The Ethical Edge
The Art of Integrity
CEO & President
“Life happens at the level of events. Trust movement.”
In our age of “credentialed experts” we often miss the lessons we can learn from the wisdom of our elders who may have led a more simple life by today’s standards.
When I met Emile, he was already 76-years-old and had been battling cancer for over three years. Although he would only live another year and a half, he continues to be a guiding influence in my life to this day.
Emile, orphaned at a young age, had become a rodeo cowboy in the 1930s competing in steer roping, wild cow milking and other events. When World War II started, although old enough to be exempted, he enlisted in the Army.
Passing through Los Angeles after the war, Emile heard they needed people who could drive four and six horse teams at the movie studios. That led him to become a stuntman for 25 years – driving teams and being shot out of the saddle as an Indian or villain or unseated in a joust as a knight of old.
Emile’s life as a horseman made him an uncanny judge of people. You can learn a lot about people by how they “get along” with the horse they are riding. Most remarkable was his ability to see the capability and limits of his students and push them to the edge of their abilities without endangering them.
Once, he had me schooling what we referred to as the “exploding horse” for its propensity to do wildly unexpected and sometimes dangerous things. Emile would say, “You have to learn to get along with him.” Another instructor who was watching began walking away because, as she later said, “I thought you could be killed!” But because I knew Emile knew my limits even better than I, my trust in him was so complete that I never felt in danger and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
It was only after he died when I got his service records from the VA to order a plaque for his grave that I really learned of his service to our country. Emile had said he was a cook in the Quartermaster Corps. In his record I learned that he served in Bastogne during what became known as the Battle of the Bulge – a battle where cooks fought along with infantrymen in a desperate battle to prevent a German breakthrough of Allied Lines. Though he never mentioned it, Emile was awarded a Bronze Star, a decoration given for heroism.
Often, I recall, when passing young riders on the trail, Emile would simply say, “Be brave.” Great advice from one of my life heroes.
Michael McCann can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org