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Remembering Ricky Crick

Ricky enjoyed meeting and talking

with the people of the horse world,

traveling to 30-40 events a year.


by Ann Bullard


The horse industry lost a hero Oct. 23 when Richard L. “Ricky” Crick of Shelbyville, Tenn., died from complications of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS, more popularly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He left behind a wife, Cathey, daughter, Stephanie Reed, and sons Wade, Richard “Buck” and Andrew, five grandchildren and thousands of friends across the country whose lives he touched while driving the World Champion Horse Equipment trailer.


Crick wasn’t a ‘hero’ in the same sense as the baseball star who died of the disease a little more than 65 years ago. He set no consecutive game records; he wasn’t a home run hitter. Rather, he was a good man who refused to give up. He was a man who beat the odds. The ‘average’ life span for people with this disease is two to five years; 20 percent live five years or more, up to 10 percent will live more than 10 years. Crick finally gave in after more than 17.


If you ask people what they remember most about Ricky Crick, the first answer would be his smile. Whether assisting customers at a horse show, talking with them on the telephone from the office, sitting around and sharing stories while calling on a trainer – or in his wheelchair at church, in town or at home, Crick’s smile remained. Toward the end, controlling his facial muscles to give friends that ‘Crick grin’ became much more difficult. But his eyes never forgot to give an ‘I’m glad to see you’ message.


They remember his dedication to his family, particularly the hours he and Andrew, spent at the table while Crick home-schooled his youngest son. That privilege ended with Andrew’s graduation last year.


Ricky was constantly surrounded

by his loving family.


A native of Middle Tennessee, Crick left home to join his father in Yuma, Ariz., where he graduated from high school. His primary areas of interest were agriculture and animal nutrition. He worked on a feed lot ranch in Yuma, using utility Quarter Horses and ran barrels and did calf roping for area rodeos. He got his start serving the horse community when he ran a regular route to nearby ranches for Yuma Feed and Tack.


Crick returned to Middle Tennessee to be close to his roots and to raise a family. He and Cathey married in 1971 and raised their three children in Shelbyville. After working 20 years with Jostens, in 1987, he ‘retired’ to work at World Champion Horse Equipment, spending a year in the store before taking to the road.


“Ricky covered between 30 and 40 events for four different breeds during the seven years he drove World Champion’s mobile rig,” said Nancy Edwards, now manager of Dabora Inc.’s tack operation.


Crick learned of his disease and its prognosis in the early 1990s. Rather than feel sorry for himself, he continued to drive the truck as long as it was safe to do so.


“Ricky was enthusiastic, passionate about what did,” Edwards said. “He loved people, especially the horse people and they loved him. He laid the ground work for mobile units on road in the American Saddlebred and Morgan business for World Champion Horse Equipment. He probably was one of the most customer service-oriented people I’ve ever worked with.”


Dabora President David L. Howard remembered his friend and Crick’s determination. “Ricky was just a great guy. Besides being a great employee, he was a good friend who always had a smile on his face. When he contracted this disease, he remained very upbeat. He worked to the last possible moment and then would just come to the store to visit with us.”


Saddlebred trainer Ruth Gimpel is one who bonded with Crick. “He was so personable. We had just met when I walked in the World Champion truck but I felt I had known him all my life. I don’t know anyone else like him. He was so nice and kind. You could be having the worst day around him and he made you feel like everything was just fine. He was so positive; nothing shook him up or rattled him.”


In early 1994, it became obvious Crick could no longer continue on the road. Edwards delivered the news. “One of the most difficult days of my entire career at World Champion was on Jan. 26, 1994, when Rick and I made the decision to end his horse show travel career. He loved the road, the horse shows and the people.”


The next four years, Crick worked from his office just inside the World Champion store.


Ricky spent much of his time in the

World Champion Horse Equipment store

when he could no longer drive the tack trailer.


“He had such a will and determination,” said Dabora Publisher Christy Howard Parsons. “When it wasn’t safe for him to drive, he used a scooter and worked in the store. When he’d go on break, he’d take an old fashioned wheelchair and push it with his arms around the parking lot.


“’I’m not letting it get me. I’m not going to lose my arm strength,’ Ricky would say. He was such an inspiration, such an indomitable spirit. I thought he was a good example of how you should live your life,” Parsons continued.


Edwards added to the Crick story. “Everyone was so impressed with his grasp of our customers. He took more calls than anyone after he came off road. He worked until he couldn’t do it any more.”


There was another side to Ricky Crick that many don’t know. “He was a very Christian man,” Cathey Crick said. “He was very strong in his love for God and for his family.”


The couple sang in a Gospel group for years. “I was in a ladies Gospel quartet when we started dating,” Cathey Crick recalled. “Before he went on the road, Ricky sang bass and played bass guitar for our family quartet.


His son, Buck, added, “Daddy never had a lot of money, but he left us with so much more. He left us with a good name.”


“His courage was an inspiration to us all,” Cathey continued, speaking of her husband’s life – and his last hours. “He had been in the hospital for 10 days and didn’t suffer. We had visited and he just went to sleep. Doctors said his heart just gave out.”


What is a hero? Certainly, a man who rushes into a burning building, one who stands his ground in front of an enemy, fighting for a cause meets that test. But even more is the man who refuses to give up, refuses to give in despite insurmountable obstacles. Perhaps the British poet, Rudyard Kipling, put it best in his work simply entitled If.


If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!" …

… If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!


Ricky Crick was such a Man.


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