Throwing My Loop…
By: Michael Johnson
The Never Ending Story…
I went to a roping at Athens,
Texas a few weeks ago. Had high hopes. I had just been to
that same arena a couple of months before, and came within
the steer’s two back feet of winning second – maybe first.
Plus I had been roping well (for me) for an extended time.
And if I must say so myself, the articles I had written in
recent months about focus, concentration, not thinking about
other competitors, and other similar subjects seemed to be
really paying off. Sharon and I made big ham and cheese
sandwiches, packed some sweet pickles, boiled eggs, chips
and hot peppers, and we hit the road at dawn. When we
arrived at Athens three hours later, I was loaded for bear.
Yep, I was ready. And then?
I roped like a goat that had been hit by a small
Japanese truck. Of the 178 things I did that day, not a one
of them were done well. One of the worst performances of my
life. Haven’t roped liked that since I was in elementary
school. What on earth happened? Believe me, I did some
thinking about that question…
Me, the fellow who writes about high performers with
all his articles about how we can do better if we just think
better, failed to think at all. Thought I was beyond
all that, but I was wrong. Here are some reasons why…
All of my life, I have been operating under an
assumption. And that assumption is, if we work hard enough,
practice hard enough, and grind hard enough, we can
eventually reach a place where we stop making mistakes.
Okay, that’s wrong. We can’t reach a place where we stop
I entered that arena that day – like I have entered so
many other areas in life – thinking things would go
perfectly. When they didn’t, I began to fret. Lost my
focus and began attempting to control every single event in
the universe, and in addition to all that, got in an awful
Later, I realized something about me. I claim –
constantly – that the Lord has given me two wonderful horses
who try so hard, and yet, on not one occasion did I trust
either Shine or Blue to get me where I needed to be. All
day long, I tried to guess, help, and control what they
should do. That made me think about the fact I had done the
same thing with my own children. I never let them go where
they needed to, but always tried to be sure they would do
the right thing because of my constant “guidance.” Of
course, I thought I was helping at the time, but was it
really help? How much better things might have been
had I allowed them to go their own way once in a great while
without my constant interference.
Still, like Shine and Blue, they tried to do what I
wanted. And now after my abysmal failure on that day in
Athens, I can see how blessed I have been to have had them
all – all my children…two humans and two horses, Marty and
Terre - and Shine and Blue. In spite of my clumsy
interference, still they tried their best…and all four are
more than me.
And thinking about my performance that day – or lack of
it – has caused me to come to another awareness. While it
is true in the last few months, I have been roping well;
it’s also true that in all that time when things were going
well…I didn’t learn a thing. But once I had time to
reflect on my poor showing, I learned so many things. We
just don’t learn much during the good times. When times are
bad, later we gain so much. Perhaps that’s what the bad
times are for.
One other thing. A few days after the event, I
realized that during the competition, I had allowed my mind
to slip away from some truly important things while we were
at that roping. So focused on my performance, I simply let
a list of the most valuable things slip away, and failed to
notice that the day was so beautiful, that my friend Sharon
was with me, we saw so many of our friends, and not a single
person, horse, or steer was injured during the entire day.
The Rowdy Cow Dog was not only happy to be with his poppa,
but even won a brilliant third in the Great Dog Race held
between ropings. The Rowdy Cow might well have won first
had he not been sidetracked at the finish by an oh so sweet
and petite, red and white female Border collie who nipped
him at the wire. He told me later, “I let her win, Pop.
She was just too cute to beat.”
Sharon and Rowdy arrived at the trailer after the
roping as I was unsaddling the boys. I was a bit surprised
they were still planning to ride home with me.
“What do we do now?” I asked with an embarrassed grin.
“Make some ham and cheese sandwiches,” she said.
“Then, we re-read the articles about focus, about staying
within yourself, not watching the other guy, and going into
battle with your heart light. And then we go to the next
one - we try again.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I knew that. I was gonna say that.”
“You always say, ‘When you fail, try again. Don’t
“I know. I always say that,” I said.
“Apparently, like the rest of us, you need to be
reminded. We all do,” she said over her shoulder as she
made her way to the truck. As she opened the door, she
turned looking at the sky and said, “You know,
this…process…we go through. This working and trying, and
sometimes finding fulfillment and victory, then sometimes we
backslide and fall short, and we have to try again – all
that. It’s what we have to do to accomplish anything.
It’s a never ending story.”
And of course, she was right.
While it wasn’t my best of days, I now find myself grateful
for the experience at Athens. I learned so much. One
example being, when things aren’t going well, still we
should remember the countless blessings around us. Another
being we should be grateful for the fact we are even
here, and waste no time whatsoever complaining that
things are not exactly as we would have them to be. And one
lesson I’m really going to work on is to finally realize
there is no time or place on this earth where we cease to
make mistakes. We should always be aware that any game,
business, roping, and certain experiences in our life can –
at times – be a struggle. Our task is to fight the good
fight, keep the faith, go into battle with our heart light,
and finish the race. When we fail – as we all must from
time to time - to stand tall and say, “I’m still here.”
When our time here is done, and we fall for the last time,
our final thought should be… “ I fought well.” I’m
going to work on that. It’s a never-ending story.
“Good column, Pop. I just
wanted to add one thing. If that red and white border
collie reads this – our number is 580-286-7784. Tell her to
ask for the Rowdy Cow.”
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 or by calling 580-286-7784.