This week’s bio of a cowboy came with many, many firsts. This week was an adventure to say the very least. If you haven’t read the first two parts of our adventure in Mullin, Texas, make sure to read Part 1 followed by Part 2. To say we had the most fun we’ve had in a long time is an understatement. Truly.
And, a big, BIG part of that fun came when I met my cowboy. This week’s cowboy… yeah, he was a complete stranger to me. Christy insisted I write about him. She’s known him for about a year, and she, quite frankly, thinks he’s the bee’s knees. I, however, hadn’t ever even heard his name before. And, I get so, so, so nervous writing about strangers. What if they don’t give me anything good? Then what?
But, alas, I’m trusting my best friend. She is the first to talk me into interviewing a 100% complete and total stranger. And, trusting folks quickly became the theme of this interview. After a few hours well spent meandering about downtown Mullin and the Duren Hotel, we made our way out to Paul Kirby’s house. On our way out there, I implore Christy to give me some background on this guy.
“Oh, he does metal art. And, he says he’s gonna take us on a horse drawn carriage ride.” She looks at me knowingly (knowing I’m terrified of horses) and smiles mischievously. “Don’t worry… he’s a really neat guy. He’ll tell you anything you want to know.”
My internal dialogue goes a little something like this: “Hmmm… okay. This guy talks a lot, does metal art, and is going to take us on a carriage ride. I have NO idea where to go with this interview. Dangit. How did I let her talk me into this interviewing a stranger nonsense?!? At least I have my old standby questions that I ask every cowboy.”
Again, we’re not quite sure where we’re headed, but we’re following the directions as best we can. And then… then we pass a road sign that instantly confirms we’re on the right track. It’s a bright gold horse and buggy sign. Yep. Sigh. “Okay,” I tell myself, “it’s time to mentally prepare yourself for this shenanigans, Amy.”
We pull into the driveway and spot what looks like a really… ummm… elderly Clydesdale off to the left. And, directly ahead of us, we see what can only be described as the most massive horse I’ve ever seen. Yeah, he’s hands down bigger than a Clydesdale. He is INSANELY huge. And, behind him is a carriage. Yep… this is the guy that’s going to be taking us on our horse drawn carriage ride. Wow.
Meeting us as we park the car is Traveler. He’s an adorably friendly shaggy dog with a black patch over one eye. He’s followed by Paul Kirby. Paul’s been expecting us, and he has more than prepared for our visit. He is a very well manicured man in his starched wranglers, maroon pearl snap shirt, leather suspenders, and black felt hat. He is also enthusiastic and bustling with energy! Yes, I can see now that he is most definitely a character.
He instantly leads us over to the massive black horse and carriage. Traveler beats us there and jumps right into the back. He’s ready to go. And, there he would wait patiently for probably 10 minutes as Paul introduces us to the horse. I must have been so flustered by this creature that I completely missed his name AND breed. I was too focused on getting a picture of this guy that would adequately depict his size. So, as Christy indulged Paul and pet the big guy, I was secretly glad I had a camera to hide behind.
“Okay, hop in!” Paul says. Christy sits in the front by Paul. I sit in the back with Traveler. And, we’re off! Paul is a talkative fella. I am enjoying sitting in the back being a wallflower. I can snap photos and listen to him tell stories and interact with Christy. It gives me opportunity to discover who he is naturally as opposed to being put on the spot with random interview questions.
“Do you know how to get a dog to come to you, a horse to move for you, and a girl to stay with you?” he asks with a big grin on his face. Christy and I just look at each other. He instantly starts making a kissy sound. Ha! He’s proud of his joke, and we all share a laugh.
As we turn out onto the highway, he continues to tell stories. I, however, am missing bits and pieces of them because I’m frantically trying to write down all these funny little anecdotes and sayings that seem to come so naturally to him. At one point, he hands the reigns to Christy and gives her a quick rundown on how to handle them for a desired result.
Christy is driving, Paul is telling stories, I’m frantically writing and snapping pictures, and Traveler is nudging his head beneath the back rest and resting it on Paul’s leg. I can tell they must do this often. Traveler knows just what to do. And, Paul doesn’t even seem to notice Traveler encroaching on his space. He instinctually just moves his hand to pet Traveler as he continues to talk. All the while, I am enjoying the slightly unsteady motion of the carriage ride accompanied by the clip clop of the horse’s “pudding bowl hooves” on the pavement. It’s a different sort of feeling. To be moving down a highway in near silence aside from the clip clop… it’s a peaceful feeling. Again, I’m enjoying the blue sky and the warmth of the sun.
“You may need to drive now. I’m getting scared.” And, instantly Christy’s statement snaps me out of my reflective, peaceful state. Suddenly, I notice, too, that the shoulder drops off kind of steeply. In that moment, I’m so glad that my best little friend is overly cautious like me. I’m thankful that she hands over the reigns when she does. Paul, however, has every confidence in the world in us girls.
Though I could have simply ridden along in that carriage for hours that day, we made a pretty wide, not so graceful U-turn and headed back to the house. Paul had other things on the agenda. As we clip clopped back to the house, he informed us that he’d saddled up a couple horses for us to ride. And, instantly, Christy and I shared a look that could be described in no other way than OH. EM. GEE!
I have certainly not known this nice gentleman long enough to refuse. He’s planned for our visit. He has so graciously given us his afternoon and planned for our entertainment. Oh. My. Word. I guess I’m getting on a horse.
The last time I rode a horse was as a small child living in Southern California. My mother took us to the park and put us on little mini ponies or something. Seriously. That’s it. And, she walked alongside the dang thing the whole time it walked in a circle. It was like a living, breathing merry-go-round.
He introduces Christy to her horse first. His name is Joker. Hmmm… that’s not a very comforting sort of name. Joker is definitely bigger than the horse he’s reserved for me. I’m secretly grateful for that. Christy is all set. Of course I’m snapping pictures on my iPhone like a mad woman. Oh, my, my, my. What have we gotten ourselves into?
Next, he introduces me to my horse Hondo. Okay… I can deal with that. I like the name Hondo much better than the name Joker when it comes to a horse I’m going to be riding. I put my foot in the stirrup and fling myself up there just like Paul’s instructed me to do, although I’m quite sure he didn’t use the word “fling.” (I’m sure it was no where near as graceful as it should have been, either.) He tied the split reigns in a knot for me “like he does for the grandkids.” And, then he proceeds to give us a quick run down on how to “drive” these horses. This is so stinkin’ foreign to me.
I look over at Christy, and Joker is rearing his head back and forth like crazy. “Ummm… Hondo! You better behave,” I tell my horse quite firmly. And, I must say, he absolutely did behave. He was great. Joker, however, was naughty if you ask me. I would have had a heart attack if I had been riding Joker. Christy was such a trooper.
We finish our brief little horseback ride, and Paul’s got some things to show us. On our carriage ride, I caught just part of a story about him being commissioned to build a carriage for Grant’s Farm Breads. He calls it the “bread wagon.” He built, yes built, this carriage for them and then travelled the country with the company for five years all while maintaining his full time job back home. That was back in 1990-1995. Remember that old Clydesdale we saw when we first turned into Paul’s driveway? Well, that’s Duke. And, Duke had the pleasure of traveling to different events nationwide and pulling that bread wagon.
Paul recounts that Duke and the bread wagon put his two sons through college. And, for that, Duke will always have a home with him. It is obvious that Paul loves that old horse. Just like it’s obvious that he loves Traveler. And Joker. And Hondo. And that big massive horse, too.
I’m quickly discovering that Paul is an all around super nice guy. I’m quickly discovering that he likes to entertain people. He’s a character, no doubt.
And, I’m also quickly discovering that he’s got endless talent. I mean, ENDLESS! This guy does metal art. That’s a craft in itself. But, then to find out that he can build a carriage?!? He’s quick to tell me, “the Amish build the hard part.” And, by that, he’s referring to the wheels. He’s got at least half a dozen carriages at his place… probably more, and I think he built at least half of them.
“How do you even learn to do that sort of thing?” I ask him. He tells me that he grew up on wagons. And, he quickly grabs a photo album and shows me photographs of him and his brother and father on a wagon. He learned by watching his dad work on them. That’s impressive to me.
As he shows us around his place, he mentions that he built his house himself.
Me: You did what?!?
Him: I built my house.
Me: Where’d you learn to build houses?!?
Him: I’ve always just enjoyed making things. I just love making something. I wanted to lay rock. I saw a team laying rock at a funeral home, so I took the day off work and went and watched them all day.
Huh. That’s… honestly pretty admirable. I mean, deciding you want to do something and then taking up the challenge of learning to do it… I like that. A lot of people want to do things, but if they don’t know how or it’s not easy to learn, they just give up on it. I like that Paul Kirby just does it.
He tells me, “I’m a workaholic. I never minded working.” And, that is evident to me by the skills he possesses.
So, now I’ve learned he does metal art. He can build wagons. He can build houses. I’m impressed. This guy is definitely an artist. His interests and talents are so diversified.
We continue the tour of his property. We venture into the home that he built. In one of the back rooms, the wall is covered with framed drawings. Guess what. Paul drew them. Yep. Paul draws, too! At this point, I’m thinking, “No way! What can’t this guy do?!?!”
Me: Where’d you learn to draw?
Him: I always credit my grandmother for that. (He tells me she would buy him drawing supplies.) She’d take my drawings to town and say, “look what Paul did!” It made me proud and made me want to try things.
Wow… isn’t it amazing how much power confidence and encouragement has in a young child’s life?!?
So, now he does metal art, builds wagons, builds houses, and draws! And, his drawings are fantastic! I’m pretty confident that this guy can do anything. He really is the bee’s knees; the cat’s meow.
And, y’all, I haven’t even touched on his professional life. There was SO much information, SO many stories, SO much hospitality packed into our three hours with Paul. Leaving there, I knew darn well I would not be able to do him justice. I’m just going to have to be okay with leaving out a lot.
When I began to ask him my typical interview questions, the most telling answer came when I asked him what piece of advice he’d give to a large group of people. His answer?
“Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
While I can’t speak to his spiritual life, I can certainly say that I have not met a more kind, generous, hospitable man as Paul Kirby. He truly seems to love others as himself.
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