Sunday, January 30, 2011

Under the Rodeo Moon

The new year is under way and looks like it’ll be a busy year of parenting, husbanding and working.  Of course, my time with my wife and son serves as my anchor point and refreshment to keep me going through the routine of the business of life (working a full-time job).

As you may know I’m a career military officer, following in the footsteps of my father and grandfather.  The direct line breaks there, but the thread still runs back quite a distance.  My father was a career Air Force officer.  My grandfather on my mother’s side was a career officer as well, having joined the Army as an aviator, was one of the advocates for a separate Air Force, and ultimately retired as an Air Force officer.  Both of my uncles wore the uniform.  Several other close and distant relatives did and still do.  I was born into an Air Force family, on an Air Force base and have only known a migrant life.  My father was on active duty when I left for college and when I graduated, I put on the uniform.
This summer my family and I will move again.  The upcoming move makes my 20th “permanent” move.  The first six were during my childhood; the rest have been since I left home to strike out on my own.  There have been a handful of other moves as well, but not the kind folks in my world would class as permanent.  Sprinkle in deployments and other temporary duty and I’m even surprised at the volume!  My wife and I were married along the way and counting the upcoming move, she’ll have made half of these moves with me.  Paul was born during my last assignment (on an Air Force base) and will experience his second move this Summer.
The point of that bit of history isn’t to brag, to impress, or to seek sympathy.  I’m not trying to champion or warn people away from the military lifestyle.  Instead, I want to point out one of the positive consequences of this kind of mobile family life.  My family, immediate and extended, has become the anchor point.  While this is certainly true of folks who don’t move as often as we do, I think the emphasis on family is slightly different when they’re the one constant element in an otherwise changing world.  While our extended families are scattered across America, they still sit at the center of our lives.  As for Steph, Paul and I, we three are definitely the one immediate and consistent element in an otherwise fluid world; we are the constant while everything else changes.  This was true for Steph and I before Paul was born, and his addition to the family almost four years ago added to the strength of the core.
As a result, my life and our lives together have been a great adventure.  We have lived in some amazing places and spent an incredible number of hours driving from one to the other.  Instead of a burden, we’ve been able to see so many things most folks never get to.  In many cases as we move through the world, we have seen (and lived in) places that others only hear about.  Even better, we have had the privilege of enjoying so many incredible places that you’d never hear about--the small towns, amazing little diners, conversation with another family at a rest stop, and all of the urban and rural scenery in between.  We’ve slept in fine hotels, in the most basic of motels, and even camped on the side of the road.
Chris LeDoux was a fellow child of the Air Force and rodeo cowboy, and is one of my absolute favorite musicians.  When he penned the lyrics to “Our First Year” and “Rodeo Moon” he captured our very real adventure better than I ever could.  Here are the lyrics to Rodeo Moon:
I took her daddy’s old two-horse trailer
I patched a place in the floor that was bad
And then we loaded up her barrel pony
And a riggin’ bag is all that I had
We left with our suitcases filled with desire
Four hundred dollars and two good spare tires
Sometimes we’d sleep in a motel
When we’re ridin’ that hot hand of luck
And sometimes we’d stay at a friend’s house
Oh but most times we just slept in the truck
At nighttime you’d find us out in the fast lane
Stayin’ one step ahead of the snow and the rain
Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room
It changes each mile like a radio tune
With God up above, we’ll make it on love
Under the rodeo moon.
When Chris LeDoux and Toby Keith penned these words, they literally could have been watching Stephanie and I.  The details are ours, right down to the trailer we patched, the spare tires, the barrel pony, and the limited cash in our earlier years.  (Thank you for these songs, Chris.  I miss you.)
As Stephanie, Paul and I continue down the road for the remaining years I have in the military, I hope my son grows to appreciate the blessing of our amazing world in the same way.
It’s great to be a dad!
The sketch of Steph, Paul and I drawn by Howard Tayler.  Visit Schlock Mercenary ( to see his work.
You can find “Our First Year” on the album “Cowboy” and “Rodeo Moon” on “Horsepower.”  Please visit Chris' official website ( for information on these and other great albums.