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Childhood Years of Karen Vold
Written by: wpengine< Back to Articles
Edited by Lilian Landreth
A note from the editor: Karen Vold has played an integral part in Vold Rodeo Company since her marriage to Harry Vold, whom she met through her trick riding career. Karen continues to run the school she founded, Red Top Ranch Trick Riding School in Boone, Colorado, where she also shares life lessons with her students. Rodeo News is honored to share these lessons through Karen’s testimony, told in her own words. This is a multi-part series that will conclude in the December issue.
Most people don’t want to share unpleasant things about their past as they try to forget them, myself included. But at this stage in life when I have passed more than three-quarters of a century, I have reflected on how God has blessed me and brought me through stressful times, and want to express my gratitude to Him.
In wondering why I’ve had to go through those times and what purpose they might have served, I’ve come to several conclusions. Maybe it was so I could better understand and have more compassion for others going through similar problems now or in the future. Others may find encouragement in knowing they aren’t the only ones who have gone through, or are currently going through, tough times.
At this stage of my life, I can’t do the work I used to, but I can still serve the Lord by sharing my testimony and I owe Him that.
Many people think because I was married to Harry Vold that my life has always been easy and glamorous. So please allow me to share the rest of the story! The Lord has dealt with me on the subject of forgiveness for many years.
Mother came from a large family. She married my dad at 16. He was twice her age. I was born in 1939 and was the oldest of three children. She used to lay me on the kitchen counter to wash my hair in the sink and taught me to recite poems, and taught me how to act growing up; not to smoke or drink, even if you are the only one in a crowd. I’ve heard that many of the characteristics for life are formed by age six. Our parents drove my sister and I to Sunday School when we were young but they didn’t attend themselves.
The last place we lived, before my parents were divorced when I was eight, was 66 acres of commercial citrus. We ran a riding stable on one end next to the Arizona Canal and on the other side of the house was desert as far as you could see. Years later it was sold and Sunnyslope High School was built on it.
My dad belonged to the Phoenix Jaycees who put the Phoenix Rodeo on every March. He was the only man who was chairman more than one year because he kept it going during World War II. He hired the clowns, announcer, acts, stock contractor, etc., and they would come to our house for a dinner each year. I decided early in life I wanted to be a trick rider when I saw them perform and listened to their stories. The wives of the Jaycees had their own organization called the Dudettes. I was their mascot as a young girl.
After my parents divorced, my mom’s sister—widowed when her twin daughters were five—came to live in a second house on our property. The twins and I were 19 days apart in age. One day when we were eight and our moms were gone to the store, we found some of their cigarettes and wanted to see what smoking was like. We went into a small bathroom and shut the door. There were no windows or vents, and I got sick and never smoked again. I couldn’t even stand the smell of smoke in a room. I was grateful when they passed the laws prohibiting smoking in public places.
My mother told me that alcohol was the reason for their divorce, so I never drank because I was so bitter towards alcohol since that’s what caused my dad to leave. My sister came to visit me at the ranch years later in 2017. She had been close to our mother and her sisters. My sister told me that actually, our mother had fallen for Jack, the dance instructor the Dudettes had hired to teach them a dance for a big show they put on to raise money. Mother divorced our dad and married Jack. We moved to Los Angeles for one year and then back to our house in Phoenix with Bruce moving in with us. I hated L.A., except for the Rose Bowl Parade, as there were no horses and no dad. Bruce was the stepfather’s boyfriend. We kids were told we had to call him “Uncle Bruce”. I hated both him and the stepfather. Those were two very unhappy years for me. After my mom had a baby, Jack left with his boyfriend Bruce.
After my folks had divorced, the barrel clown, Jasbo Fulkerson—who my dad had hired to come to Phoenix and was a dear friend—was killed in a truck accident. My dad was built like Jasbo, and Jasbo had taught him how to dive in the barrel headfirst and come up. So Dad gave up his construction business, took Jasbo’s place, and went on the road for six years with his bullfighting partner George Mills.
Dad had given Mom all the property in the divorce. When I was 10 and still upset over the divorce, Dad talked Mom into splitting the cost and bought me a horse and trick riding saddle. Dad got the horse from a lady he had hired at Phoenix. He was part of a Roman riding act that jumped a convertible. She also broke horses for trick riding. She sold the horse because he had refused to jump several times. Until then I had learned to trick ride on a palomino owned by a lady that worked for us at the riding stable, Louise Tex Lee. She taught me the three tricks she knew and I practiced all up and down the canal bank.
I spent lots of time in the summer sleeping in the barn with my horse, Gold Dust. I spent long rides on my horse praying to God. I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus at that time but the Lord looked after me and allowed me to pursue my dream.
The next husband my mother married was Hank. He was loud and foul mouthed and had served time in prison for raping an airline stewardess. There was lots of drinking, and wild parties. When I reminded my mom of what she had taught me, she said she was, “older and wiser now”. Hank had a bedridden son who my mother took care of until he died, as his mom didn’t want him. I truly hated that stepfather and wanted to go live with my dad, who had remarried and settled on Central Avenue in Phoenix. The city bus I rode to school went right past his house. He encouraged me to just get off the bus at his house regularly, and maybe they would get tired of coming after me and let me go live with him.
Finally, they decided I needed to go see a psychologist because I kept running away. The lady doctor told me when I was in the room alone with her that after meeting and talking with my mom and stepfather, she already thought I should go live with my dad. I went to high school while living with my dad and his wife. There was a church within walking distance from their house. It was a square dance barn building where they danced on Saturday nights. Then the church would set up chairs and have a service on Sundays. The church finally bought it and my sister and I were the first ones baptized in their new baptistery. I loved the church, pastor, and people, and went to their Bible camp in Prescott every summer. My senior year at camp we were asked to step in the circle or raise your hand if you wanted to serve Jesus. I now had a relationship with Jesus and knew He was God’s Son and died on the cross for my sins, and had invited Him into my heart. But I still thought that to serve Him, you had to become a missionary and go to South Africa! I was going to be a trick rider. That was my heart’s desire and nothing was going to sidetrack that dream. I felt guilty but could not raise my hand. Little did I imagine that some 30 years later, I could serve the Lord through the avenue of a trick riding school in my own back yard, and not have to go to South Africa.
One of the highlights of my teen years, after I got to go live with my dad, was being hired to trick ride in my first professional rodeo in Phoenix at age 14, with my dad clowning his last time at Phoenix before he retired.
In my senior year of high school, my dad built a motel in Yuma, Arizona. He wanted me to move with him, but I didn’t want to move. I was involved in many activities and sports and wanted to graduate where I had gone all four years. He said if I didn’t go, I’d have to move back in with my mother. Instead, I went to live with my mom’s youngest sister and her family. They had two young daughters and I helped look after them. About a month before graduation, my mother and Hank had a 2-year-old baby drown in their swimming pool. My sister, who was crazy about the baby, and my mom were so upset that my aunt thought I should go and help them for a spell. Each time I tried to go back to my aunt’s, both my mother and sister cried and begged me to stay, so I did until I graduated.
On the 25th anniversary of the Christian Church I had joined in high school, they wanted me to come back since I was the first one baptized in the church. The Lord had been dealing with me on the subject of forgiveness and literally saying I needed to put action to the subject. So while I went to the anniversary celebration, I also asked my stepmother to forgive me then got the phone number from my mom for the 2nd stepfather I was bitter toward. I never could reach him till the last night before I left Phoenix. Hank owned a bar and for some reason unknown to him he came home early that night and was sitting in his living room. He had remarried and his wife was gone to Oklahoma to visit relatives. I had been having supper at a cousin’s house and was ready to drive back across town to my dad’s in Scottsdale. Since I couldn’t get a hold of Hank I was hoping maybe since I had tried that would be good enough and anyway I was tired and thought he probably lived on the opposite side of town. I tried one more call and he answered! I asked to see him and he asked if my mom was okay. She had become afraid of him when she ended their marriage but he was grateful for her taking care of his youngest son from a previous marriage for so long. He gave me his address and it turned out to be right on the way to my dad’s. When I got there I told him that I had hated him for over 25 years. I asked for his forgiveness as well as forgiving him. He said he didn’t know I had ever felt like that. When he spoke he sounded like a croaking frog! When I walked out of that house, I felt like the weight of a house was lifted off my shoulders. 2 months later I heard he died of throat cancer. I thank God for allowing that meeting so I could be rid of my unhealthy hatred for so many years.
A lesson learned: Nursing a grudge for a past wrong is like allowing the perpetrator to hold us hostage. We only continue to hurt ourselves. Jesus wants us to live in freedom from anger, bitterness, and resentment. Even if the person who hurts us never apologizes or admits the offense, we can learn to forgive and free our souls by seeking help from the One who has forgiven us. Once we let go of old grievances, we can fully embrace the new life that Christ wants us to have!