Decisions that change everything
May 2, 2011
Last night we watched the movie Secretariat. I love racehorse movies and this one is definitely one of my all time favorites! But watching the movie brought back a flood of memories about a time in my life when I was surrounded by horses, and about a decision I had to make which has probably affected the rest of my life.
It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college, and I was spending my time working on a ranch in Virginia. I was making a pitiful amount of money, but absolutely loving my job. In fact, I still say that it was the best job I ever had and probably will ever have for the rest of my life. I got to be around horses all day long, from 6:00 in the morning when we rounded up the herd to 6:00 at night when we put them out to pasture. Throughout the day Tim, the ranch’s overseer, played country music and cowboy music while we worked — songs that still run through my head. A typical day was spent feeding and saddling nearly 70 horses, taking children on trail rides, teaching a “Cowboy skills” class, mucking out stalls, bailing hay, and riding horses every chance I could get. Oftentimes in the evenings when we would get off work, the other ranch hands and I would go swimming, hunt snakes in the surrounding marshes, and lift weights. During these summers I can remember: sleeping each night like a baby, eating and never getting full, sweating all day long, drinking water all day long, having very calloused hands, gaining about 20 pounds from the physical labor. (I would always get back to college and have people comment on my tanned complexion and larger physique).
I spent three summers like this while in college. My Stetson cowboy hat still sits here in my study on a shelf, along with my many pairs of boots, my spurs, my big belt buckles, and all my other ranch stuff. I guess I hold on to it because maybe, just maybe, someday I’ll get the chance to use it again.
It was during those summers on the ranch that I made possibly one of the most significant decisions of my life. The head of the ranch could tell how much I loved life as a cowboy. He approached me one day and made me an offer. “Andy, how about staying on for a year and letting me train you as an apprentice? I’ll let you go through this program absolutely free rather than charging you our typical fee. In the process you’ll be taught how to be a farrier, be certified to teach riding courses, and leave with the qualifications to oversea a barn of your own.”
I thought long and hard about the offer. It would mean I would have to take a year off of school, but I could always make that back up. In the end, I turned down his offer. I couldn’t help but sense that, as much as I loved being a cowboy, God wanted me to finish what I had started, which meant graduating from college. Of course, this girl named Hannah-Joy down in Georgia had a big impact on my decision as well!
Would I have ever finished college if I had accepted Tim’s offer? Would I have married Hannah-Joy? Would I still be riding horses every day? I really do not know, but these are the types of questions that flood my mind when I watch a horse-movie like Secretariat.