gt;gt; Chapter One gt; Bustin’ Broncs and Other Ways of Having Fungt; Just a Cowboy at Heartgt; Every story has a beginning.gt; Mine starts in north-central Texas. I grew up in small gt; towns where I learned the importance of family and traditionalgt; values, like patriotism, self-reliance, and watching out for gt; your family and neighbors. I’m proud to say that I still try to live gt; my life according to those values. I have a strong sense of justice. gt; It’s pretty much black-and-white. I don’t see too much gray. I think gt; it’s important to protect others. I don’t mind hard work. At the gt; same time, I like to have fun. Life’s too short not to.gt; I was raised with, and still believe in, the Christian faith. If I gt; had to order my priorities, they would be God, Country, Family. gt; There might be some debate on where those last two fall—these gt; days I’ve come around to believing that Family may, under some gt; circumstances, outrank Country. But it’s a close race.gt; I’ve always loved guns, always loved hunting, and in a way I gt; guess you could say I’ve always been a cowboy. I was riding horses gt; from the time I could walk. I wouldn’t call myself a true cowboy gt; today, because it’s been a long time since I’ve worked a ranch, and gt; I’ve probably lost a lot of what I had in the saddle. Still, in my heart gt; if I’m not a SEAL I’m a cowboy, or should be. Problem is, it’s a hard gt; way to make a living when you have a family.gt; I don’t remember when I started hunting, but it would have been gt; when I was very young. My family had a deer lease a few miles from gt; our house, and we would hunt every winter. (For you Yankees: a gt; deer lease is a property where the owner rents or leases hunting gt; rights out for a certain amount of time; you pay your money and gt; you get the right to go out and hunt. Y’all probably have different gt; arrangements where you live, but this one is pretty common down gt; here.) Besides deer, we’d hunt turkey, doves, quail—whatever was gt; in season. “We” meant my mom, my dad, and my brother, who’s gt; four years younger than me. We’d spend the weekends in an old RV gt; trailer. It wasn’t very big, but we were a tight little family and we gt; had a lot of fun.gt; My father worked for Southwestern Bell and AT&T—they split gt; and then came back together over the length of his career. He was gt; a manager, and as he’d get promoted we’d have to move every few gt; years. So in a way I was raised all over Texas.gt; Even though he was successful, my father hated his job. Not the gt; work, really, but what went along with it. The bureaucracy. The gt; fact that he had to work in an office. He really hated having to wear gt; a suit and tie every day.gt; “I don’t care how much money you get,” my dad used to tell gt; me. “It’s not worth it if you’re not happy.” That’s the most valuable gt; piece of advice he ever gave me: Do what you want in life. To this gt; day I’ve tried to follow that philosophy.gt; In a lot of ways my father was my best friend growing up, but gt; he was able at the same time to combine that with a good dose of gt; fatherly discipline. There was a line and I never wanted to cross it. gt; I got my share of whuppin’s (you Yankees will call ’em spankings) gt; when I deserved it, but not to excess and never in anger. If my dad gt; was mad, he’d give himself a few minutes to calm down before gt; administering a controlled whuppin’—followed by a hug.gt; To hear my brother tell it, he and I were at each others throats gt; most of the time. I don’t know if that’s true, but we did have our gt; share of tussles. He was younger and smaller than me, but he could gt; give as good he got, and he’d never give up. He’s a tough character gt; and one of my closest friends to this day. We gave each other hell, gt; but we also had a lot of fun and always knew we had each others gt; back.gt; Our high school used to have a statue of a panther in the front gt; lobby. We had a tradition each year where seniors would try and gt; put incoming freshmen on the panther as a hazing ritual. Freshmen,gt; naturally, resisted. I had graduated when my brother becamegt; a freshman, but I came back on his first day of school and gt; offered a hundred dollars to anyone who could sit him on that gt; statue.gt; I still have that hundred dollars.gt; While I got into a lot of fights, I didn’t start most of gt; them. My dad made it clear I’d get a whuppin’ if he found out I gt; started a fight. We were supposed to be above that.gt; Defending myself was a different story. Protecting my brother gt; was even better—if someone tried to pick on him, I’d lay them out. gt; I was the only one allowed to whip him.gt; Somewhere along the way, I started sticking up for younger kids gt; who were getting picked on. I felt I had to look out for them. It gt; became my duty.gt; Maybe it began because I was looking for an excuse to fight gt; without getting into trouble. I think there was more to it than that; gt; I think my father’s sense of justice and fair play influenced me more gt; than I knew at the time, and even more than I can say as an adult. gt; But whatever the reason, it sure gave me plenty of opportunities for gt; getting into scrapes.gt; My family had a deep faith in God. My dad was a deacon,gt; and my mom taught Sunday school. I remember a stretch when gt; I was young when we would go to church every Sunday morning, gt; Sunday night, and Wednesday evening. Still, we didn’t consider gt; ourselves overly religious, just good people who believed in God gt; and were involved in our church. Truth is, back then I didn’t like gt; going a lot of the time.gt; My dad worked hard. I suspect it was in his blood—his father gt; was a Kansas farmer, and those people worked hard. One job was gt; never enough for my dad—he had a feed store for a bit when I was gt; growing up, and we had a pretty modest-sized ranch we all worked gt; to keep going. He’s retired now, officially, but you can still find him gt; working for a local veterinarian when he’s not tending to things on gt; his small ranch.gt; My mother was also a really hard worker. When my brother gt; and I were old enough to be on our own, she went to work as a gt; counselor at a juvenile detention center. It was a rough job, dealinggt; with difficult kids all day long, and eventually she moved on. gt; She’s retired now, too, though she keeps herself busy with part-timegt; work and her grandchildren.gt; Ranching helped fill out my school days. My brother and I gt; would have our different chores after school and on the weekends: gt; feed and look after the horses, ride through the cattle, inspect the gt; fences.gt; Cattle always give you problems. I’ve been kicked in the leg, gt; kicked in the chest, and yes, kicked where the sun doesn’t shine. gt; Never been kicked in the head, though. That might have set me gt; straight.gt; Growing up, I raised steers and heifers for FFA, Future Farmersgt; of America. (The name is now officially The National FFA gt; Organization.) I loved FFA and spent a lot of time grooming and gt; showing cattle, even though dealing with the animals could be gt; frustrating. I’d get pissed off at them and think I was king of the gt; world. When all else failed, I was known to whack ’em upside gt; their huge hard heads to knock some sense into them. Twice I gt; broke my hand.gt; Like I said, getting hit in the skull may have set me straight.gt; I kept my head when it came to guns, but I was still passionategt; about them. Like a lot of boys, my first “weapon” was a Daisy gt; multi-pump BB rifle—the more you pumped, the more powerful gt; your shot. Later on, I had a CO2-powered revolver that looked like gt; the old 1860 Peacemaker Colt model. I’ve been partial to Old West gt; firearms ever since, and after getting out of the Navy, I’ve started gt; collecting some very fine-looking replicas. My favorite is an 1861 gt; Colt Navy Revolver replica manufactured on the old lathes.gt; I got my first real rifle when I was seven or eight years old. It gt; was a bolt-action 30-06. It was a solid gun—so “grown-up” that it gt; scared me to shoot at first. I came to love that gun, but as I recall gt; what I really lusted after was my brother’s Marlin 30-30. It was gt; lever action, cowboy-style.gt; Yes, there was a theme there.gt; You’re not a cowboy until you can break a horse. I gt; started learning when I was in high school; at first, I didn’t know gt; a whole heck of a lot. It was just: Hop on them and ride until they gt; quit bucking. Do your best to stay on.gt; I learned much more as I got older, but most of my early gt; education came on the job—or on the horse, so to speak. The horse gt; would do something, and I would do something. Together, we came gt; to an understanding. Probably the most important lesson was gt; patience. I wasn’t a patient person by nature. I had to develop that gt; talent working with horses; it would end up being extremely valuable gt; when I became a sniper—and even when I was courting my wife.gt; Unlike cattle, I never found a reason to smack a horse. Ride gt; them till I wore them out, sure. Stay on them till they realized who gt; was boss, absolutely. But hit a horse? Never saw a reason good gt; enough. Horses are smarter than cattle. You can work a horse into gt; cooperating if you give it enough time and patience.gt; I don’t know if I exactly had a talent for breaking horses or not, gt; but being around them fed my appetite for all things cowboy. So, gt; looking back, it isn’t very surprising that I got involved in rodeo gt; competitions while still in school. I played sports in high school—gt; baseball and football—but nothing compared with the excitement gt; of the rodeo.gt; Every high school has its different cliques: jocks, nerds, and so gt; on. The crew I was hanging out with were the “ropers.” We had gt; the boots and jeans, and in general looked and acted like cowboys. gt; I wasn’t a real roper—I couldn’t have lassoed a calf worth a lick at gt; that point—but that didn’t stop me from getting involved in rodeos gt; around age sixteen.gt; I started out by riding bulls and horses at a small local place gt; where you paid twenty bucks to ride as long as you could stay on. gt; You would have to supply your own gear—spurs, chaps, your gt; rigging. There was nothing fancy about it: you got on and fell off, and gt; got on again. Gradually, I stayed on longer and longer, and finally gt; got to the point where I felt confident enough to enter some small gt; local rodeos.gt; Bustin’ a bull is a little different than taming a horse. They buck gt; forward, but their skin is so loose that when they’re going forward, gt; you not only go forward but you slip side to side. And bulls can gt; really spin. Let me put it this way: staying on top of a bull is not an gt; easy matter.gt; I rode bulls for about a year, without a ton of success. Wising gt; up, I went to horses and ended up trying saddle bronc bustin’. This gt; is the classic event where you not only have to stay on the horse gt; for eight seconds, but also do so with style and finesse. For some gt; reason, I did a lot better in this event than the others, and so I kept gt; with it for quite a while, winning my share of belt buckles and gt; more than one fancy saddle. Not that I was a champion, mind you, gt; but I did well enough to spread some prize money around the bar.gt; I also got some attention from the buckle bunnies, rodeo’s versiongt; of female groupies. It was all good. I enjoyed going from city gt; to city, traveling, partying, and riding.gt; Call it the cowboy lifestyle.gt; I continued riding after I graduated high school in gt; 1992 and started going to college at Tarleton State University in gt; Stephenville, Texas. For those of you who don’t know it, Tarleton gt; was founded in 1899 and joined the Texas A&M University system gt; in 1917. They’re the third largest non-land-grant agriculture universitygt; in the country. The school has a reputation for turning out gt; excellent ranch and farm managers as well as agricultural gt; education teachers. gt; At the time, I was interested in becoming a ranch manager. gt; Before enrolling, though, I had given some thought to the military. gt; My mom’s dad had been an Army Air Force pilot, and for a while gt; I thought of becoming an aviator. Then I considered becoming a gt; Marine—I wanted to see real action. I liked the idea of fighting. I gt; also heard a bit about special operations, and thought about joininggt; Marine Recon, which is the Corps’ elite special warfare unit. gt; But my family, Mom especially, wanted me to go to college. Eventually,gt; I saw it their way: I decided I would go to school first, then gt; join the military. Heck, the way I looked at it, doing that meant I gt; could party for a while before getting down to business. gt; I was still doing rodeo, and getting fairly good at it. But my gt; career ended abruptly around the end of my freshman year, when gt; a bronco flipped over on me in a chute at a competition in Rendon, gt; Texas. The guys watching me couldn’t open up the chute because gt; of the way the horse came down, so they had to pull him back over gt; on top of me. I still had one foot in the stirrup, and was dragged gt; and kicked so hard I lost consciousness. I woke up in a life-flight gt; helicopter flying to the hospital. I ended up with pins in my wrists, gt; a dislocated shoulder, broken ribs, and a bruised lung and kidney. gt; Probably the worst part of the recovery was the dang pins. They gt; were actually big screws about a quarter-inch thick. gt; gt; gt;(Continues...)gt; gt; gt; gt;gt; gt;gt;gt; Excerpted from gt;American Snipergt; by gt;Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, Jim DeFelicegt; Copyright © 2012 by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, Jim DeFelice. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.gt;Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.