Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  



     My wife and I graduated from the same university some years ago.  It’s a branch of Texas A&M called Texas A&M – Commerce, with about twelve thousand students currently, and we both love the institution dearly.  She now works there as Assistant VP for Student Access and Success.  Recently, we attended the annual awards banquet honoring selected former students who were given the university’s highest honor – the award known as “Distinguished Alum,” an award recognizing former graduates for their accomplishments, and for their “more than significant contributions to the world.”  One honoree was now a renowned surgeon, another the first Hispanic woman to become a federal judge, and so on.  Each was asked to make remarks, and I found it so interesting that all four said the same thing.  “Find what you love,” they said.  “Find what you love.” 
    That caused me to think about the things I love, and in addition to my wife and the animals on our farm of course, there are three.  I love to hit golf balls, rope steers, and make tables, windows, and doors.  Obsessed with all three.  Can’t stop.  If the Betty Ford Clinic ever offers services for any of these three addictions…I’m checking myself in.  Even at sixty-four, I must hit two hundred balls a day, I have to ride my horses even if it’s just for a little bit, and am driven to create something – and that something is always big.  I make three things over and over and over…tables, windows, and doors.
     Some have suggested I have a bit of a tendency to oversize.  Our barn doors, for example, are five feet wide and nine feet high. The last project was a cedar dining table destined for the barn porch.  At three feet in height, four wide, and seven feet long, it must weigh five hundred pounds.  When Sherry saw it, she said, “My goodness, it’s huge!”  I said, “Hmmm – I don’t think it’s quite big enough.”  She looked at me for a time, put her hand on my shoulder with a caring touch, and said, “Michael, I do love you, but sometimes I think you really need to see a Christian counselor.”
     I have a particular weakness for the Mexican style “Ox-yoke” tables.  Always over-sized with arching legs and flowing lines, I can stare at the beauty and art in the wood and overall design for hours.  I’ve been making one recently, and during the process of creation, it’s taught me – the table, I mean – has taught me several things…

1.      Don’t ask, “How long will this take?”
First thing the table said.  When attempting to do any thing – go to college, build a house, train a horse - that is one question we should not ask…“How long will this take?”  Don’t ask that question.  Doesn’t matter.  Doesn’t matter how long something will take.  Doing what you love matters. 

2.      Keep your pencil sharp.”  Took a while for the table to teach me that one. When making dowels to cover nail holes, most of the time the dowel – once cut - would fit perfectly flush with the table.  Sometimes however, the dowel would protrude just a bit which required extra sanding work.  I just couldn’t figure out why that was happening.  Table said, “It fits flush when the line you draw is made with a sharp pencil point.  When the pencil dulls, the line is moved just a bit causing error.  To do good work, keep your pencil sharp all the time.”

3.       “Get help.”  Even though I’m just started, the table has already told me that on several occasions.  All four distinguished alums mentioned that too, in their after dinner remarks.  “You can’t do it all by yourself,” they said.  “You must develop relationships with others.  They can help you.  They can tell you things.  They can show you the way.  If you have input from others who have knowledge, your final product will be better.”  So I go ask old guys who know about making things with wood.  I get help.  Man, that works wonders. 

4.      “Try Again.”  Table says that a lot.  “Whoops, little slip there, Bubba.  Sand that out and start again.”  Man, table says that a lot.  Table also says, “You have to make a handful of mistakes to arrive at something sublime.”

     So we continue on.  I no longer know if I’m making the table, or it is making me.  I just know I love spending time with him.  Speaking of time, when I’m with the table, time melts, and that causes the clock on my barn wall to speed up like you wouldn’t believe.  I look up there and say to my self, “That clock can’t possibly be right.  I’ve only been out here a few minutes, but the clock says three hours have passed.  Clock must be broken.”
     Table says, “No, clock is fine. Time goes faster when you are doing what you love.”
     Reminds me of one of my all-time favorite lines.  Stole it from Willie Nelson.  He stole it from Kinky Friedman, who stole it from his daddy’s barber when Kinky was a child…

                                                      “Find what you love…and let it kill you.”

                                                                                               --Michael Johnson

 Ed. Note:  In January of 2012, RFD-TV’s All Around Performance Horse TV, and Roping and Riding with Tyler Magnus, will broadcast the first embedded segment of The Advice Barn, a viewer call-in show hosted by Dr. Harry Anderson, with featured guests, Dr. Michael Johnson, and Dr. J. D. Norris.
The Advice Barn is sponsored by Total Feeds, Inc. maker of Total Equine, Dr. Harry Anderson’s creation of an all-purpose feed designed for the horse.  Total Feeds, Inc. sold thousands of tons of Total Equine last year.



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