McKennon Wimberly and the Women in His Life – Part 1
(Since this article includes interviews of 4 different people, I will be posting it in 2 parts. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.)
If you follow the Professional Bull Rider tour, then have heard about McKennon’s wreck earlier this year, and undoubtedly have watched it several times. McKennon has watched it several times also, even though he does not remember anything about it.
McKennon comes from a family of fighters, and has fought his way all the way back to where he is today. But he got some help from some very special women that have been there for him, supporting and encouraging him all the way!
Paula – McKennon’s mom did not come from a rodeo background, but married into it. She has never rodeoed herself or ran barrels, but enjoys riding horses just for the pleasure of it. McKennon is one of three kids; Casey is the oldest, then Sami. I asked Paula if the big sisters were the protectors of their little brother. Paula said “actually it is both ways, but they are so much more protective of him. It’s funny as young children they would always say ‘you just spoil him’ and I go really, me, cause they catered to him. If he wanted something they got it for him. So everybody catered to McKennon, cause he is the baby, and now it is like they are all so protective of each other. It’s like you don’t mess with either one of them.”
But in February of this year, the whole family was about to find out how tough they all were. Paula was out to dinner and a movie, and had just gotten home and gotten on facebook. She read on a friend’s page to please pray for McKennon, he’s been hurt. She then read my post about McKennon, and started “blowing up McKennon’s phones” hoping someone would have it. After trying to reach someone on both McKennon’s and Mesa’s phone she received a call from Mesa. Mesa, while crying on the phone told Paula they were stitching his chin up. Paula then received a phone call from Todd Pierce, the pastor of Riding High Ministries, with news that McKennon had a broken jaw and was going to have surgery. Paula still not understanding the extent of his injuries, thought “that’s not too bad, for a bull rider”. Paula called Todd back with something else on her mind, and Todd let Paula talk to Dr. Tandy. Dr. Tandy told Paula that there was an open fracture, and there was a lot of blood, and they were intubating him. At that point Paula asked “where do I fly in to, because there is something about when you go to intubate somebody, it’s a little more serious.” Paula immediately called a friend that worked for an airline, and got a flight out as soon as she could.
The night of McKennon’s wreck, Paula and I had been communicating through facebook, and texting into the next morning. Although Paula says she is normally a panicker, I found her to be very calm, and strong that night. Paula attributes prayer, and God for her strength. Paula said “I never panicked, because . . . I just prayed, I prayed, and I mean I never panicked, because I am a panicker, I usually . . . I don’t know why, I do know why. It’s just God’s hand, because I stayed fairly calm you know so . . . you know you never think about those things. I mean they are in the back of your head, but you can’t help but that being in the back of your head, but you have to put it out, because you can’t live life thinking what if and so.. uhm.. I just never think about when he’s off him getting hurt like that you know, and it was like that was the first.”
Paula believes that McKennon is a “walking miracle”. “If you could have seen what was laying in that hospital bed from that day after for 7 days or so, in ICU, to what he was, and where he is now, and it is like 100%. Even by his first benefit which was 60 days, I know there was 60% improvement there, and it just gets better every day. I mean it’s amazing, it’s amazing to see the shape that he was in, to where he is now.”
I asked Paula to share what she thought McKennon has done, that has helped him to be able to accomplish so much.
“What he loves doing, and that is being around his stock and stuff.”
When some issues came up with the rehab, distance to travel, etc., they tried to find a closer place. But “McKennon would tell me, ‘you don’t realize what I do’.” Feeding bulls and working with them was his therapy. “I really believe that that probably helped him better than anything is for him to be able to be, and do what he loves doing most, and that is being around his animals, and fooling around with his stock and stuff. And of course, I mean, it’s all of course God. To the glory of God, cause without that, it wouldn’t have been.”
I discussed with Paula her feelings on McKennon riding again. Paula replied “I would be perfectly happy if he said he was not going to ride, but what he did tell me, because you know it has put a little bit of fear in me, but what he told me is, ‘mom, we all go some time or another when it is our time, it’s our time, and if it was to happen to me riding bulls I’d be doing what I love’.. so whatever he wants to do. But yeah, I would be perfectly fine if he just wanted to raise bucking bulls and haul them. He knows how I feel, but I support him whatever he decides to do.”
Paula’s message to the fans:
“I want to say just how much that we are blessed with all the fans that he has, and all the people that has been brought into our lives through this. I mean cards and pictures, you just would not believe what came when we were in that hospital room. It was unbelievable from people all over, when I say all over, Australia, I mean just all over the world sending cards, and sending letters and stuff, and posters, and things like that. You know these cowboys wouldn’t be where they are today without the fans, and they are #1, and they are very important, and we just appreciate all the prayers and all their support. It’s just unbelievable, and the fans just like Stevie, and I don’t even know Stevie, but I feel like I have known her forever, you talk about somebody special to my heart, and people just like you, I never meet you, I feel like I have known you forever, and it’s just wonderful, it’s amazing.”
“I’m a little bit partial, but he is a good boy. I have been blessed with three good kids, I can tell you that.”
Sami – Sami is one of McKennon’s older sisters. She has two beautiful little girls. I got to meet these precious girls, and they are just as sweet as their mother. Madison Jo (named after their grandfather Joe Wimberly) is 5, and Maylin Renia (named after Sami and her mother) is 2.
I asked Sami if she participated in any rodeo events. Sami said she did not have much interest in it, but she did “barrel race once, and got bucked off, and never did it again. So that was my rodeo career”! While she still likes being around it, and likes riding when she gets time, said, “If I could travel, and be a gypsy like McKennon, and travel with him, I would in a heartbeat.”
When I asked her about her relationship with her brother and sister when growing up, and who she felt was the “protector”, Sami said it was “more of McKennon and Casey ganging up on their middle sister.” [laughing] “But we have always been real protective over each other outside the family, but inside the family we always picked on each other, so it was more one of those relationships where they would wrestle, and I would run out of the room. So I didn’t get beat up.”
Maylin and Madison really love their Uncle McKennon. And you can tell the feeling is mutual when you see McKennon with the girls. This year affected each girl a little different. Sami said, “While Maylin didn’t really notice as much that he was hurt, she just always wants to love on him. But Madi, it was really hard for her when we Skyped, and we could see him in the hospital. It was hard for her, but she just kept talking about how she was going to kill the bull, and she was going to spank the bull’s butt, and the bull was in a lot of trouble with her (laughing). But Maylin, she just always wants to love on him every time she sees him.”
When I asked Sami how she would describe McKennon to someone that didn’t know him. Sami said “I would say he is a Wimberly for sure, he is a fighter, and he came out the same as he was before, maybe a little more arrogant” (laughing).
Sami is looking forward to seeing her brother ride again. “ I know that’s what he has done his whole life, and you know you see guys take some bad hits, and they keep going, and I couldn’t imagine him doing anything else. . . and I don’t want to miss out on watching him ride anymore.” “I’m probably as ready as he is to see him ride again!”
Sami’s message to the fans:
“I just want to thank all his fans that have stuck behind him, and everyone that has helped out. I mean, he has had so much support just from what I have seen, and I just want to thank everybody for you know, sticking behind him through everything, and hopefully he will come back, and win, and ride, and impress everybody. . . I mean the support that he got, and that the family got was outrageous. And I didn’t realize how many fans, and how good of fans he had, until it happened. . . through facebook, really everybody. It was really amazing to see that especially.”
Casey – the oldest. Casey was very lively during our interview, and had no trouble answering the question when asked if she felt she was the protector over McKennon? She without hesitation said, “I still am”. I replied “so big sister takes care of him?” Another quick answer, “Oh yeah”.
We talked about McKennon, and Casey shared that “Well you know of everybody in our family, me and McKennon are probably most alike.” Saying that “my mom can’t understand it that McKennon and I have a very sick sense of humor. . . but we have a sense of humor about everything. We can turn anything into something to laugh about.” Casey feels like that is one of the things that has helped McKennon get through this year.
Casey was not able to be with McKennon while he was in the hospital. She stayed home, and took care of things for her mom. But she still communicated with McKennon through Skype, playing funny songs for him, and trying to give advice. “I was like quit asking him 15 different things he wants, give him pen and paper, and they give him pen and paper”. “I would be on Skype, and make some wise crack, and he wrote ‘kiss my butt’” (laughing).
Casey says “You know McKennon is a man, and if you baby a man they are gonna let you baby them, so, he had people babying him around there, so he let them for a while.” She said “He thinks he would have probably done a little better if I had been out there, because I would have been cracking jokes, and being hard on him.” “We’ve got that sense of humor, and a lot of times I call it an invincibility complex, and you know it can sometimes be detrimental, but I think it does more good than harm.”
I asked Casey if she felt that this whole ordeal has made their family closer. She said the one thing that has happened is that they are in contact with each other more. “We see each other a lot more and talk to each other a lot more. . . and we don’t get off the phone without telling each other that we love each other.” Casey said “it was kinda ironic because when McKennon got hurt I had decided to leave the job I was at, and I had put in my 2 week notice, so when he got hurt that was my final week at work, and it was amazing relief, because I knew if I needed to go I could.” She was able to stay 2 or 3 nights at rehab in Dallas with him. “It was a real blessing that I had already made that decision, and I know that it would have been a heavy burden on me if I had had all these other obligations, and my brother needed me.”
Casey’s last comments to the fans about McKennon:
“McKennon is only, was only able to make it through this because he is as tough as he is, and he is only as tough as he is, because I made him that way!” Casey said that she would bet that McKennon would know exactly what she said if I asked him.
McKennon Wimberly and the Women in His Life – Part 2
McKennon shares about the closeness of his family, his wreck in February, and tells a few stories about his rehab.
Also find out a little more about the other special lady in his life.
Click here to listen to part 2 of the interview:
I want to thank McKennon, Paula, Casey and Sami for taking the time to talk to me, and share their thoughts with the fans. I am blessed to have gotten to know this wonderful family, and pray for continued healing for McKennon. We are all anxiously waiting for his return, and will be there in the stands, and at home cheering him on when he is back!