Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson


The Light In Your Eyes…

     What causes that?  The light in your eyes, I mean.  It’s important we know – so we can have hope, so our spirit can be light, and so we can live our lives in the manner and direction we thought they might bend when we were young.  I see some people truly enjoying their days, and sadly, others who seem only able to take one dread-filled step after another all day long.  The eyes of those seem to have no light at all.  Why is that? 
     Like most of us, during the course of my daily life, I’m in and out of supermarkets.  Then when I’m on the road, (against the advice of every physician in the world – even quacks) I’m in fast food joints.  And in both those establishments, the people working there are the same - stone cold dead.  They’re up walking, but that’s all.  What on earth has happened to them?  Here’s one theory…I’m convinced during the hiring process, their soul is excised.  Apparently before you can go to work for Mega-World or Burger Blob, the spark of life must be removed…
     “Welcome to Burger Blob,” she says in a barely audible voice, looking at the floor.
     “A Number Three to go please, no fries.”  She doesn’t hear me.
     “Dine in or carry out?”
     “Uh…to go.”
     “Number One, Number Two, or Number Three?”
     “A number three to go please, no fries.”
     “Would you like fries with that?”
     “Uh…no.  No fries.”
     “Would you like the Blob’s Big Blob for just nineteen cents more?”
     “Uh…no.  Just the Number Three.”
     “$4.12,” she says.
      I give her a five and a dime and two pennies.  Chaos erupts in Burger Blob.  The manager and all seven employees are unable to cope with this mathematical enigma.
     “You’re confusing me,” she says, and I can tell she’s embarrassed.
     “Just take the five and the twelve cents, and give me one dollar change,” I say smiling.
     Looking over her shoulder with sheer dread, she says, “Uh…I’ll have to get the manager to approve something like that.”
     “It’s okay, dear,” I say, “Just give me the burger and keep the change.”
     “Thank you,” she says, and then with a wistful sigh, and her dead eyes still on the floor, I hear her say, “Uh…uh, have a wonderful day, and uh…(sigh) thank you for shopping Burger Blob.”
     And later driving down the road, I wonder, “What on earth could all those corporate giants want with employee souls?” 

     If you think I’m making fun, that’s not my intention at all.  My heart breaks for those people.  Something is very wrong.   And I think perhaps we are more responsible than we would care to admit.  We all tell our children that work is vital – that we must have a strong work ethic, and while that’s true, the problem may well be that having a job has become our Holy Grail.  Making a living has taken the place of creating a life worth living – and we are all guilty.
     How many of us pursue our passion?  Instead, we make our career selections based on annual salary, 401Ks, and other “retirement” package perks.  And I have my suspicions about you, but I know I told my own children to do the same.  “Well, after all,” others say, “we have to be practical and realistic.”  Agreed, but what are we willing to trade for that practical realism and the security of that two-week paycheck?  Apparently, far too many of us are willing to trade the most valuable thing we have…the light in our eyes.
     Lest you think I’m condemning factory workers, know that the man I loved most – my father - worked in one for thirty-three years, and I worked in one for twenty-four.  While I’m grateful that company provided me with a living, the entire time I felt confined to a prison cell.  Often, the only enjoyment I experienced was…well, roping a dummy steer.  The entire time I was imprisoned in the corporate world, on week-ends, I roped the dummy…and I loved it.  Something in my spirit was calling to me, and I was reminded of that calling every time I came within smelling distance of our brother – the horse.  It was the smell of him that would eventually set me free.  And after too long a time, I found the key in a place I would have never thought to look – a place inside me – and I knew I had to smell them all the time.  And in the process of all that, horses taught me something of great value. 
     They taught me their smell was far more important than the best retirement package on the planet.  They offered me something far better and worth more than any annuity – they brought the light back in my eyes.  Because of them, I learned what really makes us happy…
     The infomercials would have us believe it’s fancy watches, condos, and fast cars.  The real-estate mogul says, “Buy my system, and you can have all this!”  Just behind him, the screen shows palm trees in exotic locales, speedboats, and mansions.  And if we would only buy his home-study CD package, we too could have happiness everlasting.  We are told over and over material things will yield what we seek…but the horse taught me they will not.
     What brings us joy are living things.  Only living things bring us real joy.  Gold cannot compete with what the Lord has made.  The things He has given will yield what we seek – things that have light in their eyes – like stock dogs, baby colts, and head horses who try their heart out every time.  Why did it take me so long to see that? 

     “If you feed us,” they said, “if you will groom us and take care of us, we will give you something in return.”
     “What?” I asked them.
     “Shiny eyes,” they said.  “Shiny eyes.” 

Ed. Note – Since 1953, the Western Writers of America has honored distinguished writing in the Western field.   The Spur Award, given annually by the WWA, is among the oldest and most prestigious in American literature.  Past recipients include six-time winner, Elmer Kelton, Larry McMurtry for Lonesome Dove, and Michael Blake for Dances With Wolves.  The Spur Award for 2007 for “Best Audio Book” has been awarded to Michael Johnson for his latest release “Healing Shine – A Spiritual Assignment.”  Healing Shine is the story of Michael’s seven-year journey with the great – but severely troubled – roping horse called Shine.  Healing Shine – available in both print and audio - and all Michael’s books and CDs can be seen at michaeljohnsonbooks.com


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 Michael's website.

Michael heading for the great Sonny Gould

Michael & Blue

Healing Shine


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