Throwing My Loop…
By: Michael Johnson
In 2004, Ray Hunt was named
“Horseman of the Century.” Wonderful honor, but like all
of us, Ray had some times in his past that were not so
easy. One always comes to mind…
In 1960, Ray was low on money and low on hope. He
was down to his last horse and unfortunately, simply could
not tame the horse called “Hondo.” Regardless of the
horseman’s every effort, Hondo insisted on refusing to
cooperate. In frustration, Ray called on Tom Dorrance for
help. Immediately after Tom arrived, the two men and one
horse headed to the round pen. “What’s he doing?” asked
“I’ll show you,” said Hunt.
With that, Ray Hunt mounted Hondo and in an
eye-blink, the man who could “fix” most any bronc was
flying high in the sky. Hondo wasted no time in dumping
Hunt right in the middle of the round pen.
Lying on his back, Hunt looked up to Dorrance sitting
on the fence, and said, “See? That’s what he does – and
that ain’t the first time. Not by a long shot.”
And Tom Dorrance said the strangest thing.
Hold that thought…
Recently, my wife – who is a staunch believer in the
potential of human beings – was having a conversation with
a man – who is not a believer in the potential of human
beings – and he said, “Kids these days are not like we
were. They don’t care and they don’t try. It’s like that
old saying,” he said. “You can lead a horse to water, but
you can’t make him drink.”
My wife said, “Especially if the water is
As I listened to that conversation, I realized
the exchange was a perfect illustration of two distinct
and different people. The man sees the world as a place
where people must be “good enough” to be allowed in.
People must prove they have legitimacy and credibility.
If they do not – according to his evaluation - his
responsibility to the world has ended. After all, what
can be done for people who don’t belong in the first
place? His focus is on those who can’t - or won’t.
The woman’s world-view is opposite. While she is not
naïve enough to think all will try, her focus is on those
who will. She stands ever watchful and ready to help –
constantly searching for those who will – because so much
can be done for them. The man is not aware the water he
grudgingly offers to the world is tainted by lazy
bitterness and has become stagnant. Hers is clean and
fresh, and full of hope. He hates his work. She finds
joy in hers. And by the way, she and Tom Dorrance are the
If most of us heard the story of Hondo – about all
his wildness, his bucking and rage (and that even Ray Hunt
couldn’t ride him) we might well say, “Well, it’s sad, but
the only thing to be done with this horse is slaughter.
He’s had so many chances, yet still has no value. If you
look at his past, obviously he is not going to make it.
The only place he belongs is on a kill truck.” If most of
us heard all that, we would certainly write this horse
off. But Tom Dorrance did not. Instead, he said the
When Hunt said, “See? That’s what he does…he bucks
me off. Over and over,” Dorrance said, “That is the
last thing in the world that horse wants to do. He
doesn’t want to be that way.” Then Dorrance added,
“We’ll work with him and one day… your children will ride
him.” And that’s what happened. Tom Dorrance put Hondo
back on the list of life. A short time later, Hunt would
win the San Francisco Futurity on Hondo, and still later
say, “He became one of the finest horses I ever rode.”
When I was seventeen years old, a woman said
something particularly cruel to me. She owned a dress
shop in my hometown, and one day just after my father
died, I happened to walk past her door. She stepped out
of that shop and said, “I heard you were going to
college?" I answered that I was.
“What a waste,” she said. “You of all people should
not be allowed in college. Considering your academic
record, it’s obvious you don’t belong there.”
Unfortunately, I conformed only too well to her
expectations for some time. That woman wrote me off.
Then, the most amazing miracle of my life occurred…
A wonderful human being put me back on the list!
“You don’t want to make F’s, do you?” he asked.
“No, I don’t, but I’m just dumb, I guess.”
“No, that’s not your problem. You believe some
things about your self that are simply not true,”
he said. “The Spirit is too kind to short change any of
us. I’ll show you how to study and how to take control of
your life. You will do fine,” he said. And I began to do
better. While I didn’t win the Nobel Prize, because of
him, I didn’t get put on the kill truck either. Most of
us have had a similar experience.
I know about Hondo. I am Hondo. Most of us are.
Thank God for people like Tom Dorrance. Thank God
for people like my wife.
Thank God for them…and their living water, so fresh
and so full of hope.
Michael heading for the great Sonny Gould
The Rowdy Cow Dog