Last week, I sat down with someone not quite knowing what to expect. This cowboy… well… I’d heard some of his back story, and I’ve dealt with him some on a business level, but I didn’t so much know what to expect on a personal level. I had no idea how open he’d be or how deep below the surface he would naturally delve.
Enter: Gabe Price. Gabe started talking. And, I found myself emphatically agreeing with him, which, in turn, led to me nodding my head in agreement a little too enthusiastically. And, when I realized what I was doing, that led to me telling myself, “Amy, simmer down. Don’t be such a spaz”.
But, whatever. What he was saying was so, so wise. There was passion and fervor in his voice. His words were born of experience. The path his life now follows is a direct result of having travelled down a path that he didn’t like… a path that left him but a shell of a man.
The single most piercing and memorable thing that Gabe Price said to me was this: “You have to fall on your ass to appreciate being on your feet.” And, while it seems a simple and obvious notion, his application is probably a tad less obvious. His application is probably a bit unexpected.
So, this is Gabe’s story. It’s a story of one man’s journey throughout the years, but, more than that, it’s a story of one man’s journey throughout his mind and heart. It’s a story of turning your back on worldly successes and turning your face towards happiness, contentedness, and fulfillment.
This story begins with Gabe, his wife, Shiloh, and their family living in Kerrville, Texas. He moved there post college to ranch with his father. And, just like all these cowboys, he loved the work. (Are they born with it in their blood?!? There must be some hidden chromosome that determines if you’re going to be a cowboy or not because it doesn’t seem this is something that people grow into. It seems they’re born with it in them already. I, quite obviously, was born without it.)
Anyway, at some point, ranching became unprofitable. Gabe shifted gears. Ultimately, he ended up starting a successful landscaping company in Kerrville. Over time, that business put down good, solid roots. It was successful enough that he could delegate the running of the company to someone else and test the waters in other areas.
In his own words, “my priority was chasing money; my priorities were all worldly things.” He already had one successful business, but, apparently, it was not enough. So, into the world of oil field equipment rentals he ventured. And, that took him to Van Horn, Texas. The key word in that sentence is HIM. It took HIM to Van Horn. It didn’t take his wife and kids. And, for those of you (like me) who don’t know the distance between Kerrville and Van Horn, I’ve Google mapped it. (You’re welcome.) Yep. It’s 370 miles. THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY! So, he chased his priority over five hours away from his wife and kids a minimum of three days a week.
And, he was good. He was very, very good. “People get hooked on meth or have affairs… business was my mistress,” he recounts so poetically. Isn’t that just so… introspective? Brutally honest? Telling?
When he spoke those words, that was the first time I thought to myself, “hey now… this guy is with it!” But, then again, I like folks that tell all. I like folks that will tell you every flaw they ever had. Maybe it makes me feel a wee bit more normal. Ha!
As his oil field equipment rental business became wildly successful, his own life began to resemble what he once thought was the ideal life of a man. He was making money doing nothing. He had the freedom to do whatever he wanted. Lots of land. Lots of worldly success.
And, then? Then one day he woke up and realized that you harvest what you sow. “I realized I was putting all my energy into this, and I had a wife and family in Kerrville. I wasn’t a horrible husband or father, but I was neglecting my wife. I realized I was invested in the wrong things.”
But, you know… it’s the way of the world. It’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Be successful. Be exceptional at what you do. Make money… lots of money.
So, how did he come to this revelation that something had to change? I don’t recall him telling me about some earth shattering event that opened his eyes. Maybe I missed it? What he did tell me, though, was the following in regards to he and his wife. “She has her passions, and I have mine. Years go by, and, suddenly, you’re here and she’s there.” And, he spreads his arms as far apart as possible as he sits before me.
I guess that’s actually pretty earth shattering, isn’t it?! I guess as a divorcee myself, that’s definitely very, very earth shattering actually. How he had the wherewithal to foresee that whilst living the “perfect” man’s life is a mystery to me, though.
All of that said, he decided to slow down, sell the oil field thing, and get back to his family in Kerrville. The sell of the oil field business coupled with the income of the well established landscaping company, Gabe was afforded the luxury of choosing to do something he’s always wanted to do. And, he thought to himself, “hey, I always wanted to be a firefighter as a kid,” so that is the path he pursued.
He took the necessary steps to become a firefighter. He went to school and acquired his EMT and fire certifications. And, with that, he was hired by the city of Kerrville.
“Now, I thought I had it all figured out. We built our dream house – we had the lab, mini van, two kids thing going on.”
At this point, I’m thinking to myself, “hey… I like where this is going. What an all American family. Good for him! He dreamt of being a firefighter as a kid and realized that dream. I love it!” Blah, blah, blah… things like that.
And, then. Bam! I get hit in the chest with a curveball. His tone changes. His temperament changes. He gets super serious. His voice deepens and softens a little, and it’s almost like he’s letting me in on the inside scoop of some secret club.
“Firefighters… the stuff they have to see. You see some things that will screw you up in the head. It’s no wonder firefighters have a higher divorce rate. You see all these things, then come home, and you’re exhausted. Your wife and kids… you come home to them as a shell. My marriage started to suffer. I did the fire department to slow down, but that job took more of my time and emotion than anything else. On the outside, I had everything, and I was the most empty feeling I’ve ever been in my life.”
Whoa. That’s not what I expected to hear. But, it gets even more poignant. As he continued to talk, he revealed to me a level of humanity that nearly took my breath away. He invoked almost a physical pain… an ache in my chest as he recounted the single night that changed his life. He specifically asked me not to share all the details. But, I want to anyway. I want to because it’s real, raw, honest emotion. And, when I send this to him to proof, I’m hoping he doesn’t ask me to edit.
“One night, I had three different calls of people losing their spouses.” Thinking of his own wife, he continues, “I cried, and I asked God what he wanted me to do. I’m good on pressure, but this was a weight I couldn’t get away from. I didn’t understand why that pressure was getting to me.”
After that night, he went out to Van Horn to clear his head. There were words haunting him; words he’d heard on more than one occasion that he could not escape. They were words that passed the lips of folks that breathed their last breath shortly after saying them; folks that breathed their last breath as Gabe sat beside them and held their hands. “Live life because it’s too short.” Those words implanted themselves in his head.
“I just wanted to start living in fulfillment,” he recalls.
Shortly thereafter, his aunt passed away in Fort Worth. As Gabe and his family drove up on Highway 16 to attend the funeral, Shiloh recalled that her husband had spent a year of his youth in this area. In an attempt to make him feel a little better, she asked him to take her by the childhood home. As they pulled up to the cozy little rock house, they discovered it was for sale. They made an appointment to see it on their way back to Kerrville following the funeral.
“It was loving, warm, wholesome – the complete opposite of what we’d been feeling.”
Initially, they decided to buy it as a lake house. Ultimately, they decided to move. Yes, Gabe decided to leave the fire department. Yes, they decided to sell everything including the landscaping business which had been a consistent, substantial source of income. Yes, they decided to sell their brand new 4,000 square foot dream house to move into an old, charming 1,200 square foot rock home. (Are y’all keeping in mind that this is a family of five?!? They have one bathroom. They had a 4,000 square foot house.)
Is it any wonder their friends and family all called them crazy? Is it any wonder they were called fools? But, listen to what Gabe has to say about it. “We went from a 4,000 square foot house to a 1,200 square foot home. The key is the word home; it feels like home. I see the value of sleeping at night and being with my wife and kids.”
Well, my, my, my, Gabe. How right is he? How can anyone argue with that? It’s easy to look at a beautiful, magnificent exterior and simply forget that there’s anything more important below that beautiful, magnificent exterior. Unless, of course, you live within it and know that it’s simply an empty shell.
And, so, I absolutely do not blame Gabe and Shiloh for seeking life, peace, and fulfillment at the cost of worldly successes. In fact, to call them foolish for those decisions would pretty much make me the fool, wouldn’t it?
Now, in their quaint little rock home, they live as a family. They work as a family. Gabe concerns himself with selling farm fresh eggs for $3 a dozen. Isn’t that a stark contrast from where he once was?
And, so, now, do you see why I valued Gabe’s statement “You have to fall on your ass to appreciate being on your feet”? I wasn’t expecting the “falling on your ass” part to mean owning a successful landscaping business and oil field equipment rental business. And, that whole “being on your feet” part? Yeah, I wasn’t expecting that to represent living in a 1,200 square foot home with three children. But, wow… that’s what I get for making assumptions based on an outward appearance, huh? And, honestly, I’m not sure that’s how Gabe meant it, either, when he said it. But, ultimately… that’s what happened here. At the very core of his being, Gabe failed when he was his most “successful” and has thrived when he humbled himself. Such a beautiful, simple lesson.