Out Our Way: Doc ain't a cutting horse, but he'll do


Last updated 10/20/2023 at 11:32am

Isaiah 30:21 - "And whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears shall hear a Voice behind you saying, 'This is the way! Walk in it!'"

Out our way there are few things more fascinating to me than the skills of a good cutting horse. I have attended rodeos, horse shows and even a few brandings where the amazing feats of a quality cutting horse have been demonstrated - and I am impressed.

As you know, the cutting horse approaches a herd, a cow or calf is selected, and the horse begins to "cut" it out of the herd. The trained cutting horse anticipates the moves of the chosen cow and ably directs it, pushing it to move one way, blocking attempts to go in another direction or go around. The cutting horse knows the way - where the cow is needing to go - and does whatever it takes to get it there. The rider just hangs on and seldom needs to direct the horse, but is able and will do so if necessary.

Well, clearly I don't have the skills to cut cows, and by now you all know Doc is not a cutting horse - four left hooves, as you recall. Granted, his sisters were top-rated barrel racers, fast and agile and skilled in making sharp turns, but Doc simply runs the barrels over. Yet even so, he has cow sense, and while not a cutting horse, he earns his feed.

I have shared this story before of how, as the open range season up on the highlands of the Beaver Creek area was closing, we were asked to try to move any stray units out of the brush down to where the main herd was gathering. We found two units and once I quit trying - and messing it up - and let Doc take over, we managed to work them both back down the way off the ridge and into the flats where the gathering pens were set up.

Now, imagine if we had not bothered. Imagine if we just left those cow/calf units to wander in the Bear Paws range that winter. Poor grazing, frozen creeks, and hungry cougars, coyotes and possibly poachers. Now consider the alternative. We get them to the gathering, they get loaded into the cattle trucks and taken to the winter pastures where the feed is good, the water kept open, and no predators dare approach.

I never used it, but there was a reason I, and others, sometimes wore a pistol or even carried a rifle when checking the herds. But that's a story for another day.

The prophets of old and, hopefully most pastors of today, are sent out in the same way and for the same reasons as the cowhand and his cowpony. To help strays get home and to keep the herd gathered and safe. God has told us to show you where the green pastures and still waters are to be found. He has chosen us - for His own reasons, as ridiculous as it may seem - to be that voice that tries to show everyone the "Way." We are not trying to be judgmental when we, like a cutting horse, try to block you from going the wrong ways that lead to destruction. Some of us - like Doc - are pretty clumsy and not very skilled at it, but the goal is still to get you to the "gathering" and from there to the good pastures awaiting.

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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