Today marks the end of the annual three-week Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Anyone living outside of the Bayou City might think that’s just a small gathering of rowdy Texans whoopin’ and hollerin’ about steer wrestling and saddle bronc riding.
While there is that, this year more than two million people visited the exhibits and midway, and up to 74,000 fans piled into Reliant Stadium each day to see performances by entertainers like Sugarland, Janet Jackson, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Martina McBride, Lady Antebellum, Kid Rock, KISS and Brad Paisley.
Since 1932, the organization with 24,000 volunteers has contributed more than $235 million to area youth. It’s the heart of the city’s charitable efforts and an important ‘gotta be there’ social scene.
My 13-year-old daughter and I took advantage of a beautiful Spring Break day last week to pay $12 to park, drop $20 on games of chance, fork over $30 on food and – the best deal of all – spend just $20 to see CMA Female Vocalist of the Year Miranda Lambert.
Shortly after making our way through the entrance gate, I asked Kirsten to stop and turn around. I wanted to look over her shoulder to see if I recognized someone I knew in college. Although somewhat uncertain, I approached the man, said my name, and heard in reply, “David Handler, I know you.”
He immediately introduced me to his wife and two teenagers, and we spent a too quick 10 minutes reminiscing. I told Kirsten how we lived on the same floor in the huge Jester Center dormitory. I also reminded her that I’ve spoken to my kids about ‘the great amateur wrestler who never lost a match’ on many occasions.
My friend said he is an attorney in Houston, having graduated from UT Law School. His daughter smiled, embarrassed yet proud, when I told her what a great man she has for a father. It was a wonderful chance meeting after three decades, and we followed up by exchanging emails. Chances are 30 more years will pass without our crossing paths.
The next time you’re having a down day, think about my long lost friend who is achieving so much in life, and you’re sure to find inspiration. Stephon Breedlove – wrestling champion, attorney at law, family man – is blind. So is his wife.