Friday, July 12, 2013

The Rodeo

"By faith Abraham…went out, not knowing where he was going" - Heb. 11:8 Life consists of all kinds of trials, challenges and learning experiences. Some of the trials are sent to us and some of them we choose. Either way, God uses them for our good. One experience I chose when I was a just entering high school landed me on my rear end. But I took a risk and learned from the experience. I grew up in "Cowtown." It was so named in the 1800's for its focus on cattle, ranching, and rodeo. Fort Worth went from a sleepy outpost to a bustling town when it became a stop along the legendary Chisholm Trail, the dusty path on which millions of head of cattle were driven north to market. Fort Worth became the center of the cattle drives, and later, the ranching industry. Its location on the Old Chisholm Trail helped establish Fort Worth as a trading and cattle center and earned it the nickname "Cowtown." Though I never lived on a ranch, I went to high school with several guys that lived west of Fort Worth on cattle ranches. But most of us at school adapted to the western image and wore our cowboy boots most days. One good friend that was especially western was Bill Barber. He was a friend of mine since fourth grade who took the cowboy heritage to a different level. His dad had been a champion roper and passed on the legacy to Bill. Bill had multiple pairs of boots, a great mustache and a "barrel" in his backyard. Set up like a swing set, a "barrel" is a device used by cowboys to practice rodeo. It's literally a big steel barrel on springs that you sit on and try to "ride" as it's bouncing around. It simulates riding a bronc or a bull. I never could stay on that thing. One afternoon, some friends and I were in Bill's backyard when he came up with a crazy idea. "Let's go ride in an actual rodeo." I'm sure I paused and laughed. Bill continued, "There's a rodeo every Saturday west of Fort Worth in Boyd. You pay $25 bucks and they let you ride." He was serious. He was actually serious. And, though I wanted to throw up, I wasn't about to back out of the experience. So, a few Saturday's later, some of us piled in Bill's pickup and we headed to Boyd. We arrived late on a Saturday morning, paid our money and got in line. I was scared to death and had no idea what I was doing. Bill tried to prep me but it was hopeless. I was in a trance the whole time. I remember climbing into the "chute," where the horse is kept. I remember getting on the horse. I remember grabbing the top of the gate to settle myself, and I remember them asking if I was "ready" (ready?) and I remember the gate opening. But there was one problem: I never let go of the top of the gate. So when the gate opened and the horse left the chute, I was pulled off the horse by…me! The horse (and my $25) ran on through the arena while I fell to the ground. It was pitiful. But I did it! Forever I could say that I actually and technically rode in a rodeo… sort of. I rode about one second. For a guy like myself who wasn't used to taking huge risks, it was a big deal. Of course, today, liability spoils many a risky adventure. I'm sure that Saturday morning rodeo is long gone, smothered by needed insurance coverage and costs. But the adventures are still out there. And the opportunity for kids to explore and risk is so important. Let your kids try some crazy things. Let it be their idea. Let them explore. Let them make the choice to test themselves. Leave them alone long enough for them to do it themselves. Sure, they will probably fall off the horse, but the adventure will be worth every penny. Even for a one second ride. By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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