Last weekend, my husband, Ryan, and I took an impromptu day trip to Hico, Texas. The town is approximately thirty minutes from our farm, an easy country drive north up 281. It has seen a resurgence in recent months, with a few developers coming in to modernize its offerings while still maintaining the integrity of the historic buildings. It's gentrification is probably scorned by some old-timers, but we love having a place to visit that is bustling with activity.
The Hico suggestion stemmed from an Instagram post about live music that night at Green Canoe Outfitters. The small, narrow shop is a men's mecca for outdoor merchandise. It doesn't hurt that a small bar runs the length of the shop entrance, boasting several Texas-based brews on tap. Their recently expanded outdoor space is now the home for weekend performances, and I thought it might be a fun change of pace to check it out. I also appreciated that the show started at 6:30 PM. Some concerts closer to us don't even start until after I've turned into a pumpkin.
Ryan and I arrived to Hico around 3:00, pulling into one of the angled parking spaces at the end of the main drag, strategically positioned in front of one of my favorite stores. Who doesn't love a mercantile shop that is half boutique, half vintage home furnishings? We wandered in and out of shops for the next few hours. If I wanted to peruse new fall fashion I didn't need (my closet was purged and restocked last month), Ryan sat outside on the benches designed especially for patient husbands. I managed to resist most tempting purchases, although I did add to my bird decor collection for the first time in a few years with a small pair of foraging wrens (or maybe swallows...the white antique finish makes them a little non-specific). I also found a stash of bargain magazines to support the vision board workshop I'm hosting in January. All the pies and country kitchen renovations one could hope to manifest.
While I was shopping in the Punchy Vaquera, a newer shop that is impossible NOT to enter based on the name alone, Ryan headed across the street to the Midland Hotel. The proprietor of another shop had suggested it as a dinner destination. The mention of savory, loaded Brussels sprouts had our mouths watering, so it was difficult to position any other eatery as the top choice. Ryan informed me that everything on the menu looked appetizing. Our decision was made. And it did not disappoint.
By this time, it was approaching 6:30 and the allure of live music (and another draft brew for Ryan) was calling to us from a few streets over. We walked the few short city blocks back to Green Canoe and settled in at a table on the patio. The band was on a break from a warm-up and fraternizing with friends nearby. Once they took the stage again, people streamed through the large double wrought-iron gate facing the street.
We were positioned near the food truck where people milled about waiting to order or retrieve their food. A small fundraiser was taking place across the street with the theme "thrift-store chic" and some of the attendees had wandered over for the concert. It made for out of this world people-watching. The experience leveled up when my husband leaned over and quietly said to me, "isn't that Ty Murray?" I glanced over his shoulder. As the man adorned with a cowboy hat and small glasses turned my direction, with a decidedly older face than the last time I had seen him, I replied, "yes, I think it is."
Ryan immediately did some Google reconnaissance and, after seeing photos of his second wife, Paige, confirmed that the cluster of people standing near the food window did, in fact, include Ty Murray. According to Wikipedia, "Ty Monroe Murray (born October 11, 1969), is an American nine-time World Champion professional rodeo cowboy. He was one of the top rodeo contestants in the world from the late 1980s to early 2000s. He is an inductee of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in the all-around category. He is one of the co-founders and a board adviser of the Professional Bull Riders (PBR). From 2005 to 2019, he was also a regular color commentator for several televised PBR events."
I knew Ty Murray as the popular cowboy gracing many of western wear posters hanging throughout Cavender's Boot City. I worked my way through college in the Harvey Road store from 1994 to 1996. Him and Tuff Hedeman were icons among the boot-wearing, Wrangler-loving cowboy culture. Some people know him as former husband to Jewel, a legend in her own right. Still others, around here, know him today as a ranch owner and all-around nice guy.
A few minutes later, I excused myself to go to the restroom inside the store. When I walked back outside through the glass double doors, Ryan was waiting with a goofy grin on his face. "Do you want to meet Ty Murray?" he asked. I flushed with embarrassment, thinking his liquid courage was about to force an uncomfortable conversation with a stranger.
As it turned out, Ryan had introduced himself during my bathroom break and the family was open to further introductions. We walked over to the long picnic table, Ty sitting at the head, a cheesy, gooey slice of pizza poised mid-air en route to his mouth. Again, butterflies thrashed in my gut at the prospect of interrupting this man's dinner. Ryan put one hand on his shoulder and said "Ty, I wanted to introduce you to my wife." Ty put his slice of pizza back on his plate, pushed his chair back, and stood to greet me. "This is Christy," Ryan said as Mr. Murray extended his hand.
Part of my nervousness around meeting new people is that I'm not great at handshakes. Hand-eye coordination has never been my forte, as evidenced by my quick abandonment of all things sports-related. My semi-inept depth perception means I can't maintain eye contact while extending my own hand for the gesture. I was in heaven when the pandemic meant handshakes went by the wayside, but it is not the cowboy way, so I wasn't surprised to see an enormous hand headed in my direction.
I reached out as best I could, trembling both from starstruck nerves and the anxiety-inducing handshake about to occur. His large, warm hand wrapped around mine as he said, "nice to meet you." The grip was firm, enough so to catch me off-guard and turn my attention to the pressure wrapped around my petite phalanges. I'm not sure why I was shocked that this former bull rider would have such a strong handshake, but it seemed in juxtaposition to the gentle, humble energy he was emitting.
He gestured toward a beautiful brunette seated to his right. "This is my wife, Paige," he said, and we, in turn, shook hands across the table. She offered a warm smile and asked if I was from Hamilton, the couple having learned a little bit of our background during Ryan's brave solo approach. I replied that I was a city girl-turned-farmer, but loved the great outdoors, so much so that I was starting a retreat business. It felt good to lead with this idea of mine, although I of course ruminated later that she thought I might be trying to leverage their status for my own benefit. That is how my introverted, people pleasing, play-it-small brain sometimes works. I still have a lot to learn about boldness coming naturally.
I recently finished listening to Jen Sincero's You are a Badass at Making Money and she suggested in no uncertain terms that hanging out with a higher vibration crowd raises your own. I'm not suggesting we'll become besties with Ty and Paige, but I certainly feel as though the spirit of determination and greatness passed between us.
On our drive home, Ryan researched Ty Murray's background even further, reading aloud the Wikipedia entry from above. It put me in a state of awe over that handshake. Not just because of the intensely firm grip, but because I shook hands with the GOAT of rodeo. It might as well have been Tom Brady or Michael Jordan (the latter of which Murray has been compared to in his sport). Like Murray's legendary rides, the introductory gesture topped out at eight seconds, but it is a snapshot in time that will inspire me for years to come.