My father is 80 years old. His mother lived until she was 93, my Dads oldest sister is 87 and doing well as are the rest of his sisters. My mother’s father was killed in an industrial fire when she was13 years old and her mother died w

hen she was 2 so I didn’t know those people. My Mother is close to 80 and in fine health so during my life I have only gone to one funeral for our family. My Grandmother was a strong women and the leader of our family. She had a full life so when she died at 93 we were able to celebrate her life. We hope we can enjoy such a full life. That was the only funeral I can actually remember, until a couple of years ago, let me tell you about it. Please bare with me because this was tuff to write about.

There was a beautiful little girl in our area of California her name was Britney Gellerman. She was full of life. She was a star in youth rodeo with a full life ahead of her. I was away from home and my wife called me and said that Britney was sick. I said that kids get sick to which she informed me that no, this was a serious illness. She had been feeling sluggish and her energy level was down and that wasn’t like her at all. They took her to the doctor and after several tests they found out she had leukemia, not that, that wasn’t bad enough, she had the worst kind. She was a slight built girl to begin with and didn’t need to lose a pound and after a courageous fight; she lost the battle to that awful disease. All of the bad things that happen to people during chemo and radiation happened to her and through it all she never weakened she never complained and did all that was ask of her but it finally took her life. She lived in a town called Oakdale, California and its billed as the cowboy capital of the world and at one time it was. It’s at the base of the foothills in northern California and surrounded by cattle ranches and there are still a lot of real working cowboys along with some rodeo cowboys that live in the area. One of those cowboys is a guy by the name of Ace Berry. He is a working cowboy that has his won ranch but he also is one of only 2 rodeo cowboys that has ever won the NFR average at opposite end of the arena in the same year. Ace won the bareback riding and the team roping average . The only other man to ever accomplish that was Phil Lyon and he did it in the Calf roping and the bull riding. That’s legendary stuff.
Now keep Ace Berry in mind and let me tell you about the town of Oakdale. When I was young it was a real cowboy town. Feed stores, the rodeo grounds and the famous H bar B saloon, Because Oakdale is between San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It has become very modernized, snow skiers crowd the town in the winter and nature lovers in the summer, all on there way to the mountains. The road that runs through town is called Hwy 120 and it has become very crowded. Up on the hill as you enter the town is where Britney’s funeral was to be held. The entire town had tried to help with fund raisers so when she died the entire town was there. Grown men that were tuff as nails wept before the service ever started. There were people everywhere, they stood outside and had filled the huge church when we arrived. There was a horse drawn Hearst outside the church with a driver dressed in black with a team of horses standing quietly. Ace Berry was there dressed in his everyday clothes that he wares on the ranch and he sit on his horse. He had his chinks on and he sat and stared straight ahead. On one side he held one of Britney’s horses and on the other side he held her palomino. Her Saddles were around her casket and they put her in the horse drawn Hurst and they stopped the traffic on hwy 120 and the team of horses carrying Britney trotted out of the church yard and headed for the cemetery which is about a mile away. Trotting right behind the Hearst was Ace Berry riding his horse and leading both of her horses. He looked straight ahead and everyone followed in there cars. My son told me that if anything happens to me please ask Ace if he’ll lead my horses as well because I know they won’t get away from him. I ask him to do the same the same for me and my entire family cried along with the entire town of Oakdale. It was with out a doubt the saddest day of my life. I have never doubted Gods plan but that day I did. Why do children die? Why would a child that hasn’t had a chance at life that has never committed any wrong get cancer? Give it to me, not her. I’ve had a chance at life and she hasn’t. When Children die I think those questions come to most people minds but there must be a master plan and we must carry on. Every time I go by that church I think of her as I do every month when I send my contribution in to ST. Jude’s Children’s hospital. I have contributed to St. Jude’s before Brittney was born and what better cause is there than a hospital that is committed to end Cancer in Children. Also if you can’t afford treatment St Jude’s will treat your child. There policy is that they will never deny a child treatment because of race, religion or an inability to pay. There are all kinds of causes that are worthy but that one touches my heart, I want to give more. Maybe with more money to help the scientist and doctors find a cure, like the shot that cured polio there can be one in my lifetime to stop cancer in children. One of my Goals for next year is to put on roping school where all proceeds goes to St Jude’s.
Until next month
Walt Woodard

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