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Pieces of Me: Fathers and Sons

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There comes a time in every parent’s life when we look on our children and swell up with pride. When their actions make us proclaim loudly, “That’s my child, that’s my kid.”

I watched that moment pass for my friend JP Komorny this weekend at the saddle bronc and bareback school hosted by High Plains Pro Rodeo. JP’s son Nik was riding saddle bronc and was preparing for his ride on his first true bronc of the day.

JP rode over to his son and helped adjust and tighten his rigging. He went through the final checks with him and offered up a few words of encouragement.

I should step back here…

JP is a former Marine. When he talks to his son he expects him to listen. However, Nik is a teenager and is filled with the same fire of parental rebellion that many of us were filled with at his age. Because of this mostly JP barks at his son. He gives him orders and expects them to be followed. When they aren’t, which is the case sometimes, he comes crashing down on him. I have often heard Nik and his friends say JP is in a perpetual stage of grumpiness. Aren’t we all?

As JP finished setting the horse, and checking the rigging, he mounted back up on his own horse and rode away. Nik made some last minute adjustments and prepared to nod his head to signal the gate pullers to let him out.

“Lift,” said JP from down the arena, “set your mark.”

Nik took a deep breath.

“Lift!” JP yelled.

Nik nodded.

The horse flew out of the chute. It promptly turned its body to the right and began to buck.

“Stay on, stay on, lift!” JP yelled as he leaned forward in his saddle.
Four seconds into the ride, the horse twisted and threw Nik to the ground. He lay there for a second motionless.

I saw a wave of fear washed over my friend. I could only imagine that memories of his own saddle bronc accident came flooding back to him in those few seconds of time, as well as fear that his son may be hurt.

“Get up,” JP yelled willing any sort of fear from his voice.

Nik stood up, albeit a little slowly, and got clear of the arena floor.

“Good job,” said his dad as a smile spread across his face, “now get on another horse.”

Nik got himself behind the chutes and shook off the ride. He didn’t see his dad. He did see his dad swell with pride because he just attempted to ride a fairly bronc horse. He didn’t see his dad smile because he was following in his dad’s footsteps.

Chris LeDoux has a song titled “Fathers and Sons” and I couldn’t help but to think of it in that moment. JP never said to Nik that he was proud of him, at least not where any of us could hear. But I would wager that, like any father would be, he was full of pride. I would bet that he forgot, for a short while, anything that Nik had done to upset him with his teenage rebellion.

As we were cleaning up on Sunday, JP sat down on the bucking dummy that was on its side on the ground. He looked at his son, his son’s friends Nick Stull and Tyson Culek, and said, “You guys did well this weekend.”

You're proud when they walk scared when they run?
That's how it always has been between fathers and sons.
— Chris LeDoux

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