Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson


     Old Buddy was one.  An unsung hero, I mean.  I’ve been thinking about him lately, and all those like him.  About those who do their job every day and never say a word.  They just do their work.  He was like that…just showed up every day to do his work.  And did he do it well.
     A woman loved an old paint head horse of mine, and she had been begging me to trade for Buddy.  “Just come look at him,” she said.  “Just come try him.  If you don’t like him, you can bring him back.”  I went to look.  First time I ever saw Old Buddy, he was standing in the middle of the pasture – in the middle of the day – fast asleep.  He was eighteen and in my mind at least, way past his prime.  “Oh brother,” I thought to myself.  “I didn’t get the best end of this deal.”
     “Just try him,” she said. 
     He was still snoozing when I backed him in the box.  Just as I nodded to the chute man, Buddy let out a big yawn.  “Oh brother,” I thought again.  When the steer came, Buddy’s eyes snapped open and I heard this deep rumble.  In a half-second, I realized that rumble was the sound of his engines firing.  Next thing I know, we’re at warp-nine.  The sheer force of his lift-off caused both of my feet to fly out of the stirrups, and that was the moment I lost that filling in my back tooth.  He came so hard the g-force just jerked it out of my mouth.  Just as I was doing everything I could to hang on to Mr. Shooting Star, my rear-end slid over the cantle of the saddle, and Buddy simply ran out from under me.
      Standing there red-faced, I watched as riderless Buddy continued down the arena stretched out low in perfect position running alongside the steer.  After penning the steer all by himself, Buddy stood there calmly.  Even though the cowboy riding him couldn’t do his job, Buddy had still done his. 
     I turned to the woman and said, “Ma’am, you got yourself a deal!”
     I must have roped thousands off the old sorrel during the next few years, and while I missed some, I never missed a single one because of Buddy.  You never had to worry about Buddy showing up.  You could bet he would be there every day, and every time.  The father of the Prodigal Son had two boys.  Buddy was like the oldest.
     Buddy is not in heaven yet, but he’s close.  My friend, Dr. John Hall lost his beloved quarter horse, Zip, some time back, and I said, “Why not take Buddy?”  He agreed, and while we know Buddy isn’t in heaven, Buddy thinks he is.  He has a good life on the Hall Farm in Joshua, Texas, and I’m glad he does.  For almost twenty-five years, he did everything – and more – asked of him.  If only we were all like that. 
     Teachers are like that.  The people who get up every day, and go do their work – that work being to try and help our kids be somebody - to become more.  Every day, teachers do their work - not their job, but their work.  In terms of time, they are with our children more than we are, and even though they’re not paid much, still they show up every day. And for that, they receive more than their fair share of criticism.
     We constantly hear about how bad things are in education.  If you listen to the politicians, the media, or even some of your neighbors, most of what we hear about is “violence, vandalism, corruption, illiteracy, declining SAT scores, and school shootings.” The theme of so many conversations is how “…kids don’t care these days and teachers care even less.”  Hmmmm.  Here’s a startling statement.  It’s not true.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes after being in 400 schools in the last fifteen years. 
     We still get more patents every year than any country on the face of the globe.  Bad education system?  We are number one in terms of defense around the world, with weapon systems staffed by high school graduates – male and female.  Bad education system?  We have a high employment rate in a highly technological society.  Bad education system? School shootings are unspeakable.  Still, newscasters rarely mention the other 60 million school kids who did nothing wrong, most of whom are hungry for guidance, leadership, and encouragement.  Tomorrow, someone will be killed on a golf course by lightning.  No one will think to blame the golf pro.  Most people I know who degrade teachers wouldn’t last a day in the classroom.  They’re too busy whining about how bad things are.  Teachers are still trying.
     My wife’s daddy had a drug store in Cooper, Texas called Miller’s Drug.  It’s a famous place; one that once you walk in causes yesterday to return with a razor-sharp clarity.  It looks just the same as it did in 1950.  One reason the memories come so alive is because of Mabel Wheat.  Mabel has been in that drugstore serving ice cream, milkshakes, and coke floats for fifty-seven years!  
     People like Old Buddy, Mabel, and those in education, and so many more are unsung heroes.  We should be grateful for them.  Sadly, it’s only later in life that we see the value of good horses and good humans.  Instead of taking them for granted, we should thank them right now – today - and rejoice that they are in our lives.  We should thank those who help the hurting heal, love the unloved, and bring hope to the hopeless – and those who do their work every day – like good rope horses. 
     The Prodigal Son’s father had the biblical equivalent of a barbeque for his wayward son when he returned home.  I hope he had one for his oldest. 
     I’m gonna’ have one for Buddy.
                                                                                          -- Michael Johnson

Ed. note: 
Buddy passed away eleven days after this article was submitted for publication.




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.

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