Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop" - No. 35
A Letter To Emily…

Funny how we change as we get older, isn’t it? When I was a young man, my main desire in life was to get away from that old tacky farm, and Lord, did I dread my chores…dreaded them with a passion. Mucking stalls and working cows was the last thing I wanted to do. And when I was sixteen, there was no question in my mind that if we failed to live a good life and ended up at the gates of hell, we would be met by the devil himself standing there with a wicked and evil grin on his face. And guess what punishment he had in store for such sinners? Hauling hay, brothers and sisters, hauling hay.

I could just see old Satan leaning against those doors made of the bones of former beer drinkers, pointing out to a huge pasture that reached down into the depths of the netherworld, and Old Scratch would laugh and say, “Hello, young man! You should have paid more attention to your Momma’ in her Sunday School class, ‘cause guess what you are going to be doing for all eternity? That’s right, son,” he would cackle. “YOU GONNA’ HAUL ALFALFA FOREVER!” Man, used to give me nightmares. Hated hauling hay.

And now…

Now when I drive by that farm so many years later, it’s so clear to me that there was never anything tacky about that place at all. The honeysuckle still grows wild on the fence, and the pines are still a quiet cathedral swaying softly in the wind, making their own music as beautiful as any choir.

The birds are still there, and sometimes I stop and listen to them singing. And just as they were when I was a child, they are still as beautiful as the lilies of the field, and they toil not, neither do they spin, but I can tell…they are happy. They know each day is made for them, and they always seem to be rejoicing and making a joyful noise.

I remember standing with my Daddy at that place…standing by an old cherry tree watching the blue-jays eat fermented fruit, and after a time, they became quite tipsy, and they squawked and laughed, and seemed to be having the best of times. My father and I laughed too, as we witnessed a strange and wonderful oddity in nature. As we watched, he put his hand on my shoulder that day. He rarely, if ever, did such a thing, and I felt uncomfortable. I walked away. Wish I hadn’t done that now. Wish I had stood there forever letting his hand rest on me.

There was nothing tacky about that place at all. How could I ever have thought such soft and subtle beauty was anything but a gift from the Spirit? Now I see that farm was more beautiful than anything Monet could have painted on his best day. Funny how we change as we get older, isn’t it?

Now every morning when my feet hit the floor, I’m happy. Guess why? Because I live on a farm and I have to do my chores. No longer something I dread, but a privilege. I now have the privilege of going to my barn, and feeding my horses. And the best thing is that I have to muck my baby blue colt’s stall. I love to do that…to clean Little Blue’s stall. (The other horses, Shine and Bud Wiser, know better, but Blue is only 33 months old.) After feeding the horses and steers, (I love to hear the steers moo) my favorite task is to clean the barn, the very thing that annoyed me to no end so long ago. And sometimes, my buddy Earl and I haul hay. It’s hot and we complain, but secretly we love it. At the end of the day, we are so tired we can hardly move, but we share the kinship of men who know about hard work. I think we are both proud we can still do it.

Farm life. It’s the best thing there is. Strange that I feel that way now, because while there is so much joy, there is pain on a farm like no other. We hold some of our heart back from humans, but we don’t hold any love back from animals. They give us everything they have, and in return, we feel the same way about them. Farm people know about pain. Not just the physical kind, most always you can get over that. It’s the other kind of pain I’m talking about.

It’s that place out there on the hill where that old head horse is buried. No matter how many years it’s been, we still have a hard time looking at that old metal cross we put there. “Why did I do that? ‘Cause he was my horse and he was a good one, ‘cause I loved him.” That part of your pasture has pain in it. We can’t always go to that part of the pasture. It’s the tear in a tough old farmer’s eye when his favorite cow has milk fever and there was nothing the vet could do. It’s when the coyotes get the baby calf your wife bottle fed, and you wonder, “Why did they have to get that one? The only one that ate out of her hand, why did they have to get that one?”

I’ll tell you why. It’s farm life. That’s why. My Daddy always said you could breed a good mare, and when she had that special baby, he would sneeze and die. But the meanest ugliest mule on the place could run through a six-strand barb-wire fence, and not tear a single hair. He would just stand on the other side and grin. Farm life…that’s what it is. You learn about it pretty quick. Like Emily. Emily’s learning about it.

She’s a special child. She was in ‘Becca’s room last year. Brilliant and competent at ten years old, you could talk to her for five minutes, and you would swear she was thirty. One of those special people in life who’s going to do something. You can just tell.

Emily’s Momma’ and Daddy, being the good people they are, have horses. Emily wanted to have a mare and raise a baby. So her Momma’ and Daddy bought her a good mare and things were sailing along just fine.
They had the vet out, did all the right things, and after almost a year, the baby came, and little Emily was so happy. Then…for reasons none of us understand, the baby was called home. He went back to the place where all animals spring from, and Emily was…Emily was what? You really think I could write words to describe what Emily was? Let’s just say she was in that place we might call the land of broken hearts.

Her Momma’ called ‘Becca and told her the news. She said to ‘Becca, “Can you help me?” The next morning, my dear ‘Becca tried. Emily came into her room sobbing. The teacher that she loved held her and cried with her. (That does help. Sometimes all we can do is drive our truck down there in the land of broken hearts, and hold them and cry with them.)

Rebecca came home and told me, and we cried together.
“Write her a letter,” she said. For once I didn’t argue.
Here is what I wrote…

Dear Emily,

I heard about your loss dear, and I am truly sorry. Only those who love man’s best servant know how you feel. I am sorry Emily.

Grieve for your friend, and after a time has passed, remember this thought.
Take heart Emily. There is a distant shore, there is a brighter day. You are stronger than you think… you are stronger than you know.

When you finish school, and when you are a physician, or a vet or a university professor, (you will do extraordinary things Little Emily, we all know that about you) when you are done with school, return to the world of horses. Keep them in your life, raise them and treat them with love and kindness. Whatever you do, return to the world of horses. It’s farm life, Emily. It’s the best thing there is.

If you will do that for you, you will be given a most special gift.
Your friend will come again.
I wish you well, Little Emily. I wish you well.

Michael Johnson

Michael heading for the great Sonny Gould

Michael & Blue

Please stop
and sign our Guestbook

Send Michael
an Email

Michael Johnson Books
1172 CR 4122  Campbell, Texas 75422  (903) 862-2082

Copyright © 2003 Michael Johnson Books. All rights reserved.
webmaster pswope@candw-webmasters.com