Although I was once a working cowboy on a ranch in Montana, I am not a horsey person.
So when I spotted the sign up ahead advertising horseback rides for $10 an hour, I tried distracting my cowgirl wannabe friend, but to no avail - we were going riding. She was up and trotting around on a buckskin while I was still procrastinating.
I finally decided on a sleepy mare quietly munching her Wheaties in her cool stall. Joe, the foreman, said she didn't like to go out into the hot Arizona sun, was difficult to ride and wouldn't a big strong guy like me rather ride his fire-breathing, ground-stomping stallion? I told him I thought 10 bucks for the ride for an hour was too much and that I'd like to have a buck off, but not a buck off if you get my meaning and insisted on $9 Nellie.
Joe said fine and after being told not to abuse the old gal - swearing was OK, but no rein jerking, kicking or punching. I saw what Joe meant right away - I could cajole Nellie into taking a few steps out into the yard but then she would feel the heat, turn around and go back toward the barn. But I noticed she would turn in the direction I neck-reined her.
So I got her pointed out toward the yard and as soon as she started to turn to the right, I'd neck-rein her to the left; doing this a few times I actually got her going in an "S" maneuver half-way into the yard. Then it happened. In an explosion of energy that couldn't have surprised me more if my dear old nana, God rest her soul, had suddenly decided to roof the house, Nellie bolted for a big shade tree at the other end of the five-acre yard.
Off we went, me hanging on for dear life and Nellie headed for the shade like a hound dog after a soup bone. We stood there for a few minutes, my trusty mount panting and me catching my breath as well. Then I got her S'ing back to the middle of the yard until she saw the cool barn and off we'd go at full gallop, her hooves clopping the sun-baked earth and mine in the air.
We did that for an hour, back and forth, shade to shade, until we did our last S into the barn. Nellie actually looked happy; I'm sure she was smiling. Joe was beaming from ear to ear and said that was the best workout Nellie had had in ages.
The Bible says that God leads and guides us; if you've ever read the account of God through Moses trying to lead His reluctant people to the Promised land, you can get an idea of the task God has with us difficult critters down here bucking, kicking, snorting and wanting to do it our way all the way. Job questioned God's motives. Noah wined. Jonah whined.
I personally think they were all justified. Nellie was old, tired and just wanted to stay cool. Men, if you've ever taken mama and the kids camping for a few days you can forgive the Jews for complaining after 40 years of tenting in the desert. Maybe you would question God's motives as well if you lost everything you owned, got sick as a dog and lost your kids.
But if we will allow Him, God will neck rein us to get us to go in the direction that He knows is best for us. We will be happier, it will bring glory to His name and in the end we will worship Him because He is worthy to be worshiped and adored.
Richie Colbeth of Prairie City is a Cowboy Church chaplain at the Bible Way Church in John Day.