Nothing By Chance
Ever been puzzled and perplexed by those odd little coincidences in life? We have all had the experience of being on a trip in some far off and distant land, (like western Oklahoma, for example) and after striking up a conversation with some stranger; find that they know our neighbor or a close relative. We are always shocked and amazed. Names, faces, friends and assistance from the most unexpected sources periodically crop up in our lives to make us wonder, How in the world did that happen? And we are not the only ones to notice that something strange is going on here.
A number of great thinkers have offered explanations for what appear to be chance events somehow being connected, and our lives being intertwined in intricate ways. Plato wrote about the river of knowledge, a deep force that flows through everything, and one that we can tap into for help as the need arises. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst, even devised a name for the process called synchronicity, which he defined as a meaningful coincidence of two or more events, where something more than chance is involved. The great English theologian, C. S. Lewis said coincidence was evidence of the Spirit not only working in our lives, but working aggressively. Hard to write about, hard to describe, but most of us would agree we have felt something so very similar in our own lives.
Once I rushed into the house after just having checked the mailbox, and after transferring the bundle of letters and magazines to my left hand, reached for the ringing phone. Sammy Watson, illustrator of some of our childrens books said,
Michael, I have a problem. I need a picture of a quarter horse. A very special picture
a head shot only, taken from about six inches away. The eye needs to be the prominent feature.
Where in the world am I going to find a picture like that? I asked.
How should I know? answered Sammy. Youre the one who says things come to us when we need them.
Well, I know I do
I stammered, and then I glanced down at the mail in my hand.
The first magazine in the days mail stared back at me. In the back of my mind I realized it was a roping magazine or western catalog, but I couldnt make out the picture on the front. Hazy and black, it swirled into something I couldnt recognize. Half of my mind was listening to Sammy and the other half was trying to make out what in the world was on this magazine cover
and then the picture spun into focus.
Can you find me a picture like that? asked Sammy again.
No, I said slowly, I dont think I could ever find a picture like that, but something has already.
Staring back at me from the cover of that magazine was a picture of a beautiful quarter horse, taken from about six inches away with the right eye being the prominent feature.
Something found it for us Sammy, I said. Im looking at it. It was in my mailbox before you called.
Certainly those in higher academics would discount this whole notion, but as I grow older, I find myself trusting in and relying on this feeling more than ever before. Im sure those involved in scientific research and empirical data collection would laugh out loud about my superstitious behavior, but I constantly think of something my grandmother always said. The answers are in three places
right under our noses, in the people around us, and inside us.
While I have a number of examples of something more than chance occurring in my life, the most recent really gave me pause. Our big gray horse Shine, was causing me to lose sleep. High strung and nervous in the beginning, since coming to our farm he has calmed down a great deal
except when roping.
Our other horses displayed normal amounts of anxiety, but with repeated exposure to desired tasks, and patience and love, they would eventually accept and perform as you might expect
except Shine. Shine was nervous in the box, he was chargey when running steers, and constantly stomped his feet and snorted, I dont like this, please dont make me do this. And it began to bother me. I mean really bother me.
When people came to our house, I talked of nothing else. My father-in-law, Bronc, roping buddy Fred Graves, neighbors Darrell and Earl, my wife, all our dogs and cats
all heard the story of Shine and our problem over and over. I talked to everybody about it. Even had one guy up against a tractor tire for over an hour. Finally he said, Hey, I need to go home.
NO, I shouted. You have to listen to this, he wont calm down, we have to do something
and I realized I was losing it. I let the poor guy go eat his supper, and
thought about calling a Christian counselor.
Prayed about it, cussed about it, paced the floor, couldnt eat, didnt want to cook, didnt want to go have a beer with my buddies, just wanted reach in that big gray horse and find his heart. Searching desperately for some sort of connection.
Walked around the barn, stomped in the house and saw a roping magazine that Poochie, (big dog constantly in the way) had drug out in the middle of the kitchen.
Picked it up and threw it at him, (all mental health totally gone now) and sat down at the kitchen table. Look over at the dog hiding his face in the corner, apologized to him, and sat there at the bottom of the world.
Looked down at my feet, the magazine had fallen open to page 34, and there were the words, Handling the Chargey Horse by Craig Hamilton.
National Finals Team Roper and noted horse trainer Craig Hamilton had written an article, (which had been laying around my house for months) outlining a seven-step process for dealing with a horse just like Old Shine. I picked the magazine up and began to read. Over the next two days, I read the article ten times.
On Monday, I began the procedure Craig recommended. He suggested that with such horses, we release fast cattle and simply sit in the box. Then on slow steers, to not try and rope them, but rather let them out a bit, and have the horse come out of the box easy and under control. Then to throw the rope, and not catch the steer but hit him in the butt with the loop. Once the rope fell to the ground, Craig instructed the rider to slide his hands down and gently set the reins saying whoa to the horse. The idea was not to rope, but rather to calm down, to get the horse paying attention to you rather than this violent rushing and running that produced tension and anxiety.
How many times will this take? we would all ask.
Craig answered that question in the article by saying five times or five thousand, whatever it takes. I was reminded of that old line, Horses dont wear wrist watches and dont think we should either.
Several days later after many runs, Shine walked into the box, and stood quietly. I called for the steer and he glided out gently. I knew it was too early, but I just had to try it. The slowest steer in the world trotted down the middle of my pen, and Shine rated alongside. I threw my loop and Shine stayed right in there.
When I dallied off, Shine worked as good as Gene Autrys Champion on his best day.
We came to a calm and collected stop, and Shine exhaled. I dismounted and stood there beside him in the late afternoon. He was calm
he wasnt afraid. I had been asking him to play a piece of music fast before he could play it slow. I could see that now. It wasnt him, it was always me.
And standing in the middle of that arena under a big blue sky, I put my head on his neck and cried. Maybe not a John Wayne thing to do, but for the first time, I found a way inside him. Found a way to his heart. Its all about the relationship with the horse, Craig had said. Connection, victory
just a small one
but so precious to me.
Probably just a coincidence, about the dog and the magazine, and the article that had been around the house for months that I just didnt see. Probably just a coincidence that Craig Hamilton, a national finals roper, felt a strange tug on his spirit to quit at the top of his game, and spend his days helping others with their horses, and that he just happened to write an article about a problem horse just like mine, and his words find their way to me thousands of miles away sitting at a kitchen table at the bottom of the world in Oklahoma.
Thats all it was. Just a coincidence. Wasnt it?