Posted on August 15, 2017
Please let me make it through these next eight seconds.
…just one more time.
Pure silence, then the vacuum of space explodes.
The rustic crack of the gate breathes fire into the beast below.
Stillness in the air is replaced by a typhoon.
With a jolt, my life begins again.
Taunt but forgiving, I lay back as my world rockets forward and just as quick plunges off a cliff.
Amped up, fear begins its transition into a rush of adrenalin.
I revel in the high… “do not lose focus” I repeat to myself.
This trickling wave of confidence brings panic as well, “f o c u s”
The whiplash spin shoots me to the left before I get blindsided by a gyration to the right.
Contradictory twists: the head floats one way, the hips another…
My spine begins to cry, impossibly trying to center itself. Trying to center life.
Within this chaos, I feel at home.
I rise, and for a moment I feel like a little kid being tossed in the air by my parents…
A smile breaks on my face ~ although buoyancy with a bull is never a good thing.
A coppery, metallic taste fills my head as I wonder, “am I flying, or am I dreaming?”
The growing expanse of space between the bull and I no longer matters.
Even apart, I feel connected.
We share the fear and anger; our will to survive.
My hand and arm is a coil of steel, pulsating life throughout my body. I will not give in nor will he.
All of time melds into the present. “I have no past, I have no future.” I love this beast I am riding; our moment to define freedom and strength, while bound by our fate.
“F o c u s ” ~ My mind cuts back to previous failures, too many to count ~ matched by my broken bones.
Each failure preparing me for the next ride…each ride more expensive than the last.
Life is a game of inches, of missed opportunities, but this time I shall not lose…
In a split second, my mind shifts to the crowd and just as quickly my point of balance ceases to exists.
Forces pull at me from every direction. Gravity becomes a myth.
Chaos erupts and my mind chases to catch the moment. My grip tightens further ~ a negligible pop in my wrist brings a searing pain and snaps my attention.
All falls quiet. I listen…
“…the sound of the wind, this violent wind is sweetened by the distant roar of a crowd.”
My arm is on fire, holding onto a knot of fury ~ hand clenched with a vow never to surrender.
“We are still one my friend, I’m not going anywhere…” My heart explodes as I dance along the razor’s edge of survival.
The howl of my voice matches the cadence of my heart.
My grip unravels. I slide back and meet a timely swing of the bull’s hip, escorting me free into the air.
Embraced by the sweet calm of the night, dust fills my lungs as I hit and roll off to the side. Hand cramping, wrist afire, I scan the crowd with hungry eyes of hope.
To see her smile, her eyes, her accepting me as the cowboy I am, but there is no one. Emptiness.
There are no words to match this pain.
She too becomes a myth. This dream of a perfect ride.
Please let me make it through to the next rodeo.
…just one more time.
Posted on August 30, 2016
The glint in her eyes mixed with the afternoon sun lulls us in before a quick shift in the saddle flaunts her message: a woman with a Cowgirl Spirit can stretch, bend, and break the rules society lays at her feet.
The whisper of the wind matches the cadence of her gallop. Her light laughter trails off, leaving us cowboys choking in a cloud of dust. Nothing can get our hearts beating faster.
The power of the Women of the American West is no myth, it is a beautiful reality and I pity any man who believes otherwise.
There is an old cowboy saying, “polishing your pants on saddle leather don’t make you a rider…” with its roots in the notion expertise comes from putting in quality time to master an art. Pursuing excellence to shine above the rest describes the Cowgirl Spirit of these women; the confidence and humility are traits rarely discovered together.
The Cowgirl Spirit is found around the globe. A woman who utilizes her strengths with the confidence to pursue life, and the admiration of men who are secure enough to understand embracing the power of such women will move them up to a higher level.
Equality. The quality of two beings, untapped potential when repressed, becoming a powerful, united force when free.
Freedom for women around the world, the Cowgirl Spirit has a long ride ahead, but the excellence in which they ride ensures their success.
Watching the grace of these cowgirls competing on horseback is a perfect analogy to how a woman’s power does not diminish a man’s. Rather when embraced, it magnifies them both. Barrel racing at the Pendleton Round-Up is one of the most popular and watched events, making a great rodeo even better.
The eyes of every cowboy and the world are glued to such poetry in motion…
There is strength in equality, strength in balance, strength in the men who recognize the importance of a spirited woman by their side. True cowboys who understand such a woman opens up aspects of a man’s character that he alone is unable to grasp.
A secure man will pursue the true quality of a woman, one with a Cowgirl Spirit, giving her room to grow as he is confident enough to understand the balance of equality will make him a better man, make his surroundings a better place.
“Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity….” – Joss Whedon
Equality of women creates vibrancy in life. Sharing strengths without insecurities, both men and women evolve and new ideas and freedoms are generated. Society thrives.
Inequality of women stifles creativity. Insecure and weak men develop brash and destructive egos. Stunted growth rots the potential of a community. There are places around the world that echo such imbalance; stagnant, repressive societies with paralyzed minds and a paralyzed future for their children.
The desire lies in the Cowgirl Spirit, and the worthy men who seek such women to create unity. Balanced individuals grow and progress, triggering society to follow suit as well. This is the hope for the world.
It is possible, the myth of the ‘weaker sex’ was created by the innate skill women have in ciphering through the bullshit of man’s ego and pride. Lesser men fear these resilient women, exploding with ego as their insecurities grow, overcompensating and crippling those around them.
One of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had is being half-a-world away, yet still able to draw strength from the important women in my life. Women, past and present, have helped form part of my character. Character incomplete without learning and accepting the power of equality, unlocking the heart of potential.
These women act as a mirror, reflecting strength in areas men lack. The Cowgirl Spirit brings perspective, a different view when listened to, and greater results when put into action.
Acknowledging someone’s ability does not diminish your own, instead it can strengthen. This is achieving balance. Do not fear the power of women, instead embrace it, and embrace her.
Women with the Cowgirl Spirit have a sensuality that is second to none. Their confidence to give as good as they get, show an authenticity seldom seen. An authentic woman creates the authentic man, allowing evolution to continue.
Without such women, men will never be able to grasp all life can offer. It is important to realize, in many ways, us men would remain our basic, cavemen selves.
The silent confidence of a Woman of the West never ceases to impress and humble me. It is a supreme confidence.
Time is short. Never Stop. Never stop pursuing excellence.
The Cowgirl Spirit balances the secure, authentic Cowboy Spirit. Strength added to strength, creating opportunities that otherwise would remain hidden. Such spirit is present every year in September at the Pendleton Round-Up. Keep up the pursuit.
Posted on November 4, 2015
Lack of sleep makes concentration difficult. I’m on my third cup of coffee and I can’t help but stare out the window trying to recapture last night’s fading dream of a life of a cowboy.
“找不到你公司税务登记证 ! 在哪里?”
The sound of these foreign words spin me back to reality here in China.
“如果找不到太麻烦!” My secretary again looks at me for a response.
I shut my eyes and focus on the feeling of “Let’er Buck” – a touch of the West, a touch of home.
A world away, I taste the dew of the morning and roll out of bed to gaze over never-ending wheat fields. I imagine saddling up the best friend a cowboy will ever have and head out to face the day.
The feeling of adventure mixed with a taste of adrenaline I suppose is why the cowboy often has a wistful smile as he saddles up.
It doesn’t take long for the soft eyes of my horse to be replaced by the glare of my secretary. Her continual banter in Chinese steals me away from my daydream.
The figures on the spreadsheets in front of me wrestle each other in an endless battle to determine whether the year will see a profit or a loss.
There will be a lot more wrestling with figures before the day ends and the freedom of a ride has never felt so far away. Running on the wind lifted by the cheers of a crowd.
I hold up my hand, and the Chinese words stop mid-sentence and for a second all is quiet, a rare moment of peace.
“I should’ve been a cowboy…” I mutter, a common wish for most guys I grew up with, although for me I admit a life on the back of a bucking bronc is not in my blood.
The courage to ride requires a special spirit infused at birth. The adrenaline rush of the ride, the feel of the rope, speed of the chase and mixing blood with mud is a lifestyle meant only for the few.
What I am chasing though, is almost as elusive, the spirit of the cowboy. The legend created by songs and stories I’ve heard growing up: the down-to-earth attitude, importance of treating each other well and when taking a fall ~ fearlessly dusting off and saddling up again.
Dusting myself off, I stare at my computer and pound out another business email…
The essence of the life of a cowboy defines the spirit of my hometown of Pendleton, Oregon. Waking up every morning with the annual September dream of becoming a cowboy, if only for a day.
To walk out onto the infield grass and take it all in, feeling the crowd with the beating heart of the grandest rodeo in the world, the Pendleton Round-Up.
Around the world there are company executives pilfering the paychecks of their workers, politicians focused on lining their pockets and places where a hard day’s work has become a myth of days gone by.
The cowboy spirit flows through Pendleton with the memories of past cowboy heroes such as Lane Frost, Mike Boothe and Mike Currin – men as genuine in the arena as they were outside.
Also the present champions, Trevor Brazile, winner of four consecutive all-around titles at the Pendleton Round-Up and bareback champion Ty Breuer, showing the heart and spirit of cowboys still run true.
For some, the dreams of the West and the cowboys who built America may be disappearing, however they still remain a strong foundation for the people of Pendleton.
Ranchers and farmers understand there is no such thing as an easy ride and to grab an opportunity when it arrives, knowing it may not come again. So when the rope leaves their hand there is no doubt it will find its mark.
The echo of the rodeo reverberates in my mind, as my fingers struggle to tap out a message on my iPhone. These hands stand in stark contrast to the callused hands of a cowboy holding a rope and reigns.
Any calluses I do have are quickly fading away, perhaps similar to the fading cheers a cowboy hears as he walks away from the arena one last time.
Years ago when I was in my mid-20s, I was talking to a bronc rider after an excellent ride and he said something I’ve never forgotten: “The opening of a bucking chute is like the start of a new day. Some days will be tough with rough rides and broken bones – those days are to be remembered because it makes good days like today taste all the better.”
Patience. Belief. Hard work. Cowboy logic.
There are many things I’ve learned from rodeo champions over the years, but perhaps the most valuable lessons have come from the local farmers and ranchers.
Growing up, my annual summer job at PGG operating Rew grain elevator during harvest stands as one of the best work experiences I’ve ever had.
The many people I worked with at Rew helped form my character, each one having the heart of a Pendleton cowboy. Two such cowboys, Bob Byers, who can create a solution for any problem and Terry Simpson who has an outlook on life second to none; both men define Pendleton perfectly.
From Pendleton to Calgary to Cheyenne and to cities around the world, the spirit of the life of a cowboy flows free and strong. Looking out the window again, I put on a George Strait CD to fit my mood and the music even makes my secretary smile.
Here in China, I’ve found the soul of the cowboy both in myself and in the great people I work with over here.
Closing my eyes, I feel the wind on my face and the pounding of hooves and earth blending perfectly with the music. I feel great.
Yes, I may be thousands of miles from home but all I need to hear are the words “Let’er Buck” and I am right back in the middle of the Pendleton Round-Up arena and it’s a perfect day.
The beginning of December is where the last piece of magic will be performed when future champions get ready to ride at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
Cowboys who grew up in small towns around the country, holding onto a belief that one day their names will be dancing in the bright lights of Vegas. Their focus locked-in on the final ride of the year and the chance to etch their name in the history books and become a part of cowboy folklore.
Good luck and good health to all. 祝你们好运气，健康.
Posted on October 5, 2015
Crawling out of the teepee at first light, my spirit is buoyed with excitement of the salmon run on the Big River (the Columbia). The echoing roar of Celilo Falls in the background is a symphony, welcoming back the tribes once again.
Rubbing my eyes and taking a cool breath of morning air, there is a light laugh beside me followed by several pieces of salmon pemmican pushed into my hand reminding me while I may not have been born into the Umatilla tribe, I am treated as family.
I spot a friend from the Nimi’ipuu (Nez Perce) tribe across the way, and remember the spring day long ago in 1838 sitting down with Chief Tuekakas (Joseph the Elder) and a group of men from the Hudson’s Bay Company out of Fort Vancouver.
I was a young kid responsible for translation, fascinated by these leaders discussing the impact of the first party of Cherokees to resist removal to a reservation, not yet knowing their brave march westward would one day be known as the Trail of Tears.
The impact of Chief Tuekakas’ words that day led me to take the opportunity to travel with his people, the Nimi’ipuu.
The wisdom I collected over those years I hold with gratitude, but my most cherished moment came the day when we stumbled onto a camp of the Umatilla people at the base of the Blue Mountains. All it took was one look and I realized I had found the destiny I had been searching.
Over the past 20 years since those early days, I have lived with the Walla Walla, rode with the Cayuse and shared many a meal with the Palouse, Tenino and Chinook – learning a culture and a land far removed from my birth home in Scotland.
My memory is faint, but I understand while the climate, terrain and traditions of my homeland are quite different; the love of Mother Earth is the same.
It is with this thought I can rest my head, my mind drifting off to dreams of the past. Crossing the Atlantic with family and friends in the year 1828 to reach the New World only to watch in horror as disease ripped through our cramped tenement housing, wiping out everything I held dear.
Broke and alone by the end of the year, I snuck aboard a wagon train with a dream to arrive in the Oregon Country to make my destiny. Discovered by the wagon master early on the trail, my skills as a fisherman and hunter proved valuable, and at a young age I had my first job.
The journey through the free country of the west taught me the land, accepting the beauty it offered. The berries and roots kept us fed. The buffalo, elk and deer honored us with their great bravery as we matched them with our hunting skills.
Not a day goes by where I do not thank the animals, plants and spirit of this land for all they provide, and acknowledge the tacit agreement where we will take care of Mother Earth in return.
Sitting here today along the banks of the Big River, the current mood of the Umatilla people is of sorrow. During the previous night, a tense meeting with the tribal leaders signaled the inevitable signing of a treaty with Washington D.C. to give up 6.4 million acres of land.
A treaty threatening to strangle the freedom and culture built over thousands of years. When the tribes sign the Treaty of 1855 they will receive in exchange, land designated at the Umatilla Indian Reservation to become a permanent homeland.
My mind clears as I gaze off into the distant waters of Celilo Falls. My wife Awendela silently sings as she ponders the future of her people, repairing the fishing nets needed for another day’s work.
Biting into my pemmican, I retell an old folktale from the past, drawing a parallel with the clash of cultures we are experiencing today, an emphasis to remain strong and positive.
“An old man spoke to his grandson. “My child,” he said. “Inside everyone there is a battle between two wolves. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”
The boy thought for a moment. Then he asked, “Which wolf wins?”
A moment of silence passed before the old man replied, “The one you feed…” ”
Thinking of the world today, I wonder, which wolf is winning?
With the endless cycle of greed that sweeps through men and their politics, I fear the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I feel for the children of this land. The change in lifestyle will be difficult and clashes of culture will create an opportunity for the Evil Wolf to gain traction in the minds of the young.
Turing around, I watch the children of the Cayuse with their ponies teaching the other kids the essence of the magnificent Cayuse horse dominating the plateau. I smile. We can learn much from the children, for their hearts are pure.
Succeed in educating children well and we ensure a way of life and culture forever.
Teach as well as learn the way of the world, and we can all sleep better at night listening to the howling of the Good Wolf, sharing its “joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth” with us all.
Yes, feed the Good Wolf. I sigh and take another bite of pemmican…even with the sadness, I believe this shall be a very good season indeed.
NOTE: The photos above are from the Pendleton Round-Up and Happy Canyon pageant taking place every September in Pendleton, Oregon. A communion of sorts for the farmers and ranchers of the area along with the gathering of Native American Indian tribes of the Northwest, with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation hosting a teepee village of over 300 teepees.
A weeklong experience every one should experience once in life ~ Let’er Buck ~
Category: Education, Nature, Philosophy, Photography Tagged: American History, American West, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Culture, Happy Canyon, Identity, Let'er Buck, Native American Folklore, Native Americans, Pendleton Oregon, Pendleton Round-Up, photography
Posted on September 30, 2013
There have been countless moments in life where it feels as if I have just been through a 7.9 second thrashing of a Brahma bull ride: long enough to feel the thrill & pain of every jolt, yet failing at the end with a ‘no-score.’ That last 0.1 seconds an eternity away.
While I have never been on a bull (and never, ever plan too…), the idea of surviving those 8-seconds necessary to score an official ride works well as an analogy in business and life.
“8.0 seconds of fury” is not a way many would like to spend life, but eventually, we will face such a ride. As noted in an earlier post “Let’er Buck” there are courageous souls who tackle this role with wild abandon on the rodeo circuit, and how they handle those 8-seconds can teach us mortal folks about dealing with life.
It takes an artistic skill not only to survive for those 8-seconds, but to create a thing of beauty from such a violent ride. To score the highest possible with the cards we are dealt.
To score the highest, the cowboy must make the ride look effortless. So amid the fury of the ride, arrives the concept of becoming one with the animal…to be one with nature, to allow a certain peace and quiet confidence to envelope the scene.
Synchronicity, where everything around you works together. A moment where it feels like you can achieve anything. Your actions appear and feel effortless as if you are doing nothing, yet your focus and results prove otherwise.
It is taking the bull by the horns, becoming so focused and primed that you flow with the jolts and gyrations that may come your way.
Whether riding a Brahma bull, bronc, or pouring over spreadsheets and business deals: when you are in a zone, life becomes effortless. Answers arrive before questions are asked, work is completed as if it were play. These are the moments to live for, when nothing seems to go wrong.
Years ago, while at the Pendleton Round-Up, I was talking with a group of bareback bronc riders who were describing how they felt during competition. Each one agreed that ‘there are days you feel as if you are one with the animal, and it is a beautiful effortless ride…” and behind that success are years of hard work, experience, and humility.
The one thought I took away from that great conversation in the arena, was advice I still try to follow today: “The minute you start becoming cocky and disrespecting either the animals or those around you, it is lost…the focus is gone, and you are flying through air with a hard, hard ground below…”
Humility is to understand that you can always learn something, often from people and places you least expect. From what I have experienced and seen from cowboys over the years is that there is a consistent trait of confidence and a brazen sense of fearlessness with they way they live…yet even with this confidence, they are respectful and humble.
Respectful of those that came before them, and towards those who work the land making the USA and West they way it is today: a slice of heaven on Earth.
Life throws a lot our way, and as the immortal cowboys teach us every rodeo season with their actions, tough days are inevitable and there will be strings of rides that result in eating dirt & grass.
Such times make us who we are, as we find the focus and passion that allows us to dust ourselves off and prepare for that next ride. For it may be the next ride, that perfect ride, to put us back on top again.
When the time comes where we have to face the ‘agony & ecstasy’ of that 8-second ride in life, keep focus on what is ahead and when problems arise: take the bull by the horns…
Posted on September 8, 2013
These two words can awake and excite a soul like no other. My thought of what I wanted to be when I grew up is forever linked with these two words: a cowboy who would win the All-Around Championship at the Pendleton Round-Up…
Realistically, there was a better shot of me becoming the President of the USA, as the road of a Round-Up champion takes a special & courageous soul to travel.
Big dreams at the Pendleton Round-Up, a big stage for any cowboy: if you win here, you have made it on the rodeo circuit. The Pendleton Round-Up is one of the oldest and most respected rodeos in the world.
Dreams of Larry Mahan, Lane Frost, Mike Currin, Mike Beers, Ty Murray and Bobby DelVecchio, great cowboys who have electrified the rodeo world with their art, still churn in my head. Such dreams find the minds of many young rodeo fans in Eastern Oregon, all in anticipation of one day riding in the world-famous Pendleton Round-Up.
Yet, it is not just the big names that kids dream about…it is the ranchers and farmers of the area that make this show (and dream) so close. Heroes, who one day are working the fields of their farms and ranches, and the next day are dedicating their time both as participants and key figures in making the Round-Up successful.
Favorite events of steer wrestling, saddle-bronc and bareback to the riding of the Brahma bulls will see local and international cowboys show-off their skill. While they often end up with just a mouthful of dirt and grass to show for their efforts, they’re always buoyed by the applause and support of the crowd.
In someway, all of us in the crowd are on the field sharing our dreams with cowboys as they ride.
Of course, dreams of young men are never complete without visions of a goddess or two to steal away his time, and the Round-Up has more than its share of such beauties. While every rodeo has numerous ‘buckle-bunnies’ it takes a special woman to make it to the Round-Up, especially the role of Round-Up Queen and her Court of Princesses.
The Queen and Her Court can take me away from whatever I am doing, and along with everyone else watch them glide into the arena, flying in on their steeds with a grace that would make Pegasus jealous. There have been royalty a plenty over the years: Jody Gugin, Ellen Kilkenny, Sara Mautz and my all-time favorite Mary-Lou O’Rourke (Lazinka) back in the 1960s.
Mary Lou’s husband (Bob O’Rourke) taught me the joys of fishing and the spirit of living in the area…while her brother Bob Lazinka had land on Butter Creek and in the mountains outside Ukiah, an ideal place to spend a lot of time elk, Chukar and pheasant hunting with my Dad (a past Round-Up Director as well…very proud).
The call of “Let’er Buck!” still echoes in my head, no matter where I am. These simple words create a wonderful sense of emotion for any Pendletonian, anywhere in the world and at anytime of the year.
These are the words of freedom, of hard work, of taking risks and knowing you have a whole community of people with love behind you. It is at the heart of what made the West a great part of US history. The stuff little kids dream about…even kids in their 40s.
The Round-Up is a conglomerate of the spirit of the surrounding communities of Eastern Oregon (Heppner, Helix, Pilot Rock, Athena, Hermiston, Enterprise, Baker…to name just a few). An event created over 100 years ago to celebrate the life of the West and to commemorate the harvest season and communal support for the farmers and ranchers. And, of course, to put on a show…
Many people have asked me how & why I speak so often of my family, and the answer is simple: because I come from Pendleton. Knowing that after 25 years of being out of contact, I can show up at the doorstep of any friend in Pendleton, and we can pick-up our conversation as if it was yesterday as they warmly take me in.
The spirit of the West and the spirit of the people of Pendleton are the backbone of the Round-Up.
While I love my adopted cities of Hong Kong and Seattle…the roots of Pendleton taught me the essentials of life. The phrase ‘salt of the earth’ is often thrown around, but come to Pendleton and you will see and experience this quality first hand.
The Round-Up is an annual calling around world. Friends from all across the globe will come to this small town in Eastern Oregon and join the ‘wild & free’ spirit that makes the rodeo what it is today. While it is an event that brings together a rich history of the life of cowboys and the West, it also strongly wraps itself up in the history & culture of the Native Americans who have always been at one with the land.
As mentioned in my earlier post of the beauty of nature: no one owns the water, the sky or fresh air, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are reconnecting modern society back to the roots of nature. Chinook salmon have returned to the Umatilla River through the relentless work of the Confederated Tribes working with farmers and irrigators. Working with Mother Earth is a way of life in this region.
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation host an amazing tribal village, with over 300 teepees consisting of Indians from around the Northwest. Here they share their cultures with all travelers, and during the week tribes from the Pacific Northwest gather in the village to visit with friends and relatives. One of the most mesmerizing and refreshing sights you will see at the Pendleton Round-Up.
The days of dreaming of becoming a cowboy maybe out of reach for me these days, but then again, as I strap on my chaps, put on my Stetson and an old belt buckle from riding days past…it is a dream I get to relive every September at the Pendleton Round-Up…the grandest of all rodeos.