Most of you know that I was blessed to live on a ranch. We had about 200 head of mother cows—Hereford, Angus, and some Charolais. We had a pasture for sick cattle next to the old hay barn (yes, it was red, but it did not have a gambrel roof). We’d separate them out and doctor them there. Mostly pink eye. It spreads quick, so when one of your critters has it, you don’t want them hanging out with the others.
We had a squeeze chute, but I didn’t like to use it. I’d much rather rope them, doctor them, and let them go. My favorite kind of catch and release.
I went for a horseback ride tonight, and thought about this story.
One summer day when I was still in high school, my good friend Tony and I had the enjoyable assignment of doctoring a few cows that were in that pasture. I took care of the antlers on the front end, and Tony would take care of the heels. Well, I dabbed a loop on a black cow, and waited for my man Tony to pick up the heels so we could stretch the old gal out and dispense her medicine.
Tony missed the first loop, and I struggled to keep a hold on the cow. She was moving about, trying to lose the evil nylon loop that was wrecking her day. Then I noticed something bad. My saddle. As I held onto her with a dally or two around my horn, the cow was doing a number on my saddle, and it started climbing up the horse’s neck. I did not have a peaceful, easy feeling about the way things were going.
He was rebuilding his loop when I gawked at him and said, “Tony, look at my saddle!” There was that dagger of blame in my voice, as if it was his fault that my saddle was inching its way toward my horse’s ears. (If I remember correctly, I was aboard my little heading horse Stanley’s Lassie, which was the horse I called Stanley and a bunch of other silly names that I don’t repeat in public.)
Well, Tony got his cow roped and we got her all taken care of and went on with our day. But I never forgot the words that I said, “Tony, look at my saddle.” That was a good 35 years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. Why? Because I was flat wrong.
The reason why my saddle was lose was not because Tony missed his loop. It was because I didn’t do my job. I didn’t cinch my saddle right. Tony had almost nothing to do with that. I’ve apologized to him several times. He has good naturedly laughed it off, but that doesn’t make me any more right.
Why is that we human beings always want to point at someone or something else and say, “There’s my problem”? I think it is because we are essentially lazy. We are natural men and women. It takes energy for a lazy, couch-adoring slacker to (1) recognize that he is wrong; (2) acknowledge that he is wrong; and (3) correct what he did wrong. It is just easier to point and bark incessantly. “Bow-wow. Hurry up and rope that cow.” That was me.
As lazy as I was then (and I still wrestle with laziness now), I found it a lot harder to carry the weight of an untruth for years than to be smart enough to dismantle it on the spot and leave it behind. So, the next time you feel like telling someone, “Look at my saddle,” think about a better way than blaming someone else for your troubles.
The heavens will not be filled with those who never made mistakes but with those who recognized that they were off course and who corrected their ways to get back in the light of gospel truth. —Dieter F. Uchtdorf
You know what? It’s not too late. I’m going to give my old roping partner a call and apologize one more time for good measure. What would that hurt? I owe him a call anyway.