When Hubby gifted me with a trip to Austin last Christmas, I had no intention of driving 4 hours (each way) up to east of Dallas to visit the Johnson Farm.
…Until I listened to the audio book of HEALING SHINE.
I listened to HEALING SHINE (and subsequently ordered other MIchael Johnson audio books) over and over during my commutes and I felt as if I knew him.
Truth to tell, we had exchanged a few emails – writer to blogger. So, we kinda knew each other – but not really.
As an aside, it has to be a huge oddity for audio book authors – who voice their own stories – to have all of these ‘groupies’ or hangers-on who think they know them… when they don’t. Clearly, although I had listened to the recordings often, I had never met the man. And here I was, emailing him and asking if I could visit as if I was an old friend…
So, when I emailed Michael Johnson and said that I would be in the area (kindof) and could I visit, I was totally surprised when he said YES!
Wowee! I was going to meet Shine and the Blue Man in person!
THE TRIP TO AUSTIN
Hubby and I had both been working around the clock so this was a much needed vacation. We wanted to spend time together, even if it was in a plane for 5 hours – getting to Texas – and then in a car for another 4 hours driving to Johnson Farms.
We had so much fun, talking and amusing ourselves as we rode from Austin to east of Dallas.
*For those of you who wonder why we didn’t stay in Austin… I will say that it was Cinco de Mayo and the town was FULL of college kids drinking too much. And, honestly, the townspeople reminded me of California types. I felt like I was in Berkeley or San Francisco mixed with Portland.
There was no Texas in Austin… so we left.
Anyway, we arose on our 2nd day in Austin to drive to Johnson Farms.
I think my first impression said it all… the gorgeous, human/equine living space barn was finished and the house was ‘still in the works’.
Ha! Perfect. That is how I would be…
I knew I would like them.
We drove up to this real cowboy ranch and I felt silly in our rented Prius (however, it did get good mileage for the long trip…).
As I emerged from our tiny, foo-foo car, I saw the cowboy.
Micheal Johnson looked the part with crystal blue, honest eyes under a broken-in but still handsome black dress cowboy hat and he sported a huge Championship belt buckle.
His jeans were pressed.
Hubby and I quickly kicked off our California flip flops and donned our socks and boots. Ahem.
We were in Texas now, finally.
Michael took us under his wing for so many hours, I have to believe that Southern Hospitality is akin to God’s grace. Amazing. We were so comfortable, entertained and happy, we forgot to leave.
The man brought us in, showed us his home (lovely with decking all around – yum!) and offered beverage and homemade chicken salad sandwiches to die for.
All the while, telling us stories…
It was the same voice as all the recordings I had been listening to for hours in my car. Michael is the same man you come to know in his audio books. His heart and soul are truly represented on those discs…
After about 3 hours of chit chat Michael said that the last thing his wife Sherry said before she left for work was, “Be sure to let them talk, Michael”.
We didn’t want to talk… it was more fun to listen.
MEETING THE BOYS
I always love to meet horses! However, I was a bit apprehensive to meet Shine because I knew he was standoffish and proud. Would he like me?
As it turned out, the boys were like a bunch of happy campers, trotting in to meet the visitors.
I was a bit overwhelmed because I am unfamiliar with Quarter Horse features and was desperately trying to figure out the differences between Shine and Blue Man – who looked identical to me.
Argh. I know my horses look totally different to me but others cannot tell them apart. Yikes! I was being just like those people who cannot tell my horses apart. Aghghhgh!
What I did notice was that all three of the horses, Shine, Blue and the baby Joe Ben (he’s 6), were perfectly groomed! Two white horses and one black – and not a speck on any of them. I don’t have white or black horses but I know how hard they are to keep clean! I can’t even keep white socks clean, let alone a whole horse!
Michael had worked hard and I appreciated that. The barn was spotless and so were his horses.
OBSERVING THE BOYS
Shine and Blue sniffed my mouth and accepted that I was an OK human. The baby, Joe Ben Black, wanted to come out and meet us or pick our pockets or sniff our hair or eat my eyebrows. Typical youngster…!
Michael told us that he had always wanted a black horse and that Joe Ben (pure black) came out of his favorite mare. Hurray! Joe Ben Black was named after Michael’s grandfather, ‘the best man he ever knew’.
I sat and watched the horse dynamic as Hubby and Micheal chatted leaning on the fences outside. Hubby was getting the hang of Texas already… ;)
Clearly, Shine was the Boss, Blue was second and the baby was last. Of course.
I loved watching them and putting what I already knew of them (from the books) against what I was watching. I couldn’t help but get their voices (Micheal’s voice that he uses for them in the stories) out of my mind as I observed them interact.
SHINE: Go Away, Blue!
Blue: But I wanna be here where you are and eat your hay with you – why are you so crabby?!
Joe: What about me, what about ME!!
I was in heaven, watching them amble about and live their daily lives together…
We ventured to the barn and I swooned. Really.
It was perfect.
Not so fancy that you felt uncomfortable to mess things up – but totally tricked-out for both humans and horses.
It was a working barn, for sure, but sooooooo cool. He had tall ceilings, four stalls for 3 horses (who used each others’ stalls or grouped up in one – typical), a brick laid floor (very pretty), a kitchen/bar/bbq area, a sitting area, a workshop and a circular staircase to the loft.
And the entrance to the barn was THE BEST. It was indoor/outdoor living. Huge wood posts held the very high pitched shade roof and under were huge wooden tables (that Michael made) with many chairs and tons of ‘get together and set a spell’ space. Truly delightful.
I wanted one just like it. I might steal an idea or two whenever I get to build my dream barn…
Hubby and I plopped down in some comfy chairs outside the barn under the pitched roof area and didn’t move for several hours. We talked and mused and watched nature amble by…
FYI: I’m not the only one who loves his barn… it is being used as the set for THE ADVICE BARN on RFD-TV.
THE NEXT BOOK
Michael gave me a hint of his next book. Some of it has to do with Blue teaching Joe Ben how to ride – or helping Joe Ben understand what Michael wants. (I’m paraphrasing a little teaser MIchael told me…)
Blue: What did you and Michael learn today?
JB: I’m not sure, he kept pushing me left then right then left…
Blue: OH, he wants you to zig-zag all the time. That’s right. You do that Joe Ben, you ZigZag all the time when he rides you. That’s what Micheal wants you to do, you do that…
I cannot wait!
DINNER AND HOME
We had been there so long, it was time for a second meal… The gracious and warm Sherry had arrived home from work by then and she took over entertaining me while Hubby and Michael went to the store with Rowdy dog.
Hubby couldn’t believe that MIchael left his truck running while they went into the market… we would never do that in California – the car would be gone sooner than we could blink and eye!
When the boys returned, we feasted on real Texas Barbeque! Hubby and I rarely eat meat but after that, we had BBQ for the duration of our Texas stay.
Back to the visit… With a few beers and some wine, the stories flowed from all of us. We were old friends before the evening ended.
Of course, Micheal and Sherry offered a bed to us – who just wouldn’t leave – but we finally did leave… full, happy and smiling.
Hubby and I would think back on this visit throughout our trip, musing and remembering pieces and bits here and there. Smiling.
HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!