Victoria man fulfills urge for cowboy living through chuckwagon ministry

Aug. 10, 2010 at 3:10 a.m.

Aubrey Lenamon isn't a cowboy anymore, but he remains one at heart.

And although many cowboys, Lenamon included, end up leaving the ranch in search of financial stability elsewhere, he assures you that the Texas icon still exists.

"There are still a lot of cowboys out there," he said. "You just don't see them because they're out on the ranch."

When Lenamon left ranching for a job in the oil field, he longed to return to the pasture.

"I haven't lived as a cowboy for years," he said. "But you never lose that yearning to get back to it."

So 15 years ago, he bought a chuckwagon and started Chuckwagons for Christ, a cowboy ministry nonprofit organization in which he cooks and educates about God and cowboy culture.

The last four years, he and friends have set up their chuckwagons at Brooke Army Medical Center, the U.S. Army hospital in San Antonio, to cook for and entertain wounded veterans.

The event, called Cowboys for Heroes, started small with just 250 people in attendance during the first year. Last year, Lenamon and other volunteers served about 1,500 wounded soldiers and their families out of their trail wagons.

"It's kind of a break in the monotony of recovery," said David Parks, who pastors the church Lenamon attends, Trail Head Cowboy Church.

"You honestly have a worldwide approach there because they send people from all over the world to study at the medical facility there," he added.

Indeed, Lenamon's charitable work has been a world affair. At various events, he has received interest from groups in Germany, Japan, France, Brazil and Sweden that are all curious about cowboy culture.

At Cowboys for Heroes events, he serves veterans from cities as far north as Detroit, whose knowledge of the cowboy lifestyle ends at Western movies and television shows.

Lenamon, though, hasn't been without his roping partners. In 1996, at a Christian camp meeting, Lenamon met David Strickland, a like-minded but more boisterous cowboy. The shier Lenamon sought a vocal partner in Strickland to begin his chuckwagon ministry.

Strickland helped plant the seed for the Cowboys for Heroes event. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Strickland knows firsthand how even serving one's country can be a thankless job at times.

"They do so much, and people don't give them the credit," Strickland said. "We weren't giving the credit to them that they deserved, and I would hate to see them treated the same way us Vietnam veterans were treated."

Lenamon said he leaves politics out of Chuckwagons for Christ. For him, cooking for and entertaining the wounded veterans is all about showing them "how much we love them and appreciate them," he said.

Lately, Lenamon has been thinking about who can carry the torch for the ministry. Although health concerns ail him, he is confident his strong faith in God will help him through it. But he needs young people to take the reins of the organization.

"I'm not in it for the money or fame, but I'd like to see this work carried on by somebody," he said.

Chuckwagons for Christ's next event is the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch Celebrity Golf Tournament at the Victoria Country Club. The tournament takes place Oct. 3 and 4.



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