Sunday, February 05, 2017

Our Earthly Walk

 I’ll Drop You Off in brief
Our Earthly Walk
Facing Death with Life
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            It was day 36 in A 40 day devotional for Cowboys when I started this week’s visit with you.
            If you haven’t entered the 40 day walk with Kris Wilson, call Gary at Big Bend Saddlery in Alpine and ask him to send you a copy of the book. The title sets the stage for a Godly talk to rangeland sinners. The contents chronicle young Dr. Wilson’s battle with the dreaded C disease. Even from afar, many of us knew about his tragic death ending a courageous fight last September. His earthly visit didn’t end in story book fashion, but, rest assured, his commitment to our Savior did.
            He has touched me. He will touch you, too, if you take the 40 day walk with him. As the Working Ranch Cowboys Foundation eulogy noted, “Though Kris had many amazing accomplishments, the most important was the legacy he leaves behind for others.”
             I’ll Drop You Off
            Betty Blue and I talked about the issue at her grandson’s wedding about the same time as Kris’ death. It was the reality we experienced with our family growing up at Cliff. There were exceptions, but men were mostly absent from any displayed daily walk or devotion to our Lord. There were never prayers at meal time nor were there many examples making sure families was seated in pews at the churches scattered across the valley.
            There are more masculine influences today and that is good, but the drivers of spiritual governance of our lives then was largely women. If we were in church or Sunday school, they were the forces that made sure we were dressed and on time.
            For that, our lasting appreciation must be offered.
            The absence of men of the cow culture in those roles was a key point made by Kris. His message was simple. If you are ever going to be a real and complete cowboy, you can get there only by submitting your entire being to our all giving, living God. It is the singular task that only the most courageous seem to accomplish.
            In cowboy vernacular, let’s define “I’ll drop you off”.
            What comes immediately to mind was the day we were gathering the Double Bar V Brush Pasture and Ramon had pulled up to give instructions and “drop the first rider off” for his assigned corridor drive in the gather. Jose Luis was riding a mare that, being fresh, she was disrupting the circle of gathered horsemen with her dancing and pushing. Jose Luis finally remedied the matter by laying flying U’s across both sides of her with his rope and spurring her into an eruptive running departure that quickly left only the dust over the mesquites to mark his path.
            As we sat there, Ramon remarked in his normal, dry humor that “Maybe we wait juss’ a meenit, and, Jose Luis, he might juss feenish the pasture heesself.”
            In the instructions offered to the cowboys, though, a generalized plan is offered by the cow boss but not to the point of micromanaging the outcome. Respect is given to the cowboy to make decisions based upon what he discovers along the way. If the cowboy being given the instructions can’t glean his assignment in brief, he is looked upon with skepticism that lingers or grows if it repeats.
            The process becomes a relationship whereby “If you perform and stay out of my business, I’ll stay out of yours” and or “you figure it out and make it work”. It is a central theme of the business which becomes “I expect you to be independent, and, if you get no help, you still have to figure out how to make it work regardless of the circumstances”.
            Not very many businesses invoke that sort of constant reality nor are there many circumstances where such independence becomes a prerequisite rather than an anomaly. That is real cowboy life.
            I believe that also had bearing on so many of those old time cowboys that felt uncomfortable not just under a church roof, but in the presence of a group foreign to his surroundings and his gather corridor. He not only didn’t submit, he didn’t talk in idle excess, especially if he had no substantial spiritual influence or the conditions and presence of institutional religion. He had been taught that any mark of uncertainty was a weakness and weakness was avoided.
            “Just give me the assignment and I’ll figure it out.”
            In the daily walk in my ranch life the last two days, death was overshadowed only by the presence of our newest little cowboy, the Kane’s baby boy, when he was greeted while wrapped in his mother’s arms as we discussed the disposition of dogied calves in the headquarter corral. He slept through the entire process, but his presence was a ray of unexpected light.
            The shadows of the rest continued with the disposition of the dogies that so tug at my heartstrings. Most of them came off first calf heifers that didn’t get the monsoonal nourishment they desperately needed. In all cases, we endeavor to get them into better circumstances that give them a boost and a fighting chance.
            The gloom continued when BJ and I found a young cow that had just died after she had rolled or was pushed into an eroded cut onto her back where she couldn’t get up. The coyotes had been there doing their dirty work before she was even dead because rigor mortis had not even set in when we got to her. Dealing with that kind of thing leaves you more calloused, but never without an opinion of the other side of the coyote and wolf problem.
            You try it. You deal with that reality and discover where your allegiances begin to evolve.
            The last issue of the day was the discovery of a young cow with a full uterine prolapse. We have enough experience to know when reinsertion can be accomplished and when it can’t. This one was bad and there was no hope. The alternative, the right thing, was to deal with the suffering of the cow.
            You try that, too. You deal with that reality and discover what your traits begin to display.
             Facing Death with Life
            Let’s end today with Kris’ closing words to us on Day 40. I don’t know if was near his final day in this chaotic life we all know too well, but it is certainly appropriate. It is prefaced in scripture from Revelations.
 The Armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.
            “That’s us, gentlemen,” Kris remarked … Cowboys, God is (our) drive leader. He sets the pace of (our) life and all men take their direction from Him. But, along the way, each of us has gotten lost. Each of us has made some mistakes, (but) each of us has a second chance”.
            Let us pray that none of us love this life enough to forget that.

            Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “God Bless the memory of Kris Wilson.”

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