My life has been pretty calm…pretty normal…pretty ordinary.
I was born in March of 1984 in a small Western Kentucky town called Hopkinsville, where I was born and raised to ride horses and know the ways of the country life. I was born into a Christian family, a young little Christian family. My mama was 16 and my daddy was 19 when they got married, and they started dating 3 years prior to that, just pure babies, but oh the love they had for each other…a love that would hold them together through everything life could ever bring their way. And, well, life brought me at age 18 and 21.
My brother, Clint, was born when I was just 22 months old, and me and him were the best of friends. We fought and bickered and many times did things that to this day makes zero sense. We played in hay lofts, we rode go carts, we went pond fishing, where one day I was chased by our neighbors llama, and it practically traumatized me forever.
We lived a good, good, country life, but my entire childhood revolved around one thing, horses.
I got my first pony when I was 2 years old. His name was “Doodle”, and I loved him, after a little while. You see, at first I was terrified, but in time- he grew on me. I loved that little paint pony with a feisty personality. When my brother came along, he took him over and renamed him. He became Poco Bill. Doodle was just not a cool enough name to handle MY brother, let me tell you.
Through the years, we passed through numerous horses. We were barrel racers, along with my dad…and we traveled miles and miles to chase those cans and make the best memories any child could have. I cannot look back on my childhood for one second without remembering those days at the horse shows. My heart smiles to think of them…to think of the people I met that were family to me, and still are. It was a childhood that I would not trade for all the money in the world.
You see, every single weekend, my entire family was together. We were together until the wee hours of the morning, showing horses and laughing and eating at Grandma’s kitchen where us and the truckers hung out. I sure hope you had you a Grandma’s Kitchen truck stop where you live, because let me tell you, it was worth going to…or at least that is how my young mind remembers it.
I remember sitting with the adults and wanting to be in every conversation they had. I was too grown to be at the kids table. I didn’t want to talk about kid things, I wanted to know the latest gossip and share in their conversations. It was far more exciting! I was annoying, like most kids. I can look back and see that I had to get on their last nerve. Bless it. It is funny, because I remember a defining moment at the Grandma’s Kitchen one night. This one night, there I was, being my annoying self…and my dad had some leftover food. He had told me to go sit with my brother, but I didn’t listen, of course. I just kept on pestering, while he talked to his friends. Well, at this time, my dad was a smoker. He isn’t now, but he was then…and he had some leftover bacon on his plate. I grabbed me a big ole wad and started chewing, only to discover that there were ashes all over the bacon! That wasn’t pepper, y’all! That’s a good way to make sure the kids stay at the kids table, let me tell you!
Each of the memories I have and each of the funny things I remember, such as getting run over by my brother on the go-cart, racing my pony in the cornfield as fast as he would go, breaking my nose twice- once because I was not listening when my mama was telling me to stop doing what I was doing (children, listen to your parents for Pete’s sake),and the other because I was a little too close to my brother hitting a golf ball…so BAM went the driver in the middle of my nose! “Running away” because I was mad at my mom for being a good mom…and making sure to take all the household snacks I could find, because even then…a girl had to eat, all of these other things shaped and molded me into who I am today.
It is really pretty incredible to look back and think that these things I grew up doing, never giving them any thought, would be the very things that would put me in the exact positions that I am in today. It is sobering. It is humbling. It is thought provoking. And you know what? I bet you can relate to that. Certain things that you look back on, good or bad, helped shape you. They shaped how you looked at the world. They shaped your views on certain things. They made you the way you are in many ways. Some of you weren’t as lucky as I was, and you had to rise above horrible things to get to where you are today. You are an overcomer. But even still, each thing you went through shaped you. It shaped me.
As I grew older, the barrel racing became much more competitive for me and my brother. I don’t mean that it was competitive against each other, although it was that too, but it was competitive in that we started having to work really hard to be competitive in the arena, in the shows that we competed in. We would miss school sometimes for a week at a time to be in Texas, to be in Ohio, to be wherever…because that was our families passion, and we were blessed by that. We worked hard to try to win and be competitive and know we had a chance at any show we competed in, but let me tell you something. None of that came without very very hard work at home.
The biggest life lesson I learned growing up and racing horses was that to be able to compete in a show, I had to exercise that horse at home. My dad was a die hard for that. He told me time and again that it wasn’t fair to that horse to have to show up at that show and run his hardest and be put under that stress if he had not been prepared for it at home. At the time, it annoyed me…as it would most kids my age, I guess, especially little know it alls like I was. I wanted to do other things at night after school! I wanted to talk to my boyfriend and go to a friend’s house or literally anything but exercise my horse. Sure, I loved to compete…but I didn’t want to do the work it took at home to prepare him for the show.
But guess what? I was out there everyday…long trotting up and down our field. I did this over and over and over again. It was boring. I didn’t necessarily enjoy that. It was freeing to be on a horse’s back, and I loved that feeling, but just long trotting one way, turning around and long trotting back… that was not the fun part. But, that horse would get into the best shape. His stride was longer. He was bulkier and stronger. That long trotting up and down that field would prepare him to be a winner in the arena, and at a young age- I was a competitor. I didn’t want to compete if I didn’t have a chance to win. So, I long trotted.
Many times, me, my brother and my dad were out there together, at the barn, long trotting. We would let them break a good sweat, wash them off and then walk them down. This was a daily thing. It was a part of my life, day in and day out. It was such a routine thing, that I never thought of the value at the time. I didn’t see the family time for what it was, and I didn’t see the life lessons for what they were. But I do now.
You see, my mom was always scared of horses. She was at every single horse show. She watched and cheered and loved every second, but she was scared to actually ride…so when you hear me speak of just my dad and brother, that is why. She was on the sidelines, being our biggest supporter..because even though she was scared, she taught us not to be. Isn’t that what we as parents do? We fear, yet we want our kids to be fearless so we never allow them to see that in us. That was her.
I was good at riding. I am not trying to toot my own horn, but toot toot. Just kidding. I just had a natural ability to ride. It was bred into me. Did I win all the time? No, but I was competitive. When I rode, I rode with no stirrups. I had better balance that way. Every time I see people that remember my riding days, that is the first thing they say to me…that they always loved to watch me ride because I never used stirrups!
I had several horses that I loved through the years, but my very favorite one was my good ole boy, Toby. His registered name was “Sir Sting”, but when I got him when he was just 5- I couldn’t ever call him anything but Toby. Don’t ask me why. I just felt like he looked like a Toby to me. When I looked at his Blaze face and wild hair, he reminded me of a young school boy…and that is what stuck with me. He was my Toby, and he was a mess. He liked to buck, and he liked to act out a tad bit. He had a feisty side, much like his little rider.
I will never forget one year at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville, when it was my time to go into the arena to run the pole bending class. This was his best class. He was a beast, but it wasn’t easy for me to keep the poles up, truth be known. You see, I had to wear stirrups for this event, and you already know how I said I couldn’t ride in stirrups! I felt like I was about to fall off the entire time! But, if I wanted to win, I had to wear them. Why? Because if not, the stirrups would wrap around the poles and knock them over! It was crucial for that not to happen.
Well, there we were, ready to compete. I was all settled into the saddle, and I had my mind clear. They called my number, and I went towards the alleyway. While I was heading towards the alleyway, Toby was not. He was backing up. He rared straight up in the air and did a full circle, acting a complete fool. He landed directly in the photo booth where they take pictures of the winners of each class. Everything fell over, and I was mortified, but I only had so long to get in the arena before I was disqualified, so I had to get going.
Somehow, someway, we made it through the gate. We won first place that day, and that picture you see? Well, that was me and him standing tall right in the place that he had knocked down just minutes before. (Pardon the yellow wranglers…that was the style LOL)
So, looking back over my childhood, I see so many things. I see happiness. I see stability. I see fun and I see lots of laughter. I see hard work ethics being taught to me early early on from two parents that did not just talk the talk, but they walked the walk. They were young when they started their journey in marriage and parenthood. They didn’t have it figured out. They just worked their way through, doing the best they could. They made mistakes and they learned, but more than anything, they loved us big and they taught us how to work hard for the things that we wanted in this life and to love God and to trust in Him. Honestly, what more could I have ever asked for?