Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  




     John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.”  So it was recently when my pharmacist brother-in-law, Marion, called and asked if we might need another barn cat, him having found one at Miller’s Drug, our family’s long-time, wonderfully old-fashioned Texas drugstore.  Since we are always in need of a good “mouser” around here at Johnson Farms, I said, “Certainly.”  That innocent conversation began a series of events that altered my life in ways I never imagined.
     When Marion arrived with our new kitty, I was a bit concerned that the Rowdy Cow Dog, our big Australian Shepherd, might think Marion was providing Rowdy with a “cat-sandwich” for lunch - so we kept a close eye on them for a time, but Rowdy was a perfect gentleman and welcomed the baby with open arms…or “open paws” as the case may be.  Not so with Angus Johnson… 
     Broom-tailed Angus is the resident number two mouser on the Johnson Farms team playing back-up to first-stringer, Eduardo Johnson, a mouse-catchin’ fool, and all-around bad motor-scooter.  Marion and I failed to notice Angus showing all sorts of signs he wanted no part of the new cat…but we should have noticed.  Especially when Angus launched his kami-kazi death dive for the throat of the baby and landed on Marion.  Eye-glasses went flying and suddenly, I was very afraid my brother-in-law could just possibly be the only one-eyed pharmacist I had ever known – and it would all be my fault.  I could just hear Marion telling the tale around town while wearing his brand new pirate eye-patch… “My brother-in-law, Michael, could have saved my eye…but he just stood there.”  That’s when I stepped in.  Like most bad decisions in life, it seemed such a good idea at the time.
     Angus latched on to my arm like a fishing lure your buddy accidentally casts deep into your skin – and then he re-gripped a number of times.  Fifteen puncture wounds and two deep bites in my wrist joint later, my arm was a bloody mess.  My troubles were just beginning…
     Massive doses of oral antibiotics and a black and blue butt from too many shots to remember, along with a deadly serious infection combined to make this an unforgettable time to remember - or forget, if I ever can.  And then things got worse…
     The summer is my busiest time and I had a dozen or so performance dates across America in the next few weeks that I simply could not miss.  One reason being bills to pay and the other to keep my word.  As in - if people hire you to work a conference and you don’t show up…you don’t last long in this business.  But how could I go?  All of a sudden, I can’t feed myself, can’t dress myself, and am feeling really first class, high-octane, help-me-Jesus pain like I have ever known.  I’m in trouble.
     “I need a counselor,” I said to my wife.
     “A counselor?” she asked.  “A counselor at the university?”
     “No,” I said.  “Those people are normal and mentally healthy.  They make sound decisions and do things for the good of the mind and body.  I don’t need somebody like that.  I need a rodeo cowboy counselor!  I need to talk to cowboys who made the short-go but were injured.  And one thing we know for sure…they didn’t draw out!” They made the date.  I need to talk to somebody like that.”
     So I did.  I called some of my old-time rodeo friends and asked this question…
     “In your career, I know you have made the finals when injured and hurting.  How did you get through that?  I’m injured now and I have to make dates.  How do I do that?”  Boy, did I have some rich conversations.  Like most cowboys, they tended not to use too many words.  Their words were brief and terse, but the words they did use were powerful and full of meaning…
     “Do what is required,” said one.
     “Focus on one thing at a time,” said a second.
     “Eliminate all self-pity,” said another.  That one hurt a little.
     “Be grateful for this particular injury,” said another.  “This will heal.  No chemo is required.  Be grateful for the small size of this cross you have to bear.”
      Another of my favorites.  “You said the starter on your truck was giving you trouble?”  I agreed that it was.  “Get the starter fixed on your truck,” said the old cowboy, “and every thing else will take care of itself!”  I really liked that one.
     And my wife, Sharon gave me the best words of all.  “I’m with you,” she said.  “I’ll be with you every step of the wayMaybe you can’t do it by yourself, but we can do it together.  It’s easier when you have someone to help you.”
     And on and on they went.  Each one each time sending, bringing, giving me a ray of hope and light.  My confidence grew, my thinking changed, and I began to believe.
     I thought about Tacey at age ten battling retino-blastoma, eleven year-old Wade fighting leukemia, Jim Stovall and his blindness, and Tracy Malone of the Roping Pen and her trial with cancer.  All were implementing the strategies the cowboys had given me.  “Do what’s required, one thing at a time, no self-pity,” and “…it’s easier when someone helps you.”
     That’s when I realized those people were talking about more than how to make the short-go or make a few dates.  Those cowboys had given me a blueprint for success.  A template we could lay over any problem in life and eventually see results.  They were giving me a plan for life.
     Good plan.

n  Michael Johnson

Ed. Note:  Michael made all his dates – and Angus has suffered no ill effects even after biting Michael.




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