It's an Old West kind of family, a family with a lot of love in it. It's all too corny for a soap opera. Over yonder, one of the Shoulders' kids balks at the old man's instructions. He bellows, "Don't you doubt my word. If I tell you a chicken can pull a wagon, get a harness."
The Shoulders' family life is rodeo. And rodeo needs the family. For the sport is at an awkward point. In the public mind, it has no stars, except old guys like Tibbs and Freckles Brown. Bill Linderman is dead. Sure, there's Larry Mahan, but despite his six all-round world championships, he has more of a yearning to make it big in Hollywood and in the clothing business than in the arena. Two comers are Tom Ferguson, who has won a record $74,917 so far this year, and Leo Camarillo, who shared the all-round title with Ferguson last year. Says Camarillo, who has mixed blood, "When I mess up, it's the Mexican coming out in me. When I do good, it's the Indian." Camarillo has the oratorical flair; his talent flair awaits further evaluation. Ditto a flashy saddle bronc rider, Monty Henson.
Oh, yes, there's another possible for rodeo superstardom. His name: Shoulders. Only this time around the arena, it's not Jim, but son Marvin Paul.
Marvin Paul, there are people who say you ride those bulls as well as your dad did and that you could even be better. What do you think when you hear that? "I don't believe them."
At 25, Marvin Paul lives rather easily as the son of The Legend. "I'm not ashamed of being Jim Shoulders' son," he says. And he senses that his last name does open a few chutes for him with rodeo people.
There's a problem: Marvin Paul may not want to be a star. He says, "I'd like to win at least one world title." But Jim Shoulders isn't so sure. "It's not an obsession with Marvin Paul to be champion. I fuss at him, but sometimes I think he don't have enough ambition."
Marvin Paul's mother says, "I don't think Marvin Paul has any desire to break his dad's records. He takes time away from rodeo to do fun things, and that's good. Jim never did that." Predictably, it takes a sister—in this case, Jana, 19—to be roughest on Marvin Paul. "My dad is 10 times tougher than Marvin," she says. "Marvin is lazy. He doesn't get up and he doesn't help." Candor is a Shoulders family trait.
In discussions with scores of other rodeo people, the word "lazy" does keep cropping up in talks about Marvin Paul. "I don't give a flip what anybody says," insists Marvin Paul, who really said flip, "I'm not goin' to rodeos just to go to rodeos. [There are some 600 pro rodeos this year; Marvin Paul plans to make about 80.] Look, if you're cold and not winnin', that's spendin' money. If you're hot and winnin', that's called makin' money. Got it?" Yes, sir.
In the seven years Marvin Paul has been competing he has earned close to $100,000. His dad won $436,569 over 20 years. These sums are not as impressive as they sound; expenses reduce them some 50%.
Marvin Paul got married last year. His wife Liz, 20, says, "I always wanted to marry a cowboy. I always wanted to marry a bull rider. I always wanted to marry the best." Which means, she confesses, she had in mind Donnie Gay, currently the best bull rider in the country. When she met Marvin Paul, he didn't say anything, she recalls, until she sat on his hat. Then he said one word, with which this page will not be soiled.