Real Cowboys Do Cry

Real cowboys do cry.

While a physical tear did not make a journey down his cheek, the man’s voice revealed the unmistakable sound of longing pain.

“First time I’ve had to be away from my family on business,” he said. “I sure miss them something terrible.”

We are standing in the parking lot outside a small Mexican restaurant. We’ve met inside, sharing stories about dogs, cattle, and family. The sun already checked out for the day leaving the air temperature to gently free fall like a wayward feather dancing in still air.

He blinking pattern changes, a tell of his emotions trying to secretly escape through his tear ducts.  Soft crow’s feet gently shape his eyes.

“Here,” he says pulling out his phone. A photo comes up of a young couple, his arm around her shoulders.

Ten minutes before we were total strangers. Sitting five feet apart, the only thing we had in common was we were both served Spanish Rice.

“Excuse me,” came the voice. “I hate to make you think I am eavesdropping but I do believe it was the Indian Red Wolf.”

Back at our table, we were discussing the unusual heritage of our son’s new dog, a Catahoula Leopard Dog.

“It was the result of the Spanish Conquistadors bringing their greyhounds to North America in the 16th Century and cross-breeding them with the Indian’s dogs.”

“I have thirteen running with my cattle back home in Louisiana,” he said.

I get up and we shake hands, I offer my name. He nods, shares his.

“I run cattle on a little place in south Louisiana,” he says.

Pulling out his cell phone he scrolls to a video of a team of dogs corralling a herd of beige cattle.

“That’s them,” he says. “See how they keep the cattle tight, baying them towards the gate?”

The dogs, heads down and barking, run tight quick circles around the tightly clustered cattle.

“They start running circles at 8 am and don’t stop moving until 3 pm,” he says.

He shows us a few other videos and then offers to share his Facebook page if we are interested in seeing more. He is not selling anything, only being polite.

Back in the parking lot, he tells us more about his family.

“I’m here working on a temporary job for an oil company. Hate being away from my family.”

It is here I spot the reflexive hitch in his voice revealing even real do cowboys cry.

“Gotta pay the bills, though.”

We shake hands, say our goodbyes, and he climbs in a full-size pickup truck. The bed is equipped more for oil than ranching. An oil company logo is painted on the driver’s door.

Meeting people isn’t hard, just a numbers game. Meeting genuine people, those who will stay in your heart long afterward your one meeting is much rarer.

The truck comes to life, belching back smoke into the air. Inside, however, is a man missing something only time and distance can repair.

-30-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slowing Down Time Takes Time

“Aim for the front or right edge,” says the man standing next to me.

I am in the most unnatural of settings for me – a shooting clay club in western Houston. Or maybe not. All I know is I am so out of my sorts; I can barely remember how to stand.

“The right edge?” I say. “I can barely see the thing flying across in front of me.”

The man chuckles to himself and reaches for the shotgun.

“Here,” he says, “like this.”

“Pull,” he says. I push a small button on a box. An orange clay shoots up from the left side against a backdrop of green oak trees and quickly dissipates into tiny fragments.

Without a word, he hands the gun back to me.

For the next few moments, orange clays are set free in front of me – all flying safely to their destination. Front, back, or middle of the clay are irrelevant terms when your inability to control time.

Contrary to common logic, you can control time – it just takes work.

Time is can be our friend or enemy when completing a task. But to get there, you have to first invest an extensive amount of time building a deep well of knowledge. Standing on the shooting map reminded me of how uncomfortable I could be when out of my element. Exciting? Yes. Challenging? Yes. Humbling, you bet.

The best hitters in baseball claim to be able to see the rotation of the seams of an approaching pitch to in order to decode what may come next. This not all about eyesight. Repeatedly experiencing the same task increases your ability to react to the surroundings or timeline you are managing.

While most may only hear a 100 MPH fastball, a major league player’s library of experience of processing what is happening to him with the white object leaving a pitcher’s hand is as deep as a rock quarry pool. And after a certain point, your body defuses the pressure of time, magically slowing down the moment. Doing so allows you to focus on the smaller details, think differently and react accordingly. Or hit the right edge of a clay.

I learned this firsthand public speaking. While most find getting up to speak in front of 1,000 people unnerving, for those who’ve done so more times than memory allows, it is like stepping into an alternate universe where time slows down. You find yourself already forming the next sentence before the current one is out of your mouth. Adjusting on the fly is more akin to the baseball player reading the spinning seams of an approaching pitch than an interruption. After all, in these situations, time is moving in slow motion.

This applies to one person sitting in front of a keyboard or another faces a complicated mathematical equation – you simply evoke the ability to slow down time. It may sound crazy, but this is real.

If I could only slow down time with a shotgun in my hand.

-30-

 

 

 

Open Door Policy Of A Different Kind

Everyone loves an open-door policy. But earlier this week I saw a different take on the phrase.

Sitting at a red light in traffic, a young couple walked across in front of my car. Holding hands, they stepped into the parking lot. It was then I saw a different open-door policy play out.

Instead of each walking to their respective doors, he walked with the young woman around the front of the car and around her door. Reaching down, he opened the door wide and stepped aside for her to get in. And only when he was sure she was comfortably settled in did he close the door. He then walked back around the car and got in.

To some this 15-seconds of life might not seem particularly noteworthy. But I can assure you there are plenty of us out there who are seeing less and less of what we once considered common courtesy.

This is not about gender, but rather respect.

My wife and I have a son and a daughter. And for our entire lives, we’ve encouraged them to treat each other with respect based on reverence instead of perceived weakness or thinking less of the other. Chromosomes are never an excuse to treat another with anything other than the utmost respect or extending opportunities.

The best thing about raising both a son and daughter was the opportunity to teach through example. And we believe teaching respect should begin at home – giving our children a front row seat to what we hoped they would one day carry forward. And in our house, even the simple act of passing the scalloped potatoes was to include a please and thank you.

As kids, they plain wore out the words thank you and please. When particularly young we even ignored requests without the critical word. We hoped doing so would painlessly allow them to become adults who never found themselves having to remember to practice the basics tenants of respectful manners in any given situation.

I have always opened the door for my wife – beginning on our first date. Not because she couldn’t do it herself or I felt like as the male it was my job to open a door for her, but because I never wanted to miss an opportunity to show her how much I valued and respected her in my life. This is not about gender, but me wanting her to know how lucky I feel that she is letting me be a part of her universe. Being with her made me happy and a better person. Why wouldn’t I do everything I could to let her know?

This young couple reminded me of the journey. Our kids are both now adults. And I can say each understands the value of treating others with respect.

And the lessons must have taken root as my daughter once stood next to the car door while on a date and told the former boyfriend “this door isn’t going to open itself.”

-30-

 

Survival Without Technology Uncertain

Technology is going to be the end of civilization – and I’m not referring to weapons.

“You know, I’m terrible at directions,” says the sales associate behind the register.

He is scanning the barcode on a metal wall hanging of a compass.

“My dad keeps telling me I need to learn how to tell my direction but I just can’t,” he finishes, the register beeping in the background.

I pause. I’ve heard this before. It worries me. I wonder about the day technology all goes offline. We’ll be doomed.

“You know,” I say “there are only four directions. North, south, east, and west.”

Silence. I’m not making any headway.

“Here is a helpful hint. The sun comes up in the east and sets in the west. Figure that out and you can pretty much go from there.”

The young man smiles.

“Yeah, thanks,” he says handing me a paper receipt.

I really do worry about the day all these networks and all the electronics go down. I’m not a doomsdayer, but at some point in life, we are all going to find ourselves dependent on our wits and ability to think on our feet. And not getting a signal is not going to be an excuse.

There is something to be said for a Kindle that never runs out of battery life. Yes, I mean a physical book with paper pages and if recycled, will decompose into the dirt.

The other day my son called to tell me about a car sold in Japan with roll-up windows. He was honestly intrigued at the simplicity. And I guess for anyone born in a world where a cell phone quickly became an extension of your arm, this would sound fascinatingly and refreshingly simple.

The next battle may very well happen on a field of ones and zeros – that is software code. Every nation currently contains groups who work feverishly to crack into the digital vaults of whatever adversary – or ally – they wish. Why blast missiles from submarines when with a well-placed change in a code so one can take out a strategic electrical grid or create false data?

Which goes back to the day we potentially looking at our phones or other computer sources and having to step back and ask if what they are saying passes the sniff test. Will we have the critical mental skills to operate outside of a world absent of computer-generated information? Can we read the clouds and tell us what is going on with an approaching storm? Or can we figure out how to troubleshoot when the vehicle we are driving suddenly stops on the side of the road?

I am not a survivalist by any stretch of the imagination. If the dinosaurs reappeared on earth today I might be one of the first snacks they nosh on.

But I can promise you if I ran across a secret note telling me to head west for safety, I am confident I would successfully find my way.

-30-