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Category Archives: Ranch Work

The Lessons I Learned from Jeff

The last year we lived on the ranch in the Texas Panhandle I had the responsibility of taking care of 2500 head of cattle. About 1800 of those were close to 40 miles away north of Canadian, Texas on the expansive Urschel Ranch. I’d go up about three times a week and spend the day horseback checking the cattle; getting a decent count on them, making sure they had water, making sure none of them were out of the pastures they were supposed to be in. It’d make for a long day but it was enjoyable to me.

I was about three years into my walk with the Lord. Didn’t know much but I was learning a lot. I had given my testimony a couple of times and was already feeling the call for ministry…even though I had no idea what all that might mean. A friend and I had a cowboy church service (years before anyone ever heard that term!) at the Hemphill County Expo Center in Canadian and I preached the message. That was a first! I have no idea what I preached about but I do remember that one of my friends since childhood (a few years older than me) got saved that day. Let’s just call him, Jeff.

Jeff was a cowboy and had been in some of the very worst combat fights in Vietnam. In three different battles there were over a hundred US troops under fire….and all three times less than fifteen came out alive. Jeff was one of the ones each time. But, it had left an indelible mark on him. He struggled with deep depression, was separated from his wife, had trouble sleeping and agonized over the things he was ordered to do in Vietnam. Jeff was a scary looking guy, well actually if you weren’t friends with him….he just didn’t look scary….he really was scary. He’d done plenty of crazy things and the locals weren’t sure what he might do next! He hair was cut short on the top but long in the back…..way down past his collar. He had about 6 top front teeth totally gone! He wore denim shirts with the sleeves cut out of them and he had lots of tattoos; something not that common in those days. He spent a lot of his spare time at the gym pumping iron and was quite a specimen of a man.

Part of my regular routine the times when I’d go up to check cattle was to make it back to the Dairy Queen on my way home and catch Jeff after he got off work. I made it a point. I was doing my best to encourage him and give him good, sound advice. I’d pray with him every time before I headed home. One particular time we were in the DQ when a Greyhound bus made its stop there. The place was completely full of people. Jeff got there before I did and saved me a spot. His intimidating look had the attention of just about every person in there. Bear in mind that when he talked, Jeff talked really really loud; maybe louder than anyone you’ve ever known! I asked him that day, as I always did, “Jeff, how are you doing?” He replied in his loud voice, “Andy, I’m doing really good!”. I knew that I needed to press in a little more. “But, Jeff, …..how are you really doing?” And in a voice a lot louder than you need to be talking in Dairy Queen he said, “Yep, Andy, …….I’m doing so good I got rid of all my plastic explosives yesterday!!” You could’ve heard a pin drop! Every eye in the house was on us! It was funny, ….in a crazy kind of way; all those people started gathering up their food without saying a word and getting out the door as fast, but as inconspicuous as they could. It was like they didn’t totally believe him. I bet some of them are still telling that story today!

I learned a lot in my experiences with Jeff. I made it a mission of mine to help him. I wanted him to be OK; I wanted him to be well. Julie and I had planned a little vacation and were planning on being gone for about a week. I got real worried that if I wasn’t there to check on Jeff that he wouldn’t be alright. I even told Julie as much. I was actually afraid to go on vacation fearing he would implode. But, the Lord spoke clearly to my spirit at that point and said, “It’s Ok, Andy, …..you’re not the one that’s taking care of him anyway.” That put it in perspective for me. God always knows the right thing to say, and always at just the right time.

I wish this story had a happy ending….but it doesn’t. Several years later Jeff was living downstate in Texas and took his own life. I can’t help but believe that the Lord has lots and lots of grace for people like Jeff. 

I’ll never forget the things I learned…and I look forward to seeing him in Heaven.

Try these:

“It’s Not Your Job to Fix Them!”

Identity Theft

The Thing About Unconditional Love

Double Check Your “Invitation List”!!

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Labor Day Out on the ‘Ol ‘Lazy J’

Labor Day was instituted to honor the American Labor movement. Oregon was the first state to officially observe it in 1887 and by 1894, when it became a national holiday, thirty other states had adopted it. Not sure what comes to mind for you when Labor Day rolls around but for me, it reminds me of how we observed it on the ranch almost every year without fail.

Most people, if not nearly all, get Labor day off….but not us! Nope, we did “labor” on Labor Day! Cliff Taylor, my Dad, loooooved workin’! And he loved it, even more, when everyone else was working too! A lifelong rancher and cattleman, Dad, made sure that we had something significant (at least from his perspective!) to do on Labor Day. We’ve been gone from the ranch since ’88 but I’m pretty sure we got up earlier and worked harder,…and longer on Labor Day than most every other day! It’s how he celebrated it if you know what I mean!

It seemed that he’d save one of those jobs that you really just ‘didn’t want to do’ for that particular Monday every year. One such example would be when we cleaned out the scales that were used for weighing cattle. The scales were an extremely important fixture on the ranch, in that we sold thousands of head of cattle every year and just about every one of those cattle had to be weighed, coming in….and going out.

For starters, the floor of the scales was lined with bridge timbers; boards about 4 inches thick, a foot and a half wide and about 14 feet long and weighing a couple hundred pounds. We’d remove a couple of them just so we could squeeze down underneath the floor and clean out the ‘knives’ of the scales (a part of the scales that were in each of the four corners, which when they were caked up with dirt and manure didn’t work like they were supposed to and would cause an inerrant weight on the cattle). Keep in mind that Labor Day being the first Monday in September…the weather in the Texas Panhandle can still be scorching hot. Pretend just for a minute that you’re the one doing this. It’s probably about 120 degrees underneath those scales, not one single breath of air to be had. You squeeze down underneath the floor of the scales and head toward one of the four corners with your wire brush to start your work. You’re crawling through thick spider webs….with spiders attached…..some of which I seriously doubt their species has even been discovered yet….and all poisonous, you’re thinkin’! Oh, and did I say you’re using a flashlight to see because it’s pitch black under there?! It’s not a rare thing to encounter centipedes,  a pack-rat or two and even though I never ran headlong into a snake….you just know in the back of your mind, they’re there!

It’s not a quick job by any means, it takes the better part of a half-hour to get the job knocked out, all the while in an uncomfortable position crawling on your belly in powdery dust and dried cow manure. Now, Dad, never bein’ one to half-ass do a job, would coach me from the upside. “Where you goin’?” “I’m going to the other side.” “You ain’t been there long enough ….brush ’em some more.” Finally, when you come up out of there you’re mad,  soakin’ wet, covered in dust, dry manure, and cobwebs and coughing like you have TB! You immediately do a thorough check for spiders that might have ‘hitched’ a ride on you from down under. The last thing to do is to put the boards back on the floor of the scales and they’re good to go for another few years.

That’s just one little example of how we ‘celebrated’ Labor Day out on the ‘ol Lazy J….but, hey, the day’s still young. There’s bound to be some hay to haul, a windmill or some fence that needs fixin’! Happy Labor Day to ‘ya! 

PS – As unpleasant as that job was…I’d give anything if I could get back under there one more time just to hear him coach me from the topside!

 

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The Parable of Pedro Flores

I’m disappointed in ‘ya if you don’t know who Pedro Flores is. I’ll forgive you if you’ll make it right. If you’ve never watched Lonesome Dove you won’t know who he is. For starters, why in the world have you not seen Lonesome Dove??! It’s just about the best movie ever made. For you, who are deprived, it’s a ‘made for TV’ miniseries from Larry McMurtry’s book about two semi-retired Texas Rangers, Captain Augustus ‘Gus’ McRae (Robert Duval), and Captain Woodrow Call (Tommy Lee Jones) and their journey taking several thousand head of cattle to Montana. You won’t be ‘spiritually rounded’ until you’ve seen it a few times. lol I’ve watched it no less than 9 times! So, as you might guess I’m somewhat rounded!

One of my favorite scenes in Lonesome Dove is when Gus, Woodrow and a few of their cohorts cross the border at night for a little fun to remind them of the ‘old days’. The Mexican bandito, Pedro Flores (a familiar foe who’s way up in years by now), often crossed the Texas border to steal horses and cattle. Gus and Woodrow enjoyed the challenge of crossing into Mexico and stealing some of them back from time to time. On this particular night as Pedro Flores was moving a big herd of stolen horses from one place to another Gus, Call and the boys swooped in, surprised the banditos and stole the whole herd of horses and took ’em back to Texas.

That whole scene reminds me of a phenomenon we’re often faced with in our spiritual life. The Bible talks about the fact that we have an ‘adversary’, the devil, who walks about like a roaring lion. It also states that he comes to steal, kill and destroy. He, the devil, will steal anything and everything he can from us. But in all actuality all he has going for him is the fact that we’ll believe his lies. And, just like Gus and Woodrow knew the methods of Pedro Flores…the Bible says that we’re not to be ignorant of the enemy’s devices. We have the ability….and the authority (because of what Jesus did!) to take back what’s been stolen from us, that which is rightfully ours.

So, the next time you realize you’ve been stolen from by the likes of Pedro Flores….do like Gus and Woodrow. Plan a little counter-attack of your own. Your obedience by faith to the will and plan of God for your life will help you recover everything that was taken!

Thus, the parable of Pedro Flores!

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If He Can Fix My Life…..I Know He Can Fix Yours!

I’ve been blessed in my life to have a lot of good friends. Wasn’t long after my life had ‘made the turn’, so to speak, that a steady stream of my friends started coming to see me. That may not seem like a big deal to you but it really was. For one reason, where I lived at the time wasn’t on the way to anywhere! I mean it was way off the beaten path. So, it was no accident that they were coming to see me. In fact, looking back, it seems pretty obvious to me that the Lord, Himself, was somehow sending them across my path. 

I knew something was very different for me and that for once my life was ‘working’ but I had no idea how to communicate it or put it into words….especially to somebody else. These friends would pour out their hearts to me telling me their problems….all kinds of problems! I had no idea what to tell them….and to be honest some of their problems were pretty intimidating. But I knew one thing…..my life, just a short time before, was pretty messed up! In fact it was so messed up that no one but the Lord could fix it. And even though their problems looked extremely difficult,….and in some cases impossible, I had a profound sense of confidence that they were going to make it. I just knew that if God could fix my life…..He could fix their’s!

Now, more than 30 years later, I still get faced with people’s problems…and just like then, most of the time they look nearly impossible but I still have that same confidence. So, if you’re reading this and you’re in a jam….and maybe, just maybe, it looks as if there’s absolutely no possible solution, run to Him! ‘Cause….I‘m convinced that, “if He can fix my life….He can fix yours”!!

You’ll like this one too!*(click on highlighted link):

There’s Grace For That!

“God, If You’re Out There,  You Gotta Help Me!”WordpressSignature2015b

 

 

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What If I’d Said, No?

I didn’t….so it’s just theoretical. I’m not going to….so don’t get all uptight about it. But occasionally it does go through my mind…..mostly at times when I’m down or discouraged. Yeah, people like me have those times too. Most won’t admit it…fearing it to be a sign of weakness. And, without a doubt, there are those in every group that could start the ‘feeding frenzy’ when a spiritual leader admits he’s actually human, and vulnerable. And, from what I’ve seen by observing other leaders…church people can be some of the most vicious and mean-spirited of them all. Crazy huh?!

It was in 1986 that I heard the call of the Lord on my life. I remember the day well. I was training a horse in the big round pen at the ranch near Allison, Texas. I got off, tied him up and drove the 7 miles to town to talk to my Pastor, Ronnie Chadwick. *(click to read the account) As I remember, it was pretty clear from the Lord. And also, just as clear, was my response to Him that day. It was an easy, “Yes”! I had absolutely no idea what it all meant but I was ‘all-in’, whatever that was.

It was the same when we said “Yes” to the work in Sayre. I’d been asked a dozen times or more to take the little group (6-8) and be their leader. I hadn’t heard a single thing from the Lord that I should do it. But in one critical week the Lord spoke clearly to both Julie and me. We said, “Yes”, and the rest is history, so to speak.

I’m not sure what I’d be doing….or where I’d even be had I said “No”, on those two occasions. For me it’s kind of scary to think about. I doubt I’d be in Sayre, Oklahoma. I’d probably be doing something involving horses and cattle, or ranching. It’s what I knew best…and what I loved doing. On some of the really hard days that life, as hard as it can be too, looks pretty dang good.

But I think about the things that I’d be missing had I said, “No”. I’d have missed at least some of the amazing things the Lord has miraculously done in, through and around us in the last 30+ years. It’s almost embarrassing to admit the times down through the years that ‘quitting’ seemed the thing to do. But I’m not a quitter, never have been…it’s a family trait. I’ve noticed people down through the years who quit, knowing they shouldn’t have,…and it appears that they don’t like themselves much after that. Of course the call of the Lord is one very valid reason for not quitting. But the thing that’s kept me going all these years is my incredible family (best on the planet!)….and this amazing bunch of people at Trinity Fellowship that actually believe in what we’re doing…..and have bet their lives on making a difference!

So, yep…I’m human, and a pretty flawed one at that! But I’m on a pretty decent 30 year run of saying “Yes” to the Lord. My policy has always been to be ‘real’. I’m not of the, ‘fake it ’til you make it’, variety. I’m glad I said, “Yes”. And I still don’t know what it all means! But, I’m all-in for whatever He says!

If you like this one….You’ll like this one, too:

Thank You, Mother Teresa

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VIP’s #10 – Cliff & Charlene Taylor

Obviously my VIP Blogs are not listed in any order of importance. If they were these two would be right up there toward the top of the list. Cliff and Charlene….that’s my Mom & Dad. I wish you all knew them. They’re two of the most incredible people you could ever meet. They’re now in their 80’s and live only a few blocks from us. I like that. I’ll go there at least a few times a week and have coffee and visit with them. They amaze me in that they’re still telling me stories that I’ve never heard before….and they can do it with nearly total recall.

Now seems like a proper time to write them up as VIPs since just about three days ago they celebrated their 66th Anniversary! Pretty amazing when you think about it. That’s setting the bar up there pretty high for the rest of us Taylors’. Good job, Mom & Dad! There’s no way I could come close to telling all the good qualities they have…and the good qualities they’ve passed along to Mont and I. It’d take a good sized book to get that done. But for the sake of time and space, I’ll try to give you a little insight on ‘who’ they are.

They have been the hardest working pair I’ve ever seen. Dad has always been a cattleman so we learned at a very young age to handle cattle and horses with the best of ’em. Dad had Mont and I doing things that most men couldn’t do when we were just little kids. We learned how to do it right. When I was 12 I started riding colts for other people for pay. I did that successfully, at least at some level, for the next 25+ years. Most of our  lives were spent on a ranch. It was a great life. Besides handling every aspect of the cattle business (receiving, shipping, gathering, doctoring, buying and selling) we learned to build fence, repair windmills and water gaps and about every other thing you need to do to run a ranch the right way.

Mom was the best! I can remember as a little kid, her pulling broomcorn to help make ends meet. She’d come home tired, dirty and worn out but always managed to get us one heck of a supper cooked, without fail. Later on in our rodeo days there were many times we’d roll into the ranch in the middle of the night with a carload of buddies. She’d get up even if it was 2 am and cook us up some chicken fried steak, french fries and gravy. There are retired rodeo guys all over the United States and Canada who spent time at our house and who have the greatest amount of respect for my Mom & Dad. Oh, and incidentally, when we’d come in to the ranch in the middle of the night and have that great meal….Dad was always gracious to let us sleep in ’til 5:30 or 6 in the morning before we started whatever project he had planned for the day…….and there was always a project! Most serious ranchers work their cattle according to the Zodiac signs. Dad always said that when there were a couple of carloads of rodeo friends at the ranch……that the ‘signs’ were right!

They sacrificed, and went without, to haul us to junior rodeos all over Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. They gave us a ‘leg up’ that way and enabled us to have a successful career in professional rodeo. We were both inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2008. And in our acceptance speeches we made sure that they got the credit they deserved. In all actuality……they’re the ones who should’ve been inducted.

I could go on and on with those kinds of things but they gave us far more important things than teaching us cattle and ranch work. In my 62 years I haven’t seen them do one person wrong. I have seen them wronged plenty of times but they always handled it with class. They’ve lived their lives with the highest degree of integrity. Their ‘word’ has been their bond in the truest sense of the term. We didn’t go to church but they somehow instilled in us that God was ‘real’.…..and that He was good!

All those things are important but the most important thing of all is that we were loved……in word…..and in deed. We let them down plenty of times with some of the dumb stuff we did….but they hung in there with us, always having our back and always believing in us, and never, ever wavering in their love.

In the final analysis I’d say if, when it’s all over, if I’ve been half as good a person as they have been…..I’ll have done pretty decent.

Cliff & Charlene Taylor, VIP’s to anyone who’s had the good fortune of knowing them!

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