Throwing My Loop…
By: Michael Johnson
FRIENDS TO KEEP YOU WARM
Sitting and staring out at my kitchen window just a few days
ago, I watched that silver rain falling at dusk. Some might
have thought it beautiful, but not me. Having seen it before
in my life, I knew what it was. Misery for sure, and death
for some. It came suddenly with a vengeance, and slowly
began to hang on our beautiful trees with ominous silence.
Sure enough at midnight, those awful shattering sounds
began. The trees - our friends - their limbs were breaking.
Silly me, I found myself praying for them. At daylight the
lights blinked twice and seconds later, two hundred and
seventy-five thousand homes went dark. The ice storm was
The linemen began coming the next day – from Oklahoma,
Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Kansas. Over five
thousand came within two days, and in three more days, they
no longer looked the same. On the first day, they were
young, fresh, and ready. On the fourth, they were much older
with hollow eyes, and faces full of deep fatigue. Every time
I saw a crew on the road, I would stop and ask,
“Do you need anything at all? Can I get you some coffee?”
“No,” they said. “No time.” And they would stumble away
carrying their lights, tools, and one thing heavier – that
15 degree cold every step of the way.
I moved the horses to the pasture with the pond, gave
the steers hay, and Rowdy and I returned to the farm
house. My wife was on a business trip, and for the first
time since I've known her, I was glad she wasn't here to see
this. And Rowdy and I waited. He doesn't like to play
spades, and I don't like to chase rabbits, so we waited.
That wait included no light and no heat for two days. We
slept together on the couch trying to keep each other warm.
On the third day, I saw the truck coming up the lane
and I remembered how much we enjoy company when we're alone.
Richard Trapp and Billy Martel stepped out...
“How are the horses?” (First thing cowboys always ask.)
“Well as can be expected I suppose,” I said.
“And you and Rowdy?”
“We're okay. Other people have it much worse,” I said,
trying to sound like Chuck Norris.
“Somebody said it was 40 degrees in your house last
night?” asked Richard.
“Well...uh...yes, it was,” suddenly sounding like Woody
“It's gonna' get better,” said Billy.
“Oh, yeah, I know,” I said. “Spring will come and this
“No, not spring,” said Richard. “It's gonna' get better
He opened the tailgate and there sat a five-thousand watt
You know, until that moment, I never noticed how beautiful
generators can be.
The fact that Richard was able to arrange for the Rowdy
Cow Dog and me to have lights, heat, and television has
caused me to do some deep thinking about a return gift...
Right now, all I can think of is an airplane.
And the workers kept working, the Rural Water people
worked through the nights – like they always do, and one by
one, the lights began blinking on. The generator ran like a
Swiss watch for three and a half days, and then at noon on
the fourth day, stopped like a shot duck. At that moment, I
heard Rowdy say, “Uh oh.” In five minutes – five – my power
came on for the first time in five days. Surely, my little
momma in heaven had something to do with that.
Two young lineman drove up about that time. “Your power
on, sir?” they asked.
“Yes, yes,” I said. “And you're coming in for coffee.”
We visited for a time and I learned both were from the
Houston area, and both were ropers. The world became smaller
when we discovered a mutual friend, James Zant, former NFR
qualifier and a prince of a man. Those young men became my
friends. And that caused me to think about all the rest...
In this time of trial – this awful storm brought so
much goodness with it. Thousands of men we didn't even know
came to help us. Richard and Billy came in the cold, and
Rowdy kept me warm.
And my friends, the trees...the ice was melting, and I
watched as their limbs began to rise - they were coming
back. Prayers weren't so silly after all, I guess.
At five p. m. my wife arrived home from the airport.
“I've been so worried about you,” she said, hugging me. “How
on earth did you endure this, Michael?”
I looked out at the trees, their branches rising more
and more. The Rowdy Cow wagging his tail, both of us so
happy to see his momma, and I thought about all those people
and that dog.
“Really, it wasn't so bad,” I said. “After all, I had
my friends to keep me warm.”
-- Michael Johnson
Sharon and Rowdy