On September 19th, 2023, one of the greatest collegiate cowboys and rodeo coaches of all time, Sonny Sikes, passed away.
He was my grandfather.
The next day, the following words poured out of me:
I knew the days were numbered so we took the kids to visit. It was pure chaos, so I took them down to my parents and came back for a 1:1, and we got to visit, one last time, for over an hour.
Rodeo was on in the background because, well, rodeo is always on in the background, but we had a great talk. He imparted wisdom as he always does, but the line that stuck out the most was, “Life is about making adjustments. If you’re unwilling to be flexible, life can become suffering.”
I couldn’t tell if he was coaching me or reminding himself.
You see, when you’re truly the best at something, it’s hard when you’re not anymore.
He lost a lot after his stroke—couldn’t ‘cowboy’ the same. And, towards the end, especially after he broke his leg, he lost a lot more: the ability to drive to the ag department with coffee and donuts, the ability to walk to the barn…
But, one thing he never lost, right up until the very end, was his wit, his wisdom, and unparalleled ability to tell you a story that would simultaneously leave you laughing, crying, and a little bit wiser for having heard it. And, these last couple of weeks, that’s a gift he’s shared with so many of us. (Thank you everyone who called, came to visit, and loved my Papa the way he loved all of you!)
He was truly the GOAT (greatest of all time). And yet, you’d never hear that from him, which is precisely why he was the GOAT.
He had a penchant for fairness, and he hated whining.
He didn’t care too much for fancy social events, but he went, and he behaved himself, because it mattered to my Mimi.
He’d much rather be at the front of a chute, turning out calves, mentoring young cowboys, doing what we loved. Ah, if we could all be so fortunate to love something that much.
The man swears he never had a clue what his salary was at SHSU.
So many people do things they don’t love in order to earn more—and we justify it with many reasons, but perhaps we have it backwards… Maybe if we just go do what we love and share our passion and our gift with the world, we’ll earn enough to satisfy all the reasons that matter.
As I read through Facebook posts from many others, it’s clear the impact my Papa had is indelible.
He’ll be remembered as a cowboy, and rightfully so. Those comments are there, of course, but there’s so many more about what a great man he was: a teacher, a coach, a mentor, a friend.
It’s one thing to be a good at your craft, and another entirely to lean into that in order to have a lasting impact on others. And he did. An excellent cowboy, for sure, but more importantly one of the finest humans I’ve ever encountered. I’m so lucky, and so proud, he was my grandfather. Rest in peace, Papa!