I grew up in the Texas hill country, that rolling patch of land north of San Antonio where German and Czech immigrants built so many communities back in the day. Live oaks — most no taller than a house’s eave, countless bluebonnets, and the meandering Guadalupe River come to mind whenever I recall my younger days. Back then my dad was a veterinarian. As he got older, Doc developed a small animal practice, giving up most of his large animal clients. That is, except for Chief-of-Ten-Mile — a beautiful, high-strung, and monstrous Appaloosa stallion. My dad would regularly visit old Johnny Boatwright’s ranch and sit with him on the back porch gazing out at Chief. They’d talk horses, ranching, family, and occasionally about their childhoods. I would be somewhere nearby taking it all in.
Dad would also take me with him to all the rodeos. We’d troop through the many livestock barns where he’d stop and talk with folks. He would examine the animals, and generally satisfy himself with the state of local animal husbandry. I learned as much about him those buildings as I did about handling horses, cattle, and goats.
Fast forward a few decades, two careers, and a lifetime of loving the cowboy life — even if I did not always get to live it. I find myself now re-engaged with livestock folks through my involvement with the Cowboy Church. My given natural talents were never that much on horseback. Neither did I own much country land, except to harvest some lumber from it. What talent I did get was the ability to string words into sentences, and those sentences into stories. When I was first introduced to my Cowboy Church chaplain and told him about myself, he let me know that his church and others like it had a scant amount of written resource aimed squarely at cowboy congregations. He suggested how I might begin to fix that.
The chaplain told me, “Everybody loves cowboys.” I knew that most of the men my age grew up watching Hoppy, Roy, and Gene on TV, so the loving part was true enough. The chaplain went on, “More importantly, everybody loves to talk about cowboys.” There was no argument from me on that one either. He then said, “If you can get a man to talking, I can pretty much tell how to minister to him.” Without warning, he hit me with his challenge: “You do your job, and I’ll do mine.” By that, he meant that I should write stories he could use at his church to “get men talking.”
Since then, I’ve been working very hard doing just that.