Life Notes: “Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”
by Tammy Stevens

Recently my sister and her two children came to Ruston for some of the Peach Festival activities as they do every year. It is becoming somewhat of a tradition for them-they arrive on Friday and we go to the Rodeo that night. Then we attend the Parade on Saturday and set out to shop afterwards. Good wholesome family fun for all!

Now one would think-since our agenda has been the same the past few years-that my sister would know the dress code-right? Nope-every year she brings shorts and sandals for Kyle and Kelli to wear to the rodeo (and herself as well). You don’t have to be a spur wearing, rope-throwing sort to know that sandals DON’T protect your feet from the elements of horse droppings or worse-cow poop. Still every year, these poor “city slicker” children can be seen attempting the calf scramble in sandals. They can’t even focus on catching the prize calf for dodging the land mines.

This year I was prepared-or so I thought. I cleaned up a pair of my daughter’s boots for Kyle to wear-they were black, so he agreed. When it came time to get ready for the rodeo–much to my surprise-Kyle came out wearing the black boots and JEANS. The city slicker was starting to –fade. I commented on how “snazzy” he looked in those boots and jeans and how I was proud to be going with such a cute “cowboy”Ö and then it happened. He said “Yeah-if only my shirt said RODEO instead of RUNNING and had a horse on it or something-I would look better.” This was music to my ears-especially coming from my shy, reserved, please-don’t-look-at-me nephew. In a flash I had several “horse type” T-shirts for him to choose from. He selected a Wild Horse Ministries one-nothing flashy, but good for a beginner. As he turned to go change, he mumbled, “Too bad Kelcie doesn’t have a hat I could wear.” Even without a wand-POOF-I had him a black felt hat AND with a little searching and a quick buckle change, we produced a black western belt to complete his ensemble.

The Kyle we once knew dashed up the stairs for a quick change. We didn’t hear him come down the stairs, but I believe that is because he was FLOATING. Yes, my “city slicker” nephew had been transformed into a rootin’-tootin’ cowboy John Wayne himself would have been proud of. His smile lit up the room! I don’t recall ever seeing a kid so proud of how he looked in my life-It even brought a little tear to my eye.

Funny thing, though, this new appearance also gave this once extremely shy boy-CONFIDENCE. Once we were outside, “Tex”, as we will now call him, strolled up to my husband, who was also donning boots and hat for the occasion, tipped his hat in “true cowboy” fashion, and said “Hey, Uncle Ernie-Let’s see who can get the most girls tonight.” My sister was shocked, having no idea her shy 9 year old even had an interest in girls-I’m surprised she didn’t make him go change clothes. You know, Superman is just Clark Kent the geek without his suit and cape, and unbeknownst to us, “Tex” was just Kyle Murray without those boots and hat.

Yes, Friends, I had created a monster, and he was proud and walking tall and looking particularly fine in his new duds. As we were leaving for the Rodeo, he looked at his mother (who, naturally, was wearing shorts and sandals), shook his head with disgust, and said, “Mom, you need to ‘get with the program.’ We’re going to a rodeo, and your outfit just don’t cut it!”

Well, I grew up in Houston going to the Granddaddy of all Rodeos-The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. My rodeo adventures started off with seeing Roy Rogers and his beautiful horse Trigger, and Dale Evans too. I even saw Elvis there and Michael Jackson (when he had a nose), just to mention a few. Every year I looked forward to this event in the Astrodome. It was exciting and fast paced with horses, cowgirls and cowboys everywhere.

The rodeo in Ruston is a far cry from the Astrodome, but for some kids, it couldn’t be any bigger or more exciting-AND-for one boy in particular, it was a chance to be someone brave and tall-and a “chick magnet” to boot. I highly recommend the Ruston Peach Festival Rodeo. It’s well done and full of excitement – JUST DON”T WEAR SANDALS!

Sadly enough, we didn’t get to enjoy the rodeo very long that night because it started pouring rain, but it is a night I won’t soon forget. Kyle went home the next day-wearing his shorts and sandals-but I let him take the boots with him. Who knows when he may need them?

So the next time you need a boost for your ego or maybe just a little inner strength, head out to Walmart and find yourself a cowboy hat. It worked for Kyle!

The Life Notes articles are written by staff of Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home and are published in The Ruston Daily Leader.

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