The little horse with a big heart..

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He was small, stout, nervous and had the type of heartwarming personality most people would kill to exude. When he walked across the roadway from one ranch to another we knew right away he was something very special.

As with all things special, he came with a story.

My son had been desperately searching for a good rope horse. As rodeo was progressing so were his roping skills and a good sound horse was on the agenda. One day at a cutting my neighbor saw me from across the parking lot, we made eye contact and he headed my way. A solid handshake and hello was followed with; I heard your son is looking for a horse? I said yes and he went on to tell me about this gelding he had that hadn’t made it as a cutter but had so much personality and drive my neighbor just couldn’t let him go. The problem? This horse needed a job. It was killing my neighbor to see such a wonderful horse with so much to give doing nothing and if my son was interested, after a test ride or two we may be able to strike a deal.

Of course I smiled, it sounded very promising and I said we would be over that week to take a look.

We walked across the road one afternoon and after the cordial hello’s, an introduction to the horse and a few laps around the indoor arena it was apparent these two were going to get along. My son was smiling from ear to ear riding this flashy paint gelding with an obvious personality twice his size. My neighbor was smiling too.

It was time for the deal making.

My neighbor helped the boy untack the horse and then pulled him aside. With a stern look on his face he proceeded to list the good, the bad and the ugly as all good horsemen should because no horse is truly perfect. Afterword’s it was time to negotiate a price. My son asked timidly how much for such a fine horse. My neighbor replied $5 dollars. Shocked my son repeated this monetary demand ensuring he’d heard it right! Yes this horse was being sold to my son, on this day only for the amazing sum of $5 dollars! He was also being sold with a thirty day money back guarantee! If for any reason my son changed his mind or decided the horse was too much animal he could simply walk said horse across the street, no strings attached and receive his $5 dollar bill back! Now after thirty days our neighbor made it very clear he would still take the horse back but he was keeping the $5 dollars.

My son ran across the street to gather his money and paid him promptly with a handshake and a gigantic, beaming smile.

Twoey set foot on our place and within minutes we all thought he was great. He seemed to be smiling and he acted as though he wanted to talk with you. Over the next year, hundreds of hours of practice and bonding between him and my son led us to know and understand just how great he really was.

Within two weeks we set out to get him into a great roping program with a well-known trainer. We loaded him up and dropped him off at the facility of our choice. After three weeks we received a phone call from the trainer. The call that morning was to initially let us know it just wasn’t working out. His nervousness, big engine and inability to focus were detrimental to becoming a rope horse. We of course also heard repeatedly just how sweet he could be and that everyone in the barn loved him! This was no shocker to us! But then something happened. On that very mornings practice everything clicked and the small, nervous horse with the giant engine and sweet disposition was repeatedly roping one steer after another. The trainer in a matter of hours had changed his mind and was requesting we keep him there a little longer.

When Twoey finally came home he pranced around our place like he was a Lipizzaner stallion! As though not only he knew he had accomplished something great but we all should bask in the glory of his accomplishments too! My son and he over the next month grew closer and closer and it didn’t take long before he could call Twoeys name and the horse would cover hill and dale to get at my boy. Lip quivering with excitement all the way.

Sometime later my neighbor ran into me again and asked how the horse was doing? I replied great, then explained all the training he’d undergone. My neighbor asked; how long did it take you to get him into a horse trailer? Shocked by the question I replied; I opened the door, said Twoey load up and pointed inside. Without hesitation the horse walked in and I closed the divider behind him. I had no idea he’d never, ever been in a trailer before. And just like that, there it was, the beauty of this horse. His mind always turning, thinking, he was willing to do anything to please you, to get a treat or a pet, he would literally do what ever it took to make you like him. He was a 1000 pound four hooved puppy dog that you just happened to be able to saddle and ride.

Not only was he taught to team rope or more precisely work in the role of a heel horse. But after a year on the ranch, my son also taught him to be a calf horse. He learned how to work cattle both in the pen and on the range, he roped, doctored and branded and he never, ever flinched. Not once.

Twoey also decided he really liked people. All people, and camera;s too! He was a super camera ham!! But he especially liked children. If he saw you near the fence he would always be the first to greet you, let you pet him and even give you a kiss. His nervous lip would always be quivering but it was his style and oh what an endearing style it was.

Four years later his paddock is right next to the house, he and his buddy Levi (the bulldogging horse) run around like mutt and jeff. They are inseparable. They travel to rodeos together, live together, eat together and look out for one another. Every time I see my son walking them from one paddock to another without halters, no worry as to whether or not they may leave him in the dust. Heads down, calm demeanors, moving alongside him like something straight out of a western, well it always makes me smile. Whenever I come home he is the very first horse I see and he will remind you he is there by knickering at you. If I’ve had a bad day, his quivering lips and kisses always make life just a little better.

Today at work I received the phone call no one who owns horses ever wants.

Twoeys hurt and it’s bad. You need to come home now!

Not knowing the situation I chose to wait until I got home and put my eyes on things before alerting my son who was at work. Yet as I pulled in the driveway a burgundy blur that is his F-250 flew by in a cloud of dust. No notification needed.

Walking into the barn I knew instantly it was bad, very, very bad. The long look on several faces as our borders gathered to help in any way was all I needed. Rounding the corner I see him, lip quivering, soaked in sweat, holding his left hind leg in the air while my son is squatted nearby holding his head in his hands. He knew it was bad too. Again, no words needed to be spoken.

Looking over my sons shoulder the picture became much clearer. A full avulsion from just under the Talus all the way down the leg to just above the Long pastern bone. Gone were the middle ligament and the lateral tendon, remaining was nothing but shredded skin and white, clean bone. It was so massive and mesmerizing I couldn’t believe this horse was even standing. My jaw was on the ground and the sheer size of this injury and the fact this horse was still upright wanting to be pet and kissed was boggling.

Our vet was out of town, several backups were called, but in the end UC Davis was notified and two vets were sent right away. Twoey’s lip quivered, his ears were up and forward, he licked his lips and looked as though he was wondering why everyone was making such a fuss over him. We gave him some medication to make him more comfortable and we waited. The dreadful long slow mind fucking wait!

During this time we found out he and Levi had somehow escaped, running through a fence while on their escapades. No one saw the accident or even how it happened. All anyone knew (including my daughter who saw them running about) was they were out and something just didn’t look right with Twoeys leg as he was running.

Our neighbor came over and assisted with his old horse. I was very glad to have him there, decisions needed to be made and it was comforting to have someone else to bounce things off. Twoey was surrounded by people who loved him and we did our best to keep him calm. My son was falling apart on the inside but very stoic on the outside. We both never said it, but each eye contact we made we knew the direction this was headed and it was tearing us both apart inside.

The vet arrived, several photographs were taken and consultations through the latest in technology led to only one plausible outcome for our dear sweet boy.

Today at 5:30 pm, under the old oak tree on our property our friend, my sons best friend, the face of our ranch after the passing of Tank (another story) and one of the smartest, sweetest horses I have ever known was laid to rest in tall green grass with those who loved him the most right by his side.

My son sat next to his head, stroking his mane and made direct eye contact with his buddy until the very last breath was taken. He and I hugged, we both cried.

Twoey was gone.

We gave my son some time alone with Twoey. There is a special bond between a boy and his horse, especially when that horse was the first one you ever trained for yourself, purchased with your own money, taught to come like a dog, give kisses only when asked and ride trail until there is no more trail to ride.

That horse loved him, believed in him and trusted him all the way till his very last breath. That is an amazing bond few youngsters from 13-17 will ever know.

When I came back after signing paperwork I rounded the corner headed towards the old oak tree just in time to see him. Sitting there on the ground, his arms around his horse and although I know he won’t admit it, he was crying. As a father it was the hardest thing to watch. It made my heart painfully, crushingly hurt and broke my spirit just a little more. Nothing in this world is more painful than the suffering of your own child. Nothing is more painful for a child than saying goodbye.

As I write this, I am in tears. Not for myself, not for Twoey as he feels no more pain, but for my son as he is going to feel lost and filled with anger and sadness for a while. Also for our family, I have two younger children who adored him and are in disbelief he is actually gone. I am also sad for our friends who knew Twoey through rodeo, interacted with him and all that knew what a sweet horse he was. I’m crying because our family is now missing an important stone in the foundation of our ranch.

Our boy is gone forever, this $5 dollar horse, the kind of horse and story no one believes until they see it for themselves. May he run heavens fields free, I hope he is with his old rodeo traveling partner Tank. Maybe Cooper is running alongside, barking and chasing his tail. May he know just how much we all loved and adored him? May my son rest easy soon and not dwell too hard on the tough decisions life brings. Even though they at times are dreadfully painful. His final words to me tonight were; this has been the worst day of my life.

I know deep inside, right now he is beating himself up thinking, just one more ride, why couldn’t I have had, just one more ride…..

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7 Habits of a grateful Rodeo kid

 

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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!!!

 

 

 

 

 

When a mullet is more than a mullet.

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It came from my mouth like venom through a snakes bite. Over and over again I struck, not just during one opportunity but through countless encounters. My victim continually wandering into my lair, setting himself up for attack, never backing away but every now and again wincing just a little. It was cruel and at first unintentional, but intentions can change with the wind, leaving the recipient wondering what the hell. Soon every attack had intention and meaning, usually in front of others as if it made me a better person for calling out my victims perceived flaws. It didn’t. My strikes were evil, demeaning and showed that I was nothing more than a full-grown bully. Others would join in and like a pack of hungry dogs we feasted upon our victim’s distress. Gnawing, tearing away at his very fabric, and never once thinking about the consequences or where it may leave him emotionally. All in the name of the past, our perception and what we felt was humorous.

Last night, awake, staring at the ceiling, my mind raced over the last few months and how hard it’s been for me to keep mentally strong. Focusing directly on each child’s needs, where I may have succeeded and where I have failed. Wondering about the future and what it holds for this family I continue trying to plan the next step. Our children will need their father to be overly understanding as emotions are high. My game needs to be spot on as to not let them get away with things they shouldn’t all while easing up just a bit allowing them to feel whatever emotions they feel in regards to their mothers absence.

My daughter and 15-year-old son have presented the largest challenge.

Parker knows who he is and is very comfortable with himself. He tells you how he feels and makes no bones about you overreacting to any portion of his mental/physical/educational progress. His mind in some areas is a bit regressed while in others he is wise beyond his little 10 year old years. Lately though school has been a significant challenge for him. Myself, the school and a dear friend who has been assisting him at home have all come up with a solid game plan to keep him in play. We want him to rodeo badly as we think it will be a good distraction and it is after all what we do as a family. He wants nothing to do with rodeo and fights us at every corner. Frustrating to say the least.

Jessica my 11 year old daughter is coming into her own. Straight A student who always strives to please. She is currently expressing herself by being defiant, to everything, and I mean EVERYTHING! She has a problem controlling her weight, it is a giant burden for her that she takes very seriously. Since mom has gone back into the hospital and been gone for these four months I recently found she is sneaking food at night again. A sort of coping mechanism for her emotional status. She hides the food out of fear. Fear that she will get in trouble for eating after hours. There was a time when this was a huge issue in our family and we even went as far as building caged doors for our pantry to keep not just her but all our little vultures from eating us out of house and home. She is struggling hard, not just with the eating, but back talking, arguing, and picking fights like a drunken sailor with only hours left on shore leave! Somedays she marches around with her fists all balled up and you just know, like a back alley brawl it’s about to go DOWN!

Our rodeo cowboy Jake has also been “bucking” (see how I did that?) the system as well! He hits everyday toes turned out, hand locked tight ready to turn out and hit it hard. More times than not he hits the dirt hard, but the boy saddles up and just keeps trying. Jake too has been working at finding his place amongst all of this family drama. He carries a lot of responsibility when it comes to the ranch and he is such a large man sized boy I often forget he is just that; a boy. He struggles with his grades, constantly. He is also struggling to make the right decisions when it comes to friends and after school extra-curricular activities. We have all been there and I think it’s why we want better for our children. I have made no secret about my past, about my high school experience. I chose the easier way out and I need them to learn from those mistakes. Taking the easy way out put me close to ten years behind in life. Unfortunatley like his father he has this need to experience things, to learn the hard way, and it scares the shit out of me. We have been butting heads very hard over the last few weeks to a point I feel like we were going nowhere. Lately besides grades, his behavior and his decisions when presented with an opportunity to run astray with his friends have not been good. I have also been riding him pretty hard about his new, old school hairstyle. Emotionally he looks like a beat dog.

So here is where I am going with this whole thing.

Today as we are preparing for a family visit with Ms. Jacy my gander hit the fridge. There upon it is 20 or so pictures of our family from over the last two years. Do you know what I saw? Our kids, our happy well adjusted, personable children. Smiles on their faces, hugging their bald mom, laughing with each other, holding up trophy buckles, works of art, hugging the dogs, yes the dogs are family too! Our children that I spent all night worrying about how I was doing as a father all looked ok. Each one showed their own style! Their own version of who they are at the very moment a shutter froze them in time. I saw four individuals, four young people choosing their own paths regardless of anyone else’s wishes and doing it with confidence. It was an amazing moment filling my heart with joy! But you know what stuck out the most? Jakes mullet.

Jakes mullet stuck out like a white flag waving from the trenches! Telling me it was time for me to wave that flag, surrender and ask forgiveness. For you see each one of our kids has something I constantly pick at, like a good parent should! You know, a slight course adjustment or suggestion to help them understand they aren’t fitting into a classification, a social mold if you will. A couple of things dawned on me in that very moment. One, why should our children fit into any classification? Are we not supposed to allow them a certain freedom to find out who they really are? If that means some heartbreak now and again then so be it! It will teach them how to handle themselves in tough emotionally charged situations. And two, no matter the other out of the norm issues I had in fact been particularly hard on Jake and for what? A chosen hairstyle?

When Parker said no to rodeo, claimed art as his thing and took to ditching a ball cap in favor of a flat brimmed drivers cap making him appear very artsy in deed, did I scoff at the notion? Hell no! In fact it is 100 percent ok that he hates rodeo, horses and all that goes with it. That is his choice. He has tried it, given it a good go and ended up in the hospital a few times! Trust me his thought process may change at some point and if it doesn’t so be it! That’s who he is, we love him for it and by the way the kid is very creative! His art shows a caring heart, personality and great love for all things.

When Jessica started stealing food from downstairs to hide in her bedroom. Eating at all times of the night even though we spent countless hours chastising her for such behavior did I freak out? Well YES I freaked out! I freaked the hell out! Worried my daughter’s weight issues would expand, she would be uncomfortable with herself and have huge body issues as the result of bullying! But somewhere along the line I realized the problem was not all her, part of the blame was us, more importantly me. So I pulled her aside and let her know it was ok to eat. If she felt hungry, just eat, take what you want and eat it. My only rule? Let me know you are going to eat so I can approve it or find you an alternative. She looked shocked as though the words coming from my mouth were some form of cruel joke! But nothing shocked her more than when I told her as long she is comfortable with herself, as long as she can look in the mirror and love herself for who she is, then who cares what anyone else thinks. My job is to educate you, help you make the right choices and hope you come away a strong and confident woman. If that strong and confident woman is what society deems as overweight or out of the norm then tough shit! I told her I loved her and gave her a hug. She left with a huge smile.

One thing I have repeatedly told all my children is find who you are, embrace it, make the most of it, discovery is how you find yourself so that when you are an adult you can be happy with the person you have become and you will never shrug off reinventing yourself. Yet here I was tearing apart those very values by continually ridiculing, mocking, terrorizing and just plain bullying my son over a stupid haircut! Now let’s be frank, the mullet is hands down in my opinion the dumbest looking haircut around, conjuring up images of Billy Ray Cyrus in two sizes to small faded jeans jumping around like an idiot! But that’s just it, it is my “achy breaky” image of what that haircut means to me. To him it represents several of his rodeo heroes, men he looks up too, that he wishes to emulate! I am sorry that just isn’t a bad thing and if it is what defines him as a person right here, right now, then so be it! This is how he takes those words of advice and runs with them, learning, crafting and molding the person he wishes to become! Somewhere I lost that, somewhere I felt it was ok to tear him down over and over again. On the fridge there was a card with a picture of him with both long and short hair. You know what? He is the same kid! The kid I love for who he is, not what his damn hair looks like. Today I sent him this text.

“Hey, just wanted to tell you something that’s on my mind. I know things have been rough lately between us, I hope you are learning from each encounter as I am learning from them as a father. I believe you are trying your hardest in school so don’t let yourself down. Continue to strive to always be a little better for yourself, not for me. I realized today I need to lay off you about that damn mullet. I have spent my whole adult/fatherly life preaching to you kids to be your own person and yet I contradict myself by giving you crap! If that hairstyle defines you right now then so be it! I apologize for all the grief I have given you. I am proud of you for being comfortable with who you are and that is one of the most important things for any young man to achieve. Keep up the good work, have a fantastic day, I love you…”

He replied by saying thanks dad, it’s just a rodeo thing and I don’t care about the mullet grief. I am working hard on my grades and I love you too.

Maybe it was just me.

So bring back the mullet son, business in the front, party in the rear! Either way, a mullet, a few well-placed photographs, and a sleepless night all combined so I could learn when fatherhood crosses the line into parental bullying, ending with the discovery that your child, hell your children are really doing just fine…

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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I love a Western…

Saloon doors open as the wind drives a tumbleweed through the barren streets of a lonely little high plains town. Inside a half-witted piano player takes note of the mid-sized stranger strolling slowly through the doors, across the threshold.  Quiet falls upon the gallery of scraggly, dirty, motley looking inhabitants renting temporary refuge inside this dank place of excess.  A bartender moves slowly as to not give away his left hands position upon a firmly mounted sawed off double barrel beneath the bar. The stranger moves forward entering the center of the room, eyes steeled upon a table of well dressed men and low brow women.  Money on the table and enough whiskey to purchase a round for the bar three times over are strewn about.  With every step the stranger takes, the farther away life’s crustaceans scurry.  Before long the stranger is standing alone, jaw locked tight, hands laying limply by his side, a gentlemen dressed in what would be most mens Sunday best sits before him.  Without turning around the well dressed man continues to play poker to an unwilling table.  The entire population of the bar have worked their way into optimal viewing positions, some cowering, some standing tall, but all waiting to see who makes the first move.  The well dressed man stands to face the stranger, slowly he turns narrow eyes peer from under the brim of his hat, instantly showing equal disdain for the presence before him.  The stranger speaks…..

Oh man I love westerns! They have filled my head with fantasy for over 40 years! Most of my heroes were cowboys! John Wayne, Glenn Ford, Robert Mitchum, Jimmy Stewart, Clint Eastwood and James Garner. They were real men! Stood for what they believed in no matter the cost. If you weren’t with them you were against them and that meant one of two things; you ended up dead or you duked it out, then shared a whiskey after the brawl. 

As a child we had four channels to choose from, today we have over 800! I miss the old days, as a kid it forced you to watch what was on, you didn’t have any other choice!  If it weren’t for those four channels I am sure I would have missed out on some great televison series! These are a few of the wonderful shows I watched on many a rainy day; Bonanza, Big Valley, Gunsmoke, Bat Masterson, Davey Crockett, F-troop, The Lone Ranger, and Gene Autry. 

Dont even get me started on the fantastic western movies I have seen over the years!  I compiled a small list of westerns that meant something to me, that moved me and continue to garner my attention to this very day. These are not just average westerns, no, no, these are westerns that force me to stop what I am doing, drop everything cold just so I may sit down too watch! 

Old Movies

The Kentuckian, The man who shot Liberty Valence, The Fastest Gun Alive, The Big Country, Rio Bravo, The Alamo, Mclintock, A fistful of dollars, The Cheyenne Social Club, The Sheepherder, Cahill U.S. Marshall, High Plains Drifter, Support your local Gunfighter, Rooster Cogburn, The Shootist and Big Jake.

Newer Era

The Man From Snowy River, A River Runs Through it, Lonesome Dove, Blazing Saddles, Silverado, Quigly Down Under, Hildago, Unforgiven, Tombstone, Appaloosa, Wyatt Earp, and 3:10 to Yuma.

There are numerous westerns spread over many generations, I can honestly say I have sat through most genres; Epic Westerns, Spaghetti westerns, and B movie westerns. Although I may not have liked them all, I certainly enjoyed most of them. 

My all time favorite would have to be Silverado. I have seen it more times than I can honestly count.  The shootout at the end is one of my favorites.  Second runner-up is Tombstone. When Kurt Russell tells Ike Clanton; “tell all the other curs the law is coming, you tell em I’m coming, and Hells coming with me you hear! Hells coming with me! “ is one of the best lines ever in a western.  Big Jake and Mclintock would be tied for third with Appaloosa bringing up a solid fourth.  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence would finish us off in fifth. 

High Plains drifter, Hidalgo and A river runs through it for honorable mention.

So now that I have completely lost your attention let me explain where I am headed with my school girl/boy crush upon the western genre. These were and still are my heroes!  As an adult when ever a great western comes along I feel as though I am a 9-year-old boy lying on the living room floor gazing upon the open plains dreaming of one day becoming a real bona-fide cowboy!  A man among men, a moral and righteous man with ethics beyond refute! They make me feel alive, reminding myself that no matter how hard life has become, no matter what problems we may encounter, I can disappear into a safe place for just a little while.  My brain can shut off and escape all the modern-day trappings that envelope us.  These characters are bigger than life! I want to be them if only for a little while. 

So what I am wondering is; if I can feel this way after 45 years, what genre will my kids still idolize as adults?  Movies today are centered around gruesome murders, Horrific villains, vampires, zombies, disgusting hate crimes, and social injustice.  Comedies are centered around drugs, ignorance, more social injustice, racism, and disrespect for parents and any unsuspecting figure of authority. Who are the movie stars you would consider safe to set an example for your kids?  Which ones will your children remember as adults for the parts they portrayed?  What actors will still have a viable meaning full career after thirty years, where our children will someday preach the gospel about his/her acting ability?  Or is it completely different now and I am just missing the point?  Are we as a society so plugged into electronic devices, revolving around our friends lives along with news from around the world; there is no longer a need? With so many fantasy world options (video games, Facebook, twitter) have our kids lost the ability to think for themselves? To fantasize about healthy alternatives to the lives they are living?  It all seems mystifying to me.  Am I alone in this? Am I blowing this way out of proportion?  Am I stuck with the Hunger Games and Harry Potter becoming the standard by which they disappear from reality? Or is it because I can’t let go of my dream, inadvertently putting a moratorium on theirs? I just don’t have an answer but I am definitely worried. 

Oh well, for now I am riding off into the sunset, Henry Rifle strapped to my saddle and six-shooter by my side, its time to be moving on……. 

Oh and if you are wondering how my little story from above ended, that’s the beauty of writing, use your imagination.  You tell me…..