Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  



     Always fascinated me – that story about the lost sheep. Remember now, I’m not a religious nut.  I’m not even very high up…after all, Sherry and I are just Methodists.
     But the other day, the story came home.  I loved that story when I was young – and it confused me.  I remember at age ten or eleven asking my mother about it.  “I don’t understand this,” I said.  “Would daddy and all the men leave the herd to find the one?”
     “It’s a story about God’s love for us,” she said.  “He loves us as much as all the rest - and yes, your daddy and uncles would look for the one until they found it.  We’re all like that.  That’s in all of us.”
     Sherry was gone to see the grandkids in Colorado.  Rowdy and I were batchin’ and cooking, and after feeding the roping steers, we relaxed on the porch before dinner.  Twenty minutes later, the steers were lying peacefully, horses munching grass…and a biological miracle occurred. One of the steers came up off the ground with a baby calf by her side.  (My friend, Kenneth Colson, says, “Michael never knows if he has a bull, steer, or a heifer…he just ropes them.”)  Well, all that was just wonderful. Everybody was so interested in the new baby – particularly the horses.  We shooed them away, and watched the momma take her baby to a safe place.  That was the last time I saw him for six days. I began to torment myself.
     No one suffers from the “Lost Sheep Syndrome” more than me.  I began to beat myself up unmercifully.  “You idiot!  Any fool would have known to put that momma and baby in the arena for a few days.  What if she doesn’t take him – doesn’t let him nurse?  You could have saved him because surely he is dead.” Couldn’t sleep.  Couldn’t eat.  Sick.  On day three, Rowdy and I began to look for him.  The Rowdy Cow Dog and I scoured every inch of our fifty acres with a fine-toothed comb.  No baby.  The mother ate with the herd every day.  Never saw the baby.  Day four.  Day five.  On day six, I’m too sick and heartbroken to do anything.
     “Rowdy?  Let’s go.  We are going to find that calf.”  Four hours later, no baby, no body, and no buzzards.  Made no sense whatsoever.  I drove the four-wheeler close to the herd.  I did something I had seen my daddy and uncles do. I made a bleating sound like a baby calf calling for his mother.  She looked at me and suddenly, she shot to the east on a dead run.  Rowdy and I were right behind her.  She went into the far pasture and stood by the fence.  My heart sank.  I knew the baby had somehow managed to get under that fence.  Now he was on the other side; poor thing probably starved to death because I hadn’t found him sooner.  Rowdy and I got over and through the fence to look for his body in the tall grass.  I was heartbroken.  And not five feet from me, that baby stood up alive and well.  Have you ever drank a twelve ounce bottle of pure adrenalin?
     Joy shot through me so hard I almost fell.  Another jolt, then another – too intense to bear.  Pure joy.  And in that moment, I transformed into an old-time, tent revival preacher screaming, “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!”   Of course, the congregation couldn’t understand a word ‘cause I was crying so hard.  (Uh…crying like a…well, like a big, strong macho guy, of course. I mean, you know, not cryin’ like a wuss or something.)  Then it hit me…how in the world do you plan to get this baby through that fence to his momma?  No clue. What we needed around here was a real good cowboy.  Since I’ve never been accused of being one of those, we were in trouble.  Boy, was that not a problem.
     That momma went “Moo” really loud calling to her baby, and he went through that fence like a goat.  Didn’t even touch a strand of barbwire.  His mother smelled him and licked him, and Rowdy and I watched, as she let him have his dinner.  That old cow had hidden that baby like a magician doing close-up magic with a coin.  I turned to see the wood ducks land on the pond, and I thought, “My goodness, how could any one person be this lucky?”   Sherry came driving up at that moment.  We hugged.  When she noticed the tears on my face, she said, “What on earth is wrong?”
     I said, “There is no more joy in heaven than when the lost sheep is found,” and I pointed to the pasture.  When she saw him by his mother, she lost it.  We watched him ‘til it was too dark to see, and woke up the next morning still giggling like two teenagers.
     Naturally, we named him “Lazarus.”

-- Michael Johnson                      



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