Article by Randy Adams
This hero is “Skeet” Davis and his story is inspiring to many. He makes his home today in Mobile, Ala. He is the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) District Director for the South Alabama District, named NBHA Director of the Year in 2002 and Member of the Year in 2004 and 2008. While this is great it is not the reason he is the hero here.
Skeet Davis serves his church as missions chairman, buildings and grounds chairman, finance committee chairman, and is very active in the mission field himself. He was married to his best friend, Aleta, in 1975 and they have three great kids – Julie, Wayne, and Dani – but this is also not the reason.
Born in Kentwood, La., “Skeet” as he is known to everyone – we promised not to use his given name – grew up in the south with horses, church and hard work. His heroes were Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Matt Dillon because they were fair, honest and never mistreated anyone. He was also a fan of the Native Americans in the westerns because they were always the underdogs. In high school Skeet was a football and track star. In one track meet he ran a mile in 4:28, long jumped 24’11.5″, and ran the 100-yard dash in 9.9 seconds – back to back. Performances like this earned him a place at Southeastern University on a full track scholarship, but his country requested his service when he was drafted to serve in the military. He served aboard the USS Washtenaw County, an LST that supported Army swift boats in the Mai Cong River in Vietnam. Following his service he came back and started a family and a career as an outside sales representative. His hard work and integrity earned him Salesman of the Year for two years in a row.
When his daughter Julie was 10, she wanted to show halter horses. After one particularly long day of showing, Julie explained that she was a little tired of showing halter, telling her dad that her interest had shifted to barrel racing. As a family they began to learn the sport together. At only his second NBHA show he was “appointed” Director. As Skeet does, he accepted
the role and stepped up to lead and share the experience his family had enjoyed in barrel racing.
It was at the 2003 NBHA World Show Augusta, Ga., that a mechanical problem with a motor home brought the paths of World Champions R.E. and Martha Josey and the path of Skeet and his family together. Fixing the leveling system on the motor home of someone he did not know blossomed into a great friendship leading Skeet and family became students at the Josey Ranch in Marshall, Texas and Skeet became involved in two of the events at the Ranch, the Josey Ranch Reunion and Josey World Championship Junior Barrel Race. He came to spend the first two weekends in May to drive a tractor in the sun or the rain, from early morning to late at night – for free. For over the past 10 years, Skeet has attended to help produce these world class events. “If we can help kids, I will work myself to death,” he says. Are you starting to see a pattern here?
It was here at the Josey Ranch that Skeet met Rusty Howell. Mr. Rusty had design/invented/produced a saddle for people with physical challenges. Mr. Howell’s design enables a person without the strength or the ability to enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of riding a horse. This saddle takes a very specialized tree that takes three months to produce and test. The saddle itself takes another seven to eight months to build, so it takes a year to make one saddle. This saddle was used during the Exceptional Rodeo that was held during the Josey Junior World. Besides Skeet’s desire to help others, he had a special interest in this because his daughter, Dani, has Cerebral Palsy. He had seen the way horses had helped her and he knew many others that could benefit from this. Skeet ordered one of Mr. Rusty’s saddles and used it to share the joy of riding with those who could not. Then, he ordered another saddle – and another – and another – but not to sell. He was giving them away! At the writing of this article he has given away 12 saddles and has more on order.
If you are ever around Skeet’s trailer and you smell something good cooking you are invited to eat. Just knock on the door. Everyone is welcome! During the NBHA Youth World and the NBHA World Championship shows Skeet cooks every day grilling over 100 pounds of chicken, plus burgers and sausage.
“I grill two types of squash and onions together. The smell starts drawing them in,” he says.
Skeet hasn’t missed an NBHA Youth World or NBHA World Championship Show, cooking and competing since becoming a member in 1998. He was seriously injured in competition at the 2008 NBHA World show to the point that if it had been one more block to the hospital he would not have made it. The resilience of a champion and a hero carried him through and Skeet returned to riding, serving and giving once again. When what is the most exciting thing about barrel racing, skeet quickly answers, “the kids.”
He packs a ramp so those in wheelchairs can get to the saddle, loads the horses and the special saddles, and goes wherever he is asked to give someone with challenges a ride on a horse. He leads the horse while they ride for as long as they want, sometimes to the point of blisters on his feet. To an individual or organization there is never any charge. And if you have a need for one of these very special saddles, just ask. When you meet Skeet, you see the traits of a hero, but you see the unlikely ones first like quiet, reserve, humble and modest. As you come to know hi
Article by Randy Adams