Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson


Such a squirt he was.  I was mad at him for the first six months of his life  ‘cause he was so little.  After all, his momma was beautiful - chestnut sorrel, blaze-faced, and four white stockings.  Randolph Scott would have loved this girl.  Sometimes, she would toss her mane out of her face – just like Jennifer O’Neill did in Summer of ’42.  And his daddy?  His daddy looked even better - Clark Gable on his best day.  He was 15’1, weighed 1250, and just strutted around lookin’ gooood!  So, if I get a pup out of these two, I’m lookin’ good too, right?  That’s what I thought…
     I waited fifteen years for him.  Just one black horse in my life.  If I could just have that one thing, I had my arrival speech planned the moment I set foot in heaven…
     “Hey, good to see all of you, and I don’t need a thing.  Lord gave me a black horse while I was on the earth, and that’s all I ever wanted.  So I would like to say thanks to everybody - thanks for having me, and if you will point me to the nearest barbeque stand, I’m good.”
     So time is getting close – it’s only thirty days ‘til he’s scheduled to arrive, and Ka Boom! Divorce!  Uh oh.  Mare leaves – baby’s inside her.  Hmmm.  And then?  Don’t ask me how - all I can say is…I got him back.  Maybe my ex-wife knew how much he meant to me – and he came home.  I could not wait to see him.  His half-brother, Jax, looked like one those Muscle Beach guys, and since the little black’s daddy was even prettier than Jax’s sire, it’s a dead lock cinch this little colt is gonna’ look the Archangel Gabriel’s horse, right?  That’s what I thought…’til I saw him.
     Have you ever seen a parrot at birth?  I haven’t either, but it can’t be a pretty sight.  The little black looked like a baby parrot – or maybe a baby crow.  Hey, I know - he looked like a newborn armadillo.  His top lip kinda’ whumped over his bottom one, and his butt was so bony you could dip it in an inkwell and write somebody a letter with it, and his tummy hung down lower than a pot-bellied pig’s.  But at least he was black…for about three weeks.  Then he turned the color of the bad guy’s horses in a Gene Autrey movie – a boring and mucky mud-brown.  On top of all that, he was short.
     ‘Member that little guy on Fantasy Island?  Each morning I went to the barn, I fully expected Little Joe Ben Black to come running from the pasture yelling, “Dad!  Dad!  De Plane!  De Plane!”
     Then the other morning I opened the back door of the barn…and blood was everywhere!  The picture bounced off my mind.  The scene I witnessed made no sense.  Blood was everywhere.  At first, I thought perhaps a coyote had killed a coon and made a mess of his breakfast, but then I knew Wiley hadn’t killed a coon, and whatever it was…it was bad.  The other horses stood calmly, and not a one showed any sign of distress.  Rather they all stood at ease simply waiting for me to open the gates to their feed troughs…then I saw it.
     Just above Joe Ben’s right back foot and just under his fetlock, a one-eighth inch diameter stream spurted with powerful force, shooting sideways almost six inches before it touched the ground.  The colt had clipped an artery.  My vet, Dr. Kyle Pratt, would later tell me it was called the “lateral digital artery.”  Stunned, I just stood there staring at the colt, whose soft eyes stared back full of trust saying, “I cut my foot, Pop.  You gotta’ do something.”  My heart began to race and my mind ran just as fast right alongside…
     Hope said, “Put your hand on it.  Dr. Pratt said when this happens just squeeze the wound ‘til the bleeding stops.”
     Reason said, “He won’t let you hold his foot.  He’ll kick.  You won’t be able to hold his foot long enough to stop the bleeding.”
     “Give him a sedative.”
     “We don’t have one.”
     “Call the vets.”
     “It’s too early.  They’re not there yet.”
     “Load him in the trailer and take him to them.”
     “He won’t load.  We have never worked on that.”
Each choice I generated came complete with a checkmate mark beside it that said, “That won’t work.”  Despair began to crawl across the bottom floor of my mind.  I fought it…
     “Do something!”  I screamed inside.  The blood came harder now.
     “There is nothing I can do!”
Do something!”  More blood. 

     I could not believe this was happening.  Just five minutes before I had walked from my farmhouse to feed the horses.  After my early morning ritual, I planned to go back inside to  the kitchen where Rowdy and I were preparing a breakfast burrito with refried beans, jalapenos, scrambled eggs, and home-grown tomatoes.  Just a minute ago, we were laughing and happy.  Now the bottom of my boots were making sickening squishing sounds, and the life force was draining out of my baby colt – the one I waited fifteen years for.  The one I named after my momma’s daddy.  I named him Joe Ben after the best man I even knew.  And now, because I wasn’t good enough or smart enough, or because I was too lazy to work with him on loading when he was little, now he was going to die – and I was just going to sit there and watch it.  Shine, Little Blue, Jax, Rowdy, and the baby colt stared…“Do something!” they said.
     “Do something!”
shouted the voice inside.  And then that something said…
     “This is the way we all are.  When something awful happens – the death of a loved one, divorce, severe injury, trauma - we all think we are powerless.  At those times, even though we feel small, inadequate, and helpless – at those times, still we should try.  Even though it may not work, still we should try.  At those times, we must not influence the outcome negatively by losing hope.  No matter how weak and pitiful our effort may seem to us at the moment, at least we should make the effort.  Fight!  Save him!”
And since I could think of nothing else to do, I came up with a plan that even Hollywood would reject as too smarmy, too syrupy, and too stupid to be believed by anybody.  I planned to ask Joe Ben to help me.
     As quickly as I could, heart pounding with bucket loads of adrenalin shooting through me, I physically shoved the other horses in their stalls.  Racing to grab the halter and a bucket of feed, I led Joe Ben and his squirting foot to the trailer.  Turning to face him, I began the most important speech of my 60 years.  It was short, and I meant every word.
     “Listen to me,” I said with my spirit to the little black I loved so.  “I’m sorry I was disappointed in you.  You’re just 14 months old.  You’ll grow up to be a big horse, and we will rope ‘til the Lord says we can’t.  We’ll rope ‘til the Lord calls one of us home.  Your daddy was beautiful and so was your momma – and I named you after the best man I ever knew.  So you cut your foot.  We can deal with that.  It’s not some barrier we can’t overcome.  You just have to do one thing for us to get through this.  If you will just try, we’re not beaten…we’re not done.  Just get up in the trailer for me.  If you will just do that, Dr. Still can sew up your foot and in a week, you will be good as new.  And we can laugh and tell this story over and over – about how we were afraid, but we fought, and we won!  Come on, Joe Ben – get up in the trailer for me…” 
And with no hesitation, the little black calmly walked up into the trailer.
     I vaulted over his butt, all horse-training calmness gone, and slammed the door as hard and fast as I could.  Next instant, we’re doing ninety with the flashers flashing, and we were headed for that place called hope.
     Once we arrived, Dr. Still had the needle in his neck before he even backed out of the trailer.  Joe Ben fell to his knees from the sedative, and Doc was stitching up his foot before he went down.  Standing to stretch his back, my hero, Dr. Gary Still, let out a deep sigh, and smiled at me.  Wiping the sweat from his eyes, he said, “He’ll be fine, Michael.  He’ll be fine.” 


Ed. Note – Michael Johnson’s Healing Shine – A Spiritual Assignment was named “Best Audio Book” of the 2007 Hollywood Book Festival, and “First Runner-Up” at the 2007 New York Book Festival.  Read more of the author’s seven-year spiritual journey with the great – but severely troubled - roping horse called Shine 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


Please stop
and sign our Guestbook

Send Michael
an Email

Michael Johnson Books
1172 CR 4122  Campbell, Texas 75422  (903) 862-2082

Copyright © 2003 Michael Johnson Books. All rights reserved.
webmaster pswope@candw-webmasters.com