Dear Sean


My dad just left my mom and me… He’s a real *&@#$ and I’m so pissed off, I don’t even know why I’m writing you…

I am so mad and I wish we could make him pay for this in some way if that could be possible…

I just can’t figure out why.

Thanks for reading this,
JACOB, (13 years old)


Before I answer you letter, I want to say one thing, and it’s a little off the subject, so bear with me.

Have you ever watched any old Westerns? I’m talking silver-screen heroes in ten-gallon hats with quickdraws, who call everyone “Pilgrim.”

No, you probably don’t watch movies like that. Only geeks watch those sorts of movies. Geeks like me.

Still, it makes me sad that we don’t have Westerns like that today. There was a time when mankind was fortunate enough to have Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Glenn Ford, Randolph Scott, and the immortal John Wayne.

Anyway, we don’t know each other, so you probably don’t want any advice from a middle-aged fuddy-duddy like me.


If you WERE to ask me for some advice, which you didn’t, it is my basic belief that all 13-year-old boys need classic Western movies in their lives.

Look, just because there are no great silver-screen cowboys in today’s age doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the old vaqueros. The Duke is still alive and well in digital color. Hopalong couldn’t look any better. And don’t forget “Maverick,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Bonanza.”

If you were to ask me which old Western movie to start with, I would have an answer for you.

“Stagecoach.” John Wayne’s first big movie. The Pilgrim himself, saving the day.

Then I’d tell you to watch “True Grit,” and “Red River.” From there you could work your way up to “The Searchers,” and “The Magnificent Seven.”

When you were ready for more, you could watch “The Wild Bunch,” and “The Man who Shot Liberty Valance.” Finally, I’d tell you to watch 1953’s “Shane.”

Keep the tissues handy.

After you have watched the above titles, then and ONLY then might you be ready for “Lonesome Dove.”

I will warn you. You’ll probably find these antique movies boring at first, and that’s okay. You are from a modern era of fast-paced movies. Old Westerns don’t move fast, and you won’t see half-naked pop stars, either. They are slow, deliberate, soft, far-fetched, corny, and sometimes downright ridiculous.

But oh, Jacob, they have heroes.

Right now, you need a hero. I know this because I grew up hard like you. My father died when I was younger than you are. He left a terrible wake when he left.

I was mad about it. I cussed the sky. I said a lot of ugly things to a lot of nice people. But back then, I couldn’t help it. I was without a compass, I was lost, I was afraid of everything.

One night, a local TV station broadcasted a John Wayne marathon. I will never forget it because it was the Fourth of July. All my friends were having picnics with their happy little families while I was at home, babysitting my kid sister.

The telecast started with “The Comancheros,” and it ended with “McLintock!” I stayed up until three in the morning watching Marion Robert Morrison save the world.

I was exhausted the next day, but I felt good inside. Because that night influenced me forever. I started calling my friends “Pilgrim,” and I wore a cowboy hat for the next thirty years of my life.

I told you I was a geek.

Jacob, I know you feel alone right now. I want you to know that’s okay. In fact, it’s part of the script. Every cowboy feels alone during the climax of any good Western. But the cowboy is never alone. He is a man on a horse, facing the rest of the world.

The odds are not in his favor, but the whole universe is on his side whether he knows it or not.

The hero doesn’t know that the audience watching the silver screen is cheering for him.

I am cheering for you, Jacob. I can’t tell you how to stop being angry with your father. That feeling might never go away entirely, but I hope it does. The truth is, I don’t know anything, and even if I did, I wouldn’t know how to tell it because I am still a kid trapped in an adult’s body. What I can tell you is this:

I love you. With all my heart.



  1. Cathi - March 23, 2019 7:12 am

    I’m a girl who grew up loving the Westerns of the 1960s and thanks to GRIT TV & ME TV, I now get to love a lot of them that I don’t remember too! Always good life lessons, never any cussin’ or whining, just justice you could feel good about. My dad & I didn’t bond over much but we both did love Westerns. Pilgrim, I hope this young man takes your advice to heart. It just might soothe his hurting one right now.

  2. Karen - March 23, 2019 10:39 am

    Ah, Sean. I grew up (mostly) in Texas. The very word vaquero makes my heart sing, bringing visions of rustic boots, jeans, and hats on horseback. Thank you.

  3. Debbie Phillips Hughett - March 23, 2019 10:40 am

    I watched Bonanza, Gunsmoke and Clint Eastwood aka Wagon Train with my grandmother. She served either ice cream floats or a box of Cracker Jacks or an ice cream sandwich. It was the best.

  4. Marilyn Ward Vance - March 23, 2019 11:07 am

    …..and the good guy won! Thanks, Sean, for reminding me every day that the ‘good’ is out there, I just have to look for it. Cowboys will always be my heroes, too, and ‘love covers a multitude of sins’…….!

  5. Kathie Kerr - March 23, 2019 11:08 am

    Sean, remember to tell little cowboys that it is essential to talk to a real person about how they are feeling and that this is bravest thing of all. Tell kids to look at their school counselors,
    Church youth pastors, or maybe a sports teacher. Its hard these days cause even as a adult its scarry to tell kids they can trust all adults. He, Sean,do you read these comments personally or do you just have a bot to do it?

  6. Gary Woods - March 23, 2019 11:10 am

    I learned most of what I needed to know about being a man and later a Father and Grandfather from good Westerns and of course Mayberry. Pretty easy to see my father typecast as the villain. Young man, when you can someday, forgive him, it will ease your burden, learn from his mistakes and don’t repeat them in your own life. It wasn’t your choice for him to leave, but it’s completely your choice what you grow into. Bless you.

  7. Naomi - March 23, 2019 11:17 am

    I am a 74-year-old female and that’s about all I watch. When we finally got a TV, my brother and I watched Gene Autrey, Roy Rogers, Hop Along Cassidy, Gun Smoke and every other western on TV. I still watch them. My husband thinks I’m nuts–a grown woman watching old westerns. It’s better than watching the news. Oh, I forgot Hiigh Noon.

  8. Mac Otts - March 23, 2019 12:11 pm

    Sean, we are in an age of overabundance so I thank you for the way you simple things down. It is true for young and old: We need more bricklayers with a touch of humor.

  9. Elizabeth - March 23, 2019 12:57 pm

    One of your best! I could never really articulate why I was/am still so drawn to the old western, especially anything with The Duke. Thank you! They were the men I looked up to growing up! Man, Sean, we need more heroes in our world!

  10. Patricia Pope - March 23, 2019 1:12 pm


    You’re better than Dear Abbey ever hoped to be…did you know about Dear Abbey’s advice columns where aching girls could wrote her, because she was their true friend?

    As your reader who loves the voice you have with men, especially our young men, I can only say, Thank you!” And I do hope Jacob has read and will agree to take your advice. Those old westerns always helped me see how strong is “Good”, and how we can own it for our own.

    That led me to find that the God of Heaven is “Good”. May Father God help all the hurting Jacobs to find His ” Daddy Goodness” in such way that they will never, ever let Him go…

  11. Pecos Kate - March 23, 2019 1:27 pm

    It’s very unfortunate that adults are not always as wise as expected.

    We all make mistakes.

    Sean is right. The universe is rooting for you, Jacob.

    Keep your chin up. Life will get better.

    With sincerity and a caring heart,

    Pecos Kate

  12. LaVera S. - March 23, 2019 1:56 pm

    Well said my friend, well said! ?

  13. Jack Darnell - March 23, 2019 2:21 pm

    You said it Dude, and ain’t it the truth? YEP it is…..
    Good stuff my friend,
    Sherry & jack

  14. Chasity Davis Ritter - March 23, 2019 2:21 pm

    My Dad always loved the Duke. Now that he’s in heaven Too I hope they’ve met each other. There were 46 years between my dad and his half brother (my grandpa had a long life a couple of wives and lost of children) needless to say Dakota was about the same age you were when y’all both lost your dads. I think in a way my dad helped fill the role some with him and they often watched westerns together. We lost my dad in September but for Christmas this past year I found a book called John Wayne’s advice all young men should know. I thought as a parting gift from my dad it might could help him out now that he has to do it all on his own. I think Dakota could also learn a lot just from the things you write everyday too Séan. Thanks so much never stop

  15. Jon Dragonfly - March 23, 2019 2:25 pm

    Here’s an ol’ duffer down in the audience cheering for his hero, Jacob, up on that silver screen. I’m rootin’ for ya, Boy!

    Love ya, Kid,

  16. Chasity Davis Ritter - March 23, 2019 2:26 pm

    **Actually the book was called The Official John Wayne Handbook for Men**. He loved it.

  17. Charaleen Wright - March 23, 2019 2:51 pm

  18. Edna B. - March 23, 2019 3:01 pm

    Way back in the day, my brother and I grew up with those famous heroes. I hope this young man finds his heroes. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  19. Donnie - March 23, 2019 3:04 pm

    Great job!

  20. Glenn - March 23, 2019 3:18 pm

    The point of this column is not about westerns or watching old movies. It’s about finding a role model, a hero, when yours has abandoned you. Jacob needs someone to talk to, or in the form of old western movies someone he can model his life after, hurting so much because the one he thought he had wasn’t that model. I hope he finds someone in addition to the movies, a coach, a church youth counselor, a teacher. Being one myself I hope he has a grandfather that will step in and step up. Find someone Jacob, there is more than one person in the world to be your guide into manhood, find him. Help him find you by joining teams or youth groups. It will get better.

  21. Carol - March 23, 2019 3:48 pm

    He is my hero too and I’m in my 70’s but without him I’d be so lonely!!
    Happy Trails Pilgrim!!
    Love ya!

  22. Linda Moon - March 23, 2019 4:38 pm

    From a genuine WESTERN GEEK who has needed and found heroes, thank you for loving Jacob with all your heart…that BIG ONE you own, Sean.

  23. Jack Quanstrum - March 23, 2019 5:37 pm

    Great story! Love those old Westerns. Those actors where all heroes because they did the right thing no matter what the cost. The movies now don’t do that. Thank God I raised in the 50s and 60s.

  24. Diane - March 23, 2019 6:55 pm

    You have such amazing insight and compassion. Thank you for sharing with the world

  25. Elsa Taylor - March 23, 2019 7:26 pm

    Sean – “you de man”. Thanks for a wonderful column and thanks for great advice to a young guy who is hurting. As far as finding a “hero” in today’s world, he may have a long search. The movies you suggested are a wonderful way for him to “look and learn”. Thanks, Sean, and may your tribe increase.

  26. Cathy Moss - March 23, 2019 8:21 pm

    You said last week that you did not feel equipped to be a parent. You are so wrong, my friend. Do you even realize what you did for that young man today. He is angry and lost but I know that your words comforted him in a way he will not forget. Then you told him you loved him with all of your heart! Ride em cowboy, you are a real man. I love what you stand for. Don’t stop. God has big plans for you and I can’t wait to watch them unfold. ?????

  27. Kathy Coxwell - March 24, 2019 12:37 am

    If I knew where that young man is, I would send him every western starring the good guys on DVD I could find and send them to him. Ifhedoesn’t have a DVD player, I’d send that, too!
    What great advice you gave that unhappy, angry young man. He will be angry at his father for a while, but he will remember you for the rest of his life.

  28. Karan - March 24, 2019 3:37 am

    Sean, you have helped me finally understand a void filled in my husband of 44 years. What a beautiful insight. Thank you. And much love to you, too.

  29. Mary C. Sirmon - March 24, 2019 12:24 pm

    Great read and so perfect. I love you!

  30. Gwen Monroe - March 24, 2019 12:56 pm

    Absolutely one of your best. Thanks?

  31. Shelton A. - March 25, 2019 12:02 am

    I absolutely agree with Gwen above…this is indeed one of your very best. Thanks.

  32. Judy Broussard - March 27, 2019 5:02 pm

    You are the best. I look forward to all your posts

  33. Donna - April 20, 2019 1:12 pm

    I was always a John Wayne woman. You did a real fine job, Sean. I have added Jacob to my prayers, right up there with a special geek. Have a Blessed Easter!

  34. Debbie Shiflett - April 20, 2019 2:17 pm

    I knew you were a “London’s Dove” man. A lover of words just had to be a fan. So many life lessons in that movie. You gave sweet, heartfelt guidance for Jacob, Sean. What a blessing you are to us all. Keep sharing your gift!

  35. unkle Kenny - April 20, 2019 8:28 pm

    Here I sit watching a1962 western “The Virginan” guest staring Betty Davis . Trying to explain the plot to my grandson, and who Betty Davis was.


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