The concept of The Man on Horseback (see last post)…
…reminds me of a story from many years ago. A story involving an actual man on horseback…
…as well as a rather arrogant bull, and two teenage farmhands—Bates and me.
This simple story speaks to a key human dilemma.
The story has me confronting this dilemma while standing in an open Arkansas farm field, ankle deep in soft powdery dirt….
Bates stood a few feet from me.
Above us, sat a short man on a tall horse (SMOTH). He’d just purchased the arrogant bull from our employer. The bull stood about forty yards away, staring at us
The SMOTH said he’d maneuver the bull our way. We were to stand our ground and guide it sideways, towards the back of his truck.
The SMOTH then rode away, leaving Bates and me alone in the empty field.
We looked at each other. We didn’t speak—we didn’t need to speak. We both knew that SMOTH was delusional. Two scrawny teenage boys against a bull? No way.
I‘d seen the SMOTH before, on different occasions, and he’d seemed reasonable enough. What’d happened to him?
Well on those occasions, he’d not been in the saddle. He’d not been atop a big powerful horse. Perhaps the change in altitude had affected his mental state.
Whatever the case, when the bull charged our way, Bates and I did not hesitate—we turned tail and sprinted toward a barb-wire fence a hundred feet away.
Though never much of an athlete, I sailed over that fence—as did Bates. We didn’t get as much as a scratch.
As for the bull…
…the bull ran hard to the fence, then pulled up short. It stood there scowling for a moment—at least, it seemed to be scowling—then wandered away.
As for the SMOTH…
…he rode up to us and yelled, “What’s a-matter with you boys!”
We held our tongues as that man challenged our courage, our manhood, our testicles.
The SMOTH was a big landholder. So we didn’t tell him how crazy he was. We didn’t say, “You’d see things differently, if you weren’t on that horse.”
But that was okay—we’d achieved our primary objective: we were still alive…and released from further bull ushering duty.
Since that time, I’ve witnessed many other SMOTHs in action, in many other areas of life…
…issuing commands from atop their mounts.
Often, they tell us to buck up, toughen up, and stop whining.
Of course, it can be argued that someone needs to be on the horse.
In the U.S., we’re told we should aspire to be that someone. But of course, we can’t all be leaders. Furthermore, I think “following” has been given a bad name in our culture. Our survival depends just as much on following as it does on leadership. Our survival, to some degree, depends on obedience. On sacrificing for the common good.
As for where that sacrifice should begin and end…
…that’s often a tough question to answer. Though Bates and I arrived at the right answer without any deliberation…
…I think our story might still be of help when the question arises.
The story presents the dilemma in basic real-life terms…and lets us all laugh at the pain of an unavoidable human dilemma.
I think it’s pertinent to add: both Bates and I worked hard from dawn to dusk—and sometimes even after dark. For very low wages. We did what we were told to do, 99% of the time. We were good farmhands.
I think if you’re willing to make that kind of sacrifice, perhaps you’ve earned the right to say “no” once in awhile…
…especially when common sense sounds an alarm.
© 2017, Michael R. Patton
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