Throwing My Loop…
By: Michael Johnson
\do-'min-yen\ noun Middle English 1. Supreme
authority over. 2. An order of angels.
I saw something
once. Well, twice actually. Something. I’ll try to use
words, but be warned right now…I’ll fail. The sad little
ability I have with Mother English will prevent my clumsy
fingers from typing the words to convey the sense of awe and
wonder that came into me when it happened. Later – five
years later - I saw it again. The same thing. One
experience was enough to haunt me, but two? I saw it in the
My Shine Man was so sick in those days, and so afraid.
And on a clear sparkling summer day, we found our sick
selves - both him and me – on the plains of Western
Oklahoma. We went there looking for a healing. Both of us
were looking for that healing. I had brought the Shine Man
some 500 miles hoping with every bone in my body the
horseman we had come to see might help the gray I believed
We were standing in an arena with sand so white the
bright hurt your eyes, and a sky so blue only the Divine
could paint that color. On Shine’s back sat the great
horseman, Craig Hamilton, trying his dead level best to help
my Shine Man cope with his crippling fear…and things were
not going well. For over an hour, Craig had done everything
he could to coax the big horse close enough to an old lead
steer – one who barely trotted. Just so Craig could throw
his rope - the one with the little plastic breakaway honda.
Shine wanted no part of it.
On and on they went, ’round and ’round in the arena for
over an hour, all to no avail. The horse was shaking in
terror, and racked with fear. And me? Me, I was praying as
hard as I knew how. Like we all do when a friend is in
pain, I prayed furiously for the Lord to help the horse… but
I felt hope slipping away. Suddenly and unexpectedly, Shine
stopped. He lowered his head within an inch of the arena
floor. He turned his pretty face at that moment, and Shine
seemed to be looking at – studying – Craig’s boot. Then the
horse did the strangest thing. A moment ago, he was
involved in a great struggle with Man. But suddenly, the
horse shrugged his shoulders. His hunched his shoulders
just a bit, and then I saw it. Shine bowed to Man.
I don’t know if anyone else there that day saw it,
but I will always know I did. There were so many things to
think about at that moment, yet that singular incident
latched on to the walls of my mind, and still hangs there
years later with a solid grip. I saw him. He bowed. Five
years later, I would see the same thing.
And this time, I saw the thing in a dog.
We were on the plains of West
Texas – in Amarillo. For some time, I had been promising my
ten-month old Australian Shepherd, The Rowdy Cow Dog, that
we would attend a Stock Dog Clinic hosted by my two friends
and renowned trainers, Bob Hooker and Orin Barnes. My
little partner and I stayed overnight in Oklahoma City at
the Biltmore Hotel on Meridian Avenue – where they let you
bring your dog in the bar. (Great hotel or what?) The next
morning, just as dawn was breaking, the Rowdy Cow Dog and I
were already doing seventy in the Dooley as we headed west
We arrived at the Amarillo fairgrounds at noon with
plenty of time to make the clinic’s opening session at one
p.m. – and were we excited. Both of us had been looking
forward to this for some time. Rowdy looked really sharp
with his new handkerchief on his collar, and I had one in my
back pocket that matched his perfectly. I even bought him a
solid black one just in case we happened to be invited to a
Some 250 spectators watched from the stands as the
twelve dog owners participating in the clinic stood silently
listening to the highly respected Hooker and Barnes. And
Mr. Orin said, “Now we will begin with a ten-month old
Australian Shepherd who is very aggressive, and hasn’t had
“Wow!” I thought. “How cool is that? I
have a dog just like that.”
Then Orin says, “Okay, Michael. Bring Rowdy in the
I ’bout fainted. He was talking about the Rowdy Cow
Dog. Here we were at the big time, and THE Orin Barnes
is gonna’ work with The Rowdy Cow Dog. I felt like a proud
poppa at a recital. Then Rowdy spies the sheep. Things
went downhill quick.
The Rowdy Cow does a Kamikaze death dive into the
middle of the sheep. One second later, nothing but sheep
butts exploding in the air. Crowd goes wild. Tears are
streaming down their face, and their laying on their back -
kicking the bleachers - rocking the coliseum with laughter.
Rowdy chases the sheep for three full minutes, then comes
over to me and sits down and says, “Pretty good for my
first time, huh, Pop?” Orin says, “Well, Rowdy is
aggressive.” Crowd screams with laughter.
Then the Master began his work. For the next several
minutes, we were treated to a rich, knowledge-filled display
of how Man can communicate with a creature much unlike him.
Orin Barnes worked Rowdy like Van Cliburn plays a sonata.
And Rowdy wanted no part of it.
Accustomed to soft days on our farm – where his main
duty is to scare the bejeebers out of the barn cats, and lie
on the couch with me watching reruns of Andy Griffith - the
pup wanted only to do things his way. He was having a high
old time chasing Mr. Orin’s sheep, and had nothing on his
mind but continuing his wild ways. But the Master had other
plans. He wanted Rowdy to become more than he knew he could
be. Does any of this sound familiar?
Rowdy fought and resisted the Master’s hand. Orin
never lost his temper and was never unkind. He did,
however, employ a rather firm discipline every time Rowdy
bolted into the sheep. But on each occasion, when Rowdy did
the wrong thing, there was a gentleness in Orin’s voice.
“No, Rowdy,” he would say calmly when the dog charged. A
sharp tug on his leash reminded Rowdy these were Mr. Orin’s
sheep, not his. Then, Rowdy did something that stunned me.
He turned and charged at Orin, with his teeth bared…and
he meant business. Just as he reached Orin, Orin firmly and
politely ninja-kicked Rowdy in the face. As the blow made
contact with a resounding loud pop, the same gentle words
could barely be heard…
At that moment, I knew it was going to happen again.
Don’t know how I knew, but I knew. Something in my spirit
told me Rowdy was about to do the same thing Shine had done
five years before. A moment ago, the pup was involved in a
struggle with Man, but now he stopped…and he looked at Man.
In a voice you could barely hear, Orin told the crowd, “Now,
we will see the transforming.” And Rowdy bowed.
Just like Shine had done years before, Rowdy surrendered to
Those two moments sit on the benches of my memory and
they don’t say much. They just sit there day after day
looking at me. I am unable to forget them. For the longest
time, I couldn’t understand what I saw – what I knew had
happened. Then I heard a story. A woman told me a story.
“I can tell you why,” she said.
“Long ago, when the Israelites camped for the night…”
she began, “the Rabbis told a tale around the fire about
what really happened during the time of Noah and the
building of the Ark. You won’t find the story in the Talmud
nor in the Judeo-Christian Bible,” she explained, and then
“According to legend the story has many interesting
details. One, for example, was that the Ark wasn’t really
built from gopher wood, but rather from cedar. ‘Gopher’
means ‘laminated’ or ‘joined together.’ But the most
interesting part of the tale has to do with a little problem
Noah encountered.” Then she leaned over and said…
“God told Noah to ‘take two of every kind,’ and that’s
what he planned to do. Then, Noah found he had a dilemma.
That’s not the way the animals came. They came in flocks
and herds - hundreds of thousands came. All the animals
came,” she whispered.
And Noah asked God, “Which two am I to take, Lord? And
God gave Noah the most interesting answer,” she smiled.
“Take two of every kind,” said the Lord. “And you will
know the two…because two of each kind will bow to you.”
So now I have a better
understanding of what I saw. The behavior of my horse and
my dog was simply hereditary. Their ancestors – the
original two - bowed to Man. We have been given dominion
over them. If we learn how to communicate, they will show
us deep respect. We should try to be worthy of that.