Mum and Dad returned from the World Equestrian Games, France, and surviving a week of vacation with Joel and me. They came home to what was probably a fairly large stack of mail and were probably tempted to just strong arm the lot of it into the recycling bin. However, just when you think that only bills come in the mail, you get something like this.


I must confess to sniffling a bit and smiling a lot after I read what is probably my father’s first-ever piece of fan mail.

For those of you with eyesight as poor as mine, here is the transcription. (KyeLynn, this has nothing to do with your penmanship, which is lovely and clear. I and any friend to whom I write can only wish that I wrote so clearly. It’s just that mum had to take a photo of the letter in order to send it on to me, and we didn’t have a way to make it any bigger.)

Dear Ray Randle,

Thank you for taking care of my animals. You are a very very good vet. I have know you for a wile. You make me lafe. You stuk your hand up a cows but and you didn’t even care. You rock. You probably know my dad. His name is Chris Coombe. We fed your heifers for a few months. They were pretty playful heifers. I rememberd if I saw a yellow tagged heifer I knew it was one of yours. I actually took a heifer this year it was quite the expereness. You keep up that good work.

From Your Friend,
Kyelynn Coombe

What KyeLynn says is undoubtedly true. Dad has pushed an arm into many a cow, so often so that small children likely thought he was a perverse version of a centaur. I once tried to tally up his preg-checking numbers, and I had a rough count of 400,000, give or take a few. No matter how you look at it, that is a lot of cows.

KyeLynn’s letter got me to thinking about a lot of things, but mostly about the nature of work itself. From the vantage point of 40 (okay, 42), I can see that both of my parents are incredibly good at what they do, but they also worked incredibly hard to get there. And for the life of me, I cannot work out what they did to attain that level of skill. I don’t remember them attending lectures or discussing surgery cases or reading texts late at night, the traditional methods I think of when learning a new skill. I do, however, remember them practicing, repeating something they were trying to learn, over and again, not ever letting “good enough” be satisfactory for them. From them, I learned that the end result is not someone else’s responsibility, it is my responsibility. Just because something is hard does not mean that it cannot be done. I might need to put in some extra effort, learn new skills, and a lot of extra hours, but if I want to stand behind my work, be proud of what I do, and more importantly, the name I represent, then those are worthwhile sacrifices.

“Good enough” is never, ever “good enough.” You only get to rock-star status by doing something so often that you lose count. And then doing it some more.

Both of my parents are somewhat retired now, although mum still keeps up a pretty strong judging schedule and dad does some FEI work. I’d like to see them enjoy the results of so many years of hard work, to have time to have dinner with friends, to ride a horse up into the hills, to travel with us when we go someplace interesting. They’ve earned the right to let others part in the long hours and practice. So thank you, KyeLynn, for paying attention to the little things. For learning from whatever examples and experiences that life sends your way. For understanding just how much a quick note can mean to someone. But mostly, thank you for appreciating my father. He really does rock. And so does mum.