When I was 14 years old I got lucky and somehow ended up as the alternate on the Missouri 4-H Horse Bowl Team (like a quiz bowl for everything horse). We ended up winning state and got to go to Nationals in Colorado. Most exciting thing in my life at the time, but come to find out, that part didn’t really matter that much.
One of the girls on that team and I became close friends almost immediately, and their family all but adopted me over the next year or two. We shared barn dances, Horsebowl trips all over to compete, and the Heart of Missouri Brangus Cattle program (she went on to raise Brangus the rest of her life) and the subsequent cattle shows, plus we got to experience the American Royal Horse Show together.
Her father was one of the greatest men I ever knew, and I’ll never forget his steadfast kindness and christian spirit. In particular I think often of the time I was just a couple days past 16, with a new-to-me short bed Dodge pickup I had saved for two years to buy. I loaded up my show heifer behind that new truck, slapped my brothers truck plates on it, and tried to haul to Linn, MO for a cattle show. We were required to make so many shows and I HAD to be there, and had no idea the truck I had just bought with my own money wasn’t equipped to pull that trailer. Didn’t know that it would stall out on the biggest hill while I was trying to grab gears in that old high-geared four speed, with a line of cars behind us a mile long.
I did somehow make it to that cattle show, and when that man heard my story he never said a word of reprimand or judgement. No smirks, or head shaking. No whispering to others when I walked away. He and the whole family put their backs into helping me get my heifer ready and helped me show. But when I was ready to leave on Sunday, he quietly asked me to unhitch my truck, hitched his to my trailer, and then hauled my calf three plus hours back to my home. Then he pulled over on the side of the road a half mile from my house, unhitched and put it back on my truck, had a short talk on how to figure out what trucks I could pull a trailer with, and allowed me to pull back in my driveway without losing face or letting anyone know what an idiot I was.
We lost that man yesterday, and I just hope he knew how many people he touched, and how much he taught a stupid, stupid teenager from up north, without saying more than a few words. Mostly he taught me that no matter what successes you have in this world it’s the people that matter. This world was a much better place because he was in it.
Because of him and his family, and what they taught me, our daughter also showed cattle, which helped her buy her first truck. The same truck she hopped in six years later and drove 15 hours to South Dakota in. Which, by the way is big enough to pull whatever size trailer she wants to hook on it. Ha!
If you can look back on this life and not be amazed at the people that have shaped it, and changed your cards, I feel sorry for you.
I’m so lucky that a twist of fate allowed me to know him, and his family, but I’m so sad today, and I probably will be for a while.