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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Jake, Wanda and the Weather

This is the story of Jake and Wanda, Jake and Wanda are not their real names.  I have changed the names to protect someone from being beaten severely about the head and shoulders.  I like Jake and would not want to see harm come to him.

Jake and Wanda had gone to college together and at some point had fallen in love.  It was in Jakes mind to ask Wanda to marry him, but fear and lack of a clear cut goal had caused him to hesitate.  So he just vacillated hoping that things would just work out.  As is the case most of the time, Jake was wrong.  But that is not what this story is about.

Jake had plans to continue his education after college as a cowboy and horse trainer.  He was already a pretty fair hand, and had grand plans to have his own place in less than five years.  He had not thought of what it might mean to bring Wanda into this plan that was in his mind.  Wanda came from a different world, one of stability and steady paying careers.  In retrospect, Jake was going to be asking a lot.  He was going to be asking her to join him in the low paying, sometimes no paying world of the start-up professional horse trainer.  Obviously Jake had not thought things through, but that’s not what this story is about either.  This story is about Wanda’s Daddy’s truck.

Wanda’s Daddy had given her his truck to drive to college after spring break, and oh how her Daddy loved that blue Chevy half ton truck.  Instructions were given that no one, and he meant NO ONE but she was to drive this truck.  Wanda was true to her commitment until the weekend she was going to bring Jake home to meet her parents.  It had hurt Jakes manly pride to be driven around and after considerable begging he managed to convince her to let him drive that blue truck.  I suppose the begging did not bother his pride as much as being driven around, I don’t know…sometimes the workings of Jakes mind were hard to fathom.

The plan was to leave early in the morning and head south toward her home, but nature threw a wrench into the plans.  When they arose that morning, there was about a foot of snow on the ground and most of the roads were iced over.  But Wanda was going home to see her Momma and Daddy and Jake could not convince her otherwise.  On the upside for him, she was a little fearful to drive on the ice.  So Jake got to drive!

They headed out, going south and Jake drove as appropriately as the ice would allow.  After they had been on the road for about an hour the sun had come up enough that the ice melted off of the black top.  Of course Jake put his foot into the carburetor and they skedaddle down the road.  They were making good time and Jake had the idea they would arrive well before the timeline established by her Daddy.  This, in his narrow mind, was a good thing.

The country was starting to get just a little bit hilly, so a person just didn’t know what the road looked like until you topped the next rise.  Wanda, since she was in love with Jake, was sitting beside Jake in the courting seat and Jake, since he was in love with Wanda, had his arm around her.  They were discussing their plans for the near and far future.  Jake was hammering on that blue truck and they were scooting right along and the next rise revealed a horrific site.  They topped over that rise and there was nothing but snow pack on the road as far as they could see.  Being the prolific driver that he was, Jake immediately got off the gas.  But they were still going much too fast and the truck started to fishtail.

Jake never moved his arm from around Wanda and started to work that steering wheel back and forth to keep the truck on the road.  And in true cowboy fashion, Jake never lost his cool or removed his arm from around Wanda.  If fact, he wasn’t really concerned even when the truck started spinning around.  He said, “as long as we were on the blacktop I knew we would just slide, I didn’t get scared until we went off the road and hit the dirt”. 

Wanda, on the other hand, seemed to have lost the ability to speak but one word.  As the truck started fishtailing and spinning around like a kid’s toy, she repeated it over and over “jus... jus… jus…jus… jus…jus…”  It seemed, to her, like they spun for hours before the truck stopped.  In true Daddy’s girl fashion, the first thing she thought of was her Daddy’s truck.  She just knew they had hit the fence and there were dents.  But the Lord seemed to be looking out for them that day, because not only did they live, but the truck had come to rest about one inch from a fence post.  Not a scratch one!

Needless to say, they slowed down.  But they hadn’t driven much further when Jake realized they had a tire going flat.  It seems all that spinning had broken the seal on the sidewall of the tire.  So, Jake went out in the slush and cold and started working on the tire.  At this point, Jake had lost his sense of humor or maybe it had warped a little.  At one point, due to the design of Chevy trucks, he was on his belly (in the slush and cold) removing the tire from underneath the truck.  It was at the point a helpful trucker stopped to see if he could offer a hand.  You wouldn’t think he would state the obvious, but his first words were “did you have a flat tire?”

Jake, being just a tad cranky and somewhat of a smart alec, said “no sir, I rotate my tires when they are due no matter where I’m at!”  Needless to say, the trucker laughed got back in his truck and drove off.  Seems he did not appreciate Jakes humor and figured this dumb cowboy could change the tire by himself.

Jake finished changing the tire and they drove to the next town and got it fixed.  Jake called the Highway Patrol and was told the road was icy all the way to Wanda’s.  So they made the executive decision to turn back around and go back to the college.

There are more stories about Jake and Wanda, but this one is my favorite.  As I said before, this is not their real names and I won’t tell who they are.  If you recognize them, I hope you don’t tell either.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Flying Cats and Ranch Security

It has been a looong while since I wrote anything.  So I thought I would write something and start this thing back up.

My Dad was a feedlot cowboy, which means we always had horses.  They were not push button, can only do one job horses.  They were the tools of his trade.  The same ones that us kids rodeo’d on, where they same ones he used in the feedlot.  We always had a couple of colts, or in some cases five or six year olds, that we were starting at the house.  After about 30 rides, Dad would then take them to the feedlot and ride them for 90 days.  Ninety days of pushing cattle around, dragging roped ones and opening gates made for some pretty broke ponies.  My brother and I were usually the ones that started these “colts”, me probably more than him.  I think that had something to do with my level of brains….

At one time we had this little T-Cross mare, she was pretty sharp looking…kinda that old timey quarter horse type: square, blocky and solid.  For whatever reason we never really started riding her, we would pull her up and mess around with her for a day or two and then turn her back out.  I suppose because she was ours and any customer horses took precedence over her.  After all they were paying.  We called her Misty and Misty didn’t really get started good until she was about six.  Now Misty wasn’t a  big wild bronc by any means.  In fact, once we started riding her, you had to pedal for all you were worth to keep her moving.  I always said that she wore me out faster than walkin’.  Except for one time…

I had ridden her about 15-20 times, so I thought she was really going well.  With a little work you could lope her all over the pasture and even come in for a somewhat bouncy, jilted stop.  I’m sure I was a shadowridin’ son-of-a-gun!  I thought I was a he-wolf of a hand and the world had better get ready.

We always had four or five dogs and about the same amount of barn cats, so at some point every evening there was a commotion.  The cats seemed to be a little smarter (gulp, am I going to say this?) than the dogs because they never let themselves be caught out in the open.  Except once….

I was ridin’ ol’ Misty up close to the barn, admirin’ my shadow and how good things looked.  Why, I had the world by the tail.  There wasn’t a better hand than me, most anywhere.  As I rode along I heard the usual ruckus raised when they had gotten a cat on the run.  I was working on stopping and backing so we weren’t moving much.  I kept noticing that the ruckus with the dogs kept getting closer.  I finally looked up and all five dogs had a big orange tom cat on the run.  Now Tom had let himself get caught out in the open and was runnin’ like his tail was on fire as fast as he could for high ground.  And since there were no trees in the pasture, I noticed to my horror that Tom was headed straight for Misty and me, with the dogs in joyous pursuit about five feet behind him.  At about eight feet Tom jumped into the air and flew toward us. 

At that point, Misty noticed the ruckus.  Her head flew around toward the commotion, but even she was too slow for the blazing orange streak that was now airborne.  Tom landed with all claws out, one front and one back leg hooked into my fine Navajo saddle blanket, while the other front and back leg were desperately clawing to get a grip in what now appears to have been tender horse flesh.  Add in the fact the dogs were still in hot pursuit barking and howling like a pack of wild beasts, this was now too much for Misty to handle.

To put it mildly, we left the country.  We left the country like Satan was riding one of the hounds of hell and was swinging a lariat trying to drop a loop on us to brand and ear tag us.  She ran faster that I had ever experienced with her before, I really had no idea she was that fast.  Of course my friend was still attached to the saddle blanket, as cats sometimes get attached to things when their claws are out.  Tom was probably looking somewhat like a kite on a short string, squalling like a banshee; wanting nothing more than to be loose from the whole situation.  Also added to the mix was the wolf pack that was now very excited to be chasing not only a cat, but also a horse.  They were probably grinning like crazy thinking, “can this day get any better?!?!  What a great and wondrous day!” 

As we got toward the end of the pasture, Tom finally loosed himself from the saddle blanket.  I’m sure he had somewhat of a spill, but his welfare had ceased to be at the top of my priority list. The good news was that this distracted the wolf pack somewhat.  They immediately lit into the cat, he of course had landed on all fours (how do cats do that?) and immediately skedaddled up an electric pole.  The dogs appeared somewhat disappointed, but were glad to take up the chase again with the horse and I.  Misty and I were working on our second lap around the pasture and as we passed them, they heard the siren call of a running horse. They leaped into action to help slow us down, jumping in front of Misty right before we got the electric pole.

Technically, they did their job.  She jammed on the brakes and I did a pretty fair impression of Superman and yard darted into the midst of the wolf pack, which seemed to create a large amount of excitement in itself.  Looking at it from the dogs’ point of view, their master had dismounted to play with his faithful and brave ranch security team.  They were wagging, slobbering and licking all over, just excited that I would venture from my lofty position to mingle with them.  From my point of view, I wanted to kill all of them!

The mare trotted back to the barn and was waiting for me, only a little jittery.  She turned into a nice little mare and some people from Oklahoma bought her for their grandkids later on.  They were as happy as they could be, I’m just glad they did see the flying cat and ranch security episode.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


This morning we got up to below freezing temperatures and icicles hanging everywhere.  I went down to feed the lambs and the horses.  When I fed the lambs, I got mad.  One of my pet peeves is people who don’t take care of their animals.  They are a responsibility; if you own them…they are YOUR responsibility.  Especially if you’re like me and have just a couple of small traps for the horses, we have a responsibility to make sure they are fed and watered.  Same goes for my daughter’s lambs, they are locked up in a stall so they have to be fed and watered.  Especially the lambs, they’re not the smartest of Gods creations.  But when I fed this morning, they had little to no water.  I knew that she did not fill the buckets last night.

This posed a problem for me, since everything was frozen; my hoses were all frozen too.  So off I go with a bucket to fill, at the house.  All the way there I was thinking about all of the things I was going to do to punish her.  I went from a spanking, to grounding, to extra chores and back again.  Like I said, I was mad.  I got to the house and luckily my beautiful bride was there to rein me in a little.  We decided I would not talk to her while I was mad.  I headed back to the barn muttering about how we were going to get rid of those lambs and not have them again.  I how big and bad her punishment was going to be.

Thankfully, I did get convicted by the Spirit to talk to God too.  I was praying for a calmed mind, still hanging on to the fact that I was mad at her.  Still wanting to punish her for her wrongdoing, this wasn’t the first time and she was now out of second chances…

Then God grabbed a hold of me.

He said, “what about you, do you deserve a second chance?” 

I was convicted of my hypocrisy.  Here I was passing judgment; not offering to my daughter what was so easily given to me…grace.  How could I be mad her for a mistake that she made, when Christ never even hesitated when He went to the cross for my self-righteous anger?  I was, and am, ashamed of myself for that.  I have made the same mistakes over and over and over again, but God…still loves me.

I went back to the house and talked with her about the importance taking care of these animals that God has given us.  We also talked about grace and what it means.  I think she already understood it, but I think we all need a reminder.  Grace is more than mercy, grace is more than forgiveness.  Grace is a divine love that brought Christ down here to pay for my sins.  If Jesus loved me enough to forgive what I have done…then shouldn’t I be able to offer the same to my daughter?  I love my daughters like no other, so we will talk again about our responsibilities...but this morning was a lesson in grace.  For me and I hope for her.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cow Pie Bombs

When we lived south of La Junta Colorado, my brother and I used to have wars where we threw things at each other.  Depending on the mood, sometimes it was rocks.  But most of the time it was of the horse apple / cow pie variety.  Mom and Dad thought we were gross little rascals, but I do think they thought this was funny…or maybe this was one of those deals that kept us from tearing up the house.  These wars ranged from the long range cow pie bomb, to the close range rapid fire of horse apples.  Just to clue you in, there is a trick to handling a cow pie bomb, to soft and you ended up with a handful of…well you know.  To hard and it just bounced off your target.  It had to be just right to get that “explosion” upon contact.  Sometimes I won, sometimes he won (the real loser was my Mom having to do the laundry).  Sometimes we got the neighbor boys over and it was a team sport, but it was all in good fun.  We were little boys that didn’t see the filth of what we were touching, we just saw the results of a good throw.

Sometimes I’m still like that little boy in a cow pie war.  Today I picked up something that I thought I put away.  In the past I messed around with it and enjoyed it; now, not so much.  But I still want to pick it up and mess around with it every once in a while.  The thing is, I know it’s not good for me.  I know that God has better things for me than this thing I keep picking back up, but still I pick it up.  I’m sorta like a dog with a bone, even after you take it away from me….I still want to pick it up and play with it.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m talking about sin.  God calls us as Christians to live a different life than the world, but we still want to dabble in what the world has to offer.  Sometimes we fiddle around even with the Holy Spirit screaming at us to run away, leave, vamoose, scam…just like Joseph ran away from Potiphar’s wife.  But is that what I do?  I can run away from those public sins, but the ones I hold in my heart are harder to run from.  Those are the ones that keep coming back for me to pick up and play with.  God gives us some pretty specific commands about our sin, in Deuteronomy 26:16-19

“Today the Lord your God has commanded you to obey these laws and teachings with all your heart and soul.  In response, you have agreed that the Lord will be your God, that you will obey all his laws and teachings, and that you will listen when he speaks to you.  Since you have agreed to obey the Lord, he has agreed that you will be his people and that you will belong to him, just as he promised. The Lord created all nations, but he will make you more famous than any of them, and you will receive more praise and honor. You will belong only to the Lord your God, just as he promised.”

So if I read this right, if we obey God’s commands with all our heart and soul, we will belong to God.  Jesus says something that is very similar to this in the New Testament, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and your entire mind.  (Mathew 22:37).  So if we love the Lord, removing the sin from our lives should be pretty easy…right?  Coming to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ is not like a magic pill.  We still have the same sinful body that covets and desires the things we want.  Coming to know the saving grace of Christ means that we are not prisoners to that sin.  Philippians 4:13 says we “can do all things through Him who strengthens us”, this includes avoiding the evil desires of our hearts. 

The key is to listen and act when the Holy Spirit is telling you to run away.  Joseph didn’t just tell Potiphar’s wife no and still hang around the palace.  Joseph ran away, in fact he ran away so fast that she pulled his tunic right off of him as he ran out the door.  Joseph gives a pretty good example of resisting temptation; don’t just leave the situation….RUN AWAY from it!  Get as far away as you can.

I would like to say that I don’t struggle with sin, but the truth of the matter is I do.  This sin that I keep throwing away and then going back to dig it out of the trash is not pleasing to God.  I know this; it’s not a secret that this is bad for me.  I have sin in my heart that is constantly struggling for control.  Why is this you ask?  Because I let it!  God has given me the strength to leave it behind, but sometimes it’s not the devil.  Sometimes I just like my sin.

The good news is that once you belong to God.  Once you’ve accepted the Saving Grace of Christ.  Once you’ve accepted the fact the Jesus Christ suffered, bled and died to pay for your sins…then you have a chance to repent.  Does this give you a license to do and act any way you want and then get right on Sunday.  No, God calls us to act and live differently.  Will we stumble and fall (like I did today)?  Yes…no doubt.  But, we can repent.  We can pray for the faith and strength to resist the thorn in our sides.

Praise the Lord for a God of second chances!  It’d be pretty hard life if God only gave us one chance and then we were done.  Aren’t we all a little like King David, we stumble and fall, get back up and repent.  I find that I don’t stumble and fall near as often as I used to.  Those cow pie bombs don’t find their way into my hands as much anymore.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Eleven Year Old Brilliance

I don’t like winter; I think anything below 65 is freezing.   I have often contemplated moving further south, like to Mexico.  But my language skills have always been a barrier.  I know a few Spanish cuss words, but the balance of my espanol is pretty slim.  I suspect that I would probably get beat up if I moved down there and not even know why.  So I will stick to the gulf coast of Texas, where winters are a total of 20-30 cold days and the rest are pretty good.  Of course this is just my opinion, but then I’m doing the mine’s the only one that counts right now!

Now when I was a kid, growing up in southeastern Colorado, there was plenty of winter to go around.  There were weeks that we would be snowed in and could not get out of our driveway.  And being in the “kid” stage, snow was still fun.  Of course fun was defined as when we could do what we wanted to do and not what Dad wanted us to do.  So “fun” varied from day to day when there was snow on the ground.  Snow was fun when you sliding down a hill and not so much fun when you were holding wood for the chainsaw.  Of course, when you have snow you also have ice.  Ice is fun when you are sticking it down your sister’s neck.  It’s not much fun when you have to chop it out of a stock tank and therein lays the story…

My Dad was, as still is, full of good advice.  One of these pearls of wisdom was on the skill of chopping ice.  Whether you are chopping a hole in a pond or a stock tank, you always chop a bigger hole than you need and scoop the ice out.  The hole will freeze up smaller, so if it is bigger…it will stay open longer.  If you don’t fork out the chopped ice, it will freeze faster…thus your animals will not have anything to drink.  Looking back, this makes perfect sense.  As a young hon-yak, I tended to only do enough to keep me out of trouble and would take the least amount of time.  So I was always chopping a small hole in the ice.  After all the cows and horses noses weren’t more than eight, or so, inches around…right?  I never forked the broken ice out, any animal worth its salt, could push right through that ice…right?  I was a dumb little nut.

One day my brother and I were riding the scoop shovel down the hill by the hay meadow (isn’t that what any kid worth a flip would be doing?) and had been happily doing this for most of the day.  It had been my turn to chop the ice and I, being the unreliable little degenerate that I was, had only chopped a small hole in the ice.  I knew this would probably come back to bite me later, but there was sledding to be done and I wanted to do my fair share.  I always figured I could chop it out later in the day.  Ain’t that like a young cowboy…just living for the moment!

That particular day it had been way below freezing all day and Dad happened to check the tanks.  Wouldn’t you know it; there was no longer any hole in the ice.  He, being the stockman that he is, went ahead and fixed the problem.  Then he came looking for my brother and me.  I sure he was mad at us, me for not doing a complete job and Cully just for being associated with me.  When he found us we got a lecture and a job.  The lecture was on our responsibility as owners of animals and the job was because Dad wasn’t a big spanker.  I would have rather had the spanking because it over in a minute.  Dad punishments tended to last all day.  I think that day he had us start shoveling the driveway instead of waiting for the county to snow plow it open.  Of course, Cully “Guilt by Association” Johnson (my brother) was a little peeved at me.  The next day, Cully let me know pretty quickly that I was going to be the guy chopping ice since I threw him under the bull (so to speak). 

So, a little sullenly, I headed down to chop ice.  I knew that today, I had better do this right…I was pretty sure Dad would check up on me later.  Needless to say the ice was considerably thicker than yesterday.  But I had an ax, so I went to choppin’ with gusto.  After about two minutes I had a little tiny hole chopped out, not much bigger than the ax head.  I raised the ax up for what I know was going to be a mighty ice shattering swing.  As my downward swing started I noticed something was drastically wrong.  As I watched in horrified slow motion, that ax head slid off the end of the ax close to the bottom of the swing and slipped ever so gently into that miniscule hole in the ice.  Never to be seen again.  The next words out of my mouth were of the variety my uncle George had taught me and I won’t repeat them here.  I knew I was going to be in a mess of trouble and what happened next was right of the bible.  Some would say that I had a temper tantrum.  I prefer to think that, at that moment I was possessed by a demon.  I commence to hollering and cussing and flayin’ around shovels and buckets. 

Once the possession was over and I was somewhat returned to normal, I started trying to think my way out of the situation.  I knew that I was supposed to be paying attention to what I was doing, and I am now pretty sure that Dad would have understood what had happened, but then I wasn’t so sure about it.  At the time, I just understood that I was in a mess of trouble.  Part of any thinking process is thinking outside the box.  In a flash, I came up with a way to break the ice.  It was still pretty thick, so I figured I could just jump up and down until I heard it crack.  Then I could take the pitchfork, break it and fork the ice out.  Genius, huh?

So there I was, jumping up and down…on a frozen over stock tank.  I was carefully listening for that telltale crack.  But after five minutes, my patience had worn out.  I was just jumping.  I finally said enough is enough.  One final time I gave a mighty leap and with all of the weight a 60 pound boy can muster, slammed my feet into the ice.  The next moment I found myself up to my chest in icy cold water, standing in a hole that was just barely bigger around than my body.  I again was possessed by that demon, because not only my was my body standing in what amounted to a great big cup of ice, but my new high top boots (that I’d got for Christmas) were also in the water.  I started flailing around trying to get out, which didn’t amount to much more than waving my arms and hollering!  I couldn’t do much more than that because those little tiny holes I had been chopping were the only weak spot in the ice, and that was all that broke.  I could get no leverage to pull myself out, I was for all intent and purposes…trapped.  I knew eventually Dad would come down to check on me when I didn’t show up at the house by nightfall, but I figured by then I would be a Corysicle.  I was just hoping that I was yelling loud enough that someone would hear me.

Cully happened to be close enough to hear and came to see what had happened, and being the good big brother that he was….he fell to his knees laughing at me.  After the proper amount of brotherly laughter and teasing, which in my mind seemed about ten hours, I started to think that everything below my chest was about froze off.  Cully finally got enough composure to pull me out and let me tell you, I was dang cold!  My teeth were chattering like a machine gun and I couldn’t feel any of my lower regions, but then at that point I wasn’t even sure I still had lower regions.  Being the good big brother that he was, Cully was not about to get in trouble again.  He made sure we chopped and forked the ice out of the hole, he even insisted that we make the hole bigger.  Of course, when I say we…I mean he made me do it while he supervised.  I could only think about two things:

1.       It was cold and I was cold.  If you’ve ever wondered how cold a well diggers butt was, I probably could have told you that day.

2.      My new tall top boots were soaking wet and still full of water, I just knew they were ruint!

After he made me finish, I hot footed it up to the house (there’s an oxymoron, my feet were anything but hot).  I got to the house and realized I had a new problem.  The water in my brand new tall top boots had created suction and I could not get them off my feet.  I had all of my brother’s help I wanted for the day, so I was not about to ask him.  But I figured that if I could get the water out of the boots they would eventually come off.  I had remembered reading a John Erickson book where he had a similar problem, so in my eleven year old brilliance…I thought I would try that process.

I laid down on my back and put my feet in the air, thinking that the water would drain out and I could get my boots off to change clothes.  There is not an eleven year old in the world yet that understands the law of gravity and water flow.  I was no exception.  As I raised my legs that water came cascading down my legs and too late I realized where that water was headed.  I had just thought I was numb from standing in that stock tank, it turns out that I wasn’t all that frozen after all.  Now I won’t go into detail about where that ice water hit and the results of said ice water bath, but I think it goes unspoken (by most men anyway) that I had a reason to commence yelling again.  Mom came running out to see what had happened, and all she could do was laugh, what is it with my family?  Here I was I dire straits, with frozen nether regions and all they can do is laugh? 

On the plus side, she did help take my boots off and they were not ruined.  Once they had dried and I had warmed up a little, I headed back outside.  After all, wasn’t there some sledding to be done?  And what kid worth his salt wouldn’t be doing that on a snow day?