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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What I Learned From Running Horses

When I was a kid, my Dad was a feedlot cowboy.  There are a lot of things about being a feedlot cowboy that, as a kid, I enjoyed.  Getting to cut school to go ride with Dad was pretty high on the list.  The downside, not so much for my Dad, but for others was the short employee life.  There is a joke about feedlot cowboys and Saint Peter:

One day Peter was at the golden gate, checking names in the book.  Making sure that everyone waiting in the line, was marked there.  Finally it was this old man’s turn, as he stepped up to that big ol’ desk…this cowboy came loping by.  He waived at Peter and just rode on through the gate.  Peter waived back and then turned back to the book, back to checking names.

Waiting in lines has an effect on people that generally isn’t too pleasant.  The ol’ man snapped, just a little.  He said, “Why does that cowboy get to just ride on by and all the rest of us have to wait in line?”

Peter looked up, surprised.  “Him, oh, he’s a feed lot cowboy”, then he looked down at the book again. 

The ol’ man was still a little miffed, “what has that got to do with anything?” 

Peter said, “Why stop him, he’s only going to be here 30 days anyway!”


Kind of a lame joke, but it’s a lot funnier if you’re a feedlot cowboy or a feedlot brat.


All that is a prelude to a story that has nothing to do with any of that! Just a chance for me to tell a lame joke!  Read on!

In one of the many feedlots my Dad worked for, in the Arkansas Valley, was a little one man show south of La Junta.  It had a grand total of about 4 employees, including the owner and my Dad.  The owners name was Bud, and he and my Dad got along real well.

Across the road from the feedlot, Bud had a pasture that was about a thousand acres.  It only had a little set of working pens up by the water tank and the outside fence.  And my Dad got the wild idea that since Bud didn’t have anything on that big ol’ place, then surely we could turn our horses out on it.  So he approached Bud with the idea and, lo and behold, he did not have a problem with that at all.  Although, he did say “you know it isn’t cross fenced, right?”

Let’s remember this little detail, “you know it’s not cross fenced”, because it never bothered Dad.  He loaded up all the horses (11-12 head at the time) that he wasn’t using in the feedlot, and hauled them over to turn them out on this big pasture.  I think he was pretty excited about all that free pasture.  What he didn’t plan on was how wild those horses would get.

Now my Dad was, and still is, a pretty sharp hand with horses.  He knew they would get a little wild, but his plan was us to feed them once a day…to keep them coming up to the workin’ pens.  This worked out pretty well at first.  We would go by and feed and those horses would be right there waiting for us.

But as time went on, life got in the way.  It was fall and the days were short, so we weren’t ridin’ much, my brother and I were playing football and we were a little lazy, just all kinds of distractions.  We missed feedin’ a day, which was ok.  They still had plenty of grass, they wouldn’t miss a day.  Over time, a day missed here and a day missed there turned into a week or two without checking on them. Eventually they quit coming up to the pens when we would blow that horn.  Yeah, we’d see them sometimes driving by on the way to school, so we know nothing was hurt and they were all still there.  We just sorta stopped feeding them.

Now Dad normally switched horses about every 90 days.  So one day, he took the three he had at the feed lot and drove over to switch out and get three others.  Luckily (well, he was pretty sharp with horses, maybe luck wasn’t involved), he did not turn the three he had loose.  He honked and honked and the horse herd was nowhere to be found!  Now my brother (Cully) and I did not understand why the horses were not coming up….I mean, after all, we had been feeding everyday (not)!

Once he figured out what had happened, he wasn’t about to wear out three horses chasing twelve over a thousand acres.  So we got the truck and started driving.  When those horses spotted us, they would take off runnin’!  We’d follow and as soon as they’d quit runnin’, Dad would stop chasin’!  He’d get out and try to walk up on them.  If they ran again, he’d get in the truck and chase them.  When they’d stop, he’d get out again.  We did this little exercise for most of the day, over some really rough country.  We weren't always right behind them, but we were generally close enough.  Eventually, this runnin’ off wasn’t so much fun and He was able to walk right up to them.  He caught the three he needed and fed the rest right there where they stopped runnin’.  He said it was a reward for them lettin’ themselves be caught.  It took about three days of drivin’ around that pasture before they started comin’ back to pens daily.

There are three lessons to be learned here. 
One:  if horses aren’t fed everyday (by two lazy boys), then they stop coming to the pens.  As Christians, if our church doesn’t feed us…then we stop coming to pens (church), too!   Read Malachi 2:1-7, God is whuppin’ on the priests for not honoring Him and causing others to stumble.  Our churches should be a place where we can fellowship and get fed by the Lord.

Two:  we are just like those horses as Christians.  As new Christians we are right there every day, waiting at the Bible (workin’ pens).  Looking to be fed!  But as the world wears us out, we come to those pens (church) less and less.  We end up on the back side of a great big pasture, and we can’t hear the Lord honkin’ for us to come up and be fed.  2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15 talk about being a new creation.  Any new calf, colt or puppy I’ve ever seen is hungry…just like a new Christian is hungry for the Word of God.  Luke 8:14 talks about what happens when we fall away…we don’t grow!

Three:  just like my Dad fed those horses where they stopped runnin’, he wanted them to remember that there was some relief in his presence.  God feeds us wherever we stop runnin’ from him and open His book, there’s relief in His presence!  Read Romans 5:1-8, it talks about how we run from Christ and what he offers….if we quit runnin’

I encourage you to look these verses up and read them.  You may get something totally different out of them than I did, but hey…you’ll be readin’ ‘em!