Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson


     Is there a special Christmas you will always remember?  I’ve been thinking about that lately because I was asked that question recently.  I mumbled something in response, but my answer was not truthful.  The truth was it’s been quite some time since I looked forward to Christmas.  I had become a Scrooge of sorts – because for years, it just hasn’t seemed like Christmas.  Wasn’t like it once was.  I thought perhaps Christmas - like me – might be getting a little long in the tooth.  I hadn’t put up Christmas lights in years, and knew I was too old to put them on the barn like I once did.  For the last few years, Christmas just hasn’t seemed like Christmas.  And then I remembered saying that to an old Mexican man long ago – that Christmas hadn’t been the same for a long while – and he laughed…
     “Yeah,” he said.  “I used to think that – but I don’t think that way anymore.”
     “You don’t?” I asked him.
     “No, I don’t think that way anymore, Miguel,” he said.  “Now, every year Christmas seems like Christmas.”
     “Why?” I asked him.
     “Because…” he said, “Now it’s my turn to make Christmas seem like Christmas.”

     I finished a book last year.  The book describes my seven-year journey with the great – but severely troubled - roping horse called Shine.  Shine had been abused as a two-year old, and had lost his trust for man.  He came into my life when he was five – a stunningly beautiful gray ghost – a majestic warrior on the outside, but I would soon learn on the inside, Shine was a frightened child.
     In those days, I knew Shine had been sent to me so I could be his teacher – and I also knew the horse possessed the thing called greatness.  I knew that I could help him in a short time – because in those days, I was such an insufferable expert.  Unfortunately, no one told Shine how smart I was.  And I would later learn, he was the one sent to teach me.
     I rode that horse for two years and three months.  I rode him every day.  At the end of that time, despite all my so-called expertise, Shine was the same frightened creature he was on the first day he came to Johnson Farms.  Yet still I knew the horse possessed the thing called greatness.
     My love for this animal…wait… what a ridiculous word to describe him – my love for this splendid creature – there, that’s better - caused me to go in search of men and women farther down the path than me.  I began a quest to find what we might call true horsemen and horsewomen…and I found them!  Because of those good souls who taught me everything they knew, together we found the pieces to the puzzle of Healing Shine.
     In the book, the horses speak.  Each with their own distinctive voice.  Shine’s voice is very bitter, and old Buddy, who is 25 – has a voice that is slow and wise.  And there is Little Blue – the blue roan I raised from a pup.  Blue believes in himself - despite the fact he has only mediocre speed and average athletic ability, Blue knows he is the greatest roping horse that ever lived, and despite the fact that he has a severe speech impediment.  Blue simply will not be defeated.  Blue talks almost too fast to understand and he can’t say R’s.  So he sounds like this…
     “Me and my daddy, we wope in da wodeo.  Some of dem cows might think dey can, but can’t no cow outwun da Boo Man.   My daddy, he wides Shine all da time, twyin’ to help him wid his mental pwoblems.   If you ask me, Shine is a bony-butt, cwanky, mental case, who don’t appweciate all da good things we have.  He’s always wawkin’ awound da pasture wid a kweenex up to his eye, saying, “I’m under so much stwess,” and I’m thinking, “What stwess?  We got gwain out here, my daddy give us alfalfa, we got gween gwass, cold cwear water…so  whassa’ pwoblem?  My daddy don’t need to wide Shine, he needs to wide da Boo Man, ‘cause if he does, we  win fust pwace ewey time!”   
     Blue provides some much-needed comic relief in a story that is sometimes painful to hear.  And it seems Blue has found an admirer – Blue has a fan.  Her name is Tacey – Tacey Raye Raulerson.
     Tacey lives in College Station, Texas – the home of Texas A&M University.  Her mother Tammy, is a professor there.  Tacey’s grandmother, Patsy Bolton – a Texas school superintendent, purchased a copy of Healing Shine on audio for Tacey.  The child listened to the horses and their story over and over, and it seems Tacey fell in love with Little Blue.  Tacey listens to audio books because she is blind.  Tacey is nine years old.
     Her mom called me a short time ago and said, “We have a request.  While we have many presents for Tacey this Christmas, we asked her the other day what she wanted Santa to bring her, and Tacey said that more than anything, she would like to talk to Little Blue on the phone.  Do you think we could arrange that?” her mother asked me.
     “Oh,” I said,  “I think we can do a lot better than that.” 

     On December 24th, Tacey’s mom and dad and her grandparents brought Tacey to Johnson Farms where Tacey not only talked to Little Blue…she rode the blue roan like a champion cowgirl!
     And you know, as I prepared for their visit, I was so excited about the holidays.  Christmas seemed like Christmas again.  There was magic in the air.  I put Christmas lights on the house, and even put lights on the barn like I did long ago.  And when she arrived, Little Blue told Tacey all about them, and how beautiful they were.    

     Funny who the Lord uses to teach us things - a blue roan colt, an old Mexican man, and a little girl.  They taught me…it’s my turn to make Christmas seem like Christmas.  So, there’s a special Christmas I’ll always remember – this last one.  The one when my Shine Man wasn’t afraid or sick anymore.  The one when I worked all day putting Christmas lights on the barn for a little girl and for a blue roan colt so they could have the thing called joy.  And ’round and ’round we went in the arena on that sharply cold, clear Christmas Eve day.  Tacey and the Blue Man being led by an old cowboy who thought the joy of Christmas was gone.  It was Blue who straightened my thinking as Tacey and her family were driving away…
     “I wuv you, Pop,” he said.  “But if you think de joy of Christmas is gone
You are wong, Pop.  You are wong, you are  wong, you are wong!” 

“Tacey Way,
     Thanks for coming to Johnson Farms.  You were gweat!  Come back and wide da’ Boo Man.  You can wide Shine – my daddy got people to hep him wid his mental pwoblems…
 but wide Da Boo Man most of da time.” 

                                                                                        Your fwiend,
                                                                                        Little Blue



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.

Michael heading for the great Sonny Gould

Michael & Blue

Healing Shine


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