The day before New Year’s Eve. I was stuck in Birmingham rush hour. A ten-mile line of standstill traffic stretched before me. It looked like I wouldn’t be getting home until sometime around the next papal installation.
The Dodge truck beside me towed a gooseneck horse trailer. Inside was a white horse, staring at me from her open window, chewing a mouthful of alfalfa.
You might not care about this, but as a boy I was obsessed with horses. I grew up around horse people. I rode some; I wasn’t any good.
Even so, I was always thinking about horses, drawing pictures of quarterhorses in notebooks, reading novels like “National Velvet” and “My Friend Flicka.”
“The Black Stallion” was perhaps one of the greatest horse movies ever made.
All these memories came back to me while looking at that horse. She ate her dinner of legume hay, sniffing the Alabamian breeze, cheerfully watching the passing eighteen-wheelers, the UPS trucks, the public transit busses, the Porsches, and the giant SUVs which were roughly the size of rural school districts.
And I fell in love with her right there.
The horse had other admirers in traffic, too. There were teenagers in the Nissan ahead of me, rolling down their windows to greet her.
“HEY, HORSEY!” they howled.
Soon, everyone in traffic was staring at these obnoxious teenagers who tried wildly to get the horse’s attention.
After watching the teenagers for a few minutes, I decided that I had never seen behavior so ridiculous and immature in all my life, and I wanted to be part of it.
So I cranked down my window and joined them.
And do you know what? No sooner had I rolled down my window than I discovered other adult motorists were doing the same thing I was doing.
An older man in a nice suit, driving a Land Rover Defender, was speaking to the horse.
A young woman in a newer model VW Bug was blowing kisses.
An old couple in a Jeep Wrangler was trying desperately to get the horse to notice them.
And for a brief moment in time, several humans from different backgrounds, creeds, and income tax brackets, shared something in common. We were all acting like idiots.
For a horse.
Traffic moved slowly onward, and I eventually lost sight of the livestock trailer. But during my commute I began to notice the many varying hues of my fellow man.
I saw a young guy in a souped-up Cadillac with a stereo system emitting bass notes loud enough to affect the climate.
I saw the young couple having a heated argument in their Kia.
I noticed the van of work-release inmates, each man absently gazing out his window, with the weight of the universe on his back.
I saw an ambulance cutting through traffic, sirens screaming. Off to save a life.
I pulled alongside a minivan full of children. Behind the tinted windows were childish bodies gyrating and singing at the tops of their voices. The driver—God love him—was a middle-aged dad.
And even though Dear Old Dad was probably exhausted, he was actually singing along with his children. Full blast.
Greater love hath no man than to sing with his kids.
For some reason, I started thinking about all the highway games I used to play with my mother during road trips as a boy. I thought about how my mother and I used to sing with the radio a lot. I thought about how we were so close after my father died because we were all we had.
My family had one road-trip game we called “Collect The Bumper Stickers.” It was a bloodthirsty battle wherein you pointed out bumper stickers.
Below are some of the greatest stickers I have seen:
—I’M SPEEDING BECAUSE MY KID HAS TO PEE.
—I THINK, THEREFORE I AM STILL SINGLE.
—DYSLEXICS ARE POOD GEOPLE.
—I BET JESUS WOULD’VE USED HIS TURN SIGNAL.
—DRIVER CARRIES NO CASH. HE’S MARRIED.
And my personal favorite:
—PROUD PARENT OF AN AVERAGE STUDENT.
Then I started thinking about how much older I’m getting. Yesterday was my birthday, tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, and in mere hours it will be 2022.
Sometimes it feels like time is speeding up. Sometimes I wonder how a stiff-jointed middle-aged man took over my life.
Every moment that passes, I get one moment older. And each year that I complete, I am one more year removed from that little kid who used to draw horses in his notebook.
Thoughts like this are enough to make you feel nostalgic, perhaps even a little sad at times.
But then something happens to you.
You look around yourself in traffic and you see things. You see dads singing with their children. You see young couples who love each other enough to argue about it on the freeway.
There are inmates who, even though they have every right give up and quit living, don’t.
There are gajillions of ordinary people, just like you, driving average cars, waking up every morning, and doing the best they can.
There are people out there who sometimes, for no explainable reason, become so overwhelmed with the world’s beauty they can think of nothing better to do than to wave at a pretty horse.
I don’t care what they say. It’s going to be a great year.
Darlene - December 31, 2021 6:16 am
Happy New Year, Sean & Jamie. I can’t wait to see 2022 thru my SkinnyRedheadedGuyViewMaster!
Johnna Clarke - December 31, 2021 7:16 am
Happy New Year to my favorite humorist and his wife. Keep on writing. We need you.
Johnna Clarke - December 31, 2021 7:18 am
Happy New Year to my favorite humorist and his wife. Keep on writing. We need you,.
Liz Hoyt Eberle - December 31, 2021 7:47 am
Darlene….. I LOVE your description. WOW. You learned from our maser writer 🤗🤭👏🏻👏🏻💕💕n I agree…somehow, knowing and loving Sean gives je new hope for 22 …… 🎶🎶🙏🏻🙏🏻
Linda Vaughan - December 31, 2021 9:00 pm
Darlene, so perfect–SkinnyRedheadedGuyViewMaster!
Norma+Den🇿🇦 - December 31, 2021 9:12 am
LOVE & HOPE are 2 of the best words. We LOVE Sean, who brings us such HOPE with his daily letters. May 2022 be a year of LOVE to all mankind, & HOPE for peace, joy, the end of Covid & a better year for all, despite their circumstances. To quote Charles Dickens, God bless us, every one.
Holly Lee - December 31, 2021 10:41 am
Growing up, I was obsessed with horses too! I’m so nostalgic and sad as well. It’s all going so fast! Hope and love keep me going. My kids keep me smiling. God is good.
Karen - December 31, 2021 1:32 pm
Happy New Year. You brought back many wonderful memories. Sean, I agree,2022 will be a good year..
Melissa M - January 4, 2022 10:41 am
Once you truly love horses you will always love horses. I am going to be one of those 90 year old women that you see on a video- I fully expect my grandson to build a contraption to hoist me up for one last ride when I am so old I can no longer climb into the saddle on my own.
Beth Kinstler - December 31, 2021 10:48 am
The way I discovered the power of three was being stuck in the back seat as we drove around the New York thruways. If you add up all the numbers on a bumper sticker (or any string of numbers) until you can’t add anymore, if the answer is divisible by 3 then the original number is also divisible by 3. Thank me later.
Helen - December 31, 2021 12:01 pm
Here’s to another great year! Thank you for helping us “see” the goodness in our world.
Suzi - December 31, 2021 12:36 pm
Yes, it is going to be a good year, it’s all about at-ti-tide, trusting God and a few musings by Sean of the South!
By the way, Happy Belated Birthday 🎉
Ann Scott - December 31, 2021 1:10 pm
I was intro to your column by my sister. I am so thankful for this gift!! You are a true gem and what this world needs right now. This column is a bright spot in my day. Please don’t ever stop writing. Thank you for your insight and humor. A Scott
Joy Jacobs - December 31, 2021 1:19 pm
Thanks for the positive message. For me 2021 was great. I turned 70, celebrated our 50th anniversary on a family trip and lost 10 pounds. How can 2022 be much better? 😊
Lav - December 31, 2021 1:46 pm
It’s got to be a great year. I don’t know how much more any of us could take.So with a heart full of hope I wish you and jamie..and all of your readers a very happy new year
Lisa K Riley - December 31, 2021 1:46 pm
Sean, your column is the first thing I look for every morning in my email. I was introduced to your Southern “wisdom” as my grandma would have said the week my husband passed in October this year. It’s given me a lifeline. May 2022 be a better year for all of us. I’m praying for that!
Rhonda - December 31, 2021 1:46 pm
Amen. A totally awesome year!
Hawk - December 31, 2021 1:52 pm
I have experienced many of Birmingham’s traffic jams. I got to know many of the people beside me in the jam. We still exchange Christmas cards.
Bkr - December 31, 2021 1:57 pm
LOVED THIS!! it is going to be a great year!!!
Lisa Wilcox - December 31, 2021 2:06 pm
Thanks for another great piece of writing. I always look forward to reading your work every day! HBD to you!
Our youngest son’s birthday is on NYE but he struggles with anxiety and depression so he’s not really all that “happy” when his birthday comes around. He turns 30 today.
God bless you and Jamie and keep writing and sharing!
Susan - December 31, 2021 2:06 pm
Happy birthday. Love your writings.
Paul McCutchen - December 31, 2021 2:15 pm
Don’t have a horse but I will ride into 2022 like the Lone Ranger. Always looking for something good. Hopefully
terric - December 31, 2021 2:18 pm
Happy New Year to you and beautiful Jamie. Love you much Sean!
Te - December 31, 2021 2:30 pm
My fav bumper sticker: You’d be a great driver if that phone was shoved up your ass.
Ruth Mitchell - December 31, 2021 2:39 pm
Keep your thoughts coming. Just reading your words each day helps me be more appreciative of others and this trip we call “life.” Happy New Year to you and your wife.
Naomi Smith - December 31, 2021 3:03 pm
Thank you for giving us your take on life, for making the ordinary special. We could all do better by looking at life through your lenses.
I refuse to watch the news, where a big deal is made of a few items and it is hard to see the truth in any of it.
Patsy - December 31, 2021 3:06 pm
Your last line made my day brighter🙌👍🎉
Shelton A. - December 31, 2021 3:10 pm
Happy New Year to everyone and God bless you all! May 2022 be a better year.
Nancy M Urrutia - December 31, 2021 3:31 pm
I’m a 63 year old woman and I’m still obsessed with and love horses. Thank you.
chipnoon - December 31, 2021 3:34 pm
This column deserves a hearty ATTABOY! Thank you, Sean. And Happy New Year to you and your family.
DAVID A WILSON - December 31, 2021 3:47 pm
Again, GREAT writing bringing back old memories. THANKS
Marilyn - December 31, 2021 3:47 pm
Though 2021 has been a trying year for my family, there have been hidden blessings come from all the turmoil and disappointments. Thank you, Sean for helping me see that there is good everywhere and all I need to do is look beyond the bad to see the good. Your column, blog, or whatever it is, blesses us daily. May God continue to bless you and Jamie. And have a Happy New Year!
NancyB - December 31, 2021 4:11 pm
Yes, Sean, I agree, 2022 is going to be awesome. And I’m excited to be a part of that awesomeness! But let’s look at 2021 with a positive filter for a moment. Good friends became Grammy and Papa for the first time. Thousands of other babies were born. Two couples I know, plus thousands of other couples, were married. Couples/families bought their first home and moved in to began life in their very own home, well, theirs and the bank’s. Millions of young people graduated from thousands of schools and began life as ‘full-fledged adults’. Much younger ones went to kindergarten for the first time and mamas cried on that first day. Hundreds of people celebrated milestone birthdays of 90, 95, and even 100. In fact, all of us celebrated birthdays. People retired after decades of working and now can begin to enjoy their grands, have time old hobbies and discover new ones, maybe try some traveling even if only to local places they hadn’t had time to visit when working, and/or volunteer with an organization about which they feel passionate. There are thousands of other positive things from 2021. Yes, I know, there will always be a list of the many negatives associated with 2021. People died. . .natural disaters occured. . .and more. BUT we have to look at the good as being a HUGE part of our lives. If we don’t the bad wins. I, for one, refuse to let that happen. Sean, thank you for being a positive in my life!
Katy @ 11:11 - December 31, 2021 4:11 pm
🥳🥳🥳HAPPY BIRTHDAY SEAN💕 and happy new year to you both! Keep on writing for us cause we still need you 🥳🥳🥳
Susie Flick - December 31, 2021 4:59 pm
Blessings for a healthy and happy 2022! Looking forward to your wonderful and inspiring posts this coming year. Each day starts with my Bible readings and your post – that’s something to be grateful for!
Happy New Year to all your devoted readers and to you and Jamie.
Kathy - December 31, 2021 5:27 pm
We forget that “little kid” is still inside us, helping us not to become too stiff or grownup.
Stacey Wallace - December 31, 2021 5:58 pm
Happy Belated Birthday, Sean. I tried to wish you a happy birthday on your actual birthday, but my message wouldn’t go through. You aren’t old at all. I turned 59 on December 19; you are still just a kid. Happy New Year to you and Jamie. You’re correct, it will be a great one. Love y’all!
LIN ARNOLD - December 31, 2021 5:59 pm
I love this!! It seems like I find myself driving all alone far too often. And I also find myself entertaining myself by paying attention to those around me. Then I imagine their lives …. the exhausted Mom driving that minivan of kids to yet another sporting event; the frustrated long hauler just trying to get to his destination on schedule so he can get home to his family; the school bus driver trying to stay calm while taking a team to their next game or meet; the aging lady in the sedan just trying to get to her destination on time. Back in the ’70’s, I traveled constantly for work, driving the majority of the time, to install computer systems in the various branch offices of the company I worked for and train the personnel on the software …. yep, I’m THAT old. I traveled by myself and spent my travel time listening to the truckers on my CB radio … yes, THAT old. My antennae was hard to spot, so more often than not, the truckers didn’t know that I could hear them. They made me laugh more often than I can count. And they looked out for me. Once I was just north of Montgomery heading to Chattanooga in what seemed like a monsoon. I was by myself with one of the old, huge computer monitors strapped into the passenger seat next to me. A trucker called to me on the CB and said, “What in the world are you doing out here by yourself in this weather?” To make a long story short, when he found out that I was headed to Chattanooga for work, I called out to another trucker about a half mile ahead, had him slow down for us to catch up, and those 2 drivers ushered me all the way into Chattanooga. Highway angels come in all sorts of vehicles. You just have to pay a little attention and life will surprise you all the time.
GayleDodds - December 31, 2021 6:20 pm
Yes it will be a great year with folks like you in this world
Dr. Patrick Boyd - December 31, 2021 6:29 pm
Happy New Year from a new reader! Looking forward, and only forward, to a great 2022!
Linda Moon - December 31, 2021 6:41 pm
One of my childhood friends was obsessed with horses. She owned one and wore jodhpurs when riding. Yes, “The Black Stallion” is one of the greats, and maybe “Seabiscuit” too. While stuck in B’ham did you happen to see a not-so-young couple arguing about Jesus and a turn signal? If it was addressed in the Bible, it might say in LINDA 19:66 – “Thou shalt use a turn signal while changing lanes or turning at intersections before your wife decides to exit The Road (or the marriage, but that’s not from the Bible). You’ve made me want to read some Cormac McCarthy, and here’s my ode to you: “Yesterdays become today, today becomes tomorrow, and tomorrow soon becomes just yesterday.” Happy Belated Birthday and New Year too!
Barbara Barnes - December 31, 2021 7:42 pm
I really needed to read this today.
MAM - December 31, 2021 9:20 pm
And because of you, your humor, your caring self, your excellent writing, 2022 will be a good year! Thanks, Sean and Jamie!
Suellen - December 31, 2021 9:41 pm
I have a feeling 2022 IS going to be a good year. The best is yet to come!
Megan - December 31, 2021 10:06 pm
Happy belated birthday and happy new year. Its funny how the beauty and power of horses can bring people together, if not for the traffic jam most prople would’ve never noticed the horse in the trailer as they breezed by without a backwards glance. Sometimes we all need a traffic jam to slow us down to a speed in life where we can truly cherish the little joys like enjoying the company of a horse albeit from a distance. If your ever in Kentucky give us a holler we would love to take yall riding with us we own 10 of these majestic creatures and love to ride even with those who “aren’t any good at it”.
Ps- all of my schoolwork has horses doodled in the margins!
Jan Draper - January 1, 2022 1:06 am
Happy Birthday Sean !!! Happy 2022 !! Thank you for sharing your thoughts !!!
Anna - January 1, 2022 12:17 am
Happy Belated Birthday! I so enjoy your articles. They make me laugh, cry and think.
Karen Snyder - January 1, 2022 1:13 am
I was all about horses as a kid; read every piece of horse fiction I could get my hands on, dreamed constantly about having one of my own, even could voice a credible whinny when I was about 7 or 8.😳 Mom and Daddy were tolerant.
I believe we get pretty much what we expect to get, so I am expecting 2022 to be just fine, thanks. Wishing you, Jamie, and everyone here a Happy New Year! 🎉
Melanie - January 1, 2022 1:25 am
To all of Sean’s readers: you are such a wonderful group of people. Wishing you a beautiful and blessed year that brings you comfort, contentment and joy. And, for a few of us, maybe even a horse. ❤️
Jayne - January 1, 2022 2:15 am
Now I know why I like you and your writing. I think we have the same birthday. December 29. Happy Birthday!
Paula Thrasher - January 1, 2022 3:17 am
Love reading your columns every day. Just wanted to add a bumper sticker my husband spied in the parking lot of a Dahlonega, Ga., winery: Are you following Jesus this close?
Jan Werbish - January 1, 2022 6:49 am
Happy Belated Birthday Sean!! Love your columns and read every night .. I pray 2022 is going to be a good year. Change is happening for the good of all of us. I’m finally in Destin on the gulf for a few months…. Such a beautiful area with its white sandy beaches. Do ever do shows in the area ? Is there a site that might tell me? Happy New to you and Jamie and the critters!
Nancy M - January 1, 2022 9:32 pm
Jan Werbish, scroll to the top of his website, click on the three little lines in the upper right. In the drop down menu you’ll see “Events.” Click on that for his schedule.
Cynthia Russell - January 1, 2022 2:34 pm
Thank You Sean, from your writings to God’s ear!! Hopefully 2022 will be a wonderful year!!!
Jean - January 1, 2022 4:37 pm
My favorite bumper sticker is I MAY BE SLOW, BUT I AM AHEAD OF YOU.
Leesa - January 3, 2022 3:57 pm
I too was a voracious reader of anything to do with horses. The library lady in the children’s department knew my obsession and always alerted me to any new “horse” books. Your column brings back many memories of this focus of my childhood. Thank you! And, thank you for the reminder that noticing the world around us when in what could have been a difficult situation with the potential for impatience and anger instead caused reflection and observation of the world around you. I like your approach! Although 2021 was filled with circumstances I wouldn’t necessarily want to repeat it included my 70th birthday, my oldest grandson’s wedding to a lovely young woman AND a significant weight loss. I’m happy and looking forward to a wonderful 2022. Belated happy birthday to you, Sean. Happy trails to you…
Sallie - January 4, 2022 5:15 am
I grew up loving horses as well. Rode “Lady” every week end… now my granddaughter is a hunter/jumper rider in Bham..
loved “Black Beauty” book.
Hi ho Silver Away, which you are too young to remember 😂.
Here’s to great year. 🎈🎊❤️
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - January 5, 2022 3:45 pm