Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  



     Like most people in small towns do, I go to an early breakfast in the mornings.  At the local coffee shop, you can learn all the news there is to know.  You can ask the old cowboys anything about everything.  The only thing you can’t do is tell them anything.
     I’ve done that all my life.  I went to breakfast with my daddy when I was a boy, and I enjoyed the times we had.  As a small child, I sat by my father and listened as the men talked about horses, who roped well last weekend and why, and the price of cattle.  I listened to them talk about the droughts in their lives and the hardships they lived through.  I heard jokes I wasn’t supposed to hear and I heard stories about the depression, and on rare occasions, about the war - though they didn’t say much about the war.  When I asked my daddy why they didn’t tell more war stories, he said, “Too many memories, I guess.”  Even at that young age, I knew not to speak of that again.  Most of the time though, there was laughter back then.  My dad and I always seemed to be in a good mood when we left.  Lately, when I go to breakfast, that feeling is slipping away. I’ve noticed the topics and conversation tend to drift in different directions these days.  There’s less laughter now.
     Recently, someone said, “Those kids up at that college aren’t like we were.  Most of them are just no good.”  I didn’t know that.  I just heard the other day that our girl’s softball team had no player with less than a 3.8 GPA.  I was completely unaware those young women were no good. 
     Another day, a fellow said we were wasting time having a rodeo team at the university.  He said, “Those rodeo kids don’t care about graduating.  They just care about fighting and raising cane.”  You know, I didn’t know that either.  I had just met the rodeo team here at this university recently, and was charmed off my feet by their manners and courtesy – both young men and young women, and by the rodeo coach who told me his number one priority was graduation rates.  Most every rodeo coach I’ve ever met tells me the same thing.    
     And on and on the coffee shop crowd goes.  It’s much the same at the doughnut shop and the other breakfast place in this small town.  The government is terrible, the president is stupid, and the military is ruined.  I heard all those comments in one week.  Hmmmm…and I thought about my nephew. 
     He was valedictorian of his graduating class at Baylor University.  Now he’s an oral surgeon.  He could have a private practice in a high-rise in Dallas and make tons of money, or he could teach at Baylor Medical and live the life of a college professor, but that boy doesn’t do that.  Instead, he puts himself in harm’s way every day of his life.  He goes where the bad things are.  You will find him in Iraq where our soldiers give their lives, in Tahiti where people are shattered after the earthquake, and in Norman, Oklahoma, where lives were destroyed, and in Joplin, Missouri, where the wind blew away all the textbooks and destroyed the school.  He’s just a kid.  He’s in the Navy.  The Navy sends him to all those places where he spends 18 hour days sewing up children, indigent natives, and our warriors, in a little trailer called a “MASH Unit.”  He says they call it that because when people come to him, they are usually quite “mashed.”  And he laughs and he tells every one of them not to give up hope. 
     I wonder if that old man in that coffee shop - that old man, who thinks America is ruined – the same old man who never had a job that required him to work outside, and never spent a day in the military, yet the same one who calls himself a “patriot,” I wonder if he thinks that boy – my nephew – is ruined?  
     I live in a town where the teachers care and the police risk their lives for us every day. Where I live, the wood ducks swim in the lake, three roping horses try their hearts out for me, with my dog who would give his life for me, as my friends would, and I would give mine for them.  In my town, there are hummingbirds, deviled eggs, and barbeque sauce, and I get to witness the wonder of my granddaughter catching a bream, and to see a sparrow take a bath in the sand.  All that and a good woman who loves me.  So I suppose I shouldn’t be angry with those old men. 
     After all, we don’t live in the same town anymore.

        “This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

             -- Psalms 118:24

-- Michael Johnson                      


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