My drive through Kansas to Oklahoma brought to mind several fascinating memories, about rodeo and about life.
Eleven years ago this fall, I moved to the state’s capital city to take a new step in my life, working at the state’s largest newspaper. Shortly after arriving, I was introduced to Bryan Painter, the rodeo coorespondent for The Oklahoman. He is one of the greatest storytellers I’ve ever met, and his prose that weaved along the rodeo trail are always inspiring.
But what I got most in my time with Bryan was a friend. As I got settled into my roles at the paper and new surroundings, Bryan learned that my mother was fighting cancer. His father had just lost his battle with the disease months earlier, so he knew each level of my emotions. And even though our relationship was just weeks old, he volunteered to be my copilot anytime I needed as I made the seven-hour, one-way drive to be with my family. In fact, he urged me to make more of those trips, to cherish each moment I could.
I’m not sure I could ever thank him enough for that, but I’ll try. When Mom died the next spring, I had those moments to cherish. I still cherish them.
By 2001, Bryan had taken a well-deserved promotion and wasn’t able to keep up with the rodeo beat as he believed it needed — at the time, The Oklahoman covered rodeo statewide and provided weekly commentary — and he recommended me as his replacement. While I already had a love affair with the sport, Bryan’s selflessness opened the door to a passion and an avenue for me pursuing it.
I’m now chasing my rodeo dreams.
I’m not sure I could ever thank him enough for that, but I’ll try.