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She hopes Marvin Paul "will do good so he'll feel good." But how about the years of quiet agony watching Jim ride bulls and other ornery animals, and now Marvin Paul, and with a grandson toddling and already loving the bulls? "Mostly I'm just surprised when one of them falls off." Jim was injured significantly x times. We will let you fill in the blank. Any number over 100 will do. Mrs. Ellen Shoulders of Tulsa says of her son's competitive days, "I just sort of trailed along to pick up the pieces." Harry Tompkins, seven times a world champ, says of Shoulders, "He was a hazard to himself when he started out." Jim has long since tired of talking about his wrecks and now says, "Only thing was, once I skinned my finger. This 'un right here." Then he takes special delight in showing which one.
Injury still dogs Jim Shoulders. This spring, while he was working his steers, his horse fell on him, breaking Jim's leg in five places. As with all the previous hurts, Shoulders gives it the macho dismiss. "You can't stop somethin' like this from hurtin' but you can damn well not let it bother you." Indeed, what is bothering Shoulders more now is his induction on Nov. 16 into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. The honor doesn't stir Jim much, and when he was told he'd have to wear a white tie and tails, he was even less impressed.
Marvin Paul already has spilled plenty of blood from coast to coast and broke a leg two years ago. If one of the Shoulderses ever looks—or looked—injured, daughter Jamie says her mother "stands there sort of numb going berserk."
Sharron is anxious to tell how Marvin Paul, before he was married, gave her a refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and microwave oven "because he loves me—and because he couldn't think of anything else to do with his money."
Jim Shoulders is hustling one of his trucks down the interstate toward Henryetta. He's quietly miffed because there are a lot of Them Old Bulls to be shoved around at the ranch and Marvin Paul decided it would be more to his advantage to stay in bed.
But son-in-law Bobby McAfee is there to help, and as the miles slip by, The Legend is talking. Not chattering, talking. He waves at the Oklahoma landscape and promises, "When it has got its Sunday clothes on, it's really somethin'." Then he tells a story we're not allowed to print here. He tells the punch line twice. When Shoulders is especially proud of a story, he tells the punch line twice. He's proud of most of his stories.
The Legend is still a hardscrabble kind of guy. He's not rich by any measure, although he owns some 4,000 acres of Oklahoma land. He sells and buys bulls and broncs, "Anything that has four legs and a tail," says Sharron. (On one occasion another cowboy, unable to find Sharron, said, "Jim's probably out sellin' her right now. She'll bring a good price.") Jim provides stock for rodeos, arranges to get Mexican steers across the border, hauls hay and pipe. Most lucrative of all are his summer rodeo schools.
Freckles Brown says, "Jim loves that dollar." Shoulders snorts that "money can't be everything. Health has to be somethin', maybe 2%."
Once at the ranch, Shoulders is a real cowboy. The old ranch house is vacant, but a sign remains, DON'T SPIT ON THE PORCH. WE AIN'T ALL THAT COUNTRY. Now Jim is a-hollerin' at the bulls. Later he pauses to wipe his shirt. "One of Them Old Bulls did somethin' on me. But that's okay. It's clean. It ain't never been on the ground. It ain't never been on the ground." He works on through the day, explaining, "I believe a man has got to work or steal to live and I'm too big a coward to steal."
By a recent count, Jim's ranch is populated by 47 Mexican steers, 26 saddle horses, 187 bucking horses and 97 bulls. There's also a key lying in the weeds to Room 61 of the Townsman Motel in Miami, Okla., a broken thermometer inscribed EX-LAX and enough empty beer cans to indicate folks often need a thirst quencher thereabouts to make it through both the hot and cold of this dusty land.