Thursday, February 05, 2009

Reggie Kester

As 2008 came to a close, I lost a mentor and friend, leaving me with an empty, lost feeling but with fond memories of a solid friendship that spanned more than 30 years. Reggie was what all good mentors are: he was inspirational and genuine.

In the late 1970’s, he took extra time to help a wayward young man that he never quit calling “Rowdy.” In those days, I worked hard to live up to the name, and Reggie spent days working to keep me out of the Ardmore and Texoma jails, in horseshoeing school, and on task.

As the years passed, our relationship developed and changed. He went from seeing me as a wild, semi-talented kid to seeing me as one of his own that had “made good” and made him proud. I never quit thinking of him as my mentor and teacher.

Maybe anyone could have taught me the basics of farriery, but Reggie taught me to respect it, to share it, and never to take it for granted. Reggie and I didn’t sit on the phone and chat regularly or even often, but he was one of my best and greatest friends.

He was quiet, patient, and humble. Like a lot of others who learned from Reggie, I often felt that he knew it all, but what made him great was that he knew he didn’t.

There’s an empty spot in my heart, in Ardmore, in the AFA, and in the horseshoeing world. Reggie’s gone.

Danvers Child, AFA CJF, OSHS Grad ’78

Independent?

As a rule, Americans tend to value independence. So, I suppose farriers must be great Americans, as you’d have to look long and hard to find a group that would qualify as being more independent. We’re the poster boys and girls for independence and non-conformism.

In fact, when you look at the individuals who make up the AFA, you can’t help but know that our association is great--because it’s made up of people who aren’t typically “joiners” and conformists. We’re a group, but we’re a grouping of people who are accustomed to setting their own rules, schedules, agendas, and priorities--people who are accustomed to working alone and doing things their own way.

Most things that can be viewed as a great strength are dual purpose and also qualify as a great weakness. So it is with our independence, which can cause us to be inflexible and argumentative. Sit down with a group of farriers, and you’ll hear stories about how clients were fired for x, how vets were ignored for y, and how trainers were argued with for z.

At times, all the braggadocio sounds pretty cool, and we applaud ourselves for sticking by our standards, for running our own businesses, and for refusing to compromise when it comes to how we go about our work. But it’s a thin line we walk, as we balance between refusing to compromise our standards and simply refusing to compromise.

My father used to talk about it as the difference between confidence and arrogance, and--as I embarked on my writing career, ghost-writing political speeches--he struggled to help me learn the difference between arguing and persuading. Persuasion, he said, was the language of self confidence, while argumentation was the language of self righteousness.

I’m still working and trying to get it right. But I know it’s important--in running my business, in conducting my life, and in making relationships and organizations work. Being a team player isn’t always easy. It demands humility, understanding, openness, and a general willingness to view the big picture. Let’s all aspire to be team players!