I have written so much of my love, and eventual loss, of my father six years ago – and hinted on the fact that my one true passion – horses, were the bane of his existence. It was our one true disagreement, the one chip in an otherwise perfect father/daughter relationship. But where he was the man in my life who was quick to push me away from these bucking bronco’s, deter me from a life as a professional rider or trainer, and never condone any competition or clinic, I had another man waiting in the wings to lend support, a helping hand, and a snazzy western pleasure outfit, and he was my Uncle Bob.
My Uncle Bob (and my Aunt Holly) were the driving force behind this all consuming obsession – and it started early in life – with the lease of Chocolate, aka Heathen Pony, and the relationship that they encouraged with a fellow competitor on the circuit of theirs – Rose Watt. When my parents didn’t have the time to drive my to 4-H practice, Bobby was there. When no one wanted to go tack shopping with me, Bobby was the first to jump at a trip to Schneiders or Rod’s, and when no one could console me after a bad loss or a bad toss, Uncle Bob was the first to crack a joke and pick me back up. My childhood was spent with him in dusty fairgrounds on bad ponies, and we were quite the twosome. I was quick to earn the name of Ramrod from my Uncle Bob – a name that I took great pride in. He said that even when my pony Chocolate was attempting to buck me off at his hardest, I stayed centered on the saddle – sitting “ramrod” straight. I carried that nickname for 20 years – and I guess somethings never change.
Some of my fondest memories of my Uncle Bob are of the week that we spent together at Paradise Ranch in 2003. My parents had to abandon ship at the last second, leaving Uncle Bob and Aunt Holly on a week long vacation at a dude ranch for a week with a 13, 17, and 20 year old. It was giggle worthy to say the least. But between the arguing, the (occasional) underage beverage snuck in, and the mischevious situations that my siblings and I put them through, Uncle Bob and I got in an entire week of riding together. He hadn’t sat on a horse in years, and yet his legs just draped in the stirrups, and his back stayed straight. He embodied a cowboy in every aspect of the word – he was honest to a fault, quick to help anyone in their time of need, a hard worker with a never ending time clock, a driver of big chevy trucks, he could pull off a Stetson, and at the end of the day, the perfect guy to crack open a Bud Heavy and exchange stories into the night. We spent the week galloping the Big Horn Mountains, giving the wranglers a run for their money in team penning, and swing dancing into the night. It was one of the best weeks of my life, and I am so grateful for those memories.
My relatively short life was surrounded by these strong men – my father to lean on during issues with my studies and life’s daily struggles, and my Uncle Bob was there to make me laugh, to get me that new Stetson, or that rope that no one else in my right wing upscale family would buy me. He was the ying to my dads yang, and when I lost my dad – he quickly stepped into the roll of both ying and yang. Neither of them liked to think of me as being old enough for a serious boyfriend, and knowing that I never would the chance to have my dad approve of my relationship with Luke – I approached his introduction to my Uncle Bob trepidatiously. Within seconds of their introductions though, I was quick to realize that they were kindred spirits; the same person in one. We spent the last few weeks of my Uncles life at his home, getting everything “settled” for the future – and a large part of this was watching him bond with Luke over their shared loved of “toys” – his immaculately cared for Chevy, his anally organized garage, and his love of his antiques. They drank beers, they chatted over their battling brands of choice of cigarette, and they drove around in the Suburban like a bunch of hooligans. It was reassurring to see my uncles love for my partner in life, and yet excruciating to watch Luke get attached to a man that I knew didn’t have very long. But like Garth said, “I could have missed the pain, but I would have had to miss the dance.”
My uncle lost his battle to prostate and lung cancer, two years ago. On December 13th, 2012. On that day I lost my ying and my yang, my cheerleader at horse shows, and my instigator of fun times. But as I have learned in my relatively short life, I also was forced into gaining insight, bravery, and strength. A few weeks before the day, my uncle pulled me outside into “His Garage” and told me that he loved me. We were both the type to never express emotion – sharing a slap on the back instead of an “I love you” or a clink of beers instead of a “you’re the best.” But with the future uncertain, and time running out – we were both forced to conquer our insecurities and our awkward fear of emotion and embrace and admit how much we meant to each other. We ended the conversation with him telling me that he didn’t worry about me. He knew that I would be ok. That I was strong. That I knew how to sit a buck — because I was his Ramrod. I still am Uncle Bob – I will always miss you, but I will always be your Ramrod.