Call out to All Cowboys and Cowgirls, even if you have never seen a cow or ridden a horse.
This Cowboy got throwed pretty hard and could use a hand up, even though in true Cowboy fashion, he will not ask for it and will be embarrassed to accept it. And I expect to take a pretty good cussin’ if we are able to pull this off. But Lung Cancer is too hard a ride to go it alone, especially when you are a non-smoker and didn’t bring it on yourself.
I met Ron and his family in Missoula, Montana 10 years ago when I moved from Houston, Texas. He enjoyed my naiveté of relocating from the flatlands and big city living to the untamed mountains of Montana. I brought two horses that had never seen snow or climbed a hill.
He tried to hide his laughter when I explained we hunted a lot in Texas sitting in a blind waiting for the deer to come to our feeder. He relished taking me and my children elk hunting on horseback, in snowflakes the size of golf balls, up the logging trails into the mountains. But it was the trip down the mountains that gave him the greatest mirth. He explained we didn’t want to cover the same terrain twice as we reached the top of the mountain, and like “The Man from Snowy River” headed straight down the mountain at an angle that made my horse drop its rear to the ground and slide down while Perkins was almost at a dead run with one hand in the air, screaming Yahoo, with a grin the size of Texas.
Ron was raised on a ranch in Gold Creek, Montana. He was known as “Doc” because he could touch an animal and know if it was sick and how to treat it. He and Kathy left the ranch to make their own way, him preparing cattle for show, as he learned the construction trade. He and Kathy lived in an RV with three children traveling from one job site to the next; keeping the kids involved in Church, Rodeo and School, in that order.
I came to know this Cowboy, who:
• left his Easter Dinner to search the mountains to rescue this clueless family from Texas who with 4 children, attempted to cross Seigel Pass in April, only to become stranded in a snow storm.
• grabbed his 30-30 rifle when the daughter called him to say she was home alone and 3 large bears were circling the house.
• spent a week with heavy equipment widening and rebuilding the road to their home because he knew, even though they didn’t, the road would be too treacherous in winter for the kids to go to school.
• spent an entire evening installing gas lines to the house when he discovered the workman had not shown up for a week and we were having to cook outdoors on the grill, even though he had out of town guests visiting.
• gave one of his well-worn but warm coats to my son-in-law who was starting his career in the building trades in the winter without a warm coat. I would have given him one had he asked, but Ron just took note that he needed it and provided.
• would fuss about those young long haired scraggly idiots who chose to hitchhike through Montana in the winter, standing on the roadside freezing, but would never pass one up and often would buy them a hot cup of coffee and a warm breakfast as he helped them along their way.
I bought an untrained 2 1/2-year-old horse that I planned to train. Ron advised me to do a lot of ground work before I ever thought of climbing on the horse. When he saw the pictures of my bleeding scalp as I discovered it was a long way down from a tall horse to some unforgiving gravel, the next day I came home to find Ron riding my horse. As I watched him, I discovered the ground training was to train me, not the horse; to understand, respect and become a symbiotic part of the horse. As I watched, it was not a man riding a horse, but a man in perfect harmony with the horse. Like adorning a light down jacket on a frosty morning in Montana; it conforms to your body, moves with you so easily you forget it is there, yet it provides security and comfort.
As I have gotten to know his friends and other ranchers, I found that my experience with Ron is not unique to my family, but to all that know him.
Ron and Kathy made a nice Montana life for themselves, now living in a beautiful home that they built with Ron continuing to be one of the hardest working men I have ever met. Still giving to others, including my family, without the need of request or any sense of repayment.
The tumor is inoperable but there is hope as the Salt Lake Cancer Research Hospital is attempting new and innovative treatment protocols. With the expense and the inability to work, Ron and Kathy stand to lose everything they have spent a life time building.
I don’t know if there are “Angels Among Us” as the song suggests, but I do know there are Cowboys among us that make this world a better place. So if you have ever been helped by a stranger or someone who didn’t wait for you to ask, perhaps you can “Pay It Forward”, even if it is just enough for a hot cup of coffee and a warm breakfast.
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