Out Our Way: Cow pony or show horse


Last updated 9/22/2023 at 12:05pm

2 Peter 2:1–2 - "But there were false prophets among the people just as there will be false prophets among you who will introduce heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord, and will bring destruction upon themselves. Many will follow them and bring the faith into disrepute. In their greed they will exploit you, but their condemnation hangs over them."

Out our way, although four-wheelers and trucks do a good deal of cow work these days, a good cow pony is still important. Charlie and I used to work the gathering for Big Mike, who had a crew on four-wheelers who pushed most of the herd down to the sorting pens. They got most of the herd with their mechanical steeds, but, as I recall, Charlie and I picked up 50-75 head that their motorized cavalry couldn't reach.

Now, "Babe" was one of the most beautiful horses - a sorrel paint - I had ever seen, and her gait was so smooth you could read the Sunday papers with a cup of coffee at full gallop and never spill a drop. "Doc," on the other hand, was a 17-1⁄2-hands high quarter horse and riding him at anything above an easy trot was like sitting on a jack hammer. But Doc was a cow pony and Babe was not.

Babe was terrified of cattle and balked when I tried working a small gathering with her. You may recall the "Will Smith" incident, where I had just got her calmed down as we approached a feeder where some seven to 10 cattle were feeding. Then Charlie rode up and said, "Watch out for that horse-eating calf over there!"

Off to the side was a lobe calf - big ear spread out and with an uncanny resemblance to Will Smith's character in "Fresh Prince of Bel Air." It took me 10 minutes of circling and tight reining to calm her down! Charlie just laughed and said, "Well, how was I to know she understood English?"

Well, Babe was a beautiful animal and would definitely shine in a parade or the show ring, but when it came to working cows, she was pretty useless. Doc might not be so good-looking, he constantly missed his leads, and he was certainly not a comfortable ride, but he got the job done. I will leave show horses to parades and such, but if I have cattle to work, I want a cow pony.  

Peter warned the church about false teachers and preachers that had been in the past, were in the present, and would be around in the future. "Show horse" preachers who seek to build their own cliques and personal followings have always been around and probably always will be. Fancy buildings, large auditoriums and a watered down Gospel attract the lazy and the gullible. But as Peter noted and as we have seen in the past few years, many of these "show horse" preachers have been exposed as modern-day snake oil salesmen and their condemnation follows.  

Now, while a show horse and a cow pony are both horses, they are not the same. Many greenhorns and dude ranch visitors don't know the difference. Sadly, the same is true of a great many people in our present culture who are ignorant of the difference between the watered-down feel-good messages and the real Gospel. They may attend church but they are too often "dude ranch" Christians, come to be entertained but never getting involved in the actual work of the church. They may give when the plate is passed, they may even tithe, but they don't serve.

Babe is one of the most beautiful horses you will ever see, but Big Mike sent Charlie and me to work his herd, and for that I need a cow pony and not a show horse. Christ is calling for disciples to come and follow, and then go forth to do the work of the Kingdom. He is gathering up cowponies for his remuda, not show horses.

Be blessed and be a blessing!

Brother John


The Rev. John Bruington is the retired pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Havre. He now lives in Colorado, but continues to write "Out Our Way." He can be reached for comment or dialogue at [email protected].


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