Cowboy for an Evening…Kowboy Forever

“What people don’t understand is this is something that we only have in America. There is no other country in the world where the ordinary citizen can go out and enjoy hunting and fishing. There’s no other nation in the world where that happens. And it’s very much a part of our heritage.”
Norman Schwarzkopf


I grew up in Kissimmee, Florida home of the Silver Spurs Rodeo. The rodeo was so important to the community that school was canceled for a day and there was a parade down main street. I remember as a youth working the stands hawking cokes. Since it was the biggest arena in the area, it also doubled as the football field for the Osceola High School Kowboys. Each season after the July rodeo, they would reseed the field to try and get it ready for football season which started in September.

At our home games we all knew we were in the rodeo arena. We came in and out of the chutes where the cowboys walked. It was part of our culture and we loved it. In those days, it was not unusual for a pickup truck to come to high school with a rifle in a rack in the back window. Life was simple.

I now live in Tangerine, Florida which is about an hour away from Kissimmee. My 40 year high school reunion is coming up which is hard to believe. When my wife and I received an invitation to go to the rodeo this year and attend a private party it was an instant yes from both of us. Even though we rarely go “out on the town”, we both thought this would be fun. So fun that the day before the event, we went down to the local feed store (and leather shop) to buy some boots. Once I got started, I could not stop myself. I bought everything cowboy I could find. The most fun was that my wife went along with it and let me buy her every cowboy bling thing there was. New belts and pants and boots and shirts and….well, if they would have had chaps and a cap gun I probably would have bought them.

Friday night we loaded up in our jacked up black Ford pickup and drove to Kissimmee. First we texted a picture of us to our grown kids who couldn’t believe that we were actually going out to have some fun. “Smokin!” was the comment made from my kids about the way my wife was dressed and I couldn’t have agreed more. I made sure we didn’t have any tags showing from all of our new clothes.

Since we are both recovering from old age related foot problems, we were able to park in the handicapped area which may have taken a little of our cowboy shine off but we let that go because it was about a half mile closer than where everyone else was parking…and hopefully nobody noticed us struggling to get in and out of our lifted vehicle which was left over from when it used to be driven by the kids several years ago. It would have been easier to get up on one of the horses!

The sight of the line of cars arriving to see the event, the big Ferris wheel at the accompanying fair, the sign of horses and horse trailers everywhere, instantly took me back to the Kissimmee memories of my youth. Once inside the building, we found the party and it was like a high school reunion. Yes… maybe we had over blinged for even Kissimmee but it was so wonderful to be “coming home”.

We had a marvelous evening at the rodeo and enjoyed catching up with so many old friends. The bull riding and calf roping and clowns in barrels brought back so many great memories. The complex is named Osceola Heritage Park and it lived up to its name. The rodeo and the whole agricultural and cattle industry that was so important to this area before tourism took over is still strong and thriving. It is sometimes overshadowed by the bling of the major tourist attractions in the area but it is there and it is a rich heritage that I was reminded, I can call my own.

I bought new leather stuff and was a cowboy for the evening but last night I was reminded that I will be a Kowboy forever. Heritage is a wonderful thing and nice to come home to if you are lucky enough to have that opportunity.

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Love Knows No Time Limit…but the Florist Does!

An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make a better soup.”
H.L. Mencken

My wife was out-of-state visiting our grandchild on Valentine’s Day. Sometime early that afternoon, I realized that I could actually order flowers and have them delivered to her in Arkansas. She is normally not very big on flowers but I determined that this would show effort on my part and be received in a positive way.

I went online and found a website that delivered on Saturday. As I read more, I began to see disclaimers or warnings that indicated that, due to the high volume, the deliveries might not happen until Sunday or Monday. I decided to take the risk even though she was flying home Sunday afternoon. I added a thoughtful card with my own prose:

“Roses are red
I hope you get this before I am dead
Come home soon
Your favorite goon”

I know…I have a way with words.

By Saturday evening when I did not get a romance filled phone call, I correctly assumed that the delivery had not been made. By the time she went to the airport on Sunday, I still had not received that call. I picked her up Sunday night at the airport and did not mention the flowers. I told my son in Arkansas to be on the lookout for them but they did arrive on Monday either. I finally told my wife of my failed effort hoping to score a few points for trying.

The next day, Tuesday, we got a call from the delivery man in Arkansas trying to find the home so he could drop off the flowers. My wife handled the call and began the process of asking for a refund. I agreed since they were not delivered on the last day advertised which was Monday. Since then, several emails have gone back and forth to determine if a refund is coming. Yep…my flowers became my wife’s burden.

What is the point of this story?

Well… roses are red. She for sure will not get the flowers before I am dead. She came home soon…and well…I guess I confirmed my status as a goon.

At least I think I am still her favorite.

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May I Just Have Pizza?

My wife readily admits she is not a good cook though in my opinion, she orders pizza or Chinese just fine. Yesterday I walked into our home to find a piece of camphor tree boiling in a pot on our stove. Granted it was for medicinal purposes but it did not do much to help out her ailing cooking reputation. Admittedly, she could care less about that reputation and is not trying to even prop it up in the least.

She recently read online of the medicinal value of camphor and since we have a yard full of camphors, she decided to give it a try. I have had a head cold for a couple of days and so I held my head over the vapors emitting from the pot of boiling tree parts and wafted some camphor fumes my way. As I did so, I reminded my wife that the internet had also indicated that some types of camphors were poisonous. She did not disagree.

I stopped the process. Will somebody get me some NyQuil and order me a pizza? Somewhere somebody needs to substantiate how the common cold can be cured by a nice large hot pepperoni pizza. I have tried for decades and will continue to run trials to see if I can prove that it is effective. If we can just prove it works, it will be a win win for everybody and also save the camphors. I think an alternative cure may be also found in frozen yogurt or Hershey kisses.

So as I sacrifice my body in the name of medicine, I implore all of those who read this to also help me solve the problem of the common cold. Please send me your suggestions but no need to hurry. I think the pepperoni pizza is making me feel a little better already.

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Just say Know!

“Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.”
William Shakespeare

There has been a great debate among parents regarding the use of the word “No”. Some have said that it has such a negative connotation that the word should be avoided at all costs when dealing with small children. Others simply say that it is absurd that you shouldn’t use that word when your child is getting ready to touch a hot stove or shove another child to the ground.

As our children grow into their teenage years, their questions and actions become more significant (though granted, touching a hot stove is pretty significant). May I stay out late? May I have the car? May I go out with that guy that looks like a loser and is ten years older than me but really has a sweet personality?

Our first and often times correct response is “No” or the more thoughtful response, “When pigs grow wings”. We have learned through extensive media campaigns that when it comes to drugs, we should just say no. However, as they grow older, what worked when they were children, no longer seems to suffice. A much better choice is to just say “Know”.

Explaining the “why” of things gives you as a parent not only more credibility but also helps you (forces you) to ponder more deeply the “why” yourself. Why is it bad to do drugs or advisable to not have premarital sex? Why is it a bad idea to ask the thirty year old bar tender who tends bar at a local hotel to your senior prom? Why is a good idea to be home by midnight. Why does pornography take you down a lonely and desolate path? Why should you get good grades. Why should you learn how to work and earn your own money. Why should you be respectful? Why should you develop good grooming standards?

Our teenagers have so many good questions and are arriving at so many crossroads where a crucial decision must be made, that just saying no is a weak and debilitating answer. We certainly do not empower them to make the right decisions and may even push them towards the wrong choices.

Our choice is simple. Learn of the issues and prepare your answers. Live in the “Know” zone and not the “No” zone. I have always been amazed that my wife knew everything there was to know about my kid’s lives and even the lives of their friends. It was not uncommon for me to reintroduce myself to one of the their friends whom I had already met several times before but had forgotten. In contrast, my wife knew who was taking which subject in school and the name of that teacher and who was dating whom. She knew this not just for my kids but for their friends as well. She would cut up fruit and veggies and get them to hang out in the kitchen and chat with them like she was a coed.

Being in the “Know” zone makes all the difference in the world if we as parents want to help our teenagers maneuver their way through the hot stoves of adulthood. We empower ourselves to empower our children when we are current with a good working knowledge of the ills of society and the environment in which our kids live. Ignorance is not bliss…it is just a lazy way to say “yes…its okay… I don’t care”.

I am the only one that my wife says “no” to without any explanation required and I am old enough to “know” what that means…no pizza, no french toast, no nap…but I digress…our children need us to be in the “Know” zone so get there and get there before they have to learn all of the reasons why not to touch the hot stove by trial and error.

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A Plane, A Headset, and Sunglasses Do Not A Pilot Make

“This above all; to thine own self be true.”
William Shakespeare

Recently, I had the opportunity to go up in a small plane and learn to fly. It was exhilarating. I held the joystick on takeoff and controlled the plane for much of the time in the air. I took the plane in a gradual decent for the approach to the airport and landing. I wore a headset and sunglasses and if you would have seen me from afar, you would have thought I was a pilot.

photo (30)

However, if you would have been seated in the cockpit with me you would have seen a totally different story. Instead of a relaxed grip on the joystick, my hands were white knuckled. Every muscle in my body was tense as I tried to control the flight of the plane. Between looking at the instruments and looking at my surroundings, it was easy to get disoriented and forget what I was supposed to be observing.

The headset provided a noise reduction device so the outside sound of the plane’s motor was muffled and we could hear each other talk. However, when it came to the control tower giving directions, I wanted nothing to do with it. It was in a different language as we were told which runway to take to get to the runway where we would take off. The letters and numbers and identifying directional signs for the plane and runway were said so quickly and then repeated back with such accuracy, I felt like if it has been left up to me I would have had the plane doing doughnuts in the grass until the plane ran out of gas and somebody hauled the plane back to the hanger and me to the hospital.

When we came in for our final approach to land, the wind started to buffet the plane. The trees below got closer and closer and my knuckles got whiter and whiter. I finally at about 500 feet, asked the flight instructor to take back the controls…I had zero confidence in my ability to keep us out of the 6:00 news headlines.

The experience was one that I will never forget and one day I hope to go back and get additional flight instructions to see if it is something that I could enjoy. One thing for sure, just because I’m in a plane and dressed like a pilot, it does not make me a pilot.

This concept applies in almost every aspect of our lives

* Just because I have a son, does not make me a father.
* Just because I have a wife, does not make me a husband.
* Just because I was born a male, does not make me a man.
* Just because I can say Amen, doesn’t make me a believer.
* Just because I do good things does not make me a good man.
* Just because I am alive does not mean I am living.

For every title you can wear, there is a deeper role to learn and earn. Just like the pilot who needs to practice and practice and study to fly safely, we need to learn our duty in the area of our responsibilities and perform it well every day.

I understand that the number one cause of plane crashes is pilot error. Live your life so that the titles you carry mean more than just a group of letters that make up words. You are in charge. Make sure that pilot error is not in your life’s flight plan.

Leaving Home Tomorrow

As we get older, we appreciate the times we have shared with family and friends more and more. I wrote this song in my twenties when I was getting ready to be away from home for awhile. Now my kids have left our home and we see the circle of life continue.

I know some of our family and friends in Kissimmee will recognize some of these pictures in the short video clip below. I love my family and I love my friends. Gary

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Sometimes, Despite Our Best Efforts, Life Gives Us a Mud fish

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

The anticipation of seeing a Florida large mouth bass break the water and jump is thrilling. When a bass breaks the water and tries to throw the hook, you know you have an awesome fight on your hands. The string can break, the hook can come loose or the fish can just figure out a way to not get reeled in. Catching a ten pound plus large mouth bass like the one in the picture below is a bucket list item for many (I catch and release so this is actually a replica of the ten pounder I caught).

photo (5)

Recently, some friends from out-of-state were in our area and I offered them the opportunity to fish for large mouth bass in our lake. They were excited and accepted. We fished off our dock and had moderate success. Suddenly one of them got a big fish on one of their rods and it began to take string out against the drag. I tightened the drag a little and coached him as we slowly began to bring the fish closer to the dock. It was a great fight and the possibility that we had a ten pound lunker bass on the line began to enter my mind.

I kept expecting it to break the water and shake its huge head to try to shake the hook loose but it never did. When the fish finally got close enough to see, I knew why. I was so disappointed when I realized it was just a mud fish. Don’t get me wrong…my friend had fun catching it, but for a while, I thought we might have had a trophy fish on the line. We threw it back and kept on fishing.

Often we are expecting the world and just get a little moon. We are expecting to be selected for a promotion or make the team and instead we are handed a “maybe next time” answer. How do we deal with life when it throws mud fish at us?

The best answer is almost insulting in its simplicity. You move on and never look back. It may be best for you to try again next year or move on to a new job…but moving forward is the key. If we let our disappointments win the day, we succumb to the temptation to put our fate in the hands of others. Though you may feel singled out and that the world conspires against you, know that everyone on this planet faces disappointments.

I suppose there are the cases where you should in fact, eat crow (or mud fish in this case) because you have been overly zealous, ambitious, haughty, cocky, or just plain selfish and you get what you deserve. Sometimes even in marriage, the bass you marry turns out to be a mud fish and you can’t really throw him back. You just have to make lemonade out of lemons.

But in most cases, when mud fish end up on your plate, you need to bite the bitter pill and just keep moving forward even if the only reason for doing so is to stay in charge of your life.

HighFive Your Life Principle: Don’t allow disappointments to control your life. Move on…keep fishing!

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