Saddle: It takes deep tenacity to find the courage |

Saddle: It takes deep tenacity to find the courage

Tony Vagneur
Saddle Sore

Our parents do their best to teach a lesson, threatening to throw our bicycles in the trash, taking our car keys away or other foreboding punishment if we don’t own up to childish misdeeds. How many times have you sat in a quiet classroom, the teacher threatening that no one is going out for recess (or graduation) until the culprit or culprits come forward? (Sometimes that tactic works, but without a snitch in the crowd, it mostly teaches self-resolve.) We learn early on that it takes courage to step up and own our actions, however great or misguided they may be.

More and more lately, it takes deep tenacity to find the courage it takes to be personally accountable. How easy has it become to roll with the punches, letting others make our decisions for us, shrugging our shoulders and doing the politically correct thing rather than standing up for our beliefs and trying to make a difference?

I was reminded of this the other night while watching the documentary film “Unbranded” at the Wheeler Opera House. It was about a group of young men, fresh out of Texas A&M, who decided to ride from the Mexican border in Arizona to the Canadian boundary along the northernmost reaches of Montana. Wild horses were, appropriately, chosen for their mounts, and after a lengthy period of getting it all together, including the inevitable and frequent misunderstandings between wild horses and humans, the boys took off from the southern border.

Instead of lining up for job interviews, listening to their parents’ concerns or buying into the accepted view of what college graduates should be doing, they postponed the possible brutality modern society can throw at young men and followed their hearts. Whatever the adventure meant to them overall, individually they are, by their own admissions, much stronger and resilient than when they started. And throughout the film, the courage it took to complete their journey shone bright.

But we don’t have to look on the big screen to find examples of courage and personal accountability — they’re all around us. My farrier, Nate Oetter, arrived the other day, right on time and ready to work, and during the banter while he laid his tools out, informed me he had dislocated his shoulder riding saddle broncs. Or I should say, the trauma occurred as he slid off the pickup horse after a qualified ride. It was a freak accident that took him out for three or four weeks. He’s a winner, having already won the 2015 Snowmass buckle and is still the top contender for the Colorado Pro Rodeo Association saddle bronc championship, although he’s had to face up to some intense physical therapy to get back to riding shape. This weekend is his first ride since the wreck.

When you shoe horses for a living, it’s the epitome of being an entrepreneur, and there’s no one to take up the slack, so he kept his head down, his spirits up and kept tacking shoes on thousand-pound animals, albeit at about half-speed. If you’ve ever had a dislocated shoulder, you know how painful that can be. As he talked, he wasn’t trying to say it was the pickup man’s fault, the horse’s fault, the stars weren’t right or whatever. He was in the game and he got hurt, and he owned it. That is what personal accountability is all about.

My friend Tracie Wright can be found most days behind the counter at my favorite lunch spot, a rural location, if you must know. In these beginnings of the political race for the White House, she has exhibited courage of another sort, taking a step toward making her preferences become reality. She’s put her dollar on the Bernie Sanders election campaign, and before you make a judgement about that, listen to her experience.

Those in charge have explained the process of what it takes to get a candidate to the Democratic convention, starting at the local level and continuing through the national debate over delegates. She is learning the ropes, grasping the lingo, working hard, is engaged in something that takes personal courage to pursue and is totally accountable for her beliefs. When asked if she hadn’t learned all this election information in school, her reply was simply, “No.”

So, in the absence of accountability from the educational system, people like Tracie are more than willing to educate whomever will listen on the merits of getting involved, the civics of it and making a stand. And you can trust me on this — Tracie is involved in many things on many levels, not just politics.

Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at