In his own words
- Ramona McCallister
- Central Oregonian - News
Linda Sharp has compiled the autobiography of her late father John Sharp, “What will you give me to boot”
The late John Sharp, one of Central Oregon’s own horse whisperers, left his legacy to his family by writing his stories throughout his lifetime.
Linda Sharp, the eldest of John‘s children, began compiling his stories in 2006 prior to his passing to ensure they would live on long after he had left this life. She published a book in John’s own words that is now available for those who knew and loved him, entitled “What will you give me to boot.”
John was born in 1914 in Oklahoma, and loved to ride horses and dreamed of one day becoming a cowboy. In 1932, when he was 18 years old, his family moved to Oregon.
Known for his way with horses, John was using his own “horse whisperer” techniques to work with wild mustangs long before the movie of the same name came out in 1998. He used a bamboo pole to gently touch the back of the animal, and work his way closer to the horse until he could touch it with his hand.
“It was an extension of his arm,” said Pete Sharp, the second child and John’s only son. The bamboo pole that he was known for using in his training sessions is displayed on the spine of John’s autobiography.
In the book, Linda included a chapter about how John got started with paint horses. In his own words, John recalled, “In the late 1970’s, I wanted to get into the paint horse business and was looking for a paint stud. I was looking for color, but wanted the color wrapped around a good-looking, well-bred horse that I could afford.”
His first paint came from a special trip he made to California, where he bought a two-year-old stud, which he named Red Deck — after his grandfather Jetaway Deck. This horse had many offspring, one of which was later shipped to Germany. John got to see the filly when he visited NordfriesIsland for the trip of a lifetime.
The book is published by Maverick Publications, in Bend. The name of Red Deck Publishing on the spine of the book was of course derived from John’s much-loved paint horse, Red Deck.
“Various people have said he was born before his time,” said Linda. “Fortunately, his legend is being carried on by his granddaughter Kitty Lauman, because she had Dad to get her started and then she has just taken and run with it.”
“She is one of the top trainers in the nation,” said Pete of his daughter. “She still uses many of the things that Dad taught her.”
John lived a full and rich life, and he was well-known for his storytelling. In his 94 years, he had many stories to share, including history of his family’s journey from Oklahoma to Oregon, and the many years between his life in the Paulina country where the Sharp children grew up, and the ranch on Madras Highway near Grizzly Mountain.
“Dad was a storyteller. Early on, we started saying to Dad, ‘You have got to write down your stories,’” explained Linda.
Included in the book is a chapter on how John met his second wife Joyce, after his wife, Pat, of 51 years passed away.
“Joyce was 30 years younger than Dad,” said Linda. “She was as eager and interested in horses as dad was. It was because of Joyce that Dad was able to do so much in his later years.”
Linda spent the last 40 years in Africa as a missionary at a hospital in Cote d’ ivoire, which means Ivory Coast in French. She first arrived in 1968, retiring in 2007. Now, she spends approximately nine months in Africa and three months in the United States. When Linda came home in 2005, it became apparent that John needed full-time care, and Joyce could not do it all.
The family pulled together, and John’s grandson Brandon (named Buckshot by John) helped to take care of him for the next year.
Brandon wrote a tribute to his grandfather, which he read at his funeral, and is also published in the last chapter of John’s autobiography.
In one excerpt, Brandon wrote, “John was my grandfather — a role model and a very good friend. He taught me many useful things; to be calm and cool, how to ride, how to drive, basic carpentry, the benefits of free trade, and although he claimed to be afraid of it (and proof of his modesty), a strong work ethic.”
In 2006, Linda came home to help take care of her dad.
“It was a privilege to have the opportunity to care for him until his death in February, 2009,” she said. “But other members of the family spent more years with Dad and have stories to tell as well.”
It was during this time that she found material that John had written in long hand.
“All of these stories he had recorded, and people had been working on getting his tape recordings transcribed. I thought, ‘We need to get this together so the family can have it.”’
Linda said that in 2007, there was a cousin reunion, and she had put together the available material, but it only took into consideration the first 25 years of his life. There were also numerous articles written about John from the media, which are included in the autobiography, but all were done after he was 80 years of age.
With this large gap in John’s writings, Linda set out to help John finish his stories for an autobiography. She later added stories from the family, with a chapter of colorful memories by John’s other daughter Jeanne, as well as Brandon’s tribute to his grandfather. There are stories about his grandkids and his own early years growing up.
In one section of the book, Jeanne makes mention of some of the memories made while camping with the family. As she noted, “Camping to the Sharps is with horses.” The family has had a long tradition of camping at Camp Creek, where John had once chased wild horses. Jeanne said that the tradition has continued for 26 years.
Linda will soon be going back to Africa, but she wanted to make sure the book was available for family and friends.
In the closing chapter, Brandon shared that John’s philosophy sounded so simple, but held so much power. He recalled some of his grandfather’s words, “Buckshot, if it’s not something you would later be proud of, don’t do it.”
In closing, he added, “Nothing will buy you as much, or cost you as little, as a pleasant smile and a nice thank you.”