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Legatus Magazine

Cover Story
Brian Fraga | author
Jun 01, 2020
Filed under Featured

Easy rider – had everything but God


For one thing, Mudd learned he was only as good as the horse he was riding. The fact that he could win good prize money one weekend, and then go a month without winning anything else, also kept him humble.

But if anything, his two years of competing professionally in rodeos showed Mudd that he was going to have to work twice as hard as some of the bigger and stronger competitors who excelled in that physically demanding sport.

“People were saying, “Man, if you were bigger, you’d be winning a ton of money.” But I’m not, this is how God made me. Mudd, 54, grew up in Louisiana wanting to do nothing other than rodeo from the time his father put him on a horse at about four years old.

Mudd left the professional rodeo circuit after a couple of years and became a salesman. He used the insights he gained from his rodeo years to build a successful sales and business career, but he was angry at God.

Slipping downward

“I wasn’t winning, and rodeo was all I knew. It was my identity,” said Mudd, who grew up in a Catholic home where his mother taught him and his siblings their prayers, and always made sure the family went to Mass on Sundays.

Even as a teenager, Mudd said he felt a close relationship with God and enjoyed going to church. But over the years, as the rodeo trophies piled up and life’s responsibilities increased with marriage and a business career, Mudd said he lost sight of the big picture.

He woke up one afternoon, hung over from a party the night before. He walked to the bathroom to wash his face and saw his reflection in the mirror.

“‘I saw a man in the mirror I despised,” Mudd said. “I knew my momma raised me better than this.”

Alone before God

That low moment — hitting rock bottom as it’s known in recovery circles — led to Mudd realizing he was an alcoholic. He didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first step on a journey that would lead him to a conversion experience, spawned from spending time before the Blessed Sacrament. The path would lead Mudd to rededicate himself to the Catholic faith and to pour his energies into apostolic endeavors like leading retreats, speaking at parishes, and building chapels in Mexico. He joined Legatus and had become a founding member of its Lake Charles Chapter.

But ultimately, Mudd learned that as a husband and a father, God had given him a vocation and that becoming a loving, attentive husband and father was his true path to holiness and salvation. “The things I’ve been able to do are all because of God,” said Mudd, who has been married to his wife, Kelly, for 29 years. They have three daughters, two of whom are now married, and three grandchildren, including one on the way.

Mudd and Kelly were high school sweethearts back in the late 1980s growing up in Creole, located in Southwest Louisiana.

Hooked on rodeo

One of Mudd’s earliest memories is being about four years old on a horse, working cattle with his father until they made money. One day, his father put him in a horse show, where he won a few ribbons and buckles.

“I was hooked,” said Mudd, who grew up competing in rodeos. In high school, he was a state and national rodeo champion. So was Kelly, who in high school won a national all-around rodeo title.

“That’s how I started relating success, through the rodeo, that if you work hard at it, you’d win a prize,” Mudd said.

He and Kelly went on to college. She graduated with her degree, but he quit halfway through to pursue rodeo full-time. He turned professional when he was about 23. He competed as a steer wrestler, an event where he would ride alongside the steer, jump off his horse, grab the steer by the horns and slide before throwing it down.

Mudd was a good competitor, but not having the size or strength of top-level rodeo athletes led him to leave the professional world after a couple of years. It was a moment he did not expect.

Humbled and hungover

“Rodeo is a humbling sport,” Mudd said. “It’s not like football or basketball where you sign a multimillion-dollar contract. In rodeo, you get what you win, so if you’re not winning, you’re not eating.

“I thought, ‘What am I going to do now? I had no college education. I had no trade,” Mudd said.

But what he did have was a rock-solid work ethic that he had developed through his father’s example and from his experiences in rodeo. He went into car sales, and started a waste management company in his late 20s that he later sold to a corporation. He bought a small oilfield heavy construction company and built it into a successful enterprise.

Along the way, however, Mudd said he developed a drinking problem. The nights partying in college and on the rodeo circuit grew to the point that he estimates he was drinking 16 to 20 nights a month.

“We’d drink and have a good ole’ time,” Mudd said.

The drinking led to that midafternoon where Mudd woke up with his wife not in bed; she had left the casino hotel where they were staying that weekend after he got pretty drunk the night before and passed out.

Lasso from the Lord

Deciding to become sober, Mudd said he was sleepless one night when he decided to drive to the church to pray, but found it was locked. He walked around the building until he found that the door to the parish Adoration chapel was open. He sat to the side of the Blessed Sacrament. He felt at peace when he left the chapel, and kept coming back.

God used that Adoration chapel like a lasso to bring Mudd deeper into the life of the Church and his calling as a Catholic man. He went on retreats, and built churches and chapels in Mexico. He went on a pilgrimage to Italy in 2010, where in Assisi he met Tom Monaghan, who told him about Legatus.

As his faith journey progressed, Mudd’s understanding of his vocation also deepened. Growing up, his father was a hard worker and good provider, but left the family spiritual guidance to his wife. That was Mudd’s approach early on in his own marriage.

“I wasn’t much of a spiritual leader at all,” said Mudd. Misplaced priorities, even in the early years of his renewed faith journey, led him to miss out on his daughter winning a beauty pageant, because he was on a retreat.

Today, Mudd still takes part in activities like church-building projects in Mexico, but he makes sure they do not interfere with family life at home. He retired from his business career last year and is thinking about opening a horse ranch to help men in recovery from substance abuse addiction.

Regardless of what he does next, Mudd said God and his family will always come first.

“You can’t give what you don’t have. That’s what I’ve learned on this whole journey,” Mudd said. “I’m just blessed.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer


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