The freedom of a cowboy
by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager
Two horses recently got married up in Harrisburg. That sounds crazy, I know. But it happened. It was a simple, quick, completely spur-of-the-moment ceremony with little fanfare; just a few traditional and very reverent words spoken. I’m betting the horses didn’t feel any different afterward. But the man who married them got a tremendous kick out of the whole thing. Because that’s the kind of unique and sweet sense of humor this multi-dimensional man possesses.
Bobby Blackwell and his wife Jolean live on 50 acres of beautiful property about 15 miles outside of Charlotte. They have five horses, two donkeys, a slew of chickens, and a couple of dogs. Bobby is a man of the land and a cowboy through and through (he’s lived on several ranches in Texas) so he’s not the type who can live within tight boundaries. He is rugged yet utterly and completely charming.
A few years ago, Bobby found out he had cancer. He tried not to let that hold him back. Up until recently, he was able to roam his property at will. He didn’t walk around as much, but he could get into his truck and get where he needed to go. But last month, getting in and out of the truck became extremely difficult. He thought his roaming days were over.
Fact is, Bobby really needs to be able to get around on his 50 acres. For lots of reasons. But primarily, he wants to visit his animals. And he wants to preach.
On his property (quite a way from his house) stands a small, sturdy building — the aptly named Double Horseshoe Cowboy Church. Bobby had the church built several years ago. As the pastor of this adorable church, he shows up every Tuesday night at 7pm (without fail), to stand at the pulpit, share the word of the Lord, and minister to the souls of his congregation, however many that may be on a given evening.
Throughout all of his treatments, he never missed a Tuesday night at the church. Jolean would sit behind him in a chair, just to be there to catch him in case he fell. He never has. In fact, sometimes Jolean got a workout just following him up and down the aisle because he could get extremely energized while preaching. But getting him to the church had become easier said than done. Until last month.
Using the truck had simply become too hard, and Bobby and Jolean realized they needed another mode of transportation. They started batting around the idea of a golf cart. A request was made at a hospice team meeting and an HPCCR board member heard about the dilemma. She started making phone calls and after a “I know someone who knows someone” situation, a family agreed to loan the Blackwells their golf cart so that Bobby could continue to get around.
I went out to visit Bobby and Jolean a couple of weeks ago. Bobby was like a proud new papa. He was delighted with how easy it is to get in and out of the golf cart. He was downright giddy with how well the cart handled the hills on his property. He drove me (as well as a photographer and an HPCCR social worker) from his house to his church, and up to the campground they’ve cleared out near the church. We saw the barn, and the horses, and two adorable donkeys. Throughout the trip, the cart managed the terrain like a dream, smooth and comfortable. Bobby could not have been more thrilled.
The golf cart has given Bobby some of his freedom back. “I’m a cowboy so I’m used to being outside. I never thought I could get depressed, but sitting in the house too much was really hard. Now I can see my horses or visit my campground. It’s helped me so much.”
He’s also thrilled with the care he has received from Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region. He’s not used to being the center of attention from an entire team of people whose job it is to keep him comfortable. In his own words, “As a preacher, I’m the one who cares for others. I guess it’s my turn to have that given to me.” He’s in awe of his care team members, who visit him every week. “They are just so concerned about me. They have so much compassion.”
Bobby may be under hospice care, but he just can’t be cooped up. It’s not in his cowboy nature. He needs to be out and about with his devoted wife, preaching, carving (you should see what he can do with a piece of wood), assessing his property, playing the banjo (have you guessed he’s multi-talented??) and visiting his animals.
When we were riding in the cart back to the house, I saw the newlywed horses with my own eyes. And then I saw the pair of donkeys. I think they’re next.
Bobby Blackwell and HPCCR sincerely thank everyone who helped make the golf cart loan happen. From Bobby’s care team to our HPCCR board member to the gracious family who owns the golf cart, we are honored and humbled by your compassion. You know who you are!
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