The Cowboy Way
I have known Sam Kavanaugh for close to 30 years. His mother-in-law and I were so close at one time in our lives that when I actually walked down the aisle, she stood in as mother-of-the-bride for me. When my son mentioned that it was too bad I didn’t have a cowboy to add to my ever-growing list of The People of Georgetown segment I thought of Sam.
When I showed up on his doorstep, pen, paper, and camera in hand, he said, “Michelle, you’ve known me long enough you could write about me without my help.”
“But, I don’t know anything about the rodeos or being a cowboy,” I whined as he sighed heavily. “Now go get your little cowboy hat and put it on for me. I want to take a picture of you.”
Sam started out in the rodeos when he was around 12 or 13 years old having grown up in Louisiana (the upper part). Most of the rodeos were on the weekend and didn’t interfere with, at first school, and then later, employment. Having been in the construction business since he was 17, Sam now works on the maintenance crew for BE&K Construction Company inside of Georgetown Paper Mill.
“When I was in the rodeo I rode rough stock,” Sam said of his rodeo days.
“What is that?” I didn’t have to write fast since he’s an old country boy and talks slow anyway. “I never heard of it.”
Sam takes a pull off his smoke and answers, “Pretty much, it’s bull riding.”
“Oh my God! What about the horses?”
“No, the horses didn’t ride the bulls, the cowboys did.” Then adds with a laugh, “I didn’t do much bronco busting, my thing was the bulls.”
In all of the years we’ve known each other, we had talked of many things, however, we’d only had one conversation that touched upon this subject. I overheard him talking about rodeos and asked if he were a real live cowboy. He thought that was funny. As he laughed he said, “Yes, Michelle, I’m a real live cowboy.”
That was the extent of the conversation. Now, I was interested. “What about roping things like cows and pigs?”
“No, no, none of that,” he answers taking his cowboy hat off and putting it on the stool in front of him. “Calf roping was more for the older cowboys. See, rough stocking is hard on the body and you tend to get worn out and your body breaks down. Instead of leaving the rodeo, the older cowboys just take up roping.”
“What for?” I asked not sure I understood the sport of roping calves, or even riding a bull for that matter.
Sam gave me a look that only a real live cowboy could give and answered, “You do it for competition.”
“Oh,” I said, going back to my notes. “You can win money doing this?”
“Yes, you can win money,” he answers as he lights another cigarette in his slow cowboy way.
“Have you ever won money?”
“Yup. Not a lot, but yeah, I’ve won some money.”
“Riding bulls?” Sam takes a pull off his cigarette and nods his head. I say to him, “You know those things can kill you?”
“What? The bulls or the cigarettes?”
I shake my head and laugh. I know better than to leave myself open for Sam. Riding bulls is not the only kind of bull he is good at. “So, how does one ride a bull?”
“Well, it’s like this: You mount the bull, get a good hold and then hold on to him for eight seconds. Then afterwards you run like hell!”
“Why are you running like hell?”
Another one of those cowboy looks as he answers, “So you don’t get gouged or stomped by that big son-of-gun! He’s pretty well mad by the time you get off of him.”
Sam and his wife, Lori, have lived and raised their three sons, Luke, Brandon, and Dallas, here in Georgetown ever since they’ve been married. Sam has had the boys in football and even coached their teams since they were quite small. Guess what Sam’s favorite football team is?
He still listens to his old country music. The beer drinking, tear leaking, my wife ran off with my dog, my best friend, and my pick-up truck kind of songs. The kind I never allowed in my own house. We were laughing about that too as we talked about his old cowboy ways.
When Lori was pregnant with Luke she had on some of that country music playing and I told her, “You know, your baby can hear this music?”
She said, “Yeah, I know. What about it?”
“It could damage him.”
Now, an adult, poor Luke is going through a divorce. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. In closing, I would like to say, I love you, Sam. You’ve always made me laugh.