Ever heard the expression (or maybe it was a well-worn bumper sticker), “I wasn’t born in
the South, but I got here as fast as I could”? Well, I was born in Arkansas, but from the moment I set foot in Old Man River’s home, I was smitten with Mississippi.
My journey began on my family’s Angus ranch where chores and everyday life mimic those of our expansive neighbors to the west. Only, we claim more summertime humidity and bigger mosquitoes. That ranch, and its unique ability to teach lessons lived rather than learned, has been my basis for my year of service. You see, being Miss Rodeo Mississippi is more than hot laps and spur straps.
On my ranch, we believe in radios as much as rodeos, and each day at Noon, the local radio station plays the Star Spangled Banner. Stopping for a brief moment to be enveloped by pride for my country on the back side of the ranch set my course for serving my nation’s heroes as Miss Rodeo Mississippi. Being a member of the Semper Fi Fund horsemanship team which provides riding, roping, and cattle sorting lessons to wounded veterans across the country has been both humbling and rewarding. As I look on these soldiers mounting a horse for the first time, I am reminded “The Army and the Navy, the Air Force and Marines, Have paid the price so I am free to live and see my dreams.” Thank you, Semper Fi Fund, for giving me the greatest honor, serving alongside you.
Many days, I have thought my resourcefulness could use a prize, but my brother, Isaac, only rolls his eyes. Back on the ranch, a bucket can make a coveted seat during hot hay season and a zip tie could be the eighth wonder of the world. But, bringing the rodeo to Blair Batson Children’s Hospital, that’s a new challenge. (Insert resourcefulness) That five gallon bucket we all use to cart feed also happens to look a lot like a barrel, and the herd of stick horses my Southern momma sewed have been waiting to show how swift they are for twenty years old. So, what some might refer to as ranch-rigging became a full-fledged barrel race in the atrium of a Children’s Hospital. For one afternoon, those children were not waiting on a transplant list. Instead, they made the draw.
Like all who have seen too many days between rains or stayed at the barn through the night to nurse a calf to morning, there is one other component of ranch life that set a corner stone of my mission for this year: Faith. At the beginning of the year, before Mississippi’s Commissioner of Agriculture even placed the crown on my head, I decided to build a definition of what I wanted to be as Miss Rodeo Mississippi. That definition is this: Miss Rodeo Mississippi is patient, she is kind. She does not envy, she does not boast, she is not proud. Emma is not self-seeking, nor easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. Miss Rodeo Mississippi always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. So, even when met with tests I haven’t seen before on the ranch, Miss Rodeo Mississippi has her Faith to keep her grounded.
As I continue my journey as Miss Rodeo Mississippi, I am continually molded by the people I meet. In true Hospitality State-style, there is more to meeting these people than a firm handshake. There is an impression. So, as I travel this great nation, look closely and you’ll see the Delta dreams, the Elvis Presley pep-to-my-step, the Magnolia morale, and the Pine forest fortitude that My Mississippi sends with me.
Long Live Rodeo, Emma