By Karyn Sealy Bland
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
The recent Sandy Oaks Pro Rodeo celebrated the American Spirit, particularly the cowboy/cowgirl. Sitting in the stands this past weekend I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the patriotic spirit vigorously on display. This was the America I remember as a child. Not the America I see now day to day, especially not the America I have been shown through media this year, with fear and hate threatening to overwhelm society. The rodeo was about the heart of mankind, bringing the spectator down to his or her roots of a hard day’s work being celebrated surrounded with loving family or friends. This wholesome image of the cowboy embodies the American spirit of liberty, hard work and a certain tenacity. Imagine for a moment the image that comes to mind when we think of a quintessential cowboy, a lone rider in an expansive landscape out West, a vision of limitless possibilities and adventure! The cowboys and cowgirls this weekend approached their sport with a powerful perspective that looks fearlessly at challenges as adventures towards a goal. Each task is taken in stride. A popular term “grit” describes this perseverance of character. Why did this wonderful weekend of rodeo inspire me so much, I wondered?
During the COVID-19 challenges of 2020, all of us have hit unforeseen obstacles. What have I seen so many friends and neighbors do under this pressure? They rose to meet the fear, relying on their inner spirit to persevere – to keep riding through this. Some have lost loved ones, others, income, security; for all a change of the perspective of what is normal. How might it feel to miss lassoing your steer in front of hundreds of onlookers? What about knocking over a barrel during the barrel race? Not being able to stay on the bull for the full 8 second ride? Perhaps even slipping off the mechanical bull in front of your friends? The cowboy spirit reminds us of the grit inside the heart of the human that allows us to dust ourselves off, laugh and get back on for another round.
Tenacity builds this life up. The book of Romans in the Bible repeats this ageless truth that hardship builds character, and hope. Take that hope and combine it with grit and you have something beautiful to watch. Think of the barrel racer who circles fearlessly and skillfully around the barrels and combines this with the final gallop back through the gate; both sweating and excited at the combination of hard work and the thrill of the run! The ride may not go well, a barrel may fall, the horse may trip, your time may not win you the money! I watched rider after rider of the two nights face these fears with bravery and accepting the mistakes, knowing that they will try again next time! They keep going, with an indominable spirit. The audience cheered and clapped for all contestants no matter their mistakes, we are human, we all can relate to failure. The cowboy accepts the mistakes, or accidents, gets back up, dusts off and gets back on the horse for another ride.
There are intellectual cowboy and cowgirl examples all around us. Stop and think of someone you know that is steadfast and hopeful. They have a certain look, like the sky is the limit. I know people that have the same grin and twinkle in the eye representing the spirit that says “go for it”, full heartedly – give it a try; conquer fear, set a new goal, challenge yourself and find strength to risk failure. Without trying, we already fail. The cowboy reminds us to challenge ourselves to push to the horizon of the unknown, the untapped potential we see as a dream, change the world at present into something better, that currently does not exist. We have examples of those individuals in our communities, why not emulate that strength too? Live fully, with heart and grit aiming for something greater than where you are now.
The cowboy prepares for challenges hoping for a clean run a good day’s work. Even prepared, with a good hat, tough boots, comfortable jeans, and a strong horse at his command – the cowboy never knows what unique challenges the ride will bring. He shows up anyways. Are you going to be the top team roper first time out of the gate? Not right away. Accomplishing a goal takes and showing up again and again keeping in mind the goal. Just as a student or professional shows up for school or work, the cowboy continues taking on the challenges. Bring this into your own scope: you show up for your challenges at work, home, family, only with what you are given. However, remind yourself that you are the cowboy – what you are given is everything you need. Go ahead and imagine taking hold of the reins, feel the heart beating faster, adjust that ‘hat’ and go confidently against the elements to tackle that next challenge with full gallop; fearlessly pursue the life you want and make your heart glad in the pursuit, knowing you gave it your best, because now is all you have….that calf is running, will you lasso it in time? No matter what, enjoy the ride for all that it teaches you.
Let’s keep ‘riding’ and embracing the American spirit of the cowboy as we ride out 2020, yes, it will hurt at times, we might get a little dirty too, however, as long we are moving forward towards what is next and for better days the ride is worth taking – we can’t even imagine the stories we will have to tell from the next adventure!