Joe and Marianne lived in the sand hills of Nebraska. A good place to live. A good place to raise a family. They were cattle ranchers. Their favorite rope horses were Bull and Bob. And there were the dogs—Jed, the old blue heeler and Jill, the Jack Russel puppy.
Joe was a good ‘ole boy. Born and raised in the Nebraska grasslands where he was destined to be a cattleman. Joe loved God. He was never loud or arrogant about his faith, it was a quiet thing to him. Quiet but important—living for God was his priority. Marianne was a natural beauty. She possessed an inner strength and joy of life that was obvious to all who knew her.
Joe met Marianne in Valentine, Nebraska and it was love at first sight. Joe had prayed for years for God to send him a wife. Marianne and Joe got married in the spring, about the time the grass is turning green. They moved to Joe’s ranch. About a year later, Marianne became pregnant. Joe loved Marianne so much and was so excited to have a child. He was thankful that God had given him Marianne to be the mother of his children.
Marianne was due to have their baby in the fall, hopefully before the snows came. They lived a long way from the hospital in Valentine and driving through a Nebraska blizzard could be impossible. Seventy miles from the hospital, the first thirty, a one lane dirt road, the last forty a two lane highway.
Joe loved God, Marianne, ranching, and roping, and in that order. Several weeks before the baby was due, Joe decided to take no chances. He loaded them up in the ranch truck. It was a four wheel drive, two door. It was old but reliable, had never had any trouble with it. Joe had reserved a room in Valentine till the baby was born. A friend of his had a pen of roping steers right out of town, so Joe decided he would take his head horses and rope during the day and let Marianne rest. He loaded their clothes, enough hay for a week, Bull and Bob, Jill and Jed, and of course all that Marianne would need in the hospital and the new little clothes for the baby.
Marianne so loved Joe, and was grateful for his attentiveness and concern for her and their baby that was coming soon.
They got a late start that day, and wouldn’t get to Valentine till about midnight. On the way to town, the dirt road seemed rougher than usual to
nine-month pregnant Marianne. She prayed and asked God for a good attitude and perseverance. She didn’t want to complain, Joe was doing the best he could.
Have you ever had one of those days when you wanted everything to go well but no matter what you tried it just seemed to get worse? Well, Marianne started having pains. She calmly told Joe—Joe drove faster. Marianne had more pains, so Joe pulled over to the side of the road and let her rest. The pains subsided, they went on. It wasn’t far and Joe hit a huge hole in the road, and for whatever reason the drive shaft fell off of the truck. There was no need for cell phones where they lived, because they had no service.
Joe and Marianne are now stuck in the middle of Nebraska on a cool fall evening. Marianne’s pains start again but much more severe.
Joe assesses the damage of the pick up, no way can he fix it. His baling wire, duct tape, and binding twine just aren’t enough. They are twenty miles from the house and fifty to Valentine. The only way to get home is to ride the horses. Marianne informs Joe in no uncertain terms, she is not riding any horse for twenty miles. Joe chooses not to leave her, maybe someone will come by.
Joe has been praying quietly but with some intensity, but now as he goes to the back of the trailer he falls on his knees and gets real serious.
“God what I am suppose to do? Help me be the husband I need to be. Protect my wife! Send help! I’ve helped a lot of cows calf but this is different, I need help.”
Several hours later—no one has come down the road. Marianne knows that the baby is coming—tonight. She prays and tries not to let Joe know how concerned she is or how bad the pains are getting.
As Joe gets out of the truck he looks to the sky and remembers the birth of Jesus. He was born in a stable. My horse trailer has to be cleaner than the stable Jesus was born in. Joe unloads the horses out of the trailer, gets the best bales of hay out of the truck and makes a bed for his wife. She can’t have the baby in the pick up, there isn’t room. Marianne makes her way to the trailer. This isn’t what she had planned. She had been to the hospital in Valentine and had seen the room she wanted. The trailer with the bed of straw didn’t quite smell like her clean, hospital room.
Marianne had thought about having a natural childbirth—it will now become a reality. Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world was born in a stable. Did Joseph have anyone to help him with the needs of Mary? Mary and Joseph trusted God, Marianne and Joe choose to do the same.
The situation that Joe and Marianne have found themselves in could happen to any rodeo couple. Imagine you are Marianne, you know your baby is coming very soon. It is cold—not snowing or blowing but cold. You go into labor—there are no motels or houses for miles. Riding "the horse of the year" for twenty miles seems like a nightmare. You are faced with the choice of delivering the baby in the seat of the pick up or in the back of the trailer. Your husband unloads the horses and cleans out the manure the best he can. Next he takes the hay and makes a bed. He gently helps you to the back of the trailer. You lay down and throughout the night you are in labor. It is so peaceful when the labor pains subside, the only sound is that of the horses banging their halters on the side of the trailer. In the early morning you give birth to a healthy boy. Mom and Dad are tired. As they admire their healthy baby boy, both are grateful. What seemed an impossible and unacceptable circumstance the night before has been worked out for good—just as God promises. (Romans 8:28)
This story was written so that we as rodeo wives might relate better to what Mary may have gone through when she delivered Jesus. The pictures on the Christmas cards look so peaceful. The baby looks so cute laying in a manger, and Mary looks perfect—but is that how it really was? She was nine months pregnant when she rode the donkey. The best accommodations in the stable would have been clean straw or hay. No epidural. Can you imagine laying your new baby in slobber covered, bug infested, cow trough? After an all night labor, was Mary awakened by a rooster at the crack of dawn?
And the moral of this rodeo fable is this—before you complain about your circumstances, remember Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the stable. Remember the physical discomfort of Mary. Remember Jesus sleeping in a cattle trough. And remember Joseph feeling very inadequate to do the job God gave him.