The Gift

My oldest son, Brandon belonged to a junior rodeo association when he was younger. He was in the senior division and rode all three rough stock events, but mainly he concentrated on bareback horses. The rough stock riders hung around together and the timers mostly stayed in their own little group.

There was always a certain amount of rivalry between the two groups and it extended to quite a few pranks. Brandon has a rather warped sense of humor, not sure where he got that, so some of the pranks were quite creative.

With an easy-going personality and his sense of humor he naturally attracted a following. You could always tell where Brandon was because there was a large group of junior bullriders. He was like a Pied Piper of the rough stock crowd. He got along with pretty much everyone except the ropers and the rodeo secretary who had a rodeo queen daughter and a roper son and thought they were quite a bit better than everyone else. While it’s not true for all ropers, this particular batch had money and the attitude to go with it.

John, one of the junior bullriders, was Brandon’s shadow and they were inseparable. This might not have been a real good idea, because Brandon wasn’t the best of influences, but John’s parents liked Brandon so it all worked out.

One of the rules of the junior rodeos was no profanity. In this day and time, that’s a bit unusual as you hear little kids spouting words that would make a sailor blush, but the association tried to uphold high moral values for the youngsters, which I always appreciated.

One roper in particular thought he was quite the lady’s man so as soon as he warmed his horse up, he tied him up and spent his time putting moves on the girls. He always waited until they called his name to enter the arena to get his horse.

He dashed back to grab his horse at one rodeo and lo and behold, someone had unsaddled his horse and re-saddled him backwards. Rules or not, there was a lot of profanity as he hurried to switch his saddle and the announcer called again for him to enter the arena. If they called your name three times and you didn’t come in, they turned your stock out. I can’t remember now if he got his horse saddled in time, but I think he did. Either way, he was one hot calf roper.

Brandon and John were visiting with one of the judges after the calf roping and just happened to stroll by the roper’s horse trailer. The roper spotted Brandon and cut loose with some very colorful language because there was no doubt in his mind who had switched his saddle.  Too late he recognized the judge.

Poor John was traumatized by all the bad words.

The judge reminded the roper of the rules and fined him. After they left, he said, “You knew that was going to happen, didn’t you?”

Brandon looked innocent and shocked. “What? Him cussing me out?

The Pied Piper was leading his minion astray.

This all took place about the same time LeAnn Rimes was just breaking out. She came to Odessa for a show and signed autographs. We aren’t particularly star-gazers and Brandon especially isn’t, so I was shocked when he told me he stood in line forever to get her autograph. This simply wasn’t Brandon. As much as I love my son, I knew he was up to something.

It just so happened John had the biggest crush ever on LeAnn and Brandon had her autographed picture. It was the perfect formula for blackmail. For the next few weeks, Brandon made a point to get the picture out and flaunt it in front John at every rodeo. John begged, pleaded and offered to buy the photo. The offer went up each weekend as he scraped together more money.

Four weeks later, Brandon gave him the picture for his thirteenth birthday. John was a very happy little bullrider and I was proud of Brandon for going to the trouble to get the picture for John even if he did torture him with it first.

The next season, we missed the first rodeo. I asked Brandon when he got home how all the little ones were. John wasn’t there so he went to find his parents and ask about him.

They told him they had been driving across the pasture in a pickup as they had hundreds of times before. John was sitting in the back when they hit a bump and he fell out. He broke his neck and died.

As parents of rodeo contestants, we worry about our children getting hurt or killed in the arena. We worry about the travel to and from rodeos. We even worry about the practice pens. We don’t think so much about doing the every day things. Things we did when we were kids and things our kids have done since they were big enough to help.

Sometimes that small thing you do for someone becomes the bright spot of their life. John’s parents were very grateful for Brandon’s friendship and the picture that gave John so much joy.

Life is sacred, but it isn’t guaranteed.


  1. Thanks, Lisa. I’m going to post more of the rodeo stories this year. This one just stuck in my mind for some reason. He was such a good kid and a talented little bullrider.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *