Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop" - No. 37
Little Miracles…

They keep us going, don’t they? Little miracles I mean. You’re just trudging along, worried about life, stressing over problems, and then…something happens to cause you to stop, look and wonder. I love little miracles. When I was a young man they were hard to see, but now as I grow older, I see them all the time.

Seems it was just yesterday we weaned that baby blue colt. He was so little then and ‘Becca worried so over him. Today is his birthday, he’s three, and big and strong. I love to watch him drink water. He sticks his head way down in the trough, blows bubbles through his nose, then raises his head and slobbers all over me…and I laugh from way down deep in my toes. I didn’t know I could still laugh like that. There’s two of those little miracles right there…a baby blue colt, and laughter from way down deep in my soul.

I was reminded of another one just the other day when we made our yearly pilgrimage to the annual Smith Roping in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Every year in the fresh April spring, Mark and Tammy Smith invite family and friends to a fish fry and roping to celebrate the birthday of their boys Jake and Clay.

The boys are stellar ropers and in addition to having appeared on Jay Leno, have won a number of world championship dummy ropings, and are two fellows I count as best friends, (even though they are ten and twelve respectively). And that’s the good thing about that day…so many good friends. Mommas, Dads, Grandparents and little ones eat superb fried catfish cooked by the men. ‘Becca and all the other women bring far too much delicious food, and in the midst of reunions and renewed acquaintances, we have a most memorable day, all capped off with a serious roping for the “World Championship.” The entry fee is only two bucks, and first place doesn’t pay but $10.00, but if you can pull off a victory, the bragging rights are priceless.

As I was watching the festivities, the roping was about to start when the youngest, Jake came sprinting by, and yelled, “We’re gonna’ get’em, Michael! I’m going to saddle my horse, and when I get back, we’re gonna’ get’em!”

“I’ll be ready, Jake,” I said, knowing when I roped with him, he wouldn’t be the one who missed. And just then, I remembered another of those little miracles.

Mark and Tammy met long ago at a roping naturally, (and it just occurred to me that’s one of the good places to meet future spouses…at church or at a roping…good places to meet good people). And after a long courtship, the couple married.

Later, when their first child was on the way, Mark shared a long held desire with his bride. “I hope you don’t think this is odd, but I’ve always wanted to name my first son after Clay O’Brien Cooper.” Tammy agreed and a short time later, there was a second Clay O’Brien. (Talk about a kid being marinated in the world of roping.) And all the cowboys thought that was just about the best thing they had ever heard. No way this kid couldn’t rope with a namesake like that.
Time went by and when Tammy was about to have her second child, she and Mark were discussing possible names for the next member of the clan.
“You let me pick the first one,” said Mark, “and I have the son and the name I always wanted. You pick this one.”
“I’m thinking of naming him after my brother, Billy,” said Tammy with some sadness in her voice. Billy had been lost years before and Tammy still missed him. “I’m thinking of naming him Billy,” she said.
“Then “Billy” it is,” agreed Mark. And things were settled…or so everyone thought.

Until all their cowboy team-roping friends heard there was another on the way, and that was when the great hue and cry went up. (Like it was some of our business.) Whether we really had a say or not, all the ropers carefully explained to Mark that if we had one son named “Clay O’Brien” then we must (absolutely had to) name the second one after Clay’s roping partner, Jake…because the original Clay and Jake were tearin’ up the roping world at the moment, and well, we just had to name the second son “Jake,” that’s all there was to it.

Mark tried to explain to everyone that he and Tammy had agreed on a name already. That didn’t phase a single outlaw in our group. We barged in on Tammy and not knowing about her brother, kicked and screamed for the name “Jake.”

Tammy, being the good soul she is, didn’t say a word, except “Okay, if all of you feel that strongly, I’ll think about it.” And think about it she did.
She knew that Mark would be perfectly happy with their agreement, and she still wanted to honor her brother. She also knew Mark loved the idea of two sons named after great ropers, not to mention all of their friends clamoring for a second set of Jakes and Clays. I asked her later how she resolved the dilemma.

“I don’t know what possessed me to do it,” Tammy smiled, “but for some reason the thought struck me to ask the real Jake Barnes what he thought about the whole thing, so I called him in Arizona.”
Tammy told Jake about naming little Clay after Clay O’Brien, about all their friends hoping to call the second son Jake, and then she said,
“Mr. Barnes, I really have two problems. I want to honor my brother, and even if I did name our son Jake, for the life of me, I can’t think of a middle name that goes with Jake. What is your middle name?”

And then one of those little miracles that seem so common as I grow older…solutions that appear out of nowhere from the most unexpected sources. A reminder that Something is helping us…

“Jake” is my middle name, Mrs. Smith,” replied world champion Jake Barnes. “My first name is “Billy.”

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