Cowboy To Great Beyond

“Say, I have a couple of broncs I got from a rodeo contractor up northwest. They wouldn’t buck, and I want you to break ’em to ride?”

That was first introduction to Keene more than a dozen years ago. It was beginning of a real cowboy friendship, great comradery with a most unique, talented individual.

Only realizing he’d passed last month, after seeing an estate auction advertisement, it was truly heartfelt loss.

All of the Keene experiences were instantly reflected. Smile automatically, uncontrollably spreads just remembering.

Roaring into the ranch yard, diving out of the pickup, Keene was all grins unloading those horses to train. “Rodeo broncs” was no exaggeration, at least in appearance.

Don’t know how old, but big, rugged, scarred, branded, rough hair, tangled long manes, tails, untrimmed at-least-shoesize-four-feet, roan, draft horses.

Tales of the horses, his life’s adventures flowed as now-broader-grinning Keene aired meager expectations. “You get ’em started, and I’ll ride ’em,” promise taken lightly.

Never “gentle giants,” the “broncs” were rideable with enough cowboy try. Keene had that. Not perfect, they did everything: cattle work, trail rides, fox hunts, pulled wagons, whatever their big cowboy-owner decided.

Actually, that’s the best way to really know Keene. There wasn’t anything Keene couldn’t do and not much he didn’t do in his most colorful life, not all realized until reading eulogy.

That first training job for Keene brought additional clients, with his personal calls and notes. At retirement age, Keene prided as “ear man” for Cheyenne Frontier Days wild horse race.

With lovely-wife Sue, they were regulars and buyers at the horse field-day-sale. Keene with another half-dozen cowboys photographed “shooting the bull” makes great office wall picture.

“Come up, and we’ll go fox hunting,” Keene’s invitation, an unforgettable experience. “Hey, I have a saddle I want you have,” accepted on a Thanksgiving Day.

Keene is a book, unwritten yet, condensed here: Military family, rambunctious teenager, fisherman, camper, explorer, hippy, motorcyclist, Army veteran, scuba diver, two sons’ dad, five’s grandpa, builder of whatever imagined, construction inspector, farmer, leatherworker, horse teamster, collector, master farrier.

Far, far from conclusive: Keene simply “an unforgettable character who lived according to his own rules, always dreaming big dreams.”

Once more reminded of Ecclesiastes 3: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…”