Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

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 making mistakes. 
     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 hurry.  Disaster.
     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 quit.’”
     “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.”

                                                                                                           --  ROWDY

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.

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