Johnny Hudson, 80, of Pilot Point, says the hardest part of getting older is wishing he could feel younger.

For much of his life, Hudson was a champion calf roper. He started when he was 13, kept competing while working as a high school principal and even won the tie down roping national title.

“Yes I did,” he said.

But eventually, age caught up. A little over a year ago, Hudson’s chest started bothering him, and he just didn’t have the energy he used to have.

“You kinda have those doubts,” Hudson said.

But what hurt his heart most was the sobering reality he’d have to retire from roping.

“I didn’t like that too well,” he said.

Hudson says he felt so weak that he’d pretty much decided to do what every cowboy dreads: sell his horse. That is, until doctors at Baylor Scott & White All Saints told him they had a plan to not only fix his heart, but also get him back in the saddle.

Hudson underwent heart surgery, and soon after doctors gave him the all clear to giddy up.

Getting back on his horse not only brought his stamina back, but also made him feel like he still had a purpose.

“It was therapy,” Hudson said. “I got to ride that horse around, trot him around, lope him around.”

Right now, Hudson practices with plastic calves, but this summer he plans to jump back into competition, making him one of the only ropers his age still able to compete.

“Life is full of surprises, and I’ve been blessed because I’m still here at 80 years old,” he said.

And if he has it his way, he’ll keep on roping as he rides off into the sunset.