Archive for Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fire burns lost son’s memorabilia

February 2, 2011

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— The 9-year-old cried when she saw her house burned to the ground.

All her clothes, all her pretty things, gone.

But Gannyn Gower would have to wait for her mother's comfort. After Gannyn and her family arrived back at the ranch Saturday from a rodeo, Toni Gower stood in the cold January dusk and looked at the smoldering ruins and could think only of her son.

Cody Stephens had died a year ago at age 23. A rodeo bull rider, his championship buckles and saddles and his mother's scrapbooks had taken up a prime spot in the 109-year-old ranch house.

"As long as I had those things, I still had a piece of Cody," Toni Gower said Monday. "They're all gone now. It was like losing him all over again."

A story in January last year in The Kansas City Star told about Cody's crush on a pretty barrel racer named Lindsay Sears, whom he had never actually met because she was older and a world champion and lived in Texas and he was just a young bull rider from Cherryvale, Kan.

But three days before Cody died, Lindsay came to him. She walked into his room at University of Kansas Hospital, and the two talked deep into the night about their love for horses and life on the rodeo circuit.

The meeting had been arranged by a rodeo organization that got word to Lindsay about Cody. His sickness and his crush.

Cody's body had rejected a transplant done to treat his myeloid leukemia.

He lay in bed that night and in a weak voice told Lindsay he couldn't believe she had come. She told him he was her hero.

She gave him a buckle she had just won at a rodeo in Las Vegas.

"That's gone too, just like the rest of them," Toni Gower said Monday by phone from Pawhuska, Okla., where the family had moved after Cody died.

The family, including her husband, Randy, and another daughter, Ashley, couldn't live in the house where Cody had grown up, she said. So they left Kansas and took a job at a new ranch where they oversee 6,000 acres and several thousand head of cattle.

Toni Gower said fire officials think teens possibly started a grass fire that spread to the ranch house.

Cody's championship buckles had been set on display in a china cabinet. His saddles were on stands in a window.

There was certainly no hope for the peach-colored roses — dried now and on their own wooden stand — Lindsay Sears had sent to Cody's funeral.

But Sunday, Cody's mother dug through the rubble trying to find a buckle.

And she did. More than one. But the metal that had shone so beautiful under the bright lights of rodeo stands was now discolored, rough and ugly.

She's keeping them, though, and said she would call around. Maybe somebody can clean up her son's now-scorched prizes.

She so wants them to shine again.

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