"Marvin," she says, "is an upright, all-American guy. But I'm going to travel with him. I mean I'm not stupid." Of her husband's line of work, Liz says, "Bulls just flat scare me to death, but it doesn't bother me for Marvin to mess with them."
A bull-riding friend, John Davis, says of Marvin Paul, "He knows he'll never equal his dad." Several years ago Marvin Paul rode Mighty Mouse, a bull owned by his father and never before ridden. Those who witnessed the epic ride say it's hard to know whose side Jim Shoulders was on. Make no mistake, Jim does love to see the bulls—especially his bulls—smooth over the cowboys.
So the feeling lurks in many minds that should a spark of want-to ever be ignited in Marvin Paul's head, he has ample seat-of-the-pants ability to make it big. Really big.
This year's performances, however, illuminate Marvin Paul's problem: he has won only a shade over $12,000 and, depending on the day, is either just in or just out of the top 15 money-winners. Only the first 15 in each event qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City on Dec. 3-11. Nonetheless, Marvin Paul is still considered one of the best bull riders. So what happened? "He's ridin' fine," says his mother. "But we can't blast him out of the house to get him to rodeo. He likes to stay home and play with Elizabeth." Jim Shoulders didn't ever stay home to play.
Of the three Shoulders girls, Marcie is the free spirit. She says her dad never wears socks that match because he won $13 on the first bull he ever rode—and he was wearing unmatched socks when he did it. It's Marcie who tells the funny stories about the rats crawling in the Henryetta movie theater; it's Marcie who says the family moved from the ranch outside of Henryetta to a town home a few years ago "after the floor fell out of the bedroom." What about Marvin Paul? "I just hope he does good and doesn't do anything too drastic to himself."
Jana married Marvin Paul's best friend, rodeo clown Bobby McAfee. How does Jana feel when her brother is riding a bull owned by her father and her husband is the clown charged with keeping the critter from goring the rider? "I pray an awful lot."
Jamie, 28, is farthest removed from rodeos. She married a schoolteacher "because I like routine and you can't get more routine than a schoolteacher." At a rodeo the other day she admitted, "My stomach knots up when Marvin Paul is fixin' to be in a storm."
Since she's the oldest, Jamie perhaps has the best insights into her dad. "He was so good," she says, "because he had so many mouths to feed." Life at the Shoulderses is not always bliss. Says Jamie, "I remember hearing my folks having a fight and Mom said, 'I'm leaving.' And Dad said, 'Don't let the doorknob hit you in the butt.' "
Sharron Shoulders is everybody's all-conference sweetheart. A friend, Liz Kesler of Missoula, Mont., says, "She's sweet, smiling, perfectly groomed, sweet, congenial, helpful, understanding, sweet, vivacious and sweet." Sharron loves church suppers, tapes the kids' school paintings to the refrigerator door, copes with her husband and loves her role as a cheerleader for life.
Often when Jim was off rodeoing, she was home with the children, and wicked stories reached her ears. Casey Tibbs once told her a wild episode supposedly concerning Jim and concluded, "Do you believe me?" Said Sharron, "Sure, that sounds just like him." Soon, Sharron says, "the time came when I knew I had to build a foundation for our life or listen to the gossip. There are so many things I would do differently. But livin' with Jim Shoulders isn't one of them."