Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson


      That’s what Fats said long ago.  “Ain’t that a shame?  That’s what he said.  And it is.  How we try so sometimes, and still things become difficult, life seems so hard and then gets even harder, and our efforts just don’t pay off.  Ain’t that a shame? 

     I saw him when I entered the little joint.  A young cowboy seated all by his lonesome at the end of the bar – probably no more than thirty.  My first thought was, “Atlas ain’t got nothing on this boy.”  Like that mythological figure of old, he too, had the weight of the entire world on his shoulders.  Both of which were slumped, and made him look drawn up in a small ball, him with his head in his hands.   “That fellow is carrying a load,” I thought to myself.  “How you doin’?” I asked him.
     “How do I look like I’m doing?” he said without looking at me.
     Since I couldn’t think of anything to say – “Not too good,” didn’t seem like the right response – so I just sat there.  He took a couple of sips from his beer, and then he said, “I sold my soul to the devil, man.  If you can get it out of hock, I’ll give you half-interest in it.”  Still he hadn’t looked in my direction.
     “Well, I guess I could listen,” I said.  “Maybe that would help.”
     “Nobody can help me, man.”  And there was silence for a time.
     “I drive fifty miles a day each way,” he said in a low voice.  Then it came pouring out.
     “I drive a hundred miles a day.  I fight the beast four hours of my life every day.  Up at five, two hours of frustrating, life-crushing dead air time.  Then I sit in a cubicle for eight more, all the while looking forward to two more hours of fightin’ semi’s all the way home.”  He paused.  “ ‘Course I have to you know.  I do it all for them.  They’re my whole life.  They’re everything to me.”
     “And who might “they” be?” I asked him.
     “The reasons, man,” he said in a loud voice.  “The reasons I do it all - my wife and my son.  I do it all for them.”  And then, finally turning to me with a good deal of anger in his voice, he said, “Ain’t that what a man’s supposed to do?” 
I knew he meant duty.  I knew he meant responsibility.  I said, “Well, I guess it is, but it seems like it’s making you sick.”  Wrong thing to say.
     He shot up from the stool, kicking the big seat back, and snapped, “You got some ideas, hot shot?  You gonna’ tell me a better way, mister?”
    “No,” I said.  “I didn’t mean that.”
     “I gotta’ pay the bills, man!” he growled.  “I gotta’ get some money together right now.  My son, he’ll be going to college someday.  My old man never helped me.  I ain’t doing that to my kid.  More than anything in the world, I will be a good husband, and a good father.  So what if it eats my gut out?  Man’s gotta’ do what a man’s gotta’ do, right partner?” he smiled at me with no humor whatsoever, and then began to make his way to the door, with a bit of a shaky weave here and there. 
     “Hey, you okay?” I asked him.
     “Yeah, man,” he said in that same low voice.  “I’m just great.”  And he was gone.  I sat there for the longest time thinking about him.  ‘Cause long ago…I was him. 

     Like him, I spent so many of my days trapped in a cold, impersonal prison – spelled “corporate America” - and not a single one of the “guards” ever cared whether I lived or died.  And just like the young cowboy…it made me sick.  Not for one moment did I consider every stone and every brick of that lifeless cell I lived in was created by my own hands.  I put every stone in place, locked the door from the inside, and hid the key in a place I would never think to look…inside me. 

     At first glance, we might feel sympathetic to this young fellow’s plight.  It may seem that he – through no fault of his own – is trapped by duty and obligation to his family.  But a bit of investigation reveals a deeper story.  First, it’s very unlikely that his wife – who loves him – really wants him to be miserable and drink himself to death at an early age.
    Secondly, while it sounds very noble that he’s doing all this for his son’s “college education,” turns out his son is three years old!  Even if he does work all his adult life to help his son, what if the son turns out to be an irresponsible doper?  Or perhaps the kid may be so brilliant, he won’t need any financial assistance to attend college because his brains will afford him a free ride on scholarship? 
     What should he do?  Leave his loved ones?  Of course not.  But the real truth is…he’s not as powerless as he thinks!  He could go talk to someone.  Men hate to do that of course.  Men think that’s a sign of weakness.  Maybe it is, but isn’t living your life in misery even weaker?  He could go talk to someone who might tell him, “It ain’t them.  It’s you!” That would really make him mad, now wouldn’t it?  They say the truth will set you free.  They rarely mention that at first… it will also make you really mad.
     I asked on old preacher once, “Why are they doing this to me?”
     “They are not,” he said.  “You are!”  Really made me mad.
     Bronc really made me mad once.  For some time, I had been telling him about Shine’s problems.  At last he turned and looked me right in the running lights, and said, “It’s not the horse.  It’s you!  It’s never the horse.  It’s always us!”  Really made me mad.
     Problem was…Bronc and the old preacher were right. 

     I sensed the young man was angry with me because I couldn’t tell him the “answer.” No one can tell us that.  But there are some things taught to me by others much farther down the path that do help…
     First step is to define what you want!  You can’t hit a target you can’t see.  Write down what you would do for free.  Risk some time in your life trying to figure out what you want, then how to get someone to pay you for doing that.  Impossible?  People do it every day.  Some people step off into the void with only a prayer to cross the chasm – and they make it to the other side.
     Secondly, work on people skills!  That’s the big secret.  ‘Nuff said.
     Learn what failure is!
  By far, the best teacher we can have.  Don’t be afraid of it.  Open your arms and embrace it.
     Have faith!  This guy is not nearly as stupid as he thinks he is.  He’s young and bright, and the real truth is he can do any number of things.  But he ain’t never gonna’ do them sittin’ in that cubicle. 

     It’s like my man, “Fats” said…

 “Ain’t that a shame -          
You’re the one to blame.” 
 --  Fats Domino


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