Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson 


 do-min-ion - \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 horse first. 
     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 in so.
     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 on I-40.
     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 formal affair. 
     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 much training.”
      “Wow!” I thought.  “How cool is that?  I have a dog just like that.” 
     Then Orin says, “Okay, Michael.  Bring Rowdy in the round pen.”
     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…
“No, Rowdy.”
    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 the Master. 
     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 continued…
     “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.



Michael heading for the great Sonny Gould

Michael & Blue

Healing Shine


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