Giving them a chanceWhen I was a toddler, growing up in northwestern North Dakota, I slept in a cozy bed, rode a sleek new red bike and a fast paint pony, played little league baseball in a brand new uniform, went to and had a lot of my own birthday parties and opened too many presents at Christmas.
By: Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
When I was a toddler, growing up in northwestern North Dakota, I slept in a cozy bed, rode a sleek new red bike and a fast paint pony, played little league baseball in a brand new uniform, went to and had a lot of my own birthday parties and opened too many presents at Christmas.
I ate three solid meals a day, was showered with love by family and extended family, worked on farms and ranches in the wide open spaces, received a fine education, went off to college, then Colorado and California, had an apartment in New York and traveled to nearly every state in America and some in Europe.
Now I’m in Dickinson where the air is pure, the grass is green, the wheat is tall, the corn is taller, oil derricks are taller yet, black gold flows freely and people wave.
When my son grew up in Manhattan Beach, Calif. he learned to swim in our pool at the age of 3, his grade school teachers looked like Miss America, he spent his summer days at the beach, surfed amongst dolphins and could also snowboard in nearby mountains that same day.
He played baseball and soccer year around and in national tournaments, ate too much fast food, dated pretty girls, went to excellent schools, was his high school’s student athlete of the year, then went to San Diego State University and now has a good job.
So how could we fail, he and I? We were given everything we needed to succeed and then some; a platform from which to launch, a foundation from which to flourish and a base from which to blossom. Not everyone gets that however.
I discovered that three years ago when four-time world champion saddle bronc rider and North Dakota native, Brad Gjermundson, asked me to join him on the Home on the Range Champions Ride Match Rodeo committee.
I’d met him when we rode in rodeo, he at a much higher level, and knew plenty about the Champions Ride Match but not much about Home on the Range, the residential child care facility in Sentinel Butte.
You see, at Home on the Range, their number one product is hope. They make it, package it, hand it out freely like presents at Christmas, nurture it, smother kids with it and then send them off to a whole new life.
Silly and ignorant me, I thought that Home on the Range was full of juveniles and troublemakers, bad kids and bullies who deserved what they got and needed to be locked up and looked after. But that is most often not the case.
Because where would you be if you had never blown out a candle on your birthday? Never opened a birthday gift or received a Christmas present? Worn any new clothes or eaten one good meal a day much less ridden a shiny new bike or fast paint pony?
You might lose hope, try to escape, start to hang out with the wrong kids, experiment with drugs and dig yourself a very deep hole that you couldn’t get out of, without someone’s help. You might need to be nudged, nurtured, nourished, restored, revived and reinvented.
On Saturday, Home on the Range will once again host the Champions Ride Match for the 56th time. It will feature the top saddle bronc riders in the world competing against each other for a nice purse and to raise money for Home on the Range.
Nine of them are chartering a plane to get them here from halfway across the country just in time to take part. That’s a nice gesture. So is buying a ticket that gives you the opportunity to see some of the best rodeo in the world and helps to fund the hope that Home on the Range manufactures. The rodeo begins at 1 p.m.
As Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher once said, “He who has hope has everything.”
Or as one of my friends told me recently, “There’s a reason why windshields are eight times larger than rearview mirrors.”
It’s all about hope. See you at the rodeo. It’ll be fun!
Holten is a freelance columnist and cartoonist from Dickinson.