Throwing My Loop…
By: Michael Johnson
She always said I should write
about it. She said it would give people hope…but I never
would. “I’m not a preacher,” I would always say. She said
that didn’t matter and that it wasn’t about preaching, but
that it was about the thing called hope. But I wouldn’t do
it. In almost every case, I not only listened to her
opinion, but acted on it, and found her advice to be sage
and sound every time - except for this one subject. I
couldn’t write about this. I thought people would think me
funny or odd, and trying to be something I’m not. I’m not a
preacher you know – I’m a cowboy. But the story is true –
it happened to me, and if it gives you hope, then maybe she
was right, and then I’m answering the call.
When I met her, I was a wounded deer. I was
just putting one lead-filled foot after another in those
days, and lost the thing that keeps us going, but something
happened in the woods. I didn’t understand it then, and
even though I certainly don’t have it in my grasp now, I’m
more aware than before.
I sang a song to her fourth-grade class, and one of her
little ones said, “We like your music, Mr. Mike, but Miss
‘Becca can really sing.” We all laughed, and I
handed her the guitar. She sang ‘Somewhere Over The
Rainbow,’ and her perfect voice with that perfect pitch,
rose up, over and through everyone in the room. Watching
the fourth-graders gaze at her in rapt wonder, I realized
they were in love with her, and I thought that was nice.
And when I turned back to look at her, I was quite surprised
to find that I was too. Finishing the song, her blue eyes
met mine, and in that look, I knew she felt the same way
about me. We had seven years together, and they were good
ones…and today, she told me she was leaving. She has other
dreams now, and I wish her well.
I’m not mad, just so sad. It’s just life you know. We
can’t decide when we are going to fall in love, and we can’t
decide when we are going to fall out. People get so mad at
each other about that, but we shouldn’t. It’s not our
fault…it’s like fame. Fame just decides to light on your
shoulder, or it doesn’t. That’s the way love is. Love
comes when it chooses to, and leaves when it decides.
People say, “We don’t believe in divorce!” I’ve got some
news for you, Amigo. I don’t either, but it happens. I
don’t believe in the death of children, but it happens.
It’s just life - you know?
So, for some reason, sittin’ here by myself in my
farmhouse that I love so, I decided to write about what she
always told me to…the Calling. And here’s my story…
I was in the woods, and I was mad, bitter, and at the
bottom of the world. I had failed in my marriage so late in
life, and I simply could not make sense of what had happened
in the last few months. The year was ’97, my kids had
graduated and were headed off to college, and of course,
that’s what we want them to do…get the hell out of the
house! If I had said it once, I’d said it a thousand times,
“The empty nest syndrome will not affect me!” And the day
they left, it almost killed me. No more hand prints
on the sliding glass doors we all had in those days, no more
dirty clothes, no messy rooms, and while I should have been
happy, it almost killed me the day they drove away.
At least I had a rock solid employment
position…or so I thought. In just a day or two after my
chicks had fled the nest, for the first time in my life I
heard the word, “downsizing.” Suddenly, no one knew if they
would be employed tomorrow, much less make it to
retirement. My wife – of some twenty years - walks in, and
says, “Well, if the kids are gone, and we are going to lose
your income, maybe we should just get the divorce now.”
Never more stunned in my life, I said, “Well, I’m not the
warden, the jailer, nor the keeper of the keys. If that’s
what you want, that’s what we will do,” and that’s how I
found my self in the woods. And I mean that
literally…that’s how I found my self.
I went there in bitterness asking, “Why me?” I
didn’t know the answer to that question then, but I do now.
The answer is, “Because that’s life, you know?” The
answer is, “Because things happen, and you’re not the
only one this has happened to, and so many have far more
difficulties than you. The question you should be asking is
not, ‘Why poor me?’ but “How will I deal with this?”
But I didn’t know all that in those days, so I just felt
sorry for myself, and then something happened in the woods.
It was a beautiful place. A river ran through it. A
little cabin where I sat and felt so sorry for myself for
the longest time, and then things began to change.
Something – I make no claim to know what it was – came. Not
a voice, not a vision, but rather something inside me - that
wasn’t me - asked me a question, and the question was,
“What’s important?” And because I was in what we might
call an ‘odd frame of mind’ in those days, I decided to
think about that question for some time, and after a long
time – you would be surprised about how long a time – I
found an answer.
My answer was, even though I had been to the Pentagon,
worked for General Officers, hospitals, and universities, my
answer was, “Cowboys and school teachers are important!
Cowboys and school teachers are the best people in the
And to just cut to the chase, this thing says, “How would
you like to earn your daily bread encouraging those two
groups of people?” And that was the moment I knew I had
lost my mind and developed a really serious mental problem.
This troubled me so that I went to see a Christian
The counselor was a man named Austin Ingram, an
older fellow, and a tolerant former Baptist preacher, (you
never saw those words put together before did you? tolerant
Baptist preacher?… I didn’t know there was such a thing - go
figure.) He listened to my tale about how my life had
fallen apart, along with this odd ‘tug’ on my spirit, and
then he says, “I’m so glad you came to see me. I can help
“Well, thank the Lord,” I said. “I thought I was
losing my mind.”
“No, that’s not it,” he says, “Your problem is…you
can’t believe you have been picked!”
I remember so clearly that I laughed out loud when
he said that. “Now I think you have lost your
mind,” I said to this good and kind man, “Who would pick
me?” I asked him. “A washed up calf-roper who failed at
every single thing in life? Who would pick me?” And then
he said, “Michael, He picks us all!
And that one statement freed me up to
begin. After talking with Mr. Ingram, I understood that my
calling was not to preach - because not everyone gets called
to preach. Some are called to help children, some to make
violins, and others to heal troubled horses, and my calling
was to encourage you. To tell you that you are stronger
than you think, you are more than you know.
There…I’ve answered the call.
Since that day with Mr. Ingram, I’ve written eight
books, been almost a million miles, spoken to a half million
people, and never told anyone why. But now I’ve told you.
And she always said, “You should tell people the truth about
how you came to be in this place.” And in every other
instance, I always acted on her advice, which I found to be
sage and sound every time - except for this one thing about
I didn’t want to tell anyone about that because they
might think me strange, or trying to be something I’m not.
I was always so afraid if I talked about it, and they saw me
drinking a beer later, they might think me a hypocrite. I’m
I’m a cowboy, but the fact remains…something happened
to me in those woods. Not the Jesus we learned about in
Sunday School with all the rules, but someone who came to
see me when I had lost the thing called hope. And someone I
loved always told me to write about it, but I wouldn’t. Now
I have. She always said,“The story will give them hope.” I
hope it does. You are stronger than you think,
you are more than you know.
There…I’m answering the call.
Michael's latest release,
Reflections Of A Cowboy, is currently available in audio
book form. The two volume set consists of articles, essays
and excerpts from radio performances about good people and
good horses in the life of an Oklahoma cowboy. Approximately
8 hours in length. Reflections Of A Cowboy in printed form
is scheduled for release in the summer of 2005. Order from