Just out of Stephenville, nestled in the trees and rolling hills of north central Texas, is a couple of thousand acres that belong to an Arizona kid who used to ride bucking horses and bulls pretty well. Ty Murray’s story is well-known to many, and although I’ve never been to his place, those well-grazed and much-ridden acres inspire me a great deal.
Anyone in rodeo is more than likely familiar with Ty Murray’s answer to his fifth grade teacher’s question of what he would do if he could do anything in the world. Stated simply, he was going to break Larry Mahan’s record of six World All-Around championships. Although many fifth graders have dreams, Ty’s was anything but a dream. That mission became the focus of his life.
As a matter of fact, it had been his focus long before he had ever even started school. At two, he was riding calves with his dad holding onto little Ty’s belt loop. At five, he won his first rodeo. His first words were, “I’m a bull rider.” He roped, rode and tried his way to the junior rodeo year end All Around title nine years in a row. He knew what he wanted, without a doubt.
It didn’t hurt that his dad was a cowboy, his mom was a hand, and his ancestors all had packed some sort of rope throughout history. It was in his blood. But many of us with cowboy in our blood follow whatever paths might come along. We tend not to stay as focused as Ty Murray did. He never wavered, and his focus brought anything and everything into his vision through the lens of a gold buckle.
When his uncle, Butch Myers, won a gold buckle in the steer wrestling, the starry-eyed Ty Murray held it in his young hands. As he gazed at the buckle, he didn’t say, “I’d like to win one of those someday.” He simply studied the buckle, looked at his uncle and his parents and said, “I can’t wait to get mine.” He was focused.
When in high school, Ty noticed the physical strength and balance of gymnasts and, through that gold buckle lens, saw athletes who would make amazing bull riders. So he began gymnastics, simply to increase his balance and strength and to become a better rodeo athlete. He walked miles of rail fence at the race track where his dad started horses to improve his balance. He started colts as a youngster, and he saved his money to buy a bucking machine.
Day in and day out, Ty Murray was focused on two things—being a cowboy and beating the best cowboy’s record. Larry Mahan had won his titles in Ty Murray’s youth, and by the time Ty was a young teenager, Larry had heard of him. He invited the kid to spend the summer at his ranch. Ty learned very little from the legend about riding bucking horses and bulls, but the life lessons he took from the experience were immense. For many, that would have fueled a desire to become the best. For Ty Murray, that desire could not become any greater than it had been his whole life.
Ty Murray’s focus took him to a tie for Mahan’s record. However, injuries sidelined him for the next three years. He had both knees reconstructed and took a year off. Upon his return to the sport, success was once again his, but so were the injuries. He injured his free arm shoulder while riding a bull in Del Rio, Texas. That surgery took him out for the year. The next year found him winning some of the big winter rodeos and leading the All-Around standings, but he dislocated his riding arm shoulder, which also required surgery.
Finally, after three years of naysayers doubting his ability to return to the top, Ty Murray returned to the NFR in the saddle bronc and bull riding. I remember sitting on the announcer’s stand beside Bob Tallman and Zoop Dove as they talked up his last bull ride of the week. The All-Around race had come down to eight seconds, and Ty Murray’s commitment and focus would truly be tested. He rode the bull, and he broke Larry Mahan’s record.
Now, Ty Murray lives on a two thousand acre ranch he purchased with rodeo winnings. He didn’t buy fancy rigs or fancy clothes or anything spectacular throughout his rodeo career. He simply saved for the object of his focus—a ranch where he could spend his days being a cowboy.
When Ty Murray’s injuries had threatened to end his bid for the record, he began practicing martial arts. The focus and intensity pushed him beyond anything he’d ever done. He had gotten to the point of feeling no pain. “I could literally do 2,000 situps,” he said later. He didn’t do it because he wanted to lose weight. He did it because he was focused on overcoming the injuries that had sidelined him and become a seven time World Champion All-Around Cowboy.
Focus. That’s what it takes. God wants us to focus. On him. On the call he has placed on our lives. On loving one another. But mostly on him. Focus. It’s an amazing thing to watch someone who has it. It’s a sad thing to watch someone who doesn’t. I love what Proverbs 4:25 says: “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.” Most people have to figure out and then write down what they’re aiming toward, and then they still can’t get there. Why? Because they spend too much time looking to the left, right, backward, upward, downward. If they’d just focus, they’d get where they’re looking. The great ones prove it every day.
Broken Horn Ranch Ministries has a mission of bringing Jesus to the Western World through western events and regular fellowship, introducing people to a real God who cares about their real lives.