Michael Johnson sent this article to me today and I thought it was perfect. So many of us need to hear encouragement, not matter what we are doing. Whether it is training a horse or just trying to get through your work day. This will help. I promise. Thank you, Michael.
Throwing My Loop…
By: Michael Johnson
THE MASTER’S HAND
’Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his while to waste much time on the old violin. But he held it up with a smile.
“What am I bidden, good folk?” he cried. “Who’ll start the bidding for me?”
“A dollar – a dollar – then two, only two – going for three…but no?”
From the room far back, a gray-haired man came forward and picked up the bow. Then, wiping the dust from the old violin, and tightening the loosened strings, He played a melody pure and sweet as a caroling angel sings.
A man told me a story once – a story about a horse. About a scarred, frightened, skinny bag of bones that wasn’t worth much to anyone. His head was down, his spirit had been crushed, and the cowboy who rode him complained of “horses not having any heart these days.” Everyone knew the mustang was bound for the kill-truck because as we all know…“some of them have it and some of them don’t,” right? Everyone knew that about the scarred and ravaged pony. Except the man who told me the story.
As he spun his tale, I marveled at his deep knowledge and skill with the creature called the horse. He didn’t boast about his prowess, but rather in a clear and matter of fact fashion, shared his awareness of how he reached the heart and mind of an animal who had no value to any living soul…except to the man telling me the story.
First, he attended to the horse’s basic needs. He fed and groomed him and did all things necessary to restore health and vigor. Then with no spurs, he rode the horse – being careful to give him time to respond. To not only teach the horse, but for the man to learn how this horse best responded to certain cues. He looked for the animal’s particular talents, strengths, and abilities and let those come by encouragement. The skinny, worthless, bag of bones became the best cow-horse on his 1,000-acre Minnesota farm.
And I thought, “Well, that’s a miracle. What a horseman he must be to create such a change in a living thing that had no value.” I thought that poignant and touching tale was a unique and singular event…but I was wrong about that. I didn’t hear the tune then.
Later, I was in the presence of another man who did the same thing. This time, I was present as the miracle unfolded, a part of it all, and this time the miracle came in Georgia. While the bay was a pleasure to look at, his attitude and temperament were frightening. His teeth were bared in savage rage as he pawed and kicked trying his best to kill his current owner who struggled to hold his halter rope – the two-legged devil the horse hated with every fiber of his being. And my friend said, “What’s wrong?”
The owner said, “I’ll tell you what’s wrong. This fool needs a good killing. He needs his head cut off!”
And my friend said, “Well, what would you take for a crazy fool like him?” And the bargain was struck. Later as we inspected the horse’s mouth, we found four separate scars therein where the previous owner had progressively used more severe bits…all to no avail. The horse was still a runaway, would not go in the coliseum, much less the arena, and you could certainly forget about the roping box.
Some time later, my friend rode the gorgeous bay into the coliseum, into the arena, and into the head box, where he proceeded to win third in the Open Roping – which means you tee it up with the best there. All the while with nothing on the horse’s head but a hackamore. No bit in his mouth at all.
I thought, “Well, that’s a miracle. What a horseman he must be to create such a change in a savage beast that all who knew him before claimed the horse ‘needed a good killing.’ ” And again, I didn’t hear the melody.
Then there was Norman. The ranch hands at the stable in Ft. Worth didn’t call him “Norman.” They came to call him “Crazy.” Norman decided that since the world had treated him in a certain way, he wanted nothing else to do with Man…and forbid anyone to come into his stall. At seventeen hands high, when Norman said, “Don’t come in,” he meant it, and everybody listened. No one came in Norman’s stall.
The hands threw hay over the top, slipped water to him through the fence, cautiously poured grain in his bin from outside, and everyone avoided the dreaded and crazy Norman, and the days and weeks passed and Norman’s feet grew to ghoulish curly lengths…because no one could get close to Norman.
Two cowboys were hired to move the massive beast. After both roped Norman from horseback, they drug the giant bay outside. Norman righted himself and proceeded to whip the living fool out of both cowboys and their two horses, and walked back into his stall. The hands shut the stall door, and Norman stood for days with both ropes around his neck. Everyone knew Norman must be killed. Everyone except Parker George.
The renowned roping horse trainer, Parker George, owner of the great Skippus Seeker, was asked to see if he could do something with Norman. He traveled to the facility, and approached Norman’s stall. The big bay ran at him as he did at all others. Parker George found a chair, and on the first day sat outside the horse’s stall for two hours just watching Norman. And he watched him the second day, and the third. “Don’t come near me,” said Norman. “You are like all the rest.” Parker said nothing.
On the fourth day, Parker saw something. He realized that Norman had one friend in the world…a chicken who lived in the stable with the horses. There were other chickens and other horses, and Norman hated them all in equal portions. Except for one chicken – the one Norman allowed to sit on his back. Parker bought some chicken feed and his first order of business was to make friends with Norman’s buddy. Apparently, the chicken told Norman that Parker was “okay,” and there came a day when Norman allowed Parker to enter his stall. Later, he would let Parker rub him, and still later, put a halter on Norman for the first time in years.
I had the privilege of meeting Norman the other day at Parker George’s superb equine training facility in Josuha, Texas just southwest of Ft. Worth. Parker introduced us, and Norman smelled the back of my hand – and this time I heard the sweet refrains of the same old tune. I couldn’t hear it in Minnesota, nor in Georgia, but I definitely heard it in Ft. Worth. The song was clear in my spirit as I watched the tough and experienced Parker George rub Norman gently. The big bay arched his neck in appreciation of the master’s hand. In that moment, the notes were clear – and something important flew down and sat on my shoulder. “See?” it whispered to me. “Can you see?”
And I heard an old sweet song.
Not to take a thing away from Michael Cotter, Bronc Fanning, or Parker George, but they are all playing the same song. The song of patience, of encouragement, of understanding, of high expectations…and of love. And horses and even working stock dogs know the tune. Problem is most humans don’t. But some do, and thank God for them.
Because aren’t Thunder, the Bay Bomber, and Norman just like all of us? Haven’t we all felt cast away and felt our spirit wilt and shrink because someone tossed us aside? Some teacher or boss said, “You’re worthless,” and we hung our head in shame. Those days are dark. But on some wonderful days, someone else comes along and says, “No. You are something more.” They look for our particular talents and strengths, and let those come through encouragement. Because of them – those who gave us hope – we struggled to our feet, and after a few stumbling steps, begin to walk and even dance again. Those are the ones who work miracles for us.
And here’s another miracle. I knew a man who had a horse like Thunder, like the Bay Bomber, and like Norman. The man couldn’t reach his horse either, but because of the horsemen and horsewomen who came into his life, he did. The horse is called Shine…and the man was me.
I can’t play the tune as well as them. My hands don’t move as fast, most days I’m not sure of the next chord, and I can’t hit the same notes they do, but I’m working on it, brothers and sisters. I’m working on it.
The music ceased, and the auctioneer with a voice that was quiet and low said, “NOW what am I bid for the old violin?” And he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand dollars – and who’ll make it two? Two thousand – and who will make it three? Three thousand once – three thousand twice – going, going, and gone!” said he.
The people cheered but some of them cried, “What changed it’s worth? We do not understand.”
Quick came the reply… “The touch of the Master’s hand.”
–Poem by Myra Brooks