When A Cowboy Earns His Wings

Photo by Sherry Coodrod

“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.” -Haruki Murakami

They say the only things certain in life are death and taxes.  We all know we are going to go at some point, we just don’t always know when or how.

Last weekend, we were at a jackpot where a wonderful gentleman passed away.  The roping had ended and as we were pulling out, we saw him lying next to his trailer.  Several cowboys and cowgirls came together and did everything they could to revive him, but unfortunately, God needed another good cowboy that day.

A flood of grief and sadness washed over the team roping community.  He had left behind a wife and children, as well as many friends that cared deeply for him.

A statement was released the day after his passing, notifying the team roping community of his loss.  As I read through the comments, I couldn’t help but notice among the condolences and prayers to the family, the positivity that beamed through.

Throughout the day, that gentleman never suspected what would happen.  He roped to the best of his ability and rode out of the arena a champion.  He spent the day laughing with friends and fellow ropers.  No one knows exactly what happened that afternoon, but we all know this: he earned his wings with his boots on, next to his good horse, and with money in his pocket.  He died doing what he loved.

Despite the grief that I felt in my heart for his family and loved ones, it gave me a newfound appreciation for the life that we live.  So often, we spend our time complaining, rather than appreciating.  How many times have you rode out of the arena frustrated or angry because you made a mistake or didn’t win?  I know that I have done it plenty of times!  The thing is, we never know when we will take our last breath.  We never know when we will call for our last steer.  We never know when we will throw our final loop.

Life is so precious and so short, therefor we need to make the most of it while we can.

I truly believe that we have the best community of people in the world.  Team ropers are the kind of folks who will give a stranger the shirt off their back.  We come together in times of struggle and support each other.  We are truly blessed to do what we do.

The loss of our friend and fellow team roper was an eye-opener for me.  Life is only as hard as we make it and every day we have the choice to be happy.  I made a vow to myself to “choose happy” from here on out.  I have always said that a bad day roping would always beat a good day working!

Roping is something that we love.  We do it because we enjoy it.  We all want to win, but we can’t win ‘em all.  Enjoy the little things.  Hug your loved ones a little tighter.  Smile and laugh with your fellow team ropers.  Appreciate every day that you get to swing your leg over your horse and pick up a rope.

Of all the things that I have to accept in life, I pray silently that God will never let me know the last time I ride a horse.  And when my number is called, I hope I go with my boots on.

This post was written in memory of our friend and fellow team roper, Red St Clair.  Our deepest condolences, prayers and love go out to his family and loved ones.  He will be greatly missed.

Red St Clair, Livermore, CA. Photo courtesy of Betsy Kingsbury

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