Prison Rodeo

Alan Smyth —  April 15, 2013 — Leave a comment

Back when this Father/Daughter project started, I consulted several Dads who seemed to “get it” and whose daughters seemed to turn out great. I asked them what they did. Roy Goble was one of those Dads. Not only is his parenting philosophy included in the soon to be released book, “Prized Possession,” but he is a guest blogger here today. Below are his words describing his child hood and what he created for his kids. You can follow Roy on his blog at


From Roy:

A childhood memory came to me the other day. It was of a visit to see family in Oklahoma when I was young. These trips were often a weird mix of grand adventure (rolling down a steep hill in a giant culvert comes to mind). But just as often they were slow and dull.To break the monotony my Mom decided to take me to a rodeo. But it wasn’t just any rodeo. It was a prison rodeo.

Once a year the State prison held a rodeo with all the participants being inmates. The public paid admission to watch the competition.  I remember the inmates being very good at riding and roping.


Walking into that prison, even as a spectator, was like walking into a different culture. The inmates who could not ride or rope were spectators in a controlled area across the stadium from the paying public. They were all men and they were all in color-coordinated uniforms. The guys in white were trustees, apparently low risk prisoners who did small jobs at the prison. The guys in dark grey were the regular prisoners. A few were in a blue uniform, which I was told meant they were high risk.

As a kid I remember wondering why they chose blue — wouldn’t that be hard to spot if they escaped? Why not bright yellow or red? But in my childlike way I reasoned that this was a special occasion — maybe they got dressed up for this special event! Sure, I thought, that must be it.

Anyway, the point here is that the whole experience was unique. It triggered my imagination and made me contemplate things from a different mindset. Even the rodeo itself was an uncommon experience for this California boy.

Years later when I had children of my own it dawned on me how attending that rodeo broadened my horizon. Mom and Dad were good to me that way. I was always seeing new things, hearing new ideas, meeting new people. I was given the chance to travel, read, explore, even argue (as long as I was respectful).

I wanted to raise my kids the same way, and thankfully I had a wife who agreed. To be prepared for the world you need to be aware of all the possibilities. Not just the bad things but all the good as well. Kids shouldn’t be fully submerged into the complexities of life, but they can be inoculated for some of the things to come.

young goble

So we were intentional about sharing the world with them. Sometimes it was simple things, like reading to them or sharing stories from work. Other times it was busier, like doing chores that made them think or signing them up for a competitive swim team. Still other times it was complex, like planning a big trip or talking about difficult subjects. Throughout it all my wife and I were transparent about what we didn’t know or couldn’t understand.

For the most part, it worked. My daughter just turned 30 and she’s gone more places, met more people, and experienced more adventure than most people have in a lifetime. My son is not far behind, soon to be 27, and he’s also engaged life in amazing ways.

Both of my kids can navigate a wide range of experiences.  Oh sure, they face challenges. And they have comfort zones like we all do. But they also have inner strengths that come from a wide range of experiences. Little shocks them, little intimidates them, and many things bless them.

That’s the strength of raising your kids outside of a box. Giving them a bit of risk to deal with, but also creating a safe zone. We need more of that in the world. Fewer safety helmets, and more prison rodeos.

Roy Goble



Alan Smyth

Posts Twitter

I have been married to Sharon for 35 years. We have two kids, Brittany (31) and Trevor (26) I am the Executive Director for Saving Innocence. I have a passion for my family and have learned a few things along the way.

No Comments

Be the first to start the conversation.

Leave a Reply

Text formatting is available via select HTML. <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>