To become a real all-around cowboy takes more heart and stamina than most men have. To overcome near death, drastic life deteriorating illness requires equal and likely more diligent desire.
Always a love for the cowboy way, and the essential horse requirement therein, have been and remain keys in the life of DK Hewett.
“Dad had an executive job with an insurance company at Fort Scott, and we moved to a small Bourbon County acreage and got a horse when I was just four. I got on that horse, took off and they couldn’t find me for the longest time. I’ve been a cowboy ever since,” Hewett said last week at his home near Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
That first horseback ride was foretold picture of Hewett’s cowboy lifestyle. He has always been full of ideas, very forward, talkative in expressing his views, yet an educated professional cowboy, and professional journalist-communicator-teacher.
Despite many cowboy incidences that would have deterred most others, if not stopped them completely, Hewett has only been slowed down once.
Coming to on his back under the stars in his barnyard, Hewett was completely incapacitated, but with full credit given to his strong faith and greater powers, the cowboy eventually received assistance.
It was a heart attack being treated by specialists who became helpless at bedside when blood flow centered on Hewett’s brain developing into a stroke, and creating more pain and heartbreak than the toughest of the hundreds of bucking horses and bulls the cowboy had ever mounted.
Partially disabled and unable to maneuver, Hewett, the determined cowboy, never gave up.
It’s been a long haul, but the tough cowboy, always to be restricted some on his right side, has been riding every day, has been roping the ‘dummy,’ tracking and catching his ‘Steeroid,’ and heeling slow steers at the neighbor’s pen.
“I’m ready to pay my entry fees and get back into rodeo roping competition,” Hewett promised during the long but deliberating, humble, and actually most exhilarating cowboy conversation.
Then, he emphatically added, “My God first, with my lifetime faith in him, and secondly my horses have been my salvation to life, desire and being able to get back into the saddle again.”
Excelling in athletics and scholastics while being a school leader, known especially for his communication skills both in writing and speaking, Hewett graduated from high school at Fort Scott in 1965.
“I stumbled around a bit, then enrolled at KU, took some communications classes, and just hung out for a while. It was the beginning of my ‘eight-year college plan,’ although I never really had a plan,” admitted Hewett, in his always notably sincere, even if also ‘cowboy,’ attitude.
While considering himself a cowboy, Hewett had never competed in rodeo to that time, but excelled in high school football, as well as baseball, which his dad coached.
“I always had horses, liked to ride, and wanted to be a calf roper like world champion Dean Oliver, but I’d never paid an entry fee,” he continued.
Contradictory to most attitudes there, Hewett and other students started a rodeo club at KU. “We borrowed practice bulls and broncs from Jake Jacobsen, rodeo stock contractor at Delia. I practiced on the bucking stock, and started contesting at amateur rodeos, even won some checks,” Hewett verified.
Then, Hewett heard about a Wild West Show with three daily rodeos in New York state. “Mom was acquainted with a cowboy, who told me about Frontier Town, and called there. The owner said I should come up, and there’d be a job for me being a cowboy,” Hewett reflected.
“That’s really all I knew. No guarantees, nothing except one man’s word to come be a cowboy. I borrowed $100, put four pair of jeans in a suitcase, flew to New York, got on a Trailways bus to North Hudson, had $30 left in my pocket,” Hewett verified.
“Come on, we’re ready to start the rodeo, get your spurs on, the bronc is in the chute, the boss hollered when he first saw me. I did as told,” Hewett continued.
“We’d have three performances a day, buck out a bareback horse, a saddle bronc and a bull, rope two calves and bulldog two steers, each show, and participate in the Wild West gun fights and Calvary charges in-between,” Hewett described.
“Frontier Town had some broncs and bulls, leased some, and borrowed draft horses that weren’t working out for team pullers. The horses would always buck the first time or two when we’d put a flank strap on, but that was generally the end of it, and they’d bring some new ones,” he remembered.
One performance sticks out in the cowboy’s memory. “We had a right hand chute, and the stock bucked out in front of the grandstand. I had a bronc that went straight to the wooden arena fence, and bucked me over his head. I landed with my feet in the fence, standing up with my hands out facing the bleachers. A spectator reached out, shook my hand, and I said, ‘Hope you’re enjoying the show,’” Hewett remembered.
“My boss came over to me after the show and said, ‘I sure appreciate you getting the crowd involved, I want you to do that all of the time.’ Well, that never happened again,” the rider confessed.
“We started in mid-June, ended on Labor Day. I got on 36 bareback horses, 30 saddle broncs, 14 bulls. Plus, bulldogged 16 steers, and roped and tied I don’t know how many calves, along with two Calvary charges and Frontier Town gunfights every day.
“I got back to Kansas just in time to enter Floyd Rumford’s rodeo at Longford and won the bareback riding,” DK said.
“I enrolled at Fort Scott Community College, helped form a rodeo club there, and was on their first rodeo team,” continued Hewett
After a leg injury from bareback bronc riding at Green Forest, Arkansas, Hewett was on crutches, but started working for Jacobsen Rodeo Company of Delia.
“When I could get back on, I continued competing, helped Dale Jacobsen as a pickup man at their rodeos,” Hewett related.
Graduating from Fort Scott with an AA (associate of arts) degree in communications, DK followed the rodeo, winning enough to prove he was a professional cowboy, when K-State Rodeo opportunities caught his eye.
“I enrolled at K-State, helped build a practice arena, Turkey Tracks southeast of Manhattan, assisted in acquiring some bucking horses, and became involved in the K-State Rodeo Club,” DK said
Their annual rodeo had been in K-State’s Ahearn Field House, but Hewett was instrumental in moving it to Weber Arena, the Animal Science Department indoor facility, where the show is still every spring.
“That really wasn’t easy to convince K-State officials, animal science faculty and even a lot of students,” insisted Hewett.
His intellectually, yet common sense editorials appeared several times in The Collegian, daily university newspaper, drawing conversation across the entire campus, many far removed from the Western sport.
Hewett was also influential in having the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association develop the Central Plains Region of Kansas, and Oklahoma, which continues with 15 colleges, today.
“It just made sense efficiently and economically, and the region has always had a number of contestants at the National College Rodeo Finals,” evaluated Hewett.
Serving as captain of the K-State Rodeo Team, Hewett sometimes entered “all five rodeo events,” as team roping still wasn’t at every rodeo.
Placing in all events at one time or another, Hewett frequently ranked high in the saddle bronc riding at region rodeos, qualifying for the national competition, where he missed the short go-round by a couple of points.
Married to his college cowgirl sweetheart, they traveled together to rodeos at all levels, even with a tour down through Florida.
Back at K-State, “I got a call from the Quarter Horse Journal to go to the work as a writer. Dr. Don Good, head of the Animal Science Department, had recommended me, and Audie Rackley, the editor, needed me right then. We drove to Amarillo during spring break, and I accepted the position. But, I couldn’t go to work until I finished classes for my undergraduate ag journalism degree from K-State in May, 1973,” Hewett said.
Traveling, writing about Quarter Horses, DK and his wife continued to compete successfully in rodeos and jackpots, as tight schedules permitted.
When opportunity arose in the fall of 1974, the couple acquired the Mid-America Rodeo News, in Dewey, Oklahoma.
“It was what I wanted. I could write about the sport that we were regular competitors in. There were more than 2,000 rodeo dates a year printed in the Mid-America Rodeo News, and more than 3,700 subscribers,” DK said.
Still feeling the surge of college rodeo, Hewett pursued an official publication for the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. “The idea flew, and we had two rodeo papers. One came out the first, and the other the 15th. It was hard work, but we were making them go,” Hewett informed.
“I continued deeper involvement in the sport, serving as the Southwest Cowboys Association. My poor wife, bless her heart, she was really patient with me for a long time, until she just told me, ‘you don’t need to do all that,’” Hewett related.
Terminating newspaper ownership, they moved to Washington County, Oklahoma, known as team roping haven with Copan and Lenapah, hosting multiple competitions.
“There was a group of 26 of us who would compete somewhere at least three times a week and practice the other evenings,” said DK, who trained roping horses, sold freelance writings and had occasional part-time jobs.
A move to Coffeyville wasn’t right logistics for a cowboy who wanted to rope every day, but it was another turn in a cowboy writer’s professional career.
“There wasn’t the same roping crowd that we’d become accustomed, but it was lucky really. I decided to go back to college and get my master’s degree, so I could teach on the junior college level,” Hewett said.
Completing graduate requirements for his interpersonal communication degree from Pittsburg State, DK accepted an instructor’s position at Independence Community College with a variety of communications classes.
After the couple went their separate ways, Hewitt acknowledged, “My wife’s family had good horses. She rode good horses, knew good horses, and I learned about good horses and have good horses today thanks to her.”
When his mother became ill, DK moved back to Fort Scott to help care for her, did freelance writing and trained horses.
“I took more outside horses, developed the ‘Steeroid,’ for practice and continue to use it roping today.
“My ‘Steeroid’ is a golf cart on the end of a rope, and horses learn to trail it like a steer, without anyone else’s help. I’ve developed a remote control, so it doesn’t ever run off by itself,” Hewett said.
Hewett published his “Horse Prayers” book which sold out the first press run quickly and is still demanded. There were more than 4,000 followers of his weekday e-mail column, “Side Trails,” when tragedy struck in mid-April, 2004.
“I woke up on my back and couldn’t move. I’ve always had a strong faith, and immediately I told the Lord, ‘I’m locked out here on 40 acres by myself, nobody knows it except you. If I’m not supposed to die now, please help me get up.’ It was not immediate, but I started gaining some feeling back, and was eventually able to get to my mobile home to call for help. It was God’s assistance, for sure,” DK credited.
New heart care facilities were put to use at Broken Arrow, and Hewett was on the road to recovery seemingly, when blood flow to the brain caused his stroke.
“I had to have assistance for a year-and-a-half, because I literally couldn’t do anything by myself. After two years, I was able to move back here and have slowly been getting better, thanks to my God and my horse. Improvement has been slow, but I can ride my horse, write some stories, and I’ve been roping,” Hewett appreciated.
“I ride every day. Not too far. I had ridden 1,900 consecutive days, until I had to spend a night in the hospital after doctors became concerned about my heartbeat. I have regular checkups to make sure everything’s working. I’m okay now. It’s been another 120 days since I’ve missed riding,” DK stated.
“My fingers just don’t work like I want them to with the rope or the computer. I’m right handed, and some of my fingers are still paralyzed. I just heel now. I’m tied on, which is legal for somebody my age anyway,” DK said.
“I’m slow, but my neighbor has some slow practice steers. We ran eight head last night, I caught three by two legs, and two by a leg. I’m getting better,” Hewett insisted.
“I can type, but my thinking doesn’t seem to flow when I’m at the keyboard, like when I’m talking. But, my writing is getting better, too. It’s all coming together,” DK said.
Looking back on the joys and hardships of his life, Hewett related the “four tenets of my spiritual beliefs.”
But, he emphatically clarified: “As I say, please don’t feel I’m preaching to you, or to anyone else. They’re just four things that were given me in pieces over time. They’re doctrine for me, because they are short enough I can keep track of, and open-ended enough in case I am given more… when I’m ready to receive them.”
They are: Faith, Tend Your Own Garden, Turn All Things Over, and Forgiveness. DK Hewett explained:
1) Faith “When I look around, everything here seems to be in order and working – sun, stars, seasons, nature. If I am here, I must be working, too. So, it’s actually logical that I have faith. Somehow, sometime it all got here, and works the way it does. I call that God.”
2) Tend Your Own Garden “We’ve each been given a small piece of the universe. It is a part of the whole; unlike anyone else’s. That’s like our lives; created for us to fulfill. That is our job; to tend our garden. Make the most of what’s been given us. Keep it free of weeds and trash. Make it fertile and let it bear fruit. Nowhere does it say toss your seeds into someone else’s garden, or accept what someone tosses into yours. It’s your garden. Tend it with reverence.”
3) Turn All Things Over “Lord, take my body, my mind, my actions, my thoughts. If I am supposed to think a certain way, put the thought in my mind. If I am supposed to do a certain thing, move my feet, use my hands, use my body. The biggest mistake we make, our greatest sin is trying to yank control back. We don’t do that on purpose, it’s the way we were made. Our ego creeps in when we’re not looking … at God.”
4) Forgiveness “It is not something deserved. It’s something given. For-give-ness. It works in two, totally different directions. We forgive. We are forgiven. But, the effects of both are the same. It’s like erasing a blackboard. God explained it to me this way: ‘Look, I know you screw-up. I made you didn’t I? If you were perfect, I’d be out of a job. Just do the very best you can; the very best. When you do something stupid, recognize it and ask for forgiveness. You’ll be forgiven. Now get back to your work — that’s tending your garden and turning things over to me. Have faith. I am always here.’”
Those were compiled by DK Hewett long before his heart attack and stroke. “I’ve always been a believer in a Supreme Force beyond what we can understand. That’s God, and He’s our salvation.
“Now, I’m ready to enter up in the team roping, turn back the pages, and see if I can win again. I’ve done my practice, so we’ll see how it goes. Whatever, happens really doesn’t matter.
“I’ve really had a great life. Hey, come on down to my barn at Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and sign my Wall of Fame with my friends’ signatures on it,” welcomed DK Hewett, truly a cowboy of hard knocks and strongest faith for the life and the Lord.