It was a dry December, not particularly cold, when my wife-to-be and I went to the Lathams’ place near Goodwell, Oklahoma.
It was a common visit for longtime friends. My wife had known all the families around Goodwell for a long time, and I’d become acquainted through the newspaper stories I’d written. With Lynette at my side, those conversations went from interviews to talks with good friends. As we visited, the topic of the NFR came about, and I asked Craig if watching the rodeo on TV made him miss riding broncs; he was still fairly new to this rodeo retirement thing, so it wasn’t out of line just yet.
“When you see those good ones, you really get to craving the chance to get on something like that,” he said. “I still miss it.”
The subject of the “Eliminator Pen” of broncs came up, and with his dry wit, Craig said, “Just as soon as I start missing bronc riding really bad, they put the E Pen out, and I realize I don’t miss getting on those at all. There’s a reason I’m retired.”
When he was diagnosed with cancer so many years ago, I pointedly asked why he chose John’s Hopkins and traveling so far away from home for treatment. His answer was simple: “When I rodeoed, I rode with the best guys going, and I got on the best horses. If I’m going to fight this thing, I’m going with the best there is: The best doctors, the best place to treat this type of cancer, and that’s in Baltimore.”
Craig fought. Lori fought. Chaney and now her family has fought. Sadie has fought. Those of us that love and care for Craig have fought, and guess what: We won. It may not seem like it right now, but winners are the ones who continue to slug it out when it’s hard to get off the mat.
Craig Latham has spurred the beast. It may not be in the way we had all dreamed, but it’s in a way befitting a true cowboy.