Cowboy Poet & Philadelphia Lawyer
My dad’s name is James and my mom thought Stuart James would be a cute name for their son, but dad could hear the shortened version. He didn’t want his son to be a heterogeneous mixture (stew). The folks wanted a name to go with Jim but didn’t like Junior, Tim, Rim, Bim, or Dim. So, they set the bar high with a name of English origin, defined as noble and brave, Kim.
Dad had an eighth-grade formal education and a Ph.D. in common sense and relationships. Because of the expectations of our society, though, he found certain doors of opportunity locked, without the key of higher education to open them. I encourage my children to manage those expectations — while nurturing their individuality and creativity.
As I tell my Story, you’ll see why Montana is home. Although my folks were married in Red Lodge 60 years ago, I’ve only lived here for eight years. I enjoy the best of both worlds. I’m in the country with a paved road up to the punchy-button garage door. My view through a set of French doors is a landscape of mountain meadows, trees, and deer. This tranquil garden setting of evenings and weekends is the fuel for the passion of helping others, from my office in Billings, to build their dreams into reality.
My dad grew up on a homestead near Hardin, MT, where his dad raised cows and hay. My mom grew up on a farm near Rosebud, MT, where her dad raised sugar beets and sheep. I was born in Miles City, MT, to this cow-boy and shepherd-girl. As a favor for an older brother, Dad was driving a truck for Sweetheart Bread Company. For her senior year of high school, Mom had moved to Miles City, to complete classes towards a career as a traveling secretary. One day her younger sister was visiting at the boarding house and spotted a cute cowboy from their window. Although mom claims she didn’t like cowboys, she was the one invited to go in the truck on those midnight runs.
When I was two, Dad decided the City was no place to raise his son. Since he always nurtured a love for horses and cows, a ranch job at Ismay, MT, was a logical choice. When I was four, we moved to a ranch at Lavina, MT. After several years of watching Mom do her shopping from the Sears mail-order catalog and thoughtfully making my choices, a baby sister was delivered. The real live version was surely different than the picture.
I was almost seven when the new adventure of school beckoned. Within a month of starting first grade at Lavina, we were on the move to a ranch at Big Timber, MT. We were there for six years and, then, began an excursion to the foreign country of East Texas, for a four-year stint of horizon broadening. My junior year of high school provided the opportunity to be the new kid on three different playgrounds: Long View, TX; New Underwood, SD; and, Lavina, MT. Since I graduated from high school at Lavina, I can proudly proclaim that I started and finished school there.
Then, I turned down college scholarships to pursue my dream of being a cowboy. Fifteen months later, I knew I didn’t have the same love of horses and cows as my dad. Yet, all of those years living the notion, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” came in handy for a poor kid with a new dream of going to college. In the course of managing my fledgling business as a twenty-something entrepreneur, the counsel of an older client friend cut short my whining as he said, “Kim, your problem is not that you were born poor. Your problem is that you were born with ambition. Many are born poor and stay that way. You want something else.”
I had a childhood of unconditional love from my dad and unrelenting challenge from my mom. The days were spent horseback in a sea of cowhides with a Dad who knew the way to confidence was by doing what others said was impossible. The evenings were spent in epic tales of adventure with a Mom who knew the portal to opportunity was by learning from the stories of others. Although dad worked on ranches for $200 per month and we were poor of money, our little family of four was rich in love. I wanted the richness of family combined with greater resources.
My college years, from the fall of 1975 to the spring of 1979, were invested at Eastern Montana College, now known as MSU-Billings. I worked my way through the first two years of college building houses and the last two working for a CPA firm. The last day of my junior year I finished two exams in the morning and began a marriage that afternoon.
After graduation from college, I worked for Husky Oil Company in Cody, WY, for six months and realized I liked the rock-n-roll of public accounting better than the politics of a private company. The next year was focused on getting that onerous CPA exam passed and I’ll always remember 8/1/1981 as the day I opened the letter offering congratulations. December of that year, a business checking account in Roundup, MT, was opened to deposit the check from my first Client.
Both of my children started kindergarten and graduated high school at Roundup.
My 32-year-old daughter is a May 2008 graduate of MSU-Havre, a Master Certified Service Advisor, Website Designer Extraordinaire, Wife to a Rancher, Financial Manager, a new Mom, and a wonderful combination of straight-line thinker and creative genius.
My 29-year-old son spent a year at Northwest College in Powell, invested a couple of years enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks, made Supervisor with Sanjel, started a Fencing Company, and exemplifies the patience of a saint in his efforts to bring out the best in others.
Evidently, they took to heart the line from the movie Silverado, “The world is what you make of it friend. If it doesn’t fit, make alterations.” I’m extremely proud of their diligent efforts to be true to their core beliefs — while pursuing their individual dreams.
Moving all over creation in my childhood sparked the notion that having roots would be better. The tsunami of a divorce sixteen years ago brought clarity to my thoughts. Now, I live in the moment. Still building on the foundation of the past and anticipating the future — yet, more focused on enjoying each day!
The mental image of a “Cowboy Poet & Philadelphia Lawyer” is one of ostensible contradiction. Yet, these four words are a reminder to me that life is best experienced on a spectrum. Think of a sphere and then imagine the axis lines holding it symmetrical from the inside, out. Like the four points of a compass — as far as the East is from the West — opposite ends of the axis lines are required for balance.
Growth occurs when we push the artificial limit of where the internal axis lines end — at the edge of who we currently are. As we stretch the boundaries, the result is a greater sphere of influence for the benefit of many. These spectrums of life stretch to infinity — if we have the courage to let our minds become open to the vastness of the universe and the unlimited potential of each individual.
The cornerstones of my heritage are “Spurs” and “Books“. What rowels are to spurs — vowels are to words. They are the jingle of rhythm and points of meaning.
A Cowboy is a man of action and defender of principle. The introspection of a Poet tends to cast a soft and mellow hue. Philadelphia is symbolic of friendship and brotherly love. When those attributes are absent in a relationship, a Lawyer uses the rules of the game to discover the facts, and just the facts, ma’am!
The self-proclaimed label of “Cowboy Poet” is to honor the importance of heroes and the power of words. As a kid, I wore a fancy, tied-down, two-gun rig, to duel with the bad guys. Now, I rely on the proverb, “Truly, the pen is mightier than the sword.”
The title of “Philadelphia Lawyer” was given by my dad when I was about ten years old. We were unloading sacks of cow salt out of the pickup into the granary one evening and I was doing my twenty questions routine. Evidently, I lost track of the number and it had been a long day for Dad. In exasperation and with a smile, he declared, “Kim, you ask so many questions, I’m sure you’re going to grow up to be a Philadelphia lawyer!”
He didn’t miss the mark by much. When it comes to putting together the conference room deals of our society, attorneys and CPAs are usually sitting side by side.
“There are only two ways to make a lasting impression: Dazzle ’em with your Brilliance — or, Baffle ’em with your Bullsh#t.” That is my response when asked, “What the heck is SageTalk?!”
My story began on the sagebrush prairies of eastern Montana. It is one of western adventure and philosophical musings. As a CPA, I have a fiduciary responsibility to apply the professional traditions of ‘black, white, and gray’. Life is much more — It is rich in color.
As we consider the words at the core of SageTalk, the first is representative of the wisdom from the Sages of the Ages. The second is an encouragement for us to, always, boldly Talk and Communicate our ideas, passions, and vision for the future — with others.
The rainbow arc of the spectrum between the two words (Sage ~ Talk) is comprised of the colorful stories that we, all, must share with the Whole Wide World.