When I joined a team of search and rescue volunteers at Caprock Canyons State Park, I thought the job would entail rescuing for hikers who ran out of water or bandaging tourists who cozied up too close to the bison herd (for some reason, buffaloes think they own the place). Little did I suspect that “search and rescue” would include searching for run-away horses.
Here’s the story: A horseback rider got bucked off. Her friends rushed in to help. The skittish horse ran off—bridle, saddle, saddle bags and all.
I never heard what spooked the horse. Fortunately, the woman turned out to be all right…until she learned that her friends failed to retrieve the run-away horse. [Cue the trumpets for the Search and Rescue Cavalry!]
We arrived on scene with binoculars and topo maps and combed gulches and gullies for a horse wearing a lopsided saddle on its back and a crooked smile on its face. A week went by, then two weeks, then three. No horse was sighted. The woman and her husband returned each weekend to assist in the search. On the fourth week, the park authorities assembled a full-court press across 13,000 acres: ATV’s, drones, horses and mountain bikes.
I’m proud to say that I did my part. But I’m not proud of my inner disposition. If a horse of mine had skedaddled after bucking me off, that horse had better keep running!
The owner of this horse possessed far more compassion than me.
Had I forgotten the countless times that I played the part of Adam in Paradise, running off to hide from God? Had I forgotten that Christ, the Good Shepherd, never flagged in His pursuit of me, a sinner?
Yet, something inside me would not relent. Then it dawned me: a run-away horse is a far cry from a lost and pitiful lamb. Furthermore, when God confronts Job in his stubbornness, He cites the magnificence and confidence of the horse.
So, kudos to that run-away horse! I hope it managed to shed the saddle that it stole, offered up some penance, and is now basking in a life of freedom and grace in the majestic canyons of Texas.Those Catholic Men.