The “Cattle Guard”

by Kevin on April 5, 2010

There was a man that lived on the edge of a small town. Right behind his house was a rancher’s pasture. Every day, the rancher would drive by this man’s house and cross the cattle guard to feed his cows.

This rancher had never been one to keep his fences in good order and fix the leaks in his water troughs. He was faithful though in feeding his cows a little bit of cake every single day. It was part of his routine. Besides, this rancher lived in town and the entrance to his pasture was just off the paved road and the water trough was less than 100 yards down the bumpy dirt road.

Each day the rancher pulled up to the cattle guard, the dog that belonged to the guy in the house was out there barking at his cows. The rancher had never seen the dog get after them, but it really annoyed him and he just knew one day that this big dog would go after one of his calves.

The rancher would yell at the dog and try to drive it back towards the house. He would then drive down to the clearing and feed his cows. They would follow him all the way from the gate to the feeding area. Sometimes, after feeding the cows, the rancher would drive back out and some of the cows would try to follow. He just drove off fast and would out run them. In his rear view mirror, he would see the dog come racing out to bark at the cows. “One day,” he said, “I am going to kill that dog.”

Months later, the rancher’s worst fears came true. He pulled up to the gate and there was the dog. This time though, there was a dead calf on the other side of the fence. With rage, the rancher pulled out his gun and shot the dog. He left the dog lying right there so the owner would be able to find it. He didn’t care if they knew it was him or not. It didn’t matter that the dog wasn’t in his pasture. The evidence was clear. This dog had killed one of his calves.

When the rancher left after feeding, he had a mess on his hands. Four cows had followed him to the cattle guard. When he went over it, they followed. He spent the next two hours trying to get the cows back in the pasture.

The next day, the rancher returned and found two more dead calves. Each had similar injuries to the calf that had been killed the day before. He couldn’t help but notice the little cross right beside the fence where he had shot the dog. The first nagging thoughts invaded his mind. Maybe this dog hadn’t killed his calf. “Oh well,” he thought. “Even if that dog didn’t kill that calf, sooner or later it would have. And once a dog knows it can, only a bullet can keep them from it.”

After he left, six cows followed him over the cattle guard. This time, he had to call some local cowboys to come help get the cows back in the pasture before they got run over on the highway.

In the weeks that followed, the rancher lost all his little calves and he was constantly getting calls from the Sheriff’s Department about his cattle being out on the highway. On one particular evening, the call came in again. Only this time, there had been an accident. No one was killed, but a car with a family in it had hit one of his cows.

When he got there, he decided that enough was enough. He would have to sell of his cows. He was getting to old to be doing all of this. He didn’t want anyone hurt and he didn’t have the money to fix the fence or the cattle guard. While he was pondering all of this, a little boy wearing a cowboy hat walked from the house carrying something in his hand.

The little boy wore a black felt cowboy hat and walked up to the rancher and asked politely if he could speak to him. The rancher was a little nervous about what the lad might say and was pretty gruff when he told the youngster that now might not be the best time. The little boy said it would only take a second and handed the man a picture of his dog. On the back of the picture, in crayon, was the name “Cowboy”.

The boy took his hat off and wiped his brow with his shirt sleeve. He let out a big sigh and said, “Mister, my dog did everything he could to help you out. You ain’t ever out here in the evenings when that big pack of coyotes would come a sniffin’ round yer herd. Old Cowboy would go out there and chase them away. Sometimes he would come back bloody, but he never came back until he had chased ‘em all away. He watched yer cows day and night. If they ever even got close to the filled up cattle guard, Cowboy would go out there and bark at ‘em to keep in yer fence. In yer hatred, you didn’t notice that Cowboy had lost an eye the night before tanglin’ with them coyotes. That was the only time that I know of that they got the best of him. But he was back the next day, tryin’ to help you out, despite his hurts. And you shot him for his efforts. Now I don’t hold nothin’ ‘ginst ya fer what ya done. If it wouldn’t been yer bullet, it woulda been them coyotes. Cowboy was getting’ old. But the next time you go to blamin’ things, you’d better find out who’s really to blame.”

With that, the boy put his hat on and walked away.

That old rancher still goes out there every day. This time though, it’s to feed something else. Seems Cowboy had some pups. He takes Vienna Sausages to those pups and pauses every day to say hello to the best Cowboy he never knew. When he leaves, he always looks back in his rear view mirror. He can nearly see Cowboy faithfully barking there at the gate.

Luke 8:36-38 (Simplified Cowboy Version)

36Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37Then all the people told Jesus to leave, because they were scared of this miracle that he had done. So he got into the boat and left.

Many times, we do this same thing. We hear Jesus talking to us and we don’t pay him any mind. Sometimes we get annoyed when he tries to tell us to live better lives. We get mad at the thought of going to church instead of sleeping in. We have too many problems to worry about and got no time to sit down and pray.

After all this pushing away, the first time real tragedy strikes in our lives, we blame God. We accuse him of not caring. We rebel against him for allowing bad things to happen. It’s time that we start giving credit where credit is due. Jesus is there watching our lives day and night. Instead of shooting the only one that really takes care of us, let’s just give him a minute of our time.

Pastor Kevin Weatherby

© Kevin Weatherby, 2010

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