Category Archives: Michael Johnson

The Man Who Spoke. By Michael Johnson.


The connections that shaped my life come into sharp focus now. I’m standing on the stage of Ferguson Auditorium here at the university. A grand old dame built in 1926 and she is still so beautiful to me. The room is empty now. Just me and 1,000 seats out there in the dark with a memory sitting in every one. I’ve performed on this stage a number of times, (but never enough) and each time there was a reverence in me. I always wanted to take my shoes off. Because to me when I was on this stage I was standing on hallowed ground. So grateful now for each and every time I’ve been in this room, but never more so than the first time. I wasn’t on the stage then. I was at the back. Standing back there in the dark at 18 years old like so many at that age, lost and confused. Consumed with grief at the time due to the untimely death of my father, a number of false starts in college, and with no clue where to turn, I heard the man speak…and I was never the same.
A handsome African-American man stood on the stage about to address the hundreds of teachers seated in the audience. They were high-school and college level faculty attending the educational conference being held at the university that day. My mentor made me go listen to him. I didn’t want to, but I did as I was told. And the man spoke…
“I was a thug,” he said. Those were his first words. “I was raised in difficult circumstances, but so were others around me. They were good people. I was not.” He paused. “At 16, I had already been in trouble a number of times. I took some sort of twisted pride in that.” Standing at the back, I’m thinking, “What is this guy doing up on that stage talking to these teachers if he was like me?”
He continued, “One day an old English teacher… that I hated,” he added, “assigned what she called a ‘free style theme.’ She said we could write the paper on anything we wanted. I decided to hand it in…one of the few times I did that,” he smiled. “I decided to write this paper on my ‘career goals.’ I wrote about the guns I would have and what I would do with them. About all the people I would hurt who had hurt me. About the cars and women I would have and all the things I had planned to do. There wasn’t much ‘light’ in my paper,” he said. “It was very dark.” He paused again.
“It was a vulgar and profane document. I wrote it to shock this old woman and offend her sensibilities, and I handed it in with a spiteful glee.”
He continued on, “In a few days she had all the papers graded, and she called me to the front of the room. As I made my way to her desk the students began to snicker and laugh, pointing at me saying, ‘…in trouble again, in trouble again.’ I was humiliated and embarrassed. Once I reached her desk, I turned to face my classmates and I saw that look. The only look on the faces of others I always saw…ridicule. I turned to the old woman and said, ‘Why are you doing this to me? Just giving me an F would have been enough. Why are you doing this to me?’ ”
The old woman looked at the class and said, “Cast your eyes on him. You won’t see his kind often in life.” And she handed him his paper. Slashed across the front, reaching from top to bottom was a huge scarlet red “A”. The woman said, “I got you up here to show them someone who could write!”
And the young man took his paper and stared at what he said was, “a letter I had never seen associated with my name in my life.” The woman continued, “I don’t like you. I don’t condone your lifestyle, but my God, you can write! Don’t you dare waste that gift! You can earn your daily bread with that gift. You can help people with that gift. Don’t you dare waste that gift!”
“I took my paper home,” he said, “and that night I put it under my pillow, and I said a prayer. ‘Lord, if you will let that “A” still be on my paper in the morning…I will do the rest.’ ”
It was and he did the rest.
The man went on to describe how he and the teacher became close. He graduated from high school, received his bachelor’s degree, his masters, and Ph.D. He told how he spent the next forty years of his life helping teachers and students learn to write better.
And then he said this…
“You hear my words, brothers and sisters.
If I can do it, so can you. Be not afraid.
I wish you well.” And he walked off stage right.
I haven’t been the same since.

Michael Johnson

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

For anyone who has lost a dog…

Our good friend, Michael Johnson, just lost his dog two days ago.  (He had sent the books for the donation for Eddy last week.   We had no idea that Michael’s 14 year-old best companion would leave him this week.)

I received this note titled, “What Love Is.” to illuminate Rowdy’s passing:


Throwing My Loop…
Michael Johnson


He came into my life just when I needed him most. I was living alone then and welcomed the company. Just weaned and best described a ball of fuzz, the little blue Merle seemed just as happy to be with me as I was with him. Like two new friends do when they are both young, we played constantly and had the best of times. On occasion, however, my new friend would tire of our games and hide. Needing a break from me, he would disappear. I would search the house to no avail. Finally I found him hiding way back in the countless stacks of my books that were piling up in my house in those days, and I remember thinking, “Well, if my books don’t sell, at least my dog will have a really nice place to hide.” Fourteen years ago now. There is no way the previous sentence can be true. Can’t be fourteen years.
Somewhere in those early days, I saw a trainer on television using small pieces of hot dog weiners as rewards for his dog. I thought that was the coolest thing. (I had no idea training a dog would be so easy.) So as soon as possible, Rowdy and I were the proud owners of his own personal package of weinies. Next thing you know, we are heading down the road to a roping – with the Row Cow in my lap eating the entire package. Like most bad decisions in life, it seemed such a good idea at the time. (To say Rowdy got sick is one of the funniest understatements of my life.) Hey, no one told me you can’t feed an entire package of weinies to a puppy. Trust me when I tell you our vet, Dr. Kyle Pratt explained that little piece of knowledge in a way that I could really understand the complete stupidity of such an act. Dr. Pratt kept him for three days. Every time I called him to see if the pup was going to make it, he would say, “Like I told you before, Rowdy will tell us. We don’t know yet.” Two days later I’m driving home from Atlanta, Georgia to Oklahoma when my cell rings. Dr. Pratt says, “I know you are driving 80 to get here. Just slow down.”
“The pup didn’t make it?” I asked.
“The pup made it,” he says. “I’m going to keep him one more day, so slow down.”
“Any other advice when he comes home?” I said.
“Yes,” he says. “Try to keep him away from his owner. He’s an idiot. And don’t ever give Rowdy another weinie!”

And Rowdy grew to be a fine cow dog. Fearless, he went after cattle with wild and reckless abandon. If he got kicked by some big bull, while flying through the air
you could see him moving his body fighting to get back to that bull and mix it up some more. Skilled trainers say their dogs can recognize eleven commands. Rowdy had one down pat… “Get him!” The other ten not so good. I decided at least one of us should learn some manners. We signed up for a stock dog clinic in Amarillo conducted by the master, Oren Barnes.
There were twelve participants in the class. Six women and their dogs, and five guys with theirs. These 11 dogs – and their companions – had won a number of competitions, and these dogs were so smart they could do algebra. And then there was me and Rowdy…who did not know one thing about math or training a dog. Nothing. No problemo. Not knowing how to do something never stopped Rowdy and Miguel from doing anything. But there was one thing. Even though we lacked any skill at this herding dog business whatsoever, Rowdy had a black wild rag around his neck tied just so…and so did I. We looked great! We both thought that was important because we just assumed you have to look good to work cows good. Clinic starts and well, things pretty much went down hill from there.
Mr. Barns began the day with a fascinating lecture about the history of working dogs.
Then he says, “Today, we will begin with a young dog who is aggressive, and hasn’t had much training.”
I’m thinking, “Man, how cool is that? I have a dog just like that. Rowdy and I can learn all kinds of things.”
Then Mr. Barnes says, “Okay, Michael bring Rowdy in.”
I almost fainted.
There were 12 Barbados sheep huddled together in the center of the large round pen where Mr. Barnes was standing. Feeling like a parent at a recital, I walked in with Rowdy. He immediately bolts breaking free from his collar. With one soaring leap, Rowdy lands in the center of the huddled masses and sheep butts go everywhere. Rowdy has them on the run now. After free-wheeling around the pen for several minutes, Rowdy comes over and sits down right in front of me and says, “Pretty good for my first time, huh, Pop?” I wanted to die.
With the kindness of angels, Mr. Barnes took control and soon all was well. The day proved to be one of the best in my life and in Rowdy’s, too. At the end of that day – only because everyone else was so much better than us – Rowdy and I were named “Most Improved Team,” and presented with a 50 pound sack of dog food. One of my most cherished awards I’ve ever been given…until Rowdy ate it all in the next few days.
And the days went by and they gathered speed. Rowdy and me flying down the road headed to too many ropings to remember. I wish I had written them all down. Well, not all of them – just the ones when I won something.

That way I could sit on the porch and read them now, and by using that process, become in my own memory a much better cowboy than I ever was in real life.
He went everywhere with me. I would tie him to the trailer at ropings so he could sit outside, and ask some child sitting in a lawn chair – by the arena fence watching her mother and dad rope – to keep an eye on Rowdy for me. They were only too happy to oblige. Once after about two hours into the roping, I rode over and asked a little girl,
“How is Rowdy doing?” She stood up and after smoothing her dress, said in her best “third grade class presentation” voice, “I’ve been checking on him frequently, and I’m happy to tell you that Rowdy is doing very, very well-ly.”
And the days went by and they gathered speed. And now? Now I come to the place where I break my vow. When I began some 20 plus years ago, I was saddened by the unhappiness in the world. I decided that when I would write, the words would be uplifting for people. I would not write about the negative things in life, but rather stories of hope about people, and horses, and dogs who helped me in my life.
And now I break my vow. Now…


Nino Que Amo
(Child that I Love)

Dec. 1, 2005 – Dec. 8, 2019

“To see the light, we must endure the burning.”
— Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Michael Johnson

Big Eddy is a gorgeous, huge blue roan who was gathered by the BLM in his elder years – and deemed worthless due to his age. Well, he isn’t worthless. He survived all these years in the wild. Eddy is the epitome of strength and knowledge. Let’s give him a new freedom… let’s allow him to learn the ways of his new world so he can be adopted into a wonderful, forever home! Thank you so much!

DID YOU SEE OUR DECEMBER BUCKET FUND STORY?  If you missed it, click here to read about our beautiful, elder gentleman Eddy.

All donations are 100% tax deductible.  No donation too small, it all adds up!

Click here to donate!  THANK YOU!

Our good friend, Michael Johnson, has sent to me 25 hardback books of “Susie, The Whispering Horse” to sell to benefit our December Bucket Fund Horse, Big Eddy!

100% of sales of these 25 books will go to Big Eddy!  Each book is $25, which includes shipping in US).

Click here and I’ll send you a book today!  Thank you for helping Eddy!!  And thank you for fostering the love of the horse in your special little humans.

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!