Sacred Ground

By Julie Chapman

John Mullins’ horse trots towards the horizon as the sun rises. Light begins to reflect off the dew, illuminating the mesquite trees and tall grasses of the Texas landscape. The sound of birds chirping fills the sky and the bellows of cows and neighing of horses joins the chorus. John, a working cowhand, rides his horse towards the cattle entrusted to his care. He smiles as he watches calves frolic mischievously around their mothers. John’s breath forms clouds as each exhalation meets the cold morning air. Despite his warm clothing, he shivers. It’s another day on the ranch and he feels blessed to be a cowboy.

John grew up in Archer City, Texas, home to 1,300 souls and located within 30 miles of the Oklahoma border. Now in his mid-20s, he counts himself lucky: He has found a full time job doing what he loves. While many of his contemporaries make their living in other fields, men and women like John live to be in the saddle. Some of his happiest memories have occurred while riding on a quality horse, watching the antics of the calves intermingling with their mothers.

Humbled by the handiwork of God, he never tires of the beauty of these moments, especially at daybreak. “I see God every day,” John said. When asked if his belief is unique, he answered, “Most cowboys have a similar viewpoint. We all struggle with our faith, nobody’s perfect, and His presence is felt more closely by some than others, but for every cowboy, it’s there. It’s hard to say, can’t speak for others, but it’s there for all of us.”

Amid the challenges and dangers of the job, John’s faith in God is deepened. The rugged, sometimes unforgiving land is filled with poisonous snakes, drought and the aggressiveness of steers. At times, situations of life and death happen without warning. Through it all, John feels God looking out for him. He says, “You realize how delicate life is, it can be there and then taken away.” When a heifer struggles with the birth of her calf and complications end her life, John knows life goes on. Her calf, still alive and needs to be fed from a bottle: Faith strengthens more than just John.

John Riggs, host of the “Authentic Cowboy” TV show, is a cowboy and a preacher. He says, “You can’t work this kind of country and see all that has been created and not know there is a God in heaven.” He goes on to say that cowboys are men of valor. They may not always like each other but they have each other’s back. Their shared passion is for the wide-open spaces, the satisfaction of a job well done, the freedom of being in the saddle and finding God in the midst of His creation. Cowboys don’t claim to be perfect; rather, they readily admit their shortcomings. Their unwritten code, courage and respect for others make them men of valor.

Casey Hoff, another young Texan cowboy, is a ranch hand for J.S. Bidwell, a workingman’s ranch outside of Archer City, where he has loved every minute of his seven years as a hand. Casey’s faith is the core of who he is. He has experienced times when he needed God and God showed up. On one of his living room walls, 20 crosses of different shapes and sizes hang as a reminders of his faith. In a time when we see many young people fall away from the conviction of their fathers, it is refreshing to witness faith in action. These young men live their principles.

Cowboying is not a lucrative job but this way of life suits men like John and Casey. Day after day, they spend long hours with a great deal of responsibility and danger. They are not in it for the money. But they would not have it any other way. Their faith in God is interwoven into who they are and what they do. Jesus is their wagon boss and they live this life for Him.

 

Julie Chapman, through her Sacred Ground column, brings a faith-based perspective to being open to God’s presence in travel and throughout our daily lives. She resides in Mt. Pleasant with her four children who love to travel as much as she does. You may contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Mercury newspaper racks are located at the following locations:

The Meeting Street Inn

Clair's Service Station at 334 Folly Rd.

Harris Teeter on Houston-Northcutt Blvd.

The Square Onion in I'On

Mt. Pleasant Library on Mathis Ferry Rd.