My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys
A couple of Sundays ago, my big boy and I went to lunch after church. We didn't have the rugrats with us, so that meant my oldest son got to pick where we went to lunch. His favorite place is the buffet joint on the south side of Great Falls. I only go there when he begs me....
Anyhow, after he got his favorite fried chicken and macaroni and cheese, we sat in a corner booth. I looked across the tables and saw a pair of eyes that have never left my memory. There, in a well worn, straw cowboy hat and a pearl snap shirt, sat a hero from my past. He and his wife that hasn't changed a bit in 30 years, were visiting with another couple.
I said to my son, "Do you see that cowboy over there? He was my first real life hero."
"Why mom?" said my boy, with a funny look on his face. "Who is that?"
So I told him the story of how when I was 8 years old my mom had to move us off the farm and into town. That meant we had to sell my beloved pony. I was a heartbroken, horse crazy little girl. But my best friend and I had noticed some horses that were always picketed in the grass at the edge of town. We started visiting those six horses every day after school. Soon we became acquainted with their owner, who was the town mechanic. One afternoon, he offered to let us ride with him as he moved them from their picket lines to their corral for the night. By then we had our favorites and mine was a little black mare named "Dolly". I was overjoyed when he lifted me up onto the horse of my dreams. With nothing but a halter and lead rope, we headed to the other end of town.
That routine became a regular thing from then on. My best friend and I pestered the heck out of those horses and their cowboy/mechanic owner. We would often show up at his work shop and hang out until his work was done and it was time to move the horses. While he was working away, covered in grease or under some old ranch truck, he would tell us stories and things about life. He would also tell us about his faith. He told us how he read his Bible every day at lunchtime. My nine year old self was surprised that someone would want to read their Bible that much! In those hours in that old shop we never felt like we were in the way or a nuisance to Rod in any way. We always felt like he was glad to see us wander in the door.
When he took us riding we saw a man with a gift. Before the term "horse whisperer" ever came into existence, we saw the real thing. This man who jumped on the backs of his horses with just the lead rope for a bridle and could race across the prairie with all six horses freely following along. Sometimes he'd be riding one horse, leading another and he would slide from one of their backs onto the other while trotting up the road! I will see that in my mind forever I think....
Now almost 30 years later, he was sitting in a restaurant with his sweet wife. He really hasn't changed, other than his smiling eyes now make him look exactly like Roy Rogers. I mean exactly! I quietly went to their table with my son and said hello. They knew me immediately as "Kathy's daughter". I gave them hugs and told them I wanted my son to meet my childhood hero, which made them chuckle of course.
Sometimes we have the opportunity to make a difference to a child and we don't even realize it. Just like Rod did for a couple of horse crazy little girls. I know he had no idea how much the time and knowledge he gave us meant. I can only hope I use the opportunities I'm given to pay it forward....
Now go make something beautiful,