Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

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 Dorrance.
     “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 stagnant.”
     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 same.
      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 strangest thing…
     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 Johnson

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