Rick Johnson was ONE of a kind.
It’s actually the only way to describe our cowboy friend. The description sounds so simple yet is so very complex.
Rick Johnson was positively unique in so many ways impossible to count them all. His obituary reveals some of his greatness yet is still incomplete as there is so much.
We are privileged to have been long acquainted with Rick and even more closely associated in the past year during his incredibly courageous bouts with health issues.
Like only this morning is the first memory of Rick wearing a sailor’s hat popular for the times riding his bay mare into the road at Ben I. Smith Field in Council Grove in 1962. There was a horseshow in the Santa Fe Trail Riders Arena nearby where I was headed and we rode our horses there together beginning of a lifetime friendship.
While Rick went to Washington Grade School, and I went to Garfield on the eastside of town, we’d see each other occasionally with first conversation about horses although he was active in sports and all school activities. During high school most memories are of the senior year when we were in journalism together with Rick’s grinning orneriness often showing through.
During college our visits were few but one night he and another classmate David Aspelin came to my dorm room where I was half asleep or more. Remembrances of exactly what was said aren’t clear but the next morning a bottle of liquor that’d been on the shelf for weeks was gone, although those old friends always denied ever taking it.
Very infrequently would we visit after Rick became a “high paid” attorney, which he always argued very defensively; “not in a small town like Valley Falls.” And one soon found out, it was not appropriate to make or tell “lawyer jokes,” around Rick Johnson. If there was ever a time he’d scowl and frown, it was then.
Class of 1969 reunions were meetups with only brief visits turning immediately to horses and classmates. Trail riding was a joy for Rick and his dad which they did sometimes in the Flint Hills near Matfield Green, but sadly we were never able to accept their invitation to ride along.
Then Rick started attending our annual horse sale and soon had his own weanling colts there very gentle and fit, always bringing top dollars of the day. That led to partnership ownership of a Mr. Blackburn stallion which Rick had found and wanted to have for mating his foundation Quarter Horse mares. Only a couple of colt crops were produced before the dun stallion was bitten by a snake in our pasture and died. Smart attorney Rick Johnson had the horse insured and payment was collected for the loss.
Rick sent several customers to us for horse training through the years. Generally not having issues with other’s problem horses, the one Rick brought to us for training was the exception. After Rick had been injured by the horse, Rick sought our training abilities, but the horse bucked us off, too, scaring us as bad as it had Rick. Needless to say that Quarter Horse went down the road.
Upon us deciding not to have any more sales here after 25 years, Rick started selling colts at the Cooper Quarter Horse Sale where we read pedigrees a couple of times and Rick’s colts brought big bucks again. One thing undeniable, Rick Johnson was a horse merchandizer. With nationwide contacts he could sell Quarter Horse babies higher than anybody, even in down market times.
Horses were family to Rick. Visiting his operation only a couple times, Rick’s horses met him at the gate for that acknowledging comment, stroke and treat. They loved him like he did them.
During his recent hospitalizations, Rick’s horses missed his loving care, and our method of handing such gentle creatures in a pasture environment was not adequate. Fortunately other neighbors and friends stepped in to help care for Rick’s most select broodmares.
Having dinner with Rick once at a Valley Falls corner flower shop eating place, who paid the bill was negotiable finally this tightwad giving in. But Rick made sure he handed over a $2 bill for his part and a keepsake remembrance for us.
Onetime visiting Rick’s home, he was proud of his extensive cowboy boot collection including every style imaginable hanging by clothespins in his garage. That same day, Rick with his straw cowboy hat on was riding what looked to be a motor scooter over to the church to do his regular lay upkeep service. Evidently Rick had big motorcycles too like his dad did in maturity, but we never saw them
Every Christmas that card from Rick pictured with his beautiful wife and just as beautiful daughters was always anticipated. It just had to make a warm feeling inside all the pride showing through in every one shown. In phone conversations, Rick always talked about visits and anticipated times with his daughters and his grandchildren which made him so excited just thinking about it.
Yes, a couple of times a year there would be a manila envelope in the mailbox with horse pictures taped all over the outside. Usually inside were pedigrees of certain foundation horses Rick admired along with that friendly bit of wise philosophy. There may have been a $2 bill sometimes, and hopefully we didn’t miss any through the years.
There’s not a subject that Rick hadn’t studied and had smart knowledge and wisdom to evaluate. Always subscribing to his former hometown paper, he’d frequently comment about stories of mutual acquaintances and interests. Losing a classmate always touched Rick’s most sentimental heart and a call would come again reflecting high school days past.
Whenever our personal and family health issues arose, Rick was always making contact to express concern and encouragement.
With Rick’s own serious health matters, he was most knowledgeable about every angle of possible treatment, procedure and outcome. Following the heart surgery, Rick’s dedication to rehabilitation was entirely positive looking to complete recovery. Yet having assisted many families with estate planning during his dedicated professional career, Rick had his own house in order regardless of outcome.
Incomprehensible how one of such outwardly apparent physical fitness and forever optimistic attitude and outlook towards everything could suffer so much and be taken away from his loving adoring family and lifelong acquaintances. God’s Plan is always right as difficult as it is for earthlings to comprehend and fortunately Rick knew that as his suffering has now ended.
Much more could be and should be said as our heartfelt sympathy is expressed to Bonnie, their daughters, grandchildren, siblings, all family, friends and acquaintances for everyone’s great loss.
Rick Johnson was truly ONE of a kind never to be equaled all encompassing.
Frank & Margaret Mary Buchman