The cowboy stood in front of the congregation of the large church obviously uncomfortable. He was requesting help for the Youth for Christ Horse Camp coming up in a few weeks. They needed wranglers and assorted other volunteers. I knew in my heart that I was supposed to be there. I volunteered
At this time in the Spring of 2008 I had not ridden a horse in over 30 years. Except for a “nose to tail” pony ride on the beach in Oahu. I quickly made arrangements to take up a friend on his offer to ride his horse. It wasn’t like riding a bicycle. I did forget. It felt awkward and I just didn’t feel balanced very well. I relearned how to saddle a horse and tie a slip knot for the lead rope. Tacking up a horse and teaching the kids at the Horse Camp was all I would be doing.
There were two sessions a day for Horse Camp. I got there early to warm up the horses before the kids arrived. Actually, I got there to get my seat back so that I could ride some. I rode in a round pen and I rode bareback. I did this for about 30 minutes before each session. It gave me confidence that I could still ride a horse. I loved it. 2008 was the worst and most stressful year of my life and when I rode a horse the stress just seemed to go right out through the bottom of my boots.
I had confidence and I felt I was where I belonged. The performance expectations for me were low so I never felt intimidated by the tasks at hand and by the end of the week I had learned (or relearned) a lot and felt confident. I had several friends who had found out what I was doing and they had horses and they wanted me to go riding with them. It was great fun trail riding again. One friend even had a Buford roping dummy that I got to chase and try to rope from one of his horses. I vaguely remembered how to form a loop and let it go at the target. Every once in awhile it actually went on. I had roped a total of three times 33 years earlier. In those days I practiced on a hay bale and horns at a friend of mines lumber yard. I went off to be a bull rider and stopped practicing.
It was absolutely amazing to me how fast things progressed toward me being a roper. I rode 3 to 5 times per week and was always being asked by friends of mine. Somehow, I managed to not embarrass myself too bad and stayed on the horse. I rode at least 7 different horses and enjoyed them all. I was asked to enter up in ranch sorting events and loved doing that. I did have several people come up to me and offer to give me riding lessons. I rode horses like I rode my dirt bike; hunched over the front end instead of sitting straight up. It’s still a tendency that I have to watch.
A year later I saw Marv Barton at a jackpot in Fortuna, California. I had met Marv a few years earlier when I was watching a team roping practice. Marv put me on his rope horses to “keep them warmed up” at a roping he was at in Fortuna. He said that he couldn’t ride both horses at the same time. This was a familiar kind pattern for Marv. He obviously wanted me to feel like I belonged. A few weeks later Marv gave me a call and told me to be at the Cottonwood arena at 5:30 on Tuesday. I showed up and he had his big sorrel gelding “Perf” saddled up and ready for me to ride. Every Tuesday it was the same thing. I would ride Perf and chase the score steers into the stripping chute. I also kept riding Basilio Leal’s horses doing the same thing.
It was like Marv was “on a mission from God” to quote the Blues Brothers. He wanted me to be a roper. I told him that I was too old for this but he didn’t listen to that. I ended up renting a place about a mile from his and was over at his house roping the dummy constantly with his son Darth. Marv took me everywhere with him and Darth. I watched a lot of jackpots and I watched Marv and Darth go to the pay window many times.
Finally, there was a change in the routine. On November 29, 2009, I showed up as usual in Cottonwood. Marv was sitting on the back of the head box talking with Cody Jones. He looked at me and asked “did you bring your rope?” “Of course” I said. Marv replied “Do you have insurance?” I said that I did and clarified that I had some disability insurance as well. Marv looked at Cody and then back at me and said “Remember, anything can happen at any time in team roping” a statement that Cody quickly agreed to. “Go see if you can catch one but don’t dally” I caught one and Marv went crazy. He was hooting and hollering all the way down the arena. I had just turned 59 years old.
I have since learned that most people I know who rope have been brought up in it. They had a relative or parent teach them how and usually from an early age. Marv never dwelled on that; he just wanted me to rope. He still does.
If I had known the odds against me before I started roping, I probably would not have done it. I knew how to ride a motorcycle fairly well and enjoyed doing that with my oldest son. However, dirt bikes aren’t a living, breathing thing and they don’t have a soul. I love horses and the western lifestyle. I am grateful for all the help that I have gotten from so many people. I know that God authored all of this.
Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” He not only gives this to you but he authors those desires in the first place! I’ve lived it. He put everything together for me. I have a couple of great rope horses, a nice place to live, a great wife who encourages my roping, wonderful friends who have made me a project to be a better more successful roper, and a wonderful church family and pastor. This all came about after the Spring of 2008 when I started being a wrangler at the Youth for Christ Horse camp.
I have heard it explained that if you take delight in someone you first have to get to know them by spending time with them. Such is the case with God. It is one thing to believe in Christ and quite another to actually have a relationship with Him. The Devil knows who Christ is and believes, he doesn’t have a relationship with Him though.
For a believer, the direction, help, and necessary provision to reach your heart’s desires comes from Christ.
I remember going to a rodeo in Fortuna, California, in July of 2005. I had not been to one since the early 80s. I enjoyed it but it was a bittersweet time for me. At the time I was 54 years old and felt that being in that lifestyle again would never happen. I was just simply too old. I will be 72 in a few days as I write this. I was fortunate enough to win the ACTRA California Division 1 Region 1 championship for 2022. Nothing is impossible with God as it says in Mark 10:27.
May you be encouraged today. I know that team roping can be discouraging more of times than it can be encouraging. Have fun... enjoy the Lord’s presence. Rope great.