Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop" - No. 1

In a hotel room, staring at the ceiling. It's late at night and I'm tired after being in the saddle of that 4-Runner all day. Called my partner, agent and better two-thirds, 'Becca Jan…we did our telephone 'kiss goodnight' thing that makes me feel kinda' silly and loved at the same time.

Staring at the ceiling thinking about how sometimes I get lonesome this time of evening when I'm on the road, but not tonight. Tonight, I'm not lonesome…I'm happy 'cause I'm thinking about why I always wanted to be a cowboy. Just like every other kid, always wanted to be a cowboy. I'm glad I always wanted that and glad I still am one. Especially tonight. Matter of fact, I feel…sharp. I have been sharpened today.

It all started yesterday morning. I went to get my hair-cut at Changes. That's the name of the place I go. Best looking, hair-cuttin'est women in Texas. Connie, Regina, Andrea, Penny, Liz, Michelle and Becky, the one that cuts my hair. Becky was excited when I walked in.

"Oh, Michael Lynn," she squeals. (Southern women always call you by both names when they are in a really good mood or when they're mad at you. I could tell she wasn't mad.) "Have I got a story for you," she says excitedly.

I just love Becky. She's a good momma, loves her kids and her husband and when I started writing years ago, she always encouraged me. She would say, "Get up and get out there, share what's in your heart. That's what people need. Go help them." Every time I walked out of there in those early days, I felt better. When people encourage us, that's when we do better. Shame more psychiatrists don't know what hairdressers know.

And she spun me a story. A story about heartbreak and tragedy and how just when it seems we can't go on, something happens. Something or somebody comes along and helps us. Not sure exactly what it is, but whatever it is…it's something big.

January 20th, 2000: Afternoon…Dekalb, Texas

Casey had just finished riding his two-year old colt. Unsaddling the pony in the barn, he noticed the shaggy mane and decided the colt needed a clipping. As he bent over to hobble the skiddish young pony, something happened. For a long time, he couldn't remember. He was sure the colt hadn't bucked him off, but something was wrong now. Something was very wrong. Blood was everywhere.

January 20, 2000: Late evening…Little Rock, AR

Tim Endsley, Little Rock calf-roper, relaxes at his computer while browsing the internet. Suddenly, a shocking story catches his eye. A sixteen year-old in Dekalb, Texas was working his horse late in the day. When the youngster bent over to hobble his pony, the colt cow-kicked him in the face. The blow was devastating. The hoof slammed into the eye-socket, crushing and tearing both bone and flesh, and destroying what only the Maker of all things can create…a human eye.

Tim sat back from the computer screen and remembered. He remembered sitting on a fence long ago, watching the rodeo. A horse had come running by…the little piece of stone had flown from the horse's hoof and hit him in just the wrong place and in that moment, Tim's eye was lost as well.

He sat there remembering how dark his world had become after the injury.
How he thought he would never rope again and how others had come just when they were needed. Others who encouraged him in the worst of times. "Get up, Tim. Get well, and rope again. Get up…we all get bucked off in life, some harder than others. Get up, get well and get back out there." And Tim did. He still ropes. Tim sat there remembering…and he knew just what Casey needed.

His hand reached for the phone.

January 22, 2000: Afternoon: Childress, Texas.

On a cold and windy Texas afternoon, a living legend loped his horse in the arena, making perfect figure 8's in the sand. He was grateful to be doing what he loved. Grateful for the small amount of time to himself. "This horse is coming along," he thought. "Time to get this saddle off though, and get back to the office." Legends don't have much time to themselves.

As he headed to the barn, his mind poured over the endless tasks that all insisted on being done right now. He wished he could spend more time with the horse and he sensed the horse felt the same way, but smiling to himself, he said, "I'm not gripin' Lord. I wanted every bit of it."

But he couldn't help thinking about how there were so many things to do…endorsements, arrangements with sponsors, rodeos, letters to write and even though he really enjoyed his position as promotional director of Remington Park Racing, a number of pressing items in that area demanded his immediate attention as well.

But with all those things to do, with all those priorities clamoring for the number one position on his 'to do' list, Roy Cooper put first things first.
That's what true champions do. His hand reached into his jeans for the crumpled scrap of paper and withdrew the number his friend Tim Endsley had given him.

January 22, 2000: Late afternoon, University of Arkansas Medical Center

Rick and Deanna Harrison sit in the room with Casey, sick at heart. Every parent knows the feeling. When your baby is hurt, no matter how old your baby may be, the anguish is almost unbearable. The doctor's say they have rarely seen such trauma to the eye and surrounding structure without the injury being fatal. Rick, who travels and sells vet supplies and Deanna, who manages the household and farm, both try to be grateful for the fact that Casey lies sleeping in the bed beside them.

"Casey?" says Deanna softly. "Casey, wake up, Dear…there is a phone call for you."
Still dazed from heavy medication, Casey reaches for the phone. "Hello?"
And from far across Texas to a Little Rock hospital, the thing called hope comes through the phone.

"Casey? Roy Cooper here, son. I heard about your injury. Just called to tell you I'm pulling for you. Sending you my book to read while you're on the mend. I know you'll do what the doctor's say and when you get well,
you need to get back up and get back out there…hear me, son?"
"Yessir, Mr. Cooper, I hear you," says a head full of bandages smiling.
"I have several friends who had a similar injury and they came back. You will too. You need your rest and I'm going to let you get back to it. You hang on and the book is on the way…I signed it for you."
Casey hangs up the phone. Deanna will say later, "It was the first time since the accident, that I saw him smile."

When people encourage us, we do better. Shame more psychiatrists don't know what hairdressers and world-champion ropers know.

May 2nd, 2000: 1 P.M. Harrison farm house: Dekalb, Texas

Deanna comes out to meet me. A pretty woman, with her hand extended in welcome like farm and horse people do. "Come in," she says, "Casey will be here in a little while."

We make small talk for a time and Casey comes in. I'm surprised…he's bigger than I expected and the picture of health. Broad-shouldered and copper-colored hair…the kind my Daddy always loved on a kid. He looks me square in the eye, and with a big grin says, "Hi! I'm Casey Harrison."
To my astonishment, both eyes move!

"You noticed, didn't you?" Casey laughs. "Now the doctor's fix it so the prosthetic eye moves in unison with the other one. They attach blood vessels and muscle tissue to an orb placed in the eye socket and as healing occurs, eventually, both eyes work together," says the 16 year-old, sounding just like an opthamologist.

We talk for a while at the kitchen table in the farmhouse. Deanna has fixed coffee. While Casey is very respectful and patient, I can tell he would rather be outside roping.

"I don't know how people get through something like this without faith," says his Momma, staring down into the black liquid.

"Do you?" she asks, looking up at me.

"No," I reply. "No, I don't know how anyone could get through this without faith."

"In a strange way," she says thoughtfully, "this entire thing has strengthened mine. People have been so wonderful."

We say our good-byes and as I'm driving away, Casey's in the yard with his rope, throwing his loop at the dummy. "Come back some time and rope with me," he yells, copper hair shining in the sun.

"I will, Casey," I yell back. "I will."

Laying in a hotel bed, staring at the ceiling…tired after being in the saddle of that 4-runner all day, but sleep won't come. Something's scratching at my mind. I turn over and pull the Gideon from the drawer. It's always in there. I flip through the pages. Where is it? Ahh…there it is.

Proverbs 27:17…As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another man.

That's what I was looking for…that explains the whole thing. Why I was feeling sharpened, I mean. Sharpened because of a Little Rock calf-roper named Tim Endsley who called a living legend. Sharper because this living legend named Roy Cooper, eight-time world champion calf roper, with a million things to do, sets them all aside and calls a kid in a hospital first. "Get up, son. Get well and get back out there. I'm pulling for you."

Sharper because a kid with a devastating injury on January 20, backs his pony into the box on April 1st and just smooth sticks it on one. With a little help from his friends, Casey got up and got back out there.

I turn over with sleep coming fast. Last thing I think…

"Man, I'm glad I'm a cowboy."

Look for Michael's latest release, Cowboys and Angels, named "Best Non-Fiction Book of 2002" by the Oklahoma Writer's Federation at fine bookstores.

Michael heading for the great Sonny Gould

Michael & Blue

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