Just Like Jesus, Part Four: “I’m Younger Than That Now”

Keith Brumley

Keith Brumley

I was two weeks out of the hospital and still enrolled in the CHRD program. I’d qualified for a Victims of Crime grant to fund my therapy. My counselor also suggested AA meetings as a cost-effective alternative to group therapy.

The AA meetings were great. I was still pretty shaky, however, with the mornings being the worst. They were nearly unbearable. There were times when all I could do was sit, listen and remember.

In 1978-the last year I’d rodeoed full-time-I was driving from one show to another. I’d only enough cash for gas, some groceries and entry fees. I’d rolled down the pickup window. From out of nowhere-and as if it was meant only for me-the song of a meadowlark blew into the pickup cab. It was like the bird was inside me, and though I’d heard plenty of meadowlarks before, this one packed a sense of joy and astonishment like nothing I’d heard.

It’s funny what you remember over the years, and it seems like a burden lifted. The rest of the rodeo season went well and I’d qualified for the 1978 Mid-States Rodeo Association Finals. There were no meadowlarks on this day, however, but it was still nice to watch, listen and sit.

The January before-in 2007-I’d taken a CHRD internship at a juvenile facility for underage offenders in northwest South Dakota.

It had been a wreck.

I had little supervision from my on-site internship counselor, was put at undue risk and was receiving little, if any, training. My floor supervisor had been giving me instructions on “creative documentation.” I’d relayed my concerns to folks in the CHRD program. I’d also mentioned my concerns to the guy who was supposedly my on-site supervisor.

“You’re going to have to decide,” he said. “Do you want to go to school or work?”

Sometimes, the meadowlark sings. My laptop was with me and at that moment I received an e-mail from the CHRD Internship Director in Rapid City. The message said while the decision to stay on the job was up to me, I should terminate the internship immediately. I read it to the on-site supervisor. Within an hour, the place was in my rearview mirror. That evening I was in Rapid City and being debriefed.

I was getting a reputation and knew it. I’d filed a grievance the summer before in 2006. It concerned a member of the West River CHRD faculty. I’d questioned his definition of post-modernism.

“You don’t want to make the professor look bad,” he’d told me, and thereafter my grades began to plummet.

The following summer I was transferred to the Christian Church Camp north of Isabel. Then I was in Larchwood, Iowa, and then I was in the psych ward.

Pema Chodron, an ordainProxy-Connection: keep-aliveCache-Control: max-age=0

Tibetan Buddhist nun, wrote, among other books, When Things Fall Apart. She often used a phrase: “Leaning into the sharp points,” suggesting we embrace the whole of our experience, our joys as well as our sufferings ? sometimes especially our sufferings so as to no longer fear them, learning instead “Loving-Kindness” toward ourselves that can flow into the world around us and smooth the way.

I’d been writing a monthly horse training column with Today’s Horse, a Rapid City-based horse magazine for nearly two years. Although my tenure was ending, I wanted to continue to develop my writing skills. I’d enrolled in a writing course.

“Write until your hearts break,” the professor said one session.

So that’s what I’m doing.

I’m not “just” like Jesus after all. I’m just Keith-and that suits me.

Keith Brumley is an SDSU alumnus and current journalism graduate student at SDSU.

Editor’s note: Additional editing was done to this piece after print publication.