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Living the Code
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DETERMINING HOW ALIVE YOU ARE

Last week Cowboy Joe told complaining neighbor Noel Johnson not to tell everyone about his problems because, according to Cowboy Joe, half the people don’t give a care and the other half are glad to hear you that have them.

But, that didn’t cure neighbor Johnson from complaining, because the next time we saw him, he started going through the litany again.

After he finished, Cowboy Joe said, “I’m going to show you some people who have no problems. Maybe you would like to join them.”

Even I was intrigued. So, I asked if I could go along.   

“Sure,” said Cowboy Joe. The three of us jumped into Cowboy Joe’s pickup, and he drove to the edge of town, and pulled up in front of the cemetery. “Get out. I want to show you something.”

“See all those Graveyardpeople buried out there. None of them have any problems. Do you want to join them Johnson?”

“Not really,” responded Johnson.

“Think about this,” said Cowboy Joe. “If dead people have no problems, then conversely, it seems to me the more problems you have, the more alive you are.”

Accept responsibility for your life.

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THE STETSON HAT

“You know,” said Cowboy Joe, as he took a sip of the hot coffee, “when I was a young whipper-snapper I wanted a new The Stetson HatStetson hat. For about a week I moped around the house hoping on one hand that my dad would buy me one, and knowing on the other that he couldn’t afford to.

“Tired of the whole situation, my dad asked me to accompany him to the stream out back. He asked me to kneel down and take a close look at the water. When I did that, he put his hand on the back of my head and pushed it under the water. I didn’t know what was happening, but since it was my dad I didn’t resist.

“But after a while my lungs started screaming for oxygen. I started fighting him to get my head out of the water. But my dad kept holding my head. Finally I broke lose and started gasping for air. Calmly he said, ‘When you desire a Stetson hat as much as you desired air, you’ll find a way to get it.’

“Within a short time I was doing chores for the neighbors, and it was less than a couple of weeks when I had my Stetson.

“Just to ‘want’ something isn’t enough. You have to go the distance.”

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HAPPINESS

The other day I was at Cowboy Joe’s. We were restacking some hay in his barn’s loft. Now, Cowboy Joe has several “barn cats” that do a good job keeping the mice and other varmints under control.

The Cat - HappionessDuring a break we were watching one of the cats playing when Cowboy Joe said, “You know, that reminds me of a story.”

“It seems an older cat saw a young cat chasing his tail. ‘Why are you chasing your tail?’ said the older cat. ‘I just want to be happy. And I discovered that happiness is my tail,’ responded the young cat. ‘That’s why I’m chasing it. When I catch it, I’ll have happiness.’

“The old cat said, ‘I too feel that happiness is good. But, I’ve noticed that when I chase after it, it keeps running away from me, but when I go about my business, happiness just seems to come after me wherever I go’”

Cowboy Joe just stood up, picked up a bail of hay, and placed it in the new stack, smiling all the time.

Be positive and cheerful.

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WAS HE REALLY A FAILURE?

Cowboy Joe has a habit of giving me just enough rope to hang myself. Like the other day when he told me about this guy that he had been reading about.

He said that the Abraham Lincoln - Was He Really A Failure?guy had tried to run a couple of businesses and went bankrupt in both of them. Then he decided to try his hand in the political arena and ran for Congress three times, loosing each time. Still trying to make it in politics, he ran for the Senate…and lost. Not satisfied, he even tried to become the Vice President of the United States, and lost that. Finally, at the age of 52, he finally won an election.

Then, Cowboy Joe sprang the trap. “Would you agree that this guy was a failure?”

I said, “Sounds like it to me.”

Cowboy Joe responded. “You may have heard of him before. His name is Abraham Lincoln.”

Go the distance.

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BE OF GOOD COURAGE

Theodore Roosevelt - Be of Good CourageBefore Theodore Roosevelt became the President of the United States he was a cowboy and rancher. As a boy Roosevelt was sickly and fearful. Later in life he wrote the following:

“When a boy, I read a passage in one of Marryat’s books which always impressed me. In this passage the captain of some small British man-of-war is explaining to the hero how to acquire the quality of fearlessness. Theodore RooseveltHe says that at the outset almost every man is frightened when he goes into action, but that the course to follow is for the man to keep such a grip on himself that he can act just as if he were not frightened. After this is kept up long enough, it changes from pretense to reality, and the man does in very fact become fearless by sheer dint of practicing fearlessness when he does not feel it.

“This was the theory upon which I went. There were all kinds of things of which I was afraid at first, ranging from grizzly bears to ‘mean’ horses and gunfighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid. Most men can have the same experience if they choose.”

Go the distance.

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BEING NEIGHBORLY

The Night Clerk - Being NeighborlyThe story is told of an elderly couple approaching the night clerk in one of Philadelphia’s older hotels. The man indicated that he and his wife had been looking all over town for a room, but because of a convention, none was to be had.

The night clerk had pity on the couple and, although there was no vacancy in his hotel, offered them his room for the night.

The next morning while the elderly couple was eating breakfast, they asked to see the night clerk. The Waldorf-AstoriaWhen the clerk arrived, the gentleman astonished him by asking, “How would you like for me to build a big, beautiful, luxurious hotel in the city of New York and make you the general manager?” Astounded, the clerk simply responded, “Wonderful!”

The elderly man introduced himself as John Jacob Astor. The Waldorf-Astoria was built, and the night clerk became its first manager.

Be a good friend and neighbor. It can be a reward to everyone.

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THE PARACHUTIST

Our local crop duster guy, Dusty Johnson, stopped by the other day to shoot the bull, and talk about next year’s schedule. The ParachutistI asked him if he wore a parachute when he flew. He told me he never did. He said he flew so close to the ground that if he jumped out, it would never open. “And speaking of parachutes,” he continued, “the guys at the hanger told me a story about a guy who was making his first solo jump from a plane.”

“This guy’s in the air, sitting behind the pilot. ParachutistThe pilot told him, ‘There are four things you need to remember. First, when I tell you to jump, you jump. Second, wait five seconds and pull the rip-cord. Third, if the main chute doesn’t open, pull the emergency chute rip-cord. And, fourth, when you land, the truck will be there to pick you up.’

“The instructor said ‘Jump’, and the man jumped. After five seconds, he pulled the rip-cord. The chute didn’t open. He then pulled the emergency rip-cord. It didn’t open either. As the man was in free fall, he was heard to say. ‘With my luck I bet the truck won’t be there either.’”

Free Falling without a parachute!

After a laugh, Dusty said, “Talk about being positive. That guy was positively…negative.”

It’s easy to be positively negative. It’s better to be positively, positive.

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Cowboy Joe

FIVE-FOOT FORKS

“Heard a great story the other day,” said Cowboy Joe to the guys setting around the general store potbelly stove. Everyone immediately stopped talking and turned to Joe in anticipation.

“It seems a cowboy died and went to heaven. At the gate, the angel told the cowboy that he wanted to take him to hell to show him what he had missed out on. In hell, there was a table piled high with every food imaginable, but the people around the table were starving.

Table Piled with Food “How could this be,” he asked the angel. “Are they not allowed to eat?” The angel explained that they could eat, but they must use five-foot long forks held from the end. They can’t get the food to their mouths.

The cowboy was then taken to heaven. There he saw a similar room with a table loaded with food. But the people were all well nourished and happy. They also had to eat with five-foot long forks held from the end.

“The difference,” explained the angel, “In heaven the people had learned that by feeding each other, their needs could be met in a similar way.”

Be a good friend and neighbor.

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GETTING FROM LIFE

We were sitting at the kitchen table. I had just topped off Cowboy Joe’s coffee cup for the third time when he said, “Did you hear about that Getting From Lifenew minister, Reverend Hair, at the Baptist Church?”

“I heard things aren’t going well for him.” I responded.

“That’s not the half of it. Last Sunday he and his son got to the church early to open things up, and make sure the hymnals were in place. Because the offering had been so light, the minister decided to put a ten-dollar bill in the offering plate, hoping the parishioners would get the hint.

As was the custom, he put the offering plate by the door so the attendees could drop something in it on the way out. After the service, he picked up the offering plate. It was empty; except for that ten-dollar bill he had placed there himself.

His son had noticed the whole affair. And he said, “You know, dad, if you would have put more into it, you would have gotten more out of it.”

Cowboy Joe smiled “Isn’t that the way life is, the more we put into it, the more we get out of it.”

Go the distance.

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THE FLOOD

As Cowboy Joe walked up to me, he stuck out his hand for the customary shake, and said, “Cousin Fred just told me a great story.” Now, Cousin Fred has almost as good stories as does Cowboy Joe.

“It seems a man was living in Shawneetown, Illinois along the Wabash River. With the spring thaw and rains, the river started rising. The FloodA neighbor on horseback came by and told him that the river was going to flood the area, and he should pack up and leave. The man responded that he had faith in God, and God would take care of him.

“Later, when the river had just reached his house, another neighbor came by driving a team of horses pulling a wagon. ‘Grab your stuff, and put it in the wagon,’ said the neighbor, ‘the river’s supposed to rise another twenty feet.’

“The man responded that he was going to stay because God would take care of him. Still later, with the water almost up to the second floor of his home, a rowboat with rescue people in it came by requesting he get in their boat. Sitting on the roof, the man again responded that he trusted in God to take care of him.

“The floods continued. The house was washed away, and the man drowned. When he appeared before God, angrily he said, ‘I trusted you to take care of me, you failed and I drowned.’ God responded, ‘Who do you think sent the two neighbors and the rescue boat by your place?’”

Faith may move mountains, but picking up a shovel will make it happen sooner. Take responsibility for your life.

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YOUR PROBLEMS

A few evenings ago, Cowboy Joe and I were sitting on the front porch Neighbor Johnson - Your Problemsjust watching the world go by when Noel Johnson, a neighbor up the road, came by on his horse. As Neighbor Johnson got off his horse, Cowboy Joe just rolled his eyes. He knew what was coming.


Neighbor Johnson opened up the conversation with, “How’s it goin?” We both said, “Fine.” And, neither asked the question back. But, Neighbor Johnson answered it anyway.


“I swear, my milk cow got out again today. And, ol’ Red there, every time I turn around he’s got either thrush or colic. I may have to shoot him someday. Wish I could do that with my wife. If she’s not yelling at me, she’s giving me the silent treatment. And then there’s the kid. I swear he’s the laziest boy I’ve ever seen.”


Cowboy Joe couldn’t maintain his silence any longer. And when he started out with “You know,” I knew he was going to come out with something philosophical.


“You know, Neighbor Johnson, it might help to talk to the minister about your problems, or maybe a close friend, but not the whole world. It’s best to keep your troubles pretty much to yourself. Cause half the people you tell ‘em to won’t give a care, and the other half will be glad to hear you got ‘em. Why don’t you just be positive and cheerful for a change.”

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FAILING TO SUCCEED

With a twinkle in his eye Cowboy Joe said to me, “You know that Thomas Edison sure was a failure.”

“A failure,” Thomas Edison - Failing to SucceedI responded. “He held almost 1,100 patents when he died. He invented the electric light bulb. He came up with natural latex, the basis for the modern rubber industry.”

“No, he was a failure. He failed 10,000 times while trying to come up with that light bulb. And he failed over 17,000 times while trying to come up with latex. Yes, he was a failure.” And then Cowboy Joe broke out in a big smile. He had been tweaking my nose.

In his simple way, Cowboy Joe went on to say something profound.

“It seems the fear of failure is the greatest obstacle to success. The fact is success is normally impossible without first failing. When you read the stories of successful people, you’ll discover the most successful have had the most failures. Therefore, it stands to reason, the more times you fail at something, the greater your eventual success.”

Go the distance.

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The Baseball PlayerTHE BASEBALL PLAYER

With spring comes baseball season, as sure as daylight follows night. And, with the onset of baseball, I would like to reprise a great story that Cowboy Joe tells about a neighbor boy with a bat and ball.

Alone in his back yard, and not knowing he had an audience, with an underhand motion, the boy threw up the ball. As it came back down, he swung the bat. Whiff. He missed the ball. “Strike one,” he said to himself. He threw it up a second time. Again, he missed the ball. “Strike two.” As he reached down to pick up the ball there was a slight smile on his face. A third time he threw the ball in the air. Again, all that could be heard was the whiff of the bat cutting the air. “Strike three.”

The young boy now had a big smile on his face. “Boy, am I going to be a great pitcher,” he said to himself.

Cowboy Joe always wraps up the story by saying, “You know, no matter what happens to us, we are the only one to decide our attitude toward it. And that attitude determines if we are positive and cheerful or not.”

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SHAKE IT OFF

I was helping Sunny in the garden when Cowboy Joe rode up on his bay gilding, and jumped off. He was a bit more excited than usual. Which is basically no excitement at all.

After tipping his hat to Sunny, he said, "Did you hear about the mule that fell down in the abandoned well at the Johnson's'?"

mule"No. I hadn't." I responded.

"Well, the mule wasn't injured. But, because he was quite upset, and doing a lot of struggling, no one wanted to climb down there and put a sling around his belly to pull him out. So, finally they decided just to give up on the mule. And, in order to make sure no one else fell in the well, they decided the only thing to do was to fill it up, with the mule in it.

Shake It Off!"At first, the mule was hysterical as the dirt fell on his back. Then he realized he could shake it off and step up. The mule kept shaking off the dirt and stepping up until he actually stepped out of the well.

"It was the darnedest thing I ever saw. You know, we could sure learn a lesson from that dumb old mule. If we could only shake off those hardships that come our way, instead of letting them bury us, they could probably benefit us."

And, with that, Cowboy Joe turned around; jumped on his horse; and rode away.

I turned to Sunny and laughed. "You know, Hon, he sure has a point."

Go the distance.

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THE SNAKE AND THE FROG

FrogRecently Cowboy Joe, our mythical cowboy, was fishing in his boat on the lake behind his place. With his line in the water, Cowboy Joe was relaxing, and enjoying the beautiful summer morning. Looking over the side of the boat, he saw a snake swimming along with a frog in his mouth. Realizing it was just a water snake; Cowboy Joe reached over the side, and snatched the snake out of the water. He pulled the frog out of the snake’s mouth and released the frog. Cowboy Joe then started feeling sorry for the snake; after all, the frog was the snake’s meal.

Now, Cowboy Joe always keeps some sarsaparilla around, for emergencies such as this. He took the bottle and poured a few drops in the snake’s mouth. After the sarsaparilla, he knew the snake wouldn’t be too upset about the frog. Cowboy Joe then released the snake.

A short time later Cowboy Joe heard a tapping on the side of his boat. He looked over the side and saw the snake. He had two frogs in his mouth.

From this, Cowboy Joe realized that you don’t always get the results you want, but you always get the results you reward. Have you ever wondered why you don’t have loyal friends? Could it be because you don’t reward their loyalty by being a loyal friend yourself?

Be a good friend and neighbor.

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