LIVE OAK, Fla. — It’s the only career he’s known, but Jared Lee’s cowboy skills were still put to the test.
The former Live Oak resident, who now lives in Picayune, Miss., admits all his knowledge and training were challenged during the “Ultimate Cowboy Showdown,” which airs 9 p.m. Monday through Oct. 18 with the finale Oct. 20 on INSP — Channel 364 on DirecTV and Channel 259 on Dish Network.
“I can tell you it was life-changing,” Lee said of the show which he found out about when a cousin read about it on Facebook and contacted him. “It tested every bit of cowboy you had in you, from your heart to your backbone to your pride, your mannerisms, your strength, your I don’t quit. It tested everything about you.”
The show is hosted by Trace Adkins and features 12 cowboys and cowgirls competing to win the Ultimate Cowboy Showdown belt buckle, bragging rights and a herd of cattle.
And Lee said the rest of the cowboys and cowgirls selected were indeed some of the best from across the country. He said based on their different backgrounds and experiences, they all handled situations differently but they all deserved their spot on the show.
“You could tell that every single cowboy and cowgirl on there was 100 percent true cowboy,” he said, adding he didn’t know any of them prior to the show.
While he has lived in Mississippi for the past seven years, Lee’s experiences are rooted in north Florida. A fifth-generation cowboy, Lee’s father Jesse moved to Suwannee County in the 1970s from the Kissimmee area.
Those roots still run deep for Lee, who said he still returns to the state — and Live Oak, where he still has family — on a regular basis to work cattle.
“It’s been running through my veins,” he said about being a cowboy. “Actually our cow herd and some of the cattle that we manage and take care of are the same cattle that the first generation of Lee cowboys were taking care of.”
Taking care of cattle is something Lee has done since he graduated high school.
It’s what he loves to do and it has allowed him and his family — he and his wife, Beth, have five children — to travel all across the country. Between working cattle and training cattle dogs through his Lee HDC company, they have worked in just about every state.
It’s a life he could only dream about as a kid growing up in North Florida.
“I wouldn’t do nothing else,” he said. “This is all I’m going to do. My kids, they love it. it’s a free life, these youngins get to handle and work with animals, see God’s country all the time.
“We do a lot of traveling. My kids get to see what I always dreamed about getting to see. It’s a wonderful life.”
And the show, and the chance to demonstrate his skills, was a wonderful experience, one he said he would do again.
It’s also something Lee can’t wait to see when it airs next week. He said they will be hosting a huge watch party in Picayune and he knows his Lee HDC fans and followers will be supporting him as well.
And no matter what happens on the show — whether he wins the prize and proves to be the ultimate cowboy — Lee reiterated that it was a life-changing experience, but one in which he also stayed true to himself.
“I can tell you I left with more than what I went in there with in my life,” Lee said. “I have had a whole new outlook and a life-changing experience. I can’t say it changed anything about me, but it made me realize that no matter where I go, no matter what I do, I’ll always be true to myself and be the man that I am, which is a God-loving Christian cowboy.”