I look at things differently than a lot of folks. I relate everything to my relationship with God. As I look back on when I was getting going, learning and coming up through the stages of my roping career—and learning about life—there was always someone at each important stage of roping—and life—that made an impression on me and showed me the way.
When I moved away from home (in Southern California) and started roping for a living at 16, when I was a junior in high school, I moved in with Jimbo and Mary Ann Wales (in Arizona). They let me live with them like I was one of their own kids. I got to practice every day and go to school. I was kind of on my own and calling my own shots, but there were people along the way who helped me and gave me advice, which was extremely helpful.
Then I moved in with a buddy who was older than me, Tom Cox, who traded horses. He was the guy who gave me a lot of confidence, and spoke words into me about who I was and what I was going to be able to achieve. Those words painted a vision inside me. For 34 years, he’s been right there with me, and I’m close friends with him to this day. Over the years, I got to know Jimbo’s sister, Judy, and her husband, Ozzie (Gillum). We’ve had a close relationship for 30 years.
One of the greatest horses I’ve ever had (Ike) came from them, and I’ve stayed with them on the spring rodeo run in California for years and years. Allen Bach has been a close friend for a really long time, too, since I went to Arizona. Allen mounted me at the rodeos when I was first getting started professionally. We’ve been great friends and have fed off of each other when it comes to trying to rope better and stay sharp. These and so many other special people have been extremely helpful along the way.
The best partners care about you not only in the arena, but as a person. I’ve had some really quality roping partners along the way who were just a pleasure to rope with. We became great friends. When I roped with David Key, Matt Tyler and Speed (Williams), it was more than just roping and making a living. They were with me through some tough times in my life. It’s special when people don’t run off and leave you when things are bad.
Having roped professionally for over 30 years, I’ve had some very special partners along the way. Jake (Barnes) has obviously been an awesome partner, as have other guys. Your partner helps you make a living, but is so much more than that.
Rickey Green has been a close friend forever, too. We live next door to each other now, and we’ve been friends for 30 years. Dee Pickett and I were very close when he was rodeoing. There’s a man in El Paso, Bobby Baize’s dad, Wayne, who’s been close friends with Jake and I for many years. He’s the kind of guy who just wants to help you do what you need to get done. Mark and Nancy Craddock helped me when I moved to Bandera a few years ago. My pastors, Dave and Kathleen Simmons, and years ago, Coy and Donna Huffman, have really made an impact on my life. Your friends are your greatest rewards in life.
We all go through ups and downs. Life happens. The people God places in your life are not to be underappreciated or overlooked. When I look at my life, I realize how blessed I’ve been, even in the worst of times. I’ve had a really great life so far, and have lots left to go. That all comes down to our relationships—our family and our friends. That’s what makes life worthwhile, and helps you through when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope.
I can’t possibly name all my closest friends. There are so many people I’ve had close relationships with over the years who’ve made such a difference to me. I’d love to mention each and every one of them, but they know who they are. As a person travels through life, you have your goals and ideas of where you want to be, and you run into folks.
The best relationships aren’t just one-sided. They’re a mutual benefit to both parties in one way or another. That’s what makes those friends special. You count on each other and respect one another. That allows the relationship to get past the surface, down to where people can know who you are and what you’re about. I’ve noticed that people who are givers have the most wonderful lives. They’re such an inspiration.
I read something in a book that said if you help other people get what they want, God will see to it that you get what you want. All successful people have people in their lives who’ve made a difference—a parent, teacher, coach or friend. It’s so great that there are people out there who still go out of their way to lift up others.