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Mile-Wide Smile

Cowboy Shane Henry doesn't let a little thing like cerebral palsy slow him down.
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Tyson Henry walks casually into his saddle house—a converted shipping container—turns on the light and moves to the corner. Abruptly and unexpectedly he stomps on the floorboards, summoning the song of a rattlesnake’s buzz. Tyson calls the rattler his “choir boy.”

It’s this kind of peril that Tyson, the camp man at Singleton’s Vat Camp on the Bojax Ranch, deals with—and seems to derive a wry satisfaction from—daily. The Singleton Ranches run on over 1,000,000 acres in New Mexico and California. The Bojax, Tyson’s territory, sits some 30 miles south of Fort Sumner, N.M., and is full of things that’ll bite, sting, and scratch. But none of the perils Tyson Henry faces each day compare with the scare he received when his second son, Shane, was born in 2010.

Almost immediately, doctors saw that something wasn’t right and determined he should be air lifted to Albuquerque. Tyson rode with Shane, and during the flight Shane had to be revived three times. 

“Watching your son code in front of you is awful,” he says.

Once admitted to the level III neonatal intensive care unit, the doctors told Tyson and his wife, Kari, that Shane was the sickest kid they’d ever seen. 

“They had 20 tricks up their sleeve and they were at number 18,” Kari says. “Tyson asked, ‘Can we pray with you?’ So we did. And about two hours later the doctor came back and said, ‘I don’t know what just happened, but he’s turned around and things are starting to look up.’”

Miraculously, the Henrys say, Shane made an incredible recovery, but a subsequent MRI revealed some brain damage and he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The doctors said he’d never walk. Undaunted, the Henrys dove into intense therapy for little Shane. They learned of Houston’s Shriners Hospital success in helping cerebral palsy patients, so they applied there and were accepted. 

One of the first things doctors recommended was surgery to relieve some pressure on Shane’s tendons to help him walk. The hospital would cover the cost of Shane and one parent, but Tyson would have to stay home. 

Tyson and Kari help put on a Working Ranch Cowboys Association-sanctioned ranch rodeo in Fort Sumner every summer. The WRCA folks got wind of Shane’s surgery and—without taking no for an answer—sent a check. At first, Tyson struggled taking the assistance.

“The WRCA and what they do for cowboys is a blessing,” Tyson says. “Cowboys are prideful people. We don’t like asking for help from anybody. If we can’t do it ourselves, we’re not going to ask for it. I was struggling with that and my boss told me I’ve got to let them bless me so that God can bless them.”

He came around to the generosity and boarded the plane with his wife and son. 

“I know it was comforting to Kari. She’s a pretty tender kind of person and she needs me and I need her too,” he says. “We’ve always done everything together and there wasn’t any sense doing this apart.”

While the surgery was a success, Shane still has struggles. He wears braces on his legs and his coordination is lacking. He’s got a wheelchair and a walker, but he often leaves those behind, feeling they slow him down. And when he does fall, he immediately sings out, “I’m OK!”

“He’s very, very smart, he just has physical challenges,” Tyson says. “He fights every morning when he gets up. I don’t know if I could get up every morning and fight the way he does and still be as happy as he is.” 

And it’s Shane’s demeanor that’s most amazing. His smile is incredibly contagious. He shows off his dummy roping and tying skills, rides his horse, Jewel, like a little Comanche—thrilled the first time he trotted—and plays with his big brother, Payton, and little sister, Holli, just like any other kid. Except, perhaps, his smiles come faster and are more genuine than most. 

“Shane doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with him and we try to keep it that way,” Kari says. “He requires a little more assistance, but he tries and tries and tries.” 

Editor’s note: The WRCF seeks to help the ranching community in crisis and they rely heavily on donations to meet those needs. If you would like to help them support working cowboys in times of crisis, become a member today by visiting wrca.wildapricot.org/Donate

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