But the little boy is just that. He is little. He sees a fiberglass horse, adorned with a shiny saddle. And what boy on earth doesn’t want to be a cowboy?

He’s old and gray. His skin is like used tissue paper. He has liver spots.

I see him seated on the bench in front of a supermarket. He is the quintessential old man. Boots. Plaid. Suspenders. Hearing aids.

There is a blonde child riding one of those coin-operated horses that cost fifty cents per ride. The old man is watching over the child. His hands are resting on his cane.

“Ain’t it fun, Benny?” the old man says.

“Yeah, Grandpa!” says the blonde kid.

Another boy wanders toward the ride. This child is Hispanic. Black hair. Dark skin. Two adults are with him, parents maybe.

They are a handsome young couple in ragged clothes, covered in dust and plaster. They look tired.

The kid points at the horse. “Qué chido, Papá!”

I don’t speak Spanish, but I know childhood wonder when I see it.

The young couple starts speaking rapid-fire. I can’t understand them, but I know what they’re saying. It’s universal parent talk:

“Get away from that horse,” the Hispanic man is saying to the boy. “Come inside, we have shopping to do.”

But the little boy is just that. He is little. He sees a fiberglass horse, adorned with a shiny saddle. And what boy on earth doesn’t want to be a cowboy?

The old man seems to know this. He smiles at the child. “You wanna take a ride on Trigger, son?” he says.

The kid doesn’t answer.

The man taps his cane on the horse. “Trigger? You wanna ride Trigger?”

“Trigger?” the boy says.

As it happens, when I was a child my father and I watched every Roy Rogers melodrama ever made. For most of my life, my father called all horses either “Trigger” or “Silver.”

“Porfa, Papá!” the kid says. “Porfa, porfa! Trigger!”

“No,” says Papá.

There will be no riding today.

But the old man won’t have it. He stands onto shaky legs. He hobbles to the coin-operated machine and helps the blonde child out of the stirrups.

He pats the saddle and winks at the Hispanic man. “C’mon,” he says. “Let the boy take a ride.”

The young father frowns at the old man. “Thank you, for this, sir, but the quarters, we do not have none of these.”

The old man waves him off. “Aw, I got plenty’a quarters.” He digs into his pocket and hands the Hispanic boy two coins.

The child climbs upward onto Trigger. The horse starts moving.

Magic. The boy is no longer a boy. He is a powerful vaquero, strong, and a stalwart servant of justice, riding across the Sierra Nevada. The boy grips the horn of the saddle and grins big. And I have always wanted to use the word “stalwart” because it is a very cowboyish word.

“Arre! Arre!” the boy hollers. “Arre, caballito!”

Trigger’s movements are quick and light. The old hoss carries his tiny passenger far away.

The boy is suddenly far removed from whatever heartaches real life holds. He is deep into the Great American West. This is the glory every boy feels when he is a cowboy. He is free. He is happy.

Together, boy and horse dodge sagebrush, chase runaway stagecoaches, rescue maidens, save the day, and…

The horse stops. The machine dies. Fun time is over.

“Awwwww,” the kid moans. “Una vez más, Papá!”

The father shakes his head. “No, Chuchito.”

And just like that, the West has vanished. The boy is no longer a cowboy. He is once again the son of hardworking people who do not have any quarters.

“Well, would you look at that,” the old man says in a loud voice. “Would you JUST look at that? I happen to have a few more quarters in my pocket.”

The Hispanic man says, “No, please, sir, you do enough for him, okay?”

“Oh, it’s no trouble, partner.”

The old man ignores the father and inserts quarters into the machine. Soon, the horse is gyrating again.

The little cowboy is reborn. Also, I wanted to take this opportunity to use the word “stalwart” again.

The Hispanic child is holding reins in one hand, waving his other hand like a rodeo king. It’s impossible to watch this kid without smiling.

When the ride is over, the young father steps toward the old man. He holds a hand outward. He is at least one foot shorter than the old man, but strong-faced, and kind.

They shake.

“Thank you,” says the young man. “Joo is very good to be doing these horses toy walking now.”

Close enough.

The old man smiles. He removes his cap and bows his head slightly. “Es un gran placer, amigo. Dios los bendiga.”

Like I said, I don’t speak much Spanish.

But I speak fluent Cowboy.

22 comments

  1. Susan Self - January 4, 2019 7:13 am

    My heart speaks cowboy. My parents always said that after learning to say Mama or Daddy, the next word I said was horse. I believe that was true. Such a sweet story. Love it Sean.

    Reply
  2. Sandi in FL. - January 4, 2019 7:55 am

    When my three children were young, someone told me to always let them ride the toy horses in front of a grocery store, because it’s almost magical for a youngster to pretend to be a cowboy or cowgirl.. Cost was only a quarter back then. They loved going to the store with me, knowing that if they behaved, they’d get a quarter for those horses as we exited the store, and for three minutes or so, their imaginations would fly as high as a kite.

    Reply
  3. Brenda - January 4, 2019 8:42 am

    Great as always!! Sean how is Lucy? Please update us!

    Reply
  4. Karen - January 4, 2019 10:27 am

    This is such a beautiful story of love, kindness, and generosity. Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Nancy - January 4, 2019 10:54 am

    Sean, you are a stalwart writer who makes my heart smile everyday. Reading your words is a great pleasure Friend. God bless you.

    Reply
  6. Kelly - January 4, 2019 11:34 am

    A beautiful story showing how easy kindness can be. Thank you.

    Reply
  7. LeAnne - January 4, 2019 1:02 pm

    I love this, Sean. It makes me want to fill my wallet with quarters.

    Reply
  8. Grace - January 4, 2019 1:15 pm

    Ride on. Making memories is a precious kindness.

    Reply
  9. Shelton A. - January 4, 2019 1:55 pm

    Gotta love those random acts of kindness. Thanks, Sean.

    Reply
  10. Bev deJarnette - January 4, 2019 1:59 pm

    Sean, you stories should be required reading for every person in the world! I think the world would be a better place! We would all be more stalwart human beings ❤️🙏🏻☕️!

    Reply
  11. Melissa - January 4, 2019 2:36 pm

    That was absolutely beautiful! I could see it all through the little boy’s eyes! Thank you!

    Reply
  12. Mary Rice - January 4, 2019 2:39 pm

    Random acts of kindness are so easy to do and make your whole day better. Thanks for sharing this strory.

    Reply
  13. Barbara Bray - January 4, 2019 2:50 pm

    Stalwart…..that’s you, my friend.

    Reply
  14. Pauline Hunneman - January 4, 2019 2:52 pm

    Oh, baby. Who needs walls and ICE when there are kind old men, awed little kids, and cowboys?

    Reply
  15. Jack Darnell - January 4, 2019 3:18 pm

    Now you dunnit. Brought back memories. I have put our boys on ‘Trigger or Silver’ many times. Even a stranger too. I like your real world dude!
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  16. Christy - January 4, 2019 3:45 pm

    Love this precious story.

    Reply
  17. Debbie Britt - January 4, 2019 4:27 pm

    Kindness knows no language barrier!😍

    Reply
  18. theholtgirls - January 4, 2019 5:26 pm

    “It’s a great pleasure [to read your writings], my friend. God bless you.”

    Reply
  19. Edna B. - January 4, 2019 5:35 pm

    Wonderful story. I love these random acts of kindness. Sean, God Bless you. Have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  20. BJean - January 4, 2019 7:53 pm

    Thank you for This! So uplifting what you find in this world. 😊

    Reply
  21. Rae Carson - January 4, 2019 8:33 pm

    How many times have I said this? This is the best one of all. I love the kindness and the moment of bonding between strangers. And I’ve ALWAYS loved the horses! Inexplicably. From birth.

    Reply
  22. Janet Mary Lee - January 5, 2019 4:44 pm

    As mentioned, it brings back so many memories! And thank you for that!! And yes…I was blessed enough to have 2 real horses that let me “own” them when I hit my late 30’s..I am 65 now and they are all bittersweet memories. And most important?? Dreams can come true!! I love this about you, Sean!! Happy New Year!!

    Reply

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