Monthly Archives: August 2016

Courage: Profundity on a half shell.

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By Jim Byous

What is courage?  Recently I’ve been reading and studying courage… almost to my chagrin.   I know that courage is a virtue I admire.  It’s noble.  It’s a great ideal for one to aspire.  But, man, it is hard to describe and dissect.  I hadn’t really attempted to diagnose the real meaning and meanings.  Now that I do it’s hard for me to wrap my mind completely around it.  It’s an enormous wrap.

I find that there are variations on the heart of the meaning.  For instance, to be courageous in battle or in times of physical conflict or disaster defines the most common form of courage we think of.  They give medals for it.  The recipient is called “hero”.

But, courage is more than the charging-in-despite-the-odds actions of an individual or group.  Though those can be great and admirable actions.  The idea of courage, the totality of courage, the essence of courage, is distinct and much deeper.

Sometimes courage is physical.  Sometimes it is mental.  Sometimes it is spiritual; the keeping-on, keeping-on that many around us silently face each day.  Not taking a drink, not shooting up, not eating just-one-more helping can require courage.  It is also a man comforting a friend in trouble or a mother holding the hand of a child wrapped in bandages, surrounded by monitors, invaded with feeding tubes and probes and needles in tiny veins.  Or sometimes it is the act of taking a chance in business or in life or in love knowing the odds say that you will fail, but you continuing on because you know it is the honest and correct thing to do.

That is courage.

Winston Churchill was an advocate and evangelist of courage.  His grasp of the power of will, determination and steadfast continuance helped him lead Britain through the perils of his time.  America leads the battle to defeat fascism in the 20th century but Winston Churchill lead the way by doggedly expounding his call for courage.

One quote attributed to him states, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  I don’t know if he really said it, but he should have because it holds to his message.  The perseverance to keep on keeping on.  Sloshing through the trudgery and drudgery, to fight on for a righteous cause without giving in.

That… is… courage.

However, the key word above is “righteous”.  Righteousness can simply be the will – the courage – to not give up hope, to hold a grain of, a faint flicker of faith in that which is correct and true.  Often that is the hardest.  And, often one must have courage in order to hold on to that faith or even to grasp its tiny fringes that persistently whip and twist in your mind’s gripping fingers.

Then again, it seems to me that one must have faith and hope in order to have courage.  I suppose they are the totality and quintessence of the subject; the same frame of mind, of spirit, of determination.  But the real power of those three is in the possession and implementation of all, the letting of one germinate, nurture and grow the others.

Courage – positive courage, the courage that is victorious – is a bundle of all; hope, faith, and courage.  See, to have hope without faith is hollow.  To have faith without hope is impossible.  To have courage without hope or faith is a needless sacrifice.

Conversely, standing to fight the indomitable beast knowing that you have no possibility of winning but knowing that you may slow the beast and assure the salvation of others… that revelation is the presence of hope and faith, not in one’s self, but for a greater good.

That is awe-inspiring, skin-tingling courage.

Then again, with all aside, would it not take courage to run and fight another day?  Would that be called wisdom?  Because in order to exercise wisdom one must usually have courage.  So now we have another variable.

And finally, love… love is a progenitor of the first three and sometimes all four.  If implemented alone it can create any and all of the others. But to have love without wisdom… that opens another can of twisting mental-thought worms.

The final decision to delve into the ramifications of what we may find and how it affects us and how we will deal with the acquired knowledge and IF we will implement those findings… that takes… courage.

See?  It’s an enormous wrap.

I think I’m going to lie on the couch for a while and vedge.


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Poetry from the past

Visit our main website at We post history/travel every Monday, then photos/photo tips each Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (below right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

By Jim Byous

The following is a true story embedded in verse, a bit of cowboy poetry. It is from my youth when I was in my first year of college.  The names have been changed or avoided to protect the innocent.  I wrote it about 30 years ago, but recently revised and expanded it a bit to better tell the story.  As my friend Dave Marston would say, “It is the truth…… as I remember it.”


Oh… for all of my city friends or the Easterners that might read this, the word “brimmer” is a Western-American term for a Brahman bull.  A brimmer is a mean, vicious animal that is best eaten with A-1 sauce but otherwise should be avoided at all cost.


Also to explain – as is so around Ceres and Turlock, California where I grew up – in the West, you can drive out across open country seeing miles of nothing, then find empty, seemingly orphaned rodeo arenas.  However, on certain days of the week or month the site becomes a crowded place for the gathering of the testosterone-numbed minds of young men who engage in actions that result in the procurement of broken bones, twisted limbs and dirt-injected orifices, all to the ooohs and awwws of young women of a similar age.  I know.  I’ve been there… on the male side.


But, thankfully simple logic dictated, in my way of thinking, that the cause and effect of such actions is to predictively hurt like hell or perhaps die looking like a rag doll being ripped apart by a pit-bull terrier.  I learned to suppress the hormone-induced stupor of my youth and am quite proud of that decision.  As a result, I am still here as of this writing.


I call the poem:


My True Life Experience at Bull Riding

and Why I Was Able to Live To Be So Damned Old


By J.D. Byous


When I was a boy

And feelin’ quite manly

I went down to Turlock to ride


With the other boys

On the backs of bulls

And show off our manly pride


As we waited our turns

We sat on the fence

And talked of how good we’d look


Then we cocked our hats

To the sides of our heads

And spoke of the guts that it took


Well… the first boy out

We called Whirlwind Bill

And he crawled on a mean lookin’ brimmer


But, under his backside

Down beneath that bovine hide

You could see the hate start to simmer


I spoke –

“Well, it’s my turn next”

I bragged to my friends

Those bulls have this boy to fear


I then talked about courage

That I was never discouraged

As my time for ridin’ came near


But then…


Over in the chute

Bill’s bull started to boil

About the time they opened the gate


That bull articulated himself

As anyone could see

‘Cause he was spoutin’ and seethin’ pure hate


And then…


An obvious hush

came over the crowd

As we viewed the horror and awe


The image that day

Is burned in my mind

As I watched with fear-slackened jaw


‘Cause that bull squealed like a demon

As he launched like a jet

Then he bounced, and he bucked, and he flipped


And threw poor Bill

High up in the air

For a landing, he was poorly equipped


‘Cause Bill landed flat

As prostrate and spread

As a cheap, second-hand, yoga mat


Now Bill’s feelings I know

Were not the bull’s worry

That animal just didn’t care


His sensitivities for Bill’s comfort

Were not on his mind

See… he had no emotion to spare


‘Cause he reared straight up

Rammed his head back down

And he buried Bill about a foot deep in the mud


Then he backed up again

And he took a nosedive

And the whole arena shook with a thud


And he pushed poor Bill

clear …across… to the fence

… And I flinched


‘Cause back behind him

Wasn’t nothin’ but a bunch of bull tracks

…And Bill’s shape in the form of a trench


Grab your gear, cowboy

I heard my friend say

‘Cause now it’s your turn to play


But when he turned around

Ol’ Jimbo weren’t there

I was in my truck about five miles away


Now I’ve had years to think

Of my retreat from the brink

Of death, or of mind-numbing pain


That the flight-fright notion

Is a valued emotion

That God planned and instilled in our brain


And to see the condition

Of all my old friends

All bent, all crooked and lame


I’m standing right tall

Not ashamed, feelin’ small

For my bovine hoppin’ refrain


You see…

It’s bronco bustin’

For some of the guys

And I’ve been known to try that some


But when it comes to ridin’

On the back of a bull

This Okie boy

Sure as hell

… Ain’t that dumb


©J.D. Byous 2016, all rights reserved

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