By Kendra Santos, Pro Bull Rider Magazine
If Robyn Gaffney could bottle her enthusiasm for life she'd be a
She's mastered the art of finding the silver lining in every dark cloud. But then, if she didn't she'd probably shoot herself. You see, stomaching real-life horror stories is part of the daily grind in her line of work. Mrs. G-Man's a pathologist. That basically means she studies and analyzes disease and death. But she handles herself with the same zest on the job as she does when she's cheering her husband on to victory.
"I really enjoy what I do so much," she said. "I want to be good at it, so I work really hard. People's lives are at stake."
That could be said of every bull ride. Her dedication for her career also rivals a bull rider's. A third-year pathology resident at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, Robyn rises at 5 every morning and studies before getting to work at 7 or 8. She usually gets home about 12 hours later, around 8 at night.
This is a mutual support system. Michael's gotten behind her medicine just as much as she's supported his bull riding.
It's been that way since the Gaffneys were married on January 6, 1990.
"We were dancing in a bar, having a great time, when he asked me to marry him," Robyn laughs. "I said, 'You're drunk. Let's not talk about this tonight.' But the first thing the next morning he asked me again. And I said, 'Yes.'
"It sounds corny, but I told my mom after the first week I knew Michael, 'I'll marry that man.' My mom couldn't believe I said it. She'd never heard me talk like that - I never had."
Robyn plans to stay in Albuquerque for her fourth-year residency. She's been busy with rotations, publishing case studies in medical journals and thinking about where to apply for fifth-year fellowships.
"I need to go somewhere big, like the Mayo Clinic or Stanford," she said.
When the time comes, they'll pick up stakes and move from the beautiful new house they just built in Corrales, New Mexico. What a relief that she doesn't have to worry about her husband hanging back and resisting yet another round of change. Hey, he's an adventurer, too.
"We've always been very, very respectful of the other's chosen profession," she said.
Still, because of her chosen profession, not to mention an accident-prone hubby, she's been around the medical block many more times than most.
"I know the beatings they're taking, and I know the price they're going to pay," she said. "I see older men who've put their bodies through hell, and they pay for it down the road. That makes me sad. Michael can't walk across the floor without me hearing him the way he creaks and pops, and he's still a young man.
"After what happened to Jerome (Davis), you think, 'Oh my God, is it worth this?' And we don't have children. I can't even imagine how Tiffany feels, because I know how I feel and it's just the two of us."
But danger is a draw for everyone in this sport.
"Danger's definitely part of the attraction," Robyn said. "These guys have a great sense of adventure. They'd be so bored at an 8-to-5 job. Most of these guys are really happy people. They laugh a lot, and they love what they're doing. Michael loves this. It's inconceivable to me, but it's the way it is. And there's something really great about seeing someone enjoy their profession the way these guys do."
She's learned to love it. But she still gets goosebumps.
"I get really sick to my stomach I get so nervous," she admits. "The year Michael won the world I was a basket case at the Finals. I knew that was it for him - his best chance ever - and I wanted it so bad for him. I went through two or three bottles of Pepto-Bismol that week.
"For me, the hardest part of being a bull rider's wife is waiting home every night he's gone for the phone to ring soI can hear he's OK. I cannot sleep until he calls. You just dread those calls, and we've all gotten them. You hate to hear one of their friends' voices on the other end of the line, because you know something's wrong."
Staying busy with her own dreams keeps her sane.
"If I didn't have my career or kids, I'd go crazy," she said. "I think it's so good that I have something I love that helps keep my mind on other things. When I was in medical school I'd study 17-18 hours a day the week of tests. I'd have felt a lot more guilty about that if Michael hadn't been doing his own thing, too. It's worked out really well."
She loves the part about PBR giving them more time together than the rodeo road allows.
"We've enjoyed a lot more time together since PBR came along," she said. "And it's given all of us a much more stable financial future. PBR's been a godsend. It's a great accomplishment that the guys have stuck together and made it work."
So have the Gaffney's. When their eyes met in the press room just minutes after he won his world title, the rest of the world might as well have stopped. They wouldn't have cared less.
"It's been such partnership with us," she said. "To see him to through all he did to get there - all the surgeries and hard times - it was incredible to see him do that."
Rock bottom, on the other hand, was the loss of a beloved friend to Michaels' beloved sport.
"Seeing Michael lose Brent (Thurman), that was the worst," Robyn said of one of Michael's all-time favorite traveling partners. "I was taking finals at school, and Michael was branding calves. We were living in Lubbock then, and I was going to Texas Tech. My friend and I were taking a study break and watching the 10th round (of the NFR). I taped it for Michael, and when he came home later that night I told him it was bad. Michael flew out on the first flight the next morning, and stayed with Brent until the end.
"To see Michael lose Brent was so sad. For awhile, Michael didn't know if he'd ever ride again. Then he got a hockey helmet to try to protect his head, but he kept getting jerked down with that on. Until you go through a loss like that you think you're young and immortal. Medicine is very humbling that way, too."
No cowboy is more humble than G. And no couple could possibly appreciate the gift of live and love more than the Gaffneys, who smile every time the sun comes up.
"The friends, the camaraderie - we're all family in this business," Robyn said. "We all have a unique bond."
Used with permission - thanks Kendra!