By Steve Stevens
As Thanksgiving approaches, I started thinking about past Thanksgivings and how it related to my cowboy lifestyle. I grew up with a traditional family Thanksgiving. Mom made the turkey and whatever family was around would join us.
Once I turned eighteen and started rodeoing, I started a tough Thanksgiving tradition of my own, which sadly was away from my family. For some reason bronc riders love to throw their bronc riding schools on the Thanksgiving weekend, maybe because of the long weekend. For the better part of ten years I would attend these schools. One was in Iowa, Louisiana, put on by Harper and Morgan’s Rodeo Company. The first few years they were taught by the Great Monty Hawkeye Henson and later on by one of my bronc riding heroes, Derek Clark. The one year I didn’t go to Louisiana I went to one of Monty’s schools in Albuquerque. I remember eating a Thanksgiving dinner by myself at a Petro gas station somewhere between Holbrook, Arizona, and Gallup, New Mexico.
So, while everyone was enjoying stuffing and pumpkin pie leftovers, I was probably getting my guts stomped out by some saddle bronc colt.
My fondest memories of these times were with a family I became friends with through a mutual friend that lived in Zwolle, Louisiana. Wayne Hoosier and his family opened their hearts to me any Thanksgiving on my way to ride broncs. It was a hundred percent Cajun Thanksgiving with gumbo, turkey and crab balls that I can still taste and smell. My mouth waters just thinking about it. I remember sitting on the couch in their living room stuffed to the brim watching the traditional Cowboys’ football game. Although we were in Louisiana, the Cowboys seemed to be their favorites. I always felt guilty ‘cause I didn’t want to eat too much as I didn’t want to feel heavy when I had to get on wild horses in the morning.
I also had one of my best friends who lives in Lake Charles, which was real close to the school, always making sure I had plenty of leftovers.
This had become a tradition for me, trying to get ready for the next season. Now that I have my own family, I wonder how I could have ever left home during that time.
One year I was pretty lonely at the school missing home. I wasn’t riding real good but I had gotten on so many broncs that day, that all the other kids had already put all their tack up and had left or were sitting in the stands. I sat behind the bucking chutes alone wondering what I was doing so far away from home and Monty came and sat next to me and said “Don’t worry, you will do just fine; you’re the only one left.” That meant a lot.
Twelve years later, I am planning our Thanksgiving meal as I am the resident cook this time of year. I am really focused on getting ahead with all the horses so we can enjoy the day. I am looking forward to sitting down in my Texas home and like I did so many years ago, root for the Dallas Cowboys in the most heroic comeback in football history. I want to make sure to spend time with not only my wife and kids, but also with our horses to let them know how much I appreciate them in our lives.
When I think about trying to be the best cowboy I can be on Thanksgiving, I wanted to offer up my family prayer.
On this blessed holiday when we celebrate our ancestors giving us the wisdom to give thanks…
I want to Thank You as this has not been a bad year at all.
I was blessed to receive a new 20X Mahan felt hat, my Ariats are so new they don’t have holes in them and I have a new hackamore on the way.
But more importantly, this year You kept our barn full with customers so that we can provide for our children, our horses, dogs and cats.
No matter how difficult the day was, You have given us the courage to get up the next day and start again.
You have surrounded us with new friends who have warmed our hearts with their support and kindness.
You have kept me in one piece, riding all of the beautiful horses that you have sent to us as providers and teachers.
I know it hasn’t been easy as I can be stubborn as a mule, but Thank You for giving me the courage to know that I need to work harder to be a better husband, father and friend every day.
Dear God, most of all I want to Thank You for giving my wife the strength to walk tall and proud through her trying times of being cancer free for over a year. I owe You big on that one.
And by the way- A special Thanks – You even let the Dallas Cowboys win one this week!
In all Your Glory, we Thank You Lord.
Wishing all of you and your horses a very Happy Thanksgiving!
With Love from the Stevens