Sometimes even as writers we struggle for the right words.
This would be one of those times.
Our community has once again lost a legend. The loss of Leo Camarillo last week is one which caused a bit of reflection, personally.
A few weeks back I penned a piece about educators and their importance most especially during Distance Learning. Well into the piece I mentioned someone specific.
One reader was kind enough to share, it took way too many paragraphs to make the mention. Noting how “wordy” journalists are.
As a columnist it made me chuckle. Columns, after all, are subjective and the opinion of the writer. At times, it’s just quite simply story telling.
So today, as a journalist (and a columnist), I’ll do my best to find words for this very short story about – Leo.
First it should be noted, I am no cowgirl. I’m a transplant and as city slicker as they come. I’m a transplant. Dirt under my fingernails and boots (of any rugged type) were not a part of my upbringing.
Oddly enough, for this ‘City Slicker’, Leo Camarillo was part of the draw for the kid’s dad and me coming to Oakdale.
You see, I married a cowboy and he idolized the Camarillo brothers as a kid. A scrappy kid from Wyoming who spent his early years bareback riding, with a family passion for all things rodeo. His brothers were the ropers.
He was such a fan that when Leo’s sister and I became friendly after a few months of living in the 95361 I actually watched a grown man revert to his youth. Simply put, he was star struck by the fact that I was actually friendly with the Camarillo boys’ sister.
Yet I jump ahead.
With family living in the Valley, we had begun scouting different towns in the area for relocation when we would travel up from Southern California. I still remember one summer visit to the Oakdale Cowboy Museum and watching my children’s father return to his childhood as he shared stories with Christie Camarillo of his love for her brothers, their knowledge and their talent in the rodeo ring.
Years later and now residents of Oakdale there was many a time that I tried to win the coveted “Golf with the Camarillo’s” auction item. Always a high ticket item, I seemed to fall a couple hundred dollars short, but man the dreams I had of securing that gift for my then-partner.
So perhaps this is where I can state “guilty” to the ‘writers are so wordy’ allegation. I don’t have any Leo stories, like so many others. What I can share is he was always kind, had great stories and knew how to bring a good laugh to a crowd.
As reporters, we often live life on the outskirts, looking in at the comings and goings of the community and its events. As a community member and a newspaper staffer I can honestly say, the loss of Leo is indeed the loss of a legend, an icon, a true hometown hero.
Leo and the Camarillos were more than local boys done good, nationally recognized and the like. Quite simply put in their own way, they were the Michael Jordan’s of the Rodeo World. I have no doubt as I type these words, there are cowboys across this country sipping coffee and sharing stories of how they were influenced by Leo Camarillo; that’s true fact.
It’s hard watching legends pass. I still wish I would have won that golf experience and memory for my former partner. Some things you just never forget and I’ll never forget the smile and laugh of Leo Camarillo.
Thank you, Leo. To you I was just simply the newspaper girl, to me you were an influencer before there was an internet term and I’m grateful for the influence you had on my family and its end result. Cheers to you Cowboy and happiest of trails.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-847-3021.