Years ago, a renowned western artist from New Mexico sent an email to a little cowboy girl’s website. He extended an invitation to come to Texas and perform cowboy tunes for the Working Ranch Cowboys Association, and if the little gal liked–to enter the ladies bronc riding.
Now, if you haven’t figured out THAT storyline yet, the cowboy artist was my dear friend Gary Morton, and the little gal was me!
At the time, I was climbing aboard anything with hair and four legs (much to my poor mother’s terror) and life wasn’t exactly…well, easy. There were a few factors that made that time period of life challenging, but that's a discussion for another day. I must admit to not remembering ALL the details, but suffice to say Mr. Morton told me about hearing the song and poem Waddie Mitchell and I recorded together on my “Buckaroogirl” album called “Branding Pen of my Father/What will I tell Him?” and the rest is history.
My saddle and guitar was packed within minutes I’m pretty sure, and over a decade later I still count heading to Amarillo Texas as one of the best and biggest blessings of my life. The family I found within the WRCA is unlike any other, and when I say family….I mean FAMILY.
The Working Ranch Cowboys Association isn’t your typical organization. They never have been. In 1995, a group of cowboy folks from across the western United States created the association and started the WRCA World Championship Ranch Rodeo. The World Championships are held as a means to showcase the skills of the working ranch cowboy, and raise funds for the WRCA Foundation. The WRCA foundation does some of the most beautiful work you can imagine, and if you’ve spent any time at all around these folks, you know their mission is one built out of love and necessity. The WRCA Foundation was created to provide financial assistance to working ranch cowboys and their family members, and there's a bunch of ways the organization accomplishes this. First, the Crisis Assistance Fund is there to provide financial and other assistance during significant hardships. I’ll never forget, one of the first phone calls I received after the Thomas fire back home in California was from the WRCA, asking what they could do to help. I’ve seen cowboys with broken legs and light threatening illnesses laid up with no way to pay outrageous hospital bills, and families with kiddos fighting cancer enfolded by the love of the WRCA family. Their mission is needed, but the way they live out the love of Christ through every caring act of generosity is a model a lot more organizations in our world would do well to emulate.
The second way they offer help is through the WRCA Scholarship Fund. This fund exists to provide financial assistance for continuing education in a collegiate, trade or vocational program for cowboy kids. The fund allows recipients opportunities that might otherwise not be available, and its life-changing impact on the future of the youth within our community cannot be overstated.
Why do I tell you all of this?
Well, frankly friend, because it matters.
The world can feel like an overwhelming and dark place sometimes I know. You watch the news, and gosh everything sure seems to be in a right mess 24/7! The folks on the news would have you believe the sky is falling, the world is burning and everyone hates each other…
But I’ll tell you a secret.
If you turn off the news, pack your bags and get a ticket to the 28th WRCA World Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo, Texas, you will see what the real folks of this country are busy doing rather than arguing. They aren’t making a negative splash on the news, because they are too busy working for a living, helping neighbors, loving their families and passing on the traditions and skills of their culture to their kids. They are competing against one another, yet they do so with grace and kindness. They are teaching their children sportsmanship and generosity by example. They are just living, and living right.
These are the kind of folks I want to spend my time with, and after over a decade of singing at various WRCA events, not a dang thing could keep me away from Amarillo in November. Not even graduate school (yes I will be doing homework in the greenroom again this year, and no I never regret it!).
I sure hope to see you all there. If you are a first-timer, don’t worry…you’ll settle right in! If you are a regular at the event, don’t be a stranger and come say hi! I’ll be singing throughout the weekend both in and outside of the arena. I love to catch up and hand out hugs, and cannot wait to see you all there.
All my love, hugs and HAPPY DANCES over heading back HOME!
ps. Here are some OLDDDD photos from years gone by...I'm not sure on the dates any longer, but they sure make my heart happy to have now.
From my first trip to Amarillo, I don't remember the year...but it was long enough ago Randy Lewis still had a handlebar mustache and we were both had fewer wrinkles!
John and Mary Ann or, "Judge!" The best folks with the biggest hearts...every year we sit in the same place to watch the rodeo, and every year Mary Ann records me singing the anthem on an old phone and sings along. It wouldn't be the same without them.
You won't find a better human than Kaycee, in or outside of New Mexico.
Randy Lewis and I started doing "re-caps" after every rodeo perf years ago...now you can catch folks LIVE after each show giggling over what happened that night and running through how things went....our incredible social media gal Lauren is the lady behind the camera, and she makes MAGIC happen every year!
My favorite part of every year is probably how laid back singing in the hallways of the trade show is. It allows me to hop around and hug everyone I like, spend time talking to the kiddos and literally watch them grow up before my eyes year after year. It's a gift seeing these young people become good, hard working and kind humans. I am so grateful their parents bring them by every year!
The BEST Texas family....Jeff and Donna Gore! I am so very thankful for these two, they are a second set of parents to a lot of us!
Probably my favorite video of all time...
I'll leave y'all with story time with Shawn! See you in November!