Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  



     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 here.
     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 Allen.
     “It's gonna' get better,” said Billy.
     “Oh, yeah, I know,” I said. “Spring will come and this will pass.”
     “No, not spring,” said Richard. “It's gonna' get better right now.”
He opened the tailgate and there sat a five-thousand watt generator!
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                      


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