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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

He-Wolf of a Hand

Sometimes a story you tell on yourself will embarrass you, you have to ask yourself “was I really this dumb”.  Of course the answer is, yes…I was really that dumb…or was I ten feet tall and bulletproof?

Many years ago, I worked on the LS Ranch.  This was right after I was out of college and I was a legend in my own mind.  Probably the greatest hand with a horse the world had ever seen.  There wasn’t one that could buck hard enough or run fast enough to get away from me!  I was a regular holy terror!  A wolf of the world (to borrow a line from a Chris Ledoux song)!  There wasn’t anything anybody could tell me that I didn’t already know about horses!  Looking back now…I was a train wreck waiting to happen!

At the time I worked on the LS, it was “only” about 12,000 acres.  Considerably smaller than it was back in its heyday, when it covered a large portion Texas Panhandle.  But it was plenty big enough to put some miles on a colt.  And I took full advantage of that.  When I wasn’t caught up in the everyday cowboy requirements, I rode colts all over that place.  I could not believe they were paying me to do this kind of work, a whoppin’ $700 a month too!  A small fortune for me back then!  I really only had one time that I regretted my career choice….

We brought in about 15 head of weanling to yearling colts once.  The boss wanted to brand them and halter break them before we turned them back out for a year or so.  This was right up my alley, I knew all there was to know about horses!  Of course the halter breaking tended to only be a catch ‘em, put a halter with a long lead on ‘em and let ‘em drag that around for a little while type of breaking.

We ran them into a chute and while I mashed them tight against the fence with a gate, the boss branded ‘em.  It was a pretty fast operation and as soon as they were branded we turned them into a big corral.  The boss then proceeded to give me instructions on how to halter break colts, I nodded and agreed that his idea would be best way to do this.  His final instructions to me were to “not get too close to those back feet, those little hooves could hurt if they caught you with them”.

Did he not get the memo that I was a regular he-wolf of a hand with horses?

I had listened politely to that old codger, after all my folks had raised me to be respectful of my elders, but once he left I had every intention to do it my way.  After all, he was a cowhand…I was a horseman.  In my mind, far and away…my ideas would work the best.

I was a regular he-wolf of a hand with horses!

I ran the first colt into the round pen, he made a couple laps and I got him roped.  I snubbed him up to a post and put the halter/lead combo on him, then turned him loose.  This was going to be easy!

I was a regular he-wolf of a hand with horses!

The next two went pretty easy, I followed the same process.  Things were moving along…but this was too easy.  I was starting to get bored.  So on the 4th one, I thought I would try to put my hands on him.

I was a regular he-wolf of a hand with horses!

That 4th one was a big brown yearling colt.  He ran a couple of laps around the pen, but really seemed to calm down fast.  I slowly walked up to him and he wheeled his hind in toward me and took off.  I quickly stepped back and let him run a couple more laps around the pen.  I could play this game all day!

I was a regular he-wolf of a hand with horses!

Once he calmed down again, I slowly walked up to him and he turned his head slightly away.  Cool, I was going to be able to do this without roping him!  This was simple and I was treading new ground as far as how colts were started on the LS Ranch.

I was a regular he-wolf of a hand with horses!

As I laid my hand on his hip….somebody shot me!  I’m really not sure where the bullet came from, but the next thing I knew I was laying on the ground about twenty feet away from that colt.  My stomach was on fire and I couldn’t feel my legs.  My head was spinning and my ears were ringing (that’s the reason I knew it must have been a shot…it was echoing in my ears).  I knew I must have been lung shot too, because I could not catch my breath.  I thought the injury might be bad enough to kill me.  So I first felt my stomach, sure that I would find a hole and lots of blood.  I cannot tell you how relieved I was that there was no blood.

About that time, my senses returned a little.  I still couldn’t feel my legs, couldn’t catch my breath and my ears were still ringing…but I was alive.  I started to realize that this big brown devil had kicked me!  NOT only kicked me, but had done it so fast that I didn’t know what had happened!  As the shock wore off, I realized he had kicked me in the belly.  That’s why I couldn’t breathe!  As far as not being able to feel my legs, I figure he must have hit my spine by kicking through my belly.  I hoped that I wasn’t could I continue on this path of being the greatest horseman the world ever knew?

I was a regular he-wolf of a hand with horses?

All of this had happened in just a few seconds, but my mind must have been working in low gear, because all of the thought process seemed to take hours.  If anyone had seen me, what they would have seen was a crumpled up pile of cowboy lying in the ground, sucking dirt and dust in big ol’ gulps and moaning.  I was hoping the boss would not come back anytime soon, I don’t know if I could have handled that “I told you so” look that he was forever giving when I did something different than he told me.  Eventually I got my air back and the feeling came back to my legs….even the ringing in my ears finally went away.  (Will someone get that phone?)  I stood up and remembered I had eleven more colts to do, so I staggered to the chute.  Out of respect to the boss, I figured this was as good a time as any to try out his way.  I proceeded to do the last eleven in no time flat, even with that ringing (will someone please answer that phone?).

This is what I learned; even though I meant no harm to that colt…my approach scared him to death.  His reaction was only natural when my approach overloaded and scared him.  I approached him out of my own ego, thinking I was the he-wolf of the world!  I could force him to respond to me by roping him, but didn’t I just create something else for him to be scared of?  Or I could have done, as the old cowboy suggested, and used the chute.  Thus guiding him gently down the path I wanted him to go.

Aren’t we just a little like that when we share Christ with people?  We want to rope ‘em around the neck and snub them up tight to our Bible subbin’ posts.  Or we want to force ourselves in their lives, laying our “hands” on them, but still forcing ourselves on them.  For most, this causes resentment and they end up kicking us in the belly (ok, maybe not literally kicking us the belly…but you get  the idea).  Don’t get me wrong, we should be passionate about Christ.  But we cannot force someone to come into a relationship with Christ.  All we can do is love on ‘em, present the Gospel and love on ‘em some more (guide them gently down that chute)!  We have to trust that God’s gonna do His thing in His own time!

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

Isaih 42:16

PS:  I can still hear that ringing, will someone please answer that phone?  It’s been ringing for a while!

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