I found my way through the hospital corridors. I was running a little late, so I was jogging through the medical center.

The young man was waiting for me in his hospital bed. He was wearing a cowboy hat with a hospital gown.

“Thanks for visiting me,” he said.

He smiled.

The boy is 13, he has gone through multiple surgeries. The muscles in his face have been affected by the surgeries, so his smile is uniquely beautiful.

He is a nice-looking boy. He’s been through a lot. You can tell it by his attitude.

“I appreciate you visiting me.”

“Are you kidding?” I replied. “I’m a writer. Which means if I didn’t have a wife, I’d be living underneath an overpass. I appreciate you WANTING to meet a writer like me.”

“I like your writing.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“I am a writer too.”

“Yes. That’s what your father told me. What do you like to write?”

“I write stories about cowboys.”

Verily I say unto thee, this is a boy after my own heart. I fear that in our era of high-tech movie graphics, Chat GPT, and AI we are going to lose a love of pure Westerns. But this child gives me hope.

He is even a John Wayne fan. My holster runneth over.

“Can I read one of my stories to you?” he says.

“I’d be honored.”

“Maybe you can tell me what you think about it; as one writer to another.”

The boy clears his throat. He removes a sheet of paper from a folder and assumes a recitation voice.

I’m paraphrasing here, but he tells a story about a young cowboy named Chet.

Chet was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Chet, the young hero, was told he would never recover. Oh, how his parents cried. And, oh, how the boy nearly lost hope.

“It was very hard on the young Chet,” said the kid. “He didn’t want to give up.”

The boy looked up from his paper. “Chet was very sad, because he wanted to be an old man someday, just like you.”

I smiled and jingled the change in my pockets.

The story went on. Chet was undaunted by the news of his illness. He knew there were a lot of people praying for him.

For starters, everyone in Chet’s little country church. Secondly, everyone’s friends and relatives in town were praying.

The cowboy was stuck in the hospital. But all the praying people started sending gifts to him. Every day, they sent gifts which arrived in the hospital. Handmade quilts, huge baskets of food, and all kinds of paraphernalia related to six-shooters, square-toed boots, and lassos.

He even received a genuine Rodeo King hat. Silverbelly, beaver pelt, 10X.

As the story goes: Chet’s doctors tried an experimental procedure. It was a last ditch effort, but all Westerns are built on such efforts. The treatment was dangerous. Chet could have died. He was under the knife for several hours.

“Several, SEVERAL hours,” the kid’s mother adds.

“Then what happened?” I asked.

The kid smiles a beautifully off-center smile. He keeps reading.

“It worked,” his little voice squeaks. “Chet woke up one morning and he was completely okay and all the doctors couldn’t believe he was okay! Because they all said Chet was supposed to be dead! But you know what?”

“What?” I asked.

“Chet KNEW that wasn’t going to happen! Because cowboys just know!”

The kid was using a lot of exclamation points.

When his story was finished, we embraced. His parents asked to let their son remain anonymous.

Then, his mother whispered into my ear that her child has been cancer free for three years now. He is only in the hospital now for a routine thing. Just a bunch of tests and checkups.

We released our embrace.

The young man smiled his uniquely off-center smile at me. “I’m actually the cowboy in the story,” he admitted.

I had a feeling you were, Chet.

I just had a feeling.


  1. Toni - May 4, 2023 10:54 am

    Oh Chet I am thanking God that you are cancer-free! PS, you are a great writer!!!!!

  2. stephenpe - May 4, 2023 11:34 am

    I like that you are giving a voice to children and other folks that need support. Helps get us passed (past?) all the nonsense we hear each day and down to a more honest human level.

  3. Karen Snyder - May 4, 2023 2:28 pm

    Who doesn’t love it when the cowboy whips the bad guys? 🤠❤️

    • Joanne Swan - May 5, 2023 5:50 am

      The condition our country is in now, makes this story even more special for us to hear. It means that there is still hope for us. Keep writing for us. And tell his mom we will keep Chet and her family in our prayers.


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