November 2015
Homeplace & Community

For the Thrill of It All

  Eight seconds on a bull.

Lady bull rider is upholding her daredevil image.

Cheryl Page Yawn is the wife of a preacher man.

But the preacher’s wife has long been keeping company with the devil – the daredevil.

Cheryl’s daredevil ways started when she was 9 years old. Her dad, Harry Page, was a rodeo stock contractor and prided himself on having the very best stock. His little blond-headed live wire was running around the rodeo arena and the cowboys asked her if she would like to ride a bull.

"Can I, Daddy? Can I?" Cheryl asked.

At that moment, she was hooked and destined for a life of adventure.

"I guess I’ve always been adventurous," Cheryl recalled. "I can remember driving the tractor when I was 6 years old with Daddy sitting up on the front sowing seeds. I’m an only child and I got to do a lot of things I wouldn’t have gotten to do otherwise."

At that time, Page was driving 18-wheelers and Cheryl was often on the road with him.

Cheryl Yawn and her husband, Bob, have their own plane and “love” flying together.  

"We were living in Louisiana and Daddy drove long distance to states in that part of the country," Cheryl said. "I helped him load and unload the truck. I loved being on the road.

"My parents, Harry and Mary, were always doing something fun on weekends. We had dune buggies and we went mud riding. We had a boat and I learned to ski. I loved the adventure of it all."

When Page became a rodeo stock contractor in the Montgomery area, the rodeo opened Cheryl’s eyes to real adventure. She started competing at junior horse shows in barrel racing, pole bending, potato racing and keyhole racing.

"I loved keyhole racing because your horse had to stop and turn on a dime," Cheryl said. "There was excitement in that. Daddy and I competed in personal pickup. I would stand at one end of the arena and Daddy would come riding wide open to pick me up. He would hold onto the saddle horn and crook his arm. I’d grab on his arm as he flew around and he would sling me on the horse behind him. It was one smooth move and we crossed the finish line first many times."

When Cheryl was 14 years old, she was running barrels at a rodeo and several cowboys challenged her to ride the bull. She did and quickly became "the lady bull rider."

"I’d ride the bull as an exhibition before the rodeo started," she said. "The rodeo producer would publicize that a 14-year-old girl would ride the bull and a lot of people would come to see me."

Cheryl was also a part of the clown act and would sometimes be positioned as a fan in the stands. After a cowboy was bucked off the bull, she would climb the fence and run into the arena and "shoo" the bull away from the rider, much to the surprise and shock of the rodeo fans.

Cheryl won many ribbons in horse shows, but her first trophy came at the Miller’s Ferry Junior Rodeo when she won the steer riding competition. She also competed in jackpot rodeos and won "a little money."

Later, she was riding a bull at Miller’s Ferry and was thrown into a fence post.

"I threw up my arm to keep from hitting my face on the pole," she said. "I broke my arm and was in a cast for seven months, but I loved the thrill of it all."

Rodeos provided adventures for the adrenalin "junkie," but she also found other adventures including bungee jumping, scuba diving, skydiving, whitewater rafting, hang gliding and soaring. She obtained a blue belt in Hapkido, a Korean style of karate.

At age 20, Cheryl found her true love, flying. She obtained her private pilot’s license and continued to earn ratings and licenses including a multi-engine rating and a commercial license, then the top license, the Airline Transport Pilot license.

Since October 1985, Cheryl has flown more than 7,000 hours in all types of aircraft and in every weather condition. She has experienced lightning strikes, fog as thick as meringue pie, frozen runways and St. Elmo’s fire.

  Yawn and Russell stand by her plane a few minutes before they takeoff.

Even with logging all those hours as a pilot and surviving those dangerous situations, Cheryl was a bit nervous on Sept. 12, 2015, as she waited at the Troy Airport to repay a favor from her high school days.

Even at a young age, Cheryl expressed an interest in flying. Obie Russell of the Briar Hill community in Pike County knew the thrill of piloting an airplane. He gave Cheryl her first flight manual and encouraged her to pursue her dream.

"Uncle Obie, as he is affectionately called, inspired me to follow my dreams, and had it not been for him, I might not have realized my dream of flying," Cheryl said. "For 20 years, we’ve been planning for me to take him flying. When we finally got the opportunity, Uncle Obie had not been flying in 50 years. He was100 years old and I was determined to take him up."

Cheryl took Russell "up" for an hour. She flew him over his home in Briar Hill and other places of interest around Pike County. That was the most rewarding flight of her life.

"And, hopefully, his," Cheryl said. "Of all the things I’ve done to satisfy my adrenaline needs, flying with Uncle Obie ranked right up at the top."

When pressed as to her greatest adventure yet, Cheryl said she has had no experience more exhilarating than that of owning and driving her own racecars.

Cheryl Yawn and her “pink panther” were favorites at the tracks.  Racing stock cars was one of her most exciting adventures. She had two race cars, one for racing on asphalt and the other on dirt tracks.   

"I had one car for racing on asphalt tracks and, later, one for dirt tracks," she said. "There’s no thrill like racing at top speed in a pack of 24 stock cars."

Cheryl Yawn has had hundreds of thrills in her lifetime and she owes them all to her parents for their love and support over the years.

"They have been with me in all that I have done," she said. "Even though I’m their only child, they’ve allowed me to spread my wings and fly."

And, before she embarks on any adventure, Cheryl says a prayer.

"I always ask God to protect me," she said. "I have a wonderful relationship with Jesus and I live by his word in Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Today, Cheryl and her husband, Bob, pastor of Luverne United Methodist Church, have their own plane. Pushing the edge of the envelope is a natural part of their lives. Cheryl always has her eyes open for the next great adventure in her life. After all, she is an adrenaline junkie and she has a daredevil image to uphold.

Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.