Counting Canyons

“What is this … four?” I asked Pete.

Pete wasn’t going to answer me. He never said anything, except maybe a snort when he saw me bringing him a bag of oats.

I sang as I counted to myself the number of canyons we’d climbed down into and then up the other side.

Whoopee ti yi yo, git along little dogies
It’s your misfortune and none of my own
Whoopie ti yi yo, git along little dogies
You know that Wyoming will be your new home

That’s all I knew of the song my dad used to sing, but it seemed to fit so I sang that part over again.

The dogie came up missing the day before, and just before the trail boss left to check in with the owner in town he told me to go look for it if it hadn’t come back to the herd by sun-up. It hadn’t.

As I climbed up and out of canyon number four my thoughts went back to the herd. I’d left them there with Cookie. He was supposed to keep an eye on things while I rode out for the stray, but by the time I left he was nursing his gut. If it flared up like usual, he wouldn’t leave his bedroll all day

But I had my instructions so I rode out. Besides, we had the cattle in a box canyon and the wagon was blocking the entrance. Cookie could keep an eye on them from there.

Oh yes, the box canyon. That makes five all together. I sang a little more.

I ride an old Paint …

No you don’t,” I told myself out loud. “You ride a buckskin.” I went back to singing about dogies for a while.

“Sure would like to find this dogie, Pete. He don’t have a mama to go looking for him and bring him back.”

Me neither, I thought.

Mama died young, and that was a long time ago, long enough that I’ve been out on the trail more years than I know. Long enough that this was my third Pete I’d put a saddle on. The first two I got when they were just fillies. Sure they were female horses, but I like the name Pete. Named my first horse Pete, named my second horse Pete, and when I got this one as a colt I finally had a boy horse to name Pete. Made it easy to remember my horse’s name too.

We made our way through the stand of trees and found another canyon. Probably not a real canyon, ’cause it was small. More like a gulch. But I called it a canyon anyway. Down we went.

“This makes six, Pete.”

No answer, like the last time and the time before that and the time … well, like always. I turned him down canyon a ways looking for dogie tracks, then back up canyon to look some more. Nothing. We climbed up and out.

The sun had passed noon long ago so I decided to ride west a bit and cross the canyons on the way back further down to see if the calf might’ve gone downhill a ways. They usually do.

I rode further on and finally found a spot I could turn left and drop back down into that gulch.

“Pete, do we count this one again?” It didn’t seem right, so I didn’t. “This’s number six, then.”

Searching for this dogie made me think of that story the trail boss read to us a couple nights back. Something in the Bible about Jesus looking for a lost sheep. I don’t much care for sheep, but if Jesus was a shepherd maybe sheep herders aren’t so bad a bunch.

The story said the shepherd left ninety-nine sheep alone to go look for one that wandered off. Well, I only left fifty-seven head of cattle, but they might as well be alone if Cookie’s really in a bad way. Much as I would’ve liked to hurry back, I didn’t like the idea of that dogie spending another night out on his own.

“Number five again, Pete.” Up and down the canyon in each direction. Still no calf.

The trail boss said the sheep in the story were people, that Jesus went looking for lost people. I wonder how many canyons and gulches Jesus would have to count to find me?

I sure didn’t want to ride back into camp without that dogie. If Jesus was out looking for me, I wouldn’t want him to head back to the sheep pen without me either.

Down another slope we went, canyon number four. We turned up canyon and passed a boulder, got blocked by a stand of brush. Only the brush wasn’t standing still. Something was in there and that something was bawling like a calf without a mama.

“Found ‘im, Pete.”

I climbed off Pete and pulled my rope from around the saddle horn. The calf had wedged himself under a thick branch and couldn’t work himself out. I slipped the rope over his neck, drew my knife out of the sheath and hacked away at the branch until I could bend it back off him.

“Git along little dogie,” I sung quietly as I reached my arms underneath him to lift him from the brush. Thorns poked through my sleeves, but I didn’t care. Couldn’t feel any pain at all, as happy as I was finding that calf.

This is just like the sheep story too, I thought. In the story everybody cheered when the shepherd brought the lost sheep home. It’ll sure cheer Cookie up to see him, even if he’s feeling poorly.

The trail boss said everybody in heaven cheers when Jesus brings someone home too. Was Jesus out riding canyons looking for me? I’d have to ask the trail boss when he came in tonight. It’ll be late.

If they’re still up, I’ll ask the boss if he has that Bible story handy. I’ll ask him what it’s like when Jesus finds you.


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21 Responses to Counting Canyons

  1. Jeannie says:

    Tim, this is a GREAT story. I love it. It is so great to be reminded that even when we feel lost, God hasn’t given up on us and is out seeking to gather us in His arms and take us home.

    (I smiled at the song too: we have this on a “Campfire Songs” CD for kids and I always like the images it creates: “I spied a cow-puncher all ridin’ along; his cap was thrown back and his spurs was a-jinglin’, and as he approached he was singin’ this song…”)

  2. Adriana says:

    The story of the lost lamb is one of my favorites,Tim and I KNOW my husband (the cowboy) and kids will LOVE this version! 🙂 Let’s cue up the song now, shall we? Hit it Roy:

    • Tim says:

      I used to sing with Roy and Dale’s son, Tom. He was our worship music leader for a while and would bring his parents to church when they were in town visiting. Nice family.

      • Adriana says:

        Awww…How neat! 🙂

        • Tim says:

          By the way, you’ve got to let me know how your cowboy liked today’s piece!

        • Adriana says:

          We had a nice time around our bonfire tonight. Joe and the kids enjoyed the story very much. Of course we HAD to sing “Git Along Little Dogies.” I thought a dogie was simply a calf but Joe explained that it is a motherless or neglected calf. Interesting. My daughter liked the name “Cookie.” She wanted me to tell you that “Cookie” is a REAL cowboy name. Then one of the boys added, “Cookie is the cook.” So you see, they are experts.

          P.S. My daughter also wants you to know that she loves buckskin horses.

        • Tim says:

          I feel like the story was a complete success on all fronts, Adriana. They are all true cowboy experts!

  3. Erica M. says:

    This is a fantastic story! And one of my favorites from the Bible too. Thanks for a nice start to the morning. 🙂

    • Tim says:

      Thank you, Erica, that’s very kind of you. It is a wonderfully encouraging parable too, isn’t it? Jesus actually searches us out. What a Savior.

  4. KSP says:

    I had no idea there was a cowboy in you, Tim!

    • Tim says:

      Oh yeah, sure. My dad used to ride rodeo, team roping event. Then December 7, 1941, happened and he went off with the Flying Tigers in China.

  5. Dana Tuttle says:

    Awe! I loved it! Thanks for sharing it and pointing out that I would enjoy it since my sweet furry boy’s name was Pete.

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