth grade and Mrs Schultz asks: Betty what do you want to be when you grow up? Now first of all its a really nice Norman Rockwell image but COME ON!!! What kid in fourth grade truly knows what they want to be when they grow up!

I throw out the only answer that comes to mind. Now before I tell you let me just preface by saying these where the days of TV shows like B.J. and the bear, White line fever and of course my personal favorite Smokey and the Bandit! “10-4 good buddy, come on back you got the Schoolboy 9 on this end!”

So if you havent guessed it, my choice of all the wonderful far-fetched career paths to be pie eyed and moon struck over was that of the truck driver! 18 wheels, coast to coast, my adventures would be never-ending.  Hauling materials to those in need and maybe even solving crime along the way.  My truck was going to be a cab over Kenworth (red) with more chrome than a 57 Chevy! Yep I had it all figured out.

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Unfortunately Mrs Schultz didn’t see it that way. For as soon as I spun my web of fantasy over the 18 wheeler I then heard from her terse red lips the common denominator that would haunt me for the rest of my educational experience. A truck driver? Are you kidding me? Son this is America, where you can be what ever you wish to become.  A images-18smart kid like you could be a doctor, or scientist, a policeman, fireman or heck if you work hard enough at it one day maybe even the President of the United States! Apparently according to everyone elses standards becoming a truck driver did not fall into the parameters of becoming what ever you want in America!

So whats a lad to do? I did what any other young man in my position would do, I tried to become everything but a truck driver. Farm hand, dishwasher, construction worker, salesman, cowman, delivery driver, dairyman and so on. You know what? I hadn’t become educated at all.  I struggled all through school, I was never tested to see if I had a learning disability or if the courses were above my comprehension level.  Always scolded for poor grades and reminded by my parents alongside administrators that with a little more effort maybe I would amount to something. Reminded constantly that in America you can be what ever you wish, as long as it isn’t a dishwasher or farm hand, construction worker, salesman, cowman, dairyman etc…. All the things I actually enjoyed doing.

When high school was over it felt as though a giant burden had been lifted from my soul. No more daily disappointment, no more struggling through classes, trying as hard as I could only to receive a C or D grade. I didn’t graduate with my class, I finished at a community college over the summer, testing and passing my GED with outstanding scores in every subject! Confusing huh? Either way I had that paper in hand, and it was time for me to enter the world, where I worked as a construction worker, dairyman, car salesman, cowman and overall farm hand.  I was happy. It suited me, I didn’t make any money but I also didn’t care.  My family was confused with my choices, these jobs to them had no future, no means of long-term sustenance.  It wasnt what parents wanted for their children in America! Nope, here in the states anyone can be anything and do what ever they choose.  Want to be a doctor? Just find the funding, go to school and whala! You are a doctor, revered by all who see you and the talk of every mothers book club! She must be so proud! He works on a dairy? Oh honey I am so sorry he let you all down. (must be a sign of poor parenting)

I finally got the nerve one day to ask my boss if I could drive his 10 wheel tank truck. He said yes and after two years of hard work, long hours and very few days off I earned the opportunity (key word being “opportunity”)to get behind the wheel of his 18 wheel hay truck. A few more long days of practicing backing it up, moving it around the dairy both loaded and unloaded and before long-wait for it-wait for it- have you guessed yet? THATS RIGHT MRS. SCHULTZ I WAS DRIVING A SEMI-TRUCK ALL OVER NORTHERN CALIFORNIA!!!! WHOOP WHOOP! She was blue and chrome and covered in shiny aluminum and she was all mine!!!

I spent ten years driving hay trucks, logging over a million miles. When I decided the dream wasnt all it had been cracked up to be (no crime fighting you know) I went back to school and after 5 years of working 90 hour work weeks, volunteering at one fire department while working part-time on Sundays (the only day off I had) I landed a full-time gig as a firefighter for the department I continue to work for to this day 18 years later.

So I am sure you are scratching your head wondering where the lie is? Betty acquired a respectable job after all? What the heck?

Today I am surrounded by children of all ages. Helping at schools, my wife being a teacher, having taught High School Fire Science for 5 years, 4-H, FFA etc… And what I see scares me. Scares me to the very core of my being, and because of this lie perpetrated upon myself and generations of children it is only going to get worse.  I see children walking around with their heads full of shit! I see a school system developed to check the boxes, not explore the possibilities, I see bright inquisitive minds  molded, compressed, held back, all to meet a systems ideal of how children should be taught.  As if all minds worked exactly the same, all brains absorbed information at the same rate, all eyes see exactly the same information you the teacher have so carefully placed upon the school board.

When I look into a classroom or gaze upon a group at practice it’s so obvious there little gears are all turning at different levels.  Ask them to perform, if you are truly paying attention then you will see one maybe two get it the first time, three-nine get it the second time and 3-5 are still processing with one or two so utterly lost they use humor or anger to hide their mistrust of the educational system, coaching and the adults who have lied to them all along.

Why are we as a society standing by, allowing this to happen? We preach children are our future then walk away, dropping the most precious soul we have at the school door hoping a state-run system will prepare them for the world! The United States ranks 17 in the world for education. That is 17th out of 40 countries, I am sorry not everyone gets a trophy on this one people! Wake up! Our children are learning how to check the boxes, they no longer have the ability to think for themselves, they need multiple choice answers to make an attempt at anything and I am sorry if this pisses anyone off but why aren’t we testing them early to determine what they ARE good at instead of filling their heads with shit! Lying to them constantly by telling them its ok, you can be what ever you want to be! Just try harder next time! No matter how hard you try or don’t try, everyone will get a trophy, everyone will get our prescribed education, everyone needs to understand you can have what ever you want or need because you are an educated American which leaves you automatically entitled to it all!

Liars!

How much better would our society be if all children were tested, thusly developing a plan to educate them accordingly. Children from 1-12 grade would develop a stronger sense of pride through accomplished work.  Work that not only do they have the ability to understand but actually excel at! WOW what a concept! Educators knowing who has the mental acuity to thrive in college bringing our countries A game to the highest level.  Educators also knowing who will thrive in trade schools and wow what a difference they will make with workers proud of their jobs, bringing careers to the highest of levels because they have found success through hard work and understanding of the processes associated with these career choices.

Listen I know it’s not that simple, but I also know whats happening now is not working. It didn’t work when I was a child and it surely isn’t working with 30 years of revisions. I spent the better part of my childhood ashamed that I was stupid, terrified of tests (something I still struggle with as an adult) and mentally not prepared for the world by my parents or my teachers. To this day I feel lost when I can’t figure something out, ashamed to ask for help, in fear of being reminded of just how dumb I really am. Why? Because that’s the education system I was raised in, told to sink or swim, toe the line or be towed, then patted on the head and reminded I can be what ever I want to be! It was all a lie.

images-16You cannot be anything you wish to be, and a society that frowns upon those who wish to become part of the blue-collar group is a society destined for failure through the creation of uninspired and lazy human beings. Chastising them will only push them away from what they love, not teaching them the basics of blue-collar work and cheering their successes will only develop more animosity and hatred towards society.  At some point a person tires of hearing how their choices are a failure and they just quit. It’s an ugly circle and you can see its effects daily in the news.

On the flip side how many children who are naturally quiet, reserved and fearful of the monster that is our 40 child classroom one way of learning educational system are freaking geniuses? How many undiscovered talents quietly sulk in the rear of classrooms across this country because fear keeps them from learning? Future Mensa card holders never to discovered due to a system that would never find them.

Lets stop the lie. Lets go back to fostering young minds, drawing out creativity, celebrating the individual, and developing unashamed, caring human beings filled with knowledge, empathy and love.

So yes today I finally figured out it was all a lie and no matter how hard I try I am not going to become the President of the United States, but if we could just become fifth in the world of education, then maybe everyone can have a trophy….

“A young head filled with shit, will eventually become an older self entitled shit which in turn will blossom into an adult piece of shit! Useless to themselves and society as a whole because they just dont give a shit.”

Unknown-12

Strike three! You are outta here! Or should be?

Unknown-10

 

Well my darlings, I must apologize for being absent for the last three weeks.  Between work, little league baseball, 4-H, the ranch and life in general there has been little time for me to pony up to a computer and write (no I still have not moved into the modern age and purchased a laptop or tablet).

So whats bothering Betty tonight? What has ruffled Betty’s skirt and driven her to break the silence of the last three weeks? Unfortunately its baseball.

I say unfortunately because I believe baseball to be the last bastions of pure sporting left to behold. Baseball has and always will captivate me, leave me bewildered and mesmerized as play after play with all its strategy and purity is performed before my very eyes.  I love it! So when my children ask if they can play little league baseball of course the answer is yes!

Now I am no virgin to the ways of little league baseball! The politics, coaches hoarding players and building teams to hopefully ensure a championship! What ever! The name of the game is winning, and winning is what it is all about! Betty coached for 5 years in various levels and thoroughly enjoyed watching kids build their skills and feel success as plays were massaged, rules enforced and just for a moment greatness was felt! The building blocks of success for the young! Heavy sigh…..

So whats grinding on me about little league at this very moment? What has me screaming  bullshit towards the ump over a bad call that was obviously a strike? Jumping up and down like a crazed fan who just saw a double play for the first time live?

PARENTS AND COACHES

Ladies and Gentlemen in all my years I have never and I mean NEVER seen such a poor example of sportsmanship from both parents and coaches alike! Every night at the ball field there is some Al Bundy wanna be still reliving his 4 touchdowns in a single game illustration_2010_01_09_rockwell_inside_artfrom high school! This fool at the top of his lungs is screaming at a teenage umpire about how that last call was shit! Every four letter word in the book is thrown at this poor hapless youngster who is just trying to pass down his love for the game through umpiring only to become emotionally damaged by some fat ass 40 something threatening to kick his ass for a bad call made on his kid! Hey fat ass guess what little junior is not the next Buster Posey! He may never wear a Yankees uniform and unless I missed something, little league is supposed to be fun! Not much fun when old dad is near cardiac arrest over a call made by a child just trying to do the right thing and not even getting paid for it!

Then there is the upper leagues, “Majors” where ball playing really gets serious! My sons team is 18-2, no other team is close, yet it never ceases to amaze me the shit talking that goes on from both parents and coaches of the defeated teams.  On the field coaches are acting like asses! Yelling at their kids after a loss things like; you are a disgrace, you make all of us look bad, do you like being losers because that is just what you are a bunch of losers! Or better yet, when one of our kids get on base near the opposing teams dugout, coaches from the opposing team are belittling our players! Are you kidding me? Heres and idea, practice! I know novel concept huh? We practice six days a week and the kids cant wait to get together because thier caoch makes it fun! Holy shit FUN on the ball field, thats just unheard of!!!!

ladies and gentlemen the last time I checked these were kids. Kids who play baseball on break between classes in school, kids who would play where they want, when they want, with or without us adults intervening, kids who pretend they are major league stars for only a moment while up at bat! Kids who play for fun! Thats right they play because it isUnknown-8 fun!!! So I pose a simple question, why have we as adults decided the game is all about us? Why have we as adults taken it upon ourselves to put pressure on these kids to perform to standards that can’t be met, and most important of all why are we as adults admonishing them, belittling them and treating them like shit when they lose, instead of being the coaches we are supposed to be and working with them to create better players, better sportsman, and better human beings all through the venue of one of the greatest games ever played? Why?

I watched two grown men from opposing teams almost come to blows over a supposed “bad” call the other night! Not only was it an embarrassment for the teams, it was an embarrassment for the adults and it sure as hell was an embarrassment for the children. I know in the middle of the game I wouldn’t want to look up while at bat to see what all the commotion was about and find my dad poking some guy in the chest calling him an asshole! What the hell?

So all you part-time dads, Al Bundy’s of the world and all around abusive, small-minded, low self-esteem losers, listen up! Its baseball! It’s supposed to be fun, your kids are supposed to have fun win or lose (yes losing is no fun, but teaching a child how to lose with dignity only to win again at a later date is priceless) then leave the park feeling good! Not feeling like they are losers, or their coach hates them, or they let their parents down, or wondering why little Barry Bonds jr.’s dad is being arrested and hauled off to jail for beating the shit out of little Derek Jeters dad over a bad call.

Pull your heads out of your asses parents and lets allow our children to PLAY BALL!

Unknown-9

My Words of Wisdom for the Day

When working to achieve a goal in todays day and age of instant gratification one thing must always be remembered. Hard work will always bring lasting peace to ones mind, body and soul.  It wont happen instantly, at the push of some electronic button, but after days, weeks and even months of steady resolve.

Just saying..   Carry on that is all….

What horses taught me..

jake and blaze

What horses taught me about myself and raising children?

Horses have always at one time or another been a part of my life.  During a very long period I did my best to refuse any knowledge of i-phone pics 002their existence.  Carefully placing walls up around my feelings, hoping to keep them hidden for eternity.  When people would broach the subject, my lips were sealed, if someone in the room asked: have you ever owned horses? My moral character would never allow me to lie in regards to the subject, but my explanation was usually short and sweet;

My parents owned horses; I was raised on a working horse ranch complete with 15 stall barn, paddocks, hot walker, roping arena and cattle chutes.  We had a trainer for a while and the business always seemed to be the root of my parents quarreling.  Dad was the president of a local horseman’s association and although at the time horses were not my favorite animals, some of my fondest memories were hanging out at horse shows, eating hamburgers and playing under the grandstands.  The monthly meetings were also on my fond memories list.  The people my parents associated with were all wonderful and cared about everyone’s kids! We sat at the bar, drank 7-up with cherries in them and overlooked the valley below.  Can I ride a horse? Yes. Do I want horses? No! End of discussion.

What I never realized until just recently was raising horses as a child set me up for success as an adult.  Learning to care for these creatures on a daily basis was actually the first step in learning to care for myself and others.  I know it sounds crazy but it also allowed me the opportunity to fail miserably without actually harming imagesCAJ72HWVanyone, as my parents were right there to chastise, redirect and place me back on the proper course with each and every animal regardless of how much I bucked the system.  Horses are very forgiving animals, if you are late feeding them they won’t complain, missed cleaning their stall that afternoon, not a word said, didn’t get to riding them, they will let you know the first couple of minutes in the arena but it’s nothing a little re-direction won’t fix and after a pet or two on the head all is right with the world.

So how did horses re-enter my life and what does it have to do with raising children?

mom and dadMarried with children; horses re-entered my life under the guise of being for the children.  I was pulled back into the equine world kicking and screaming by a wife wise beyond her years when it came to dealing with my absolute stubbornness.  As I ranted and raved about reliving my parents quarreling over money and animals, as I clenched my fists and retorted with barbs about horses being the devil and all who possess them are crazy! My wife calmly reminded me it wasn’t about me, it wasn’t about the anger I harbored towards an existence that was a lifetime ago brought about by a mind not fully developed but mired in the process of youth.  I regaled the horror of taking care of animals and how I didn’t want my children hurt, trampled, kicked, bit or thrown from these four legged beasts.  My projectswife would remind me our children were already taking care of animal projects for 4-H and this was just an extension of those duties.  Before long my grip on the past loosened, the mental walls were knocked down and we became horse owners.  My children began riding, my wife began riding, I returned to the saddle and our future in the horse world was set on a collision course with my past.

the familyJake and Haley

Today; all of my children ride horses, one not as much as the other three but he enjoys cleaning stalls and helping out when he can. Our children are not left to sit on the sidelines as we were all those years ago.

cody They ride and they ride fairly well; they make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and look forward to every chance they get to “show” their horses. Do I expect them to win? No! Am I proud of them whether they do well or not? Yes! It will be some of the very best memories ever retained and upon my death bed, as my eyes begin to close and darkness overtakes me I hope to picture these children of mine smiling having fun, still small able to fit in my arms, full of love for their animals and their father.  

cassieI ride a cutting horse; as my parents rode in shows, I too am in the  ring doing my best.  We belong to an association and I became a board member.  Cutting is always on my mind! How to become better, how to make my horse better, how to just relax and get the hell out of my horses way because she actually knows what she’s doing and on several occasions really just doesn’t need my help.  Either way I am obsessed and cannot wait until the show season starts again.

My wife rides any horse she can get her hands on.  The challenge of a new horse along with the exhilaration that comes from an unknown is always on her mind.  Her personal horse is a blazegigantic Belgian draft who is sweet and believes to be a puppy dog.  She follows you around everywhere, wanting to do everything to make you proud of her. She loves being pet, brushed and ridden, we couldn’t have asked for a better animal for our family. We have made friends with some very wonderful people through this the girlsprocess, friends I believe we will have for life.  These fantastic people are of the very same character surrounding me as a child.  My children are reaping the benefits.

We have many horses; we board a few horses, and have built up a very nice place for our children to be raised and their friends to come play.  Nothing brings a greater joy to my wife and I then introducing a child to the joys of riding horses!

With time/age comes wisdom and with that wisdom comes the uncontrollable urge to share.  So here are ten things horses have taught me about myself and raising children.

  1. Frustration manifests into anger and there is no place for either when training a horse or raising a child.
  2. Forgiveness is felt and received by both children and horses. If you show forgiveness, you teach forgiveness. Then forgiveness is shown in return.
  3. Trust is earned.  You may not think you need to earn trust with your children but you would be dead wrong. The same goes for a horse. If a horse doesn’t trust you, your relationship is dead in the water.
  4. Having the ability to express love is one of the most important attributes human beings hold.  Show that love in every aspect of what you do.
  5. Discipline must be fair, just and repeated the same each and every time.  Then it should be followed by number 4, thus reaffirming your commitment.
  6. Talking will always calm their nerves.  A nervous animal can be dangerous, so can quite a few children I have known over the years.  Talking with them, showing interest and care usually will bring nervousness to an end allowing them both to build a confidence that will expand with age.
  7. What you put in their bodies will equate to what you receive in performance. If you expect your horses to perform, feed them well.  If you expect your children to perform well, both educationally and athletically, make sure they have nutritious food at their disposal.
  8. Give them a warm safe place to call home.  Everyone, even animals need a safe place to call home. It builds security and confidence, and grounds both animals and humans alike.
  9. When children or horses make a mistake. Forgive them, correct them and allow them the opportunity to get it right.  We all make mistakes; treating either one as though you are perfect all the time will eventually lead you down a path of failure.
  10. Keep them clean and groomed.  It sounds silly but as your child feels good about a new outfit for school, so does your horse feel about being clean, brushed and prepared for a day of being worked or ridden on the trail.  It’s in our make up to always want to look good.  You always notice that gorgeous stallion with the long flowing mane and tail, so does a mare. You also always notice the kid you took the time and effort to dress appropriately.  Make that your kid and your horse.

As you can see my life has come full circle.  My children take care of family rideanimals, feeding, watering, riding, and showing them love. It’s not always done right, but they try, we redirect and success is always on the horizon. The lessons of my childhood, expanded upon and being re-taught to my unsuspecting little sponges! Hopefully when they are grown adults our children will continue to expand upon these lessons and not place them in a closet of emotion wasting years on anger that could have been used to further enjoy a platform we have provided them for life.

 my kids

My Words of Wisdom for the Day

So you want to be successful son?

Well guess what? It’s not something I can give you. Success is not something you can buy. You cannot sit on the sidelines and wait for success to magically arrive at your doorstep!

Success depends on your ability to translate desire into obsession. When you live it, eat it, drink it, dream it, and lose sleep over it, day after day, it’s then and only then obsession will drive you towards becoming successful.

Success has been and always will be, completely up to you.

Love dad

Carry on that is all…

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Olympic Bound..

Watching the 2012 London Olympics over the last 12 days has left me in athletic awe! How I yearn for a challenge of that magnitude,  to focus mind, body and soul on one sporting activity, rise to the challenge, overcome insurmountable obstacles to be the very best that I can become!

Yes it is true, like many young people around the world I have decided to become an Olympian! To feel the thunderous roar of an adoring crowd, performing at the peak of my physical prowess, standing atop an Olympic podium while our National Anthem plays and I (being the great Olympian I am)do my best to lip sync the words knowing that someone at home can tell I have no idea what the hell they are! Yes, YES I want to be that guy!! (Thunderous applause)

Sadly, there is one little problem with my dream, a small issue really but a problem none the less.  I am 45 years old and last I checked there weren’t too many athletes at 45 breaking ANY world records! Oh sure I run most days (3-5 miles), work out constantly in the gym,and eat (somewhat)right, yet near a 4 minute mile I am not! In fact I don’t believe there to be anyone currently cresting the precipice of senior citizenship dominating the track and field ranks! Not one person of age flowing effortlessly without the aid of Ben-Gay or a walker traversing a gymnastics canvas! Not one person that can be referred to as “sir” or “ma’m”  swimming at dolphin like speed or rowing sculls with the ease of a 5 horse power outboard! So what‘s a guy like me to do? All these dreams, hopes, aspirations bottled up inside ready to explode upon the scene? What to do, WHAT TO DO?????

ANSWER:

I will “do” as any red-blooded American father would; I will impose my wishes upon my children!  Disguise their efforts as being “what they want”!  Twist their little minds and stress their little bodies fulfilling my dreams not theirs! Propping them up high on a pedestal of half-truths with statements like; you are the best, no one can perform like you, daddy loves you even when you fail (lie), oh and remember we are doing all of this just for you!  Yeah that’s the ticket!

Want to join the swim/dive team? Well then you will swim/dive morning and night everyday all year round eating tofu and drinking tiger’s milk! Up the ladder jump! Onto the starting block, jump! Swim, swim, swim and dive, dive, dive! Honing your craft, building your skill set and slowly becoming a champion! Hee, hee hee!

Gymnastics, wrestling, boxing or trampoline; No problem, hit the gym kid and don’t worry about school, you don’t need friends from the outside, you have us! Gym people are your family now, plus we’ll get you a tutor so training is all you focus on! LOOOOVVEEE YYOOUUU!

Want to be a runner/sprinter? Peeeerrrrrffffeeeecccccttttt…….

Get the hell out of the car right now! Start running! Oh don’t worry, we won’t leave you behind, but if the Australian Runners can train in the desert and those little Kenyan kids can run from village to village out of necessity thusly making the Olympics as young adults; then your sorry little butt can run out of pride! The pride you are going to bring your father when he receives his Olympic passes in 2016 whoop, whoop (tear in my eye)!! That right kid; so shut your pie hole and start running, we have little time and lots of miles and injuries to get through so WE can make it to the national trials! Oh yeah, give me a hug because daddy thinks your number one!

So there it is, my plan is in place! National exposure, our countries pride along with selfless coaching on my part will bring them to the forefront of the Olympic stage! Thereby ultimately allowing me to perform as an Olympian! Genius, pure genius I tell you!!!

They may hate me for a while but once a Gold medal is around my neck; whoops I mean around their neck (wink, wink)it will all be worth it; right? Yes sir look out NBC’s Today show here we come!!

In closing, later tonight we will stand in front of a mirror while developing our signature “thanking Jesus” ritual!

                                To the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!!!