Over the years, the baby grew considerably bigger. She turned into a girl. She could could run faster, jump farther, yell louder, and arm wrestle better than any cowboy I ever knew.

I was three years old when I officially became a cowboy. I’m not joking. I had a pair of aluminum six-shooters and a horse head on a broomstick to prove it.

I would ride through fields, straddling my horsey-stick, smacking my hindparts and shouting, “Giddyup, Trigger!”

Also, though you might not know this—and I don’t mean to brag—I have saved the world on three separate occasions. And I was also the best man at Tonto’s second wedding.

Sure, I dabbled in other professions like, for instance, the second grade. But no other calling suited me. I was meant to be a modern day drifter. And you can’t change who you are.

Some are born to be doctors and lawyers and such. Others are born Roy Rogers.

When I turned seven, I was at the height of my cowboy career. I’d just done a stint as a lawman in Dodge, with Marshal Matt Dillon and Chester Goode. Then, I was offered a job working with my hero, Roy Rogers.

He’d just fired Dale, his previous sidekick. Roy admitted to me that he was getting tired of Dale always nagging him to take out the recycle bin.

So you see, I had big plans. I was going to ride all over creation with Roy, shoot bad guys, strum songs, and be in charge of Trigger’s gluten-free diet. It was going to be great.

But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

One day, while I was riding the lonesome trail, Miss Anne called me to the hacienda for cheese sandwiches and apple juice—Miss Anne was my babysitter.

“Come on, Sean!” she called. “Something big has just happened!”

The next thing I knew, I was in a hospital, in a maternity ward, and I was holding an infant. A real live baby girl.

Cowboys, you’ll note, don’t know much about newborns. Not unless we’re talking about horses. Certainly, I’d aided in the births of many foals out on the ranch. Tens of thousands, actually. But this was different.

This baby was the smallest thing I’d ever seen. And when she first wrapped her hand around my index finger, she changed my life forever.

In that hospital room, I removed my gun belt and took her against my chest. And though I bore the grizzled face of a vigilante, hardened from a ravaged world of dust and villains, I was reduced into a lump of sugar.

This girl needed me. How could something so small survive in a dangerous universe if she didn’t have a capable boy to help her?

My mother looked to me with exhausted eyes. “This is your baby sister,” she said. “It’s your job is to protect her.”

And that’s when I retired. I hung up my spurs and became a civilian. I told Roy I would be taking another gig. I would become a brother and a friend.

Over the years, the baby grew considerably bigger. She turned into a girl. She could run faster, jump farther, yell louder, and arm wrestle better than any cowboy I ever knew.

She was the pride of our family. Our most beautiful person, and the smartest.

When our father died, our world became dark, but it only made us closer. And during the worst season of my existence, she was my friend. I’d like to think I was hers, too.

It wasn’t long before she became a young woman. I had to keep my eye on her. She worked at a fast-food joint in town, and the young bucks would visit by the dozen.

I would wait in her customer line, watching the boys stumble over their words when she looked at them. I marveled at the human being my sister had become.

It all happened so fast. Life, I mean. That’s the way it goes. It begins, then it’s over. You think it’s going to ramble on forever like creekwater, but it doesn’t. It floats away from you like dandelion fuzz.

Soon, the girl had grown from a foal into the image of womanhood. Long, lean, and more confident than I will ever be.

And on the day of her courthouse wedding, when the man with the Bible asked “Who gives this woman away?” it was me who answered: “Her mother and I.”

She went on to soar higher than I ever could. Higher than any member of our family. The once-tiny child, awkward in my arms, with her little hand wrapped around my finger. She made life look as easy as breathing.

As it turns out, she didn’t need me after all. Not really. A girl like her doesn’t need anyone. But if she ever finds that she does, I’ll be here. Because I am her brother. Forever.

I hope Roy Rogers understands.

Happy birthday, Sarah.

33 comments

  1. Karen - January 26, 2019 7:42 am

    I am the oldest of six children. I have always felt responsible for my brothers and sisters. We didn’t need a lot of friends, because we had each other. We are all in our 60s now, but I still feel it is my job to look out for them. Happy Birthday to Sarah.

    Reply
  2. Marilyn Ward Vance - January 26, 2019 10:04 am

    She will always need you……just knowing you are there is a comfort for her and makes her soar even higher! Happy Birthday, Sarah!

    Reply
  3. Susie - January 26, 2019 10:51 am

    Happy Birthday Sarah.
    What a fortunate girl you are to have Sean as your big brother to love and protect you. Enjoy your special day.

    Reply
  4. Chrissy - January 26, 2019 11:16 am

    Beautiful tribute and what a lucky young lady. Happy birthday, Sarah.

    Reply
  5. Naomi - January 26, 2019 11:25 am

    My story is the reverse of yours. I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. When I was 3 years old, I got a baby brother and I was his protector even though we had both parents. When we got a little older, I got a cowgirl outfit, along with two six-shooters for my birthday. My brother got two six-shooters also and a bow and arrow so we could play cowgirl and Indians. We also got “coon-skin” hats so that we could play Davey Crockett. We went to the Alabama Theater ever Sat. to see the cowboy serials. We actually got to meet The Lone Ranger and Tonto when they made an appearance there. We also got to shake hands with Fess Parker (in our “coon-skin”) hats, along with a few thousand other kids. I also got to meet The Cisco Kid and Poncho at the Alabama State Fair. I am 74 years old and still watch all the westerns of my childhood.

    Reply
  6. Aileen H Gay - January 26, 2019 11:31 am

    I love, love your stories…

    Reply
  7. Mary Burns - January 26, 2019 11:44 am

    Happy birthday, Sarah.

    Reply
  8. Sherry - January 26, 2019 1:47 pm

    You will always be her big brother and protector…don’t ever forget. My big brother died almost 3 years ago too soon and what I would not give to have him here….Happy Birthday, Sarah and treasure your big brother!

    Reply
  9. JuveGibson - January 26, 2019 1:52 pm

    That is so sweet. You are a wonderful brother. Also a good son, and I’m sure, husband. But you are a tremendous writer. Thanks for keeping these posts going, it starts each day out right for me.

    Reply
  10. Debbie Britt - January 26, 2019 2:12 pm

    Your way with words ……. I love your heart!

    Reply
  11. Judy - January 26, 2019 2:16 pm

    What a lucky girl to grow up with a brother like You! (The best, Ever!)

    Reply
  12. Teresa Tindle - January 26, 2019 2:23 pm

    Sean, this is the most beautiful way anyone has ever said Happy Birthday. It would be the ultimate privilege to be thought of and honored in this way. You and Sarah are very lucky.

    Reply
  13. Edna B. - January 26, 2019 2:23 pm

    We loved pretending we were cowboys. My younger brother looked out for me his whole life. I miss him so. Thank you for the wonderful memories. Happy Birthday Sarah. Sean, you have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  14. Connie Havard Ryland - January 26, 2019 2:40 pm

    Happy birthday Sarah. She’s lucky to have a brother who loves her so much.

    Reply
  15. Johnny Parker - January 26, 2019 2:42 pm

    Sean,
    Maybe your sister soared higher than you ever would. But you did a fly over for her today.

    Reply
  16. Jack Darnell - January 26, 2019 2:58 pm

    Never had a baby sister. I had older sisters who protected and taught me. I am now 80 just lost the last sibling, Shirley was 82. She needed me in the end and called, WE answered. Loved that girl. Continue to enjoy that girl, they are the best.
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  17. Carolyn Kelley - January 26, 2019 3:04 pm

    Happy birthday

    Reply
  18. MermaidGrammy - January 26, 2019 3:14 pm

    Oh! Don’t you ever think she never needed/needs you. Don’t you know, you’re the main reason she grew into the confident self-assured woman she is? You were her father figure, her knight in shining armor and her hero. You taught her what to look for in a husband.

    Now, adopt your own tiny baby, bigger baby, toddler, even a big child and use all that knowledge and love to grow and nurture another of God’s children

    Reply
    • pat - January 26, 2019 4:51 pm

      Sean, I totally agree with MermaidGrammy. Adopt a child (or two, or three), you and Jamie will be fantastic parents!
      AND…happy birthday to Sarah!

      Reply
  19. Carol - January 26, 2019 3:51 pm

    Happy Birthday to your Sara!!
    She will always Need you !!
    And now you have two beautiful nieces to be a Godfather too. ! The circle is not broken 🙏
    Love ya!

    Reply
  20. Marylin - January 26, 2019 4:18 pm

    Happy birthday, Sarah. Give your big brother a hug for me. My brother lives in Virginia and I’m in Texas. We are blessed to have them.
    Thanks, Sean, for this beautiful story. You are an amazing brother.

    Reply
  21. Darlene Day - January 26, 2019 4:33 pm

    Sarah has taken beautiful photos of our little granddaughter. Please tell her we have prayed many times for her family and the new baby. Wishing Sarah a very “Happy Birthday!” from Vivi’s grandparents.

    Reply
  22. Mary - January 26, 2019 4:44 pm

    I begin each day with your post. Thank you. And happy birthday, Sarah.

    Reply
    • Janet Mary Lee - January 26, 2019 5:07 pm

      Happy Birthday Sarah! Sean, you obviously filled some big shoes and filled it well!! And Roy thanks you as he got to hang on to Dale!! You’re the best!!

      Reply
  23. Carla - January 26, 2019 5:51 pm

    If only we all a big brother like you. We may seem strong, but we all gain from that kind of love.

    Reply
  24. Janellen - January 26, 2019 6:26 pm

    I have a big brother just like you, and I adore him beyond words. He is the world and so much more to me. Happy birthday Sarah, you were blessed as I am.

    Reply
  25. Helen - January 26, 2019 7:04 pm

    oh, that any girl could have a devoted brother such as you. I know you always down play your part. But stop that. Sarah is partly who she is because of who ‘you’ are – a kind and nurturing brother who loves her dearly. Helen in Ark.

    Reply
  26. Chip - January 26, 2019 7:18 pm

    ….definitely highly TOXIC masculinity here!

    Reply
  27. Judy - January 26, 2019 7:37 pm

    Ah…I always wished I had a Big Brother to watch over me. I still do. The best I did, and it was not something I did – was give my daughter a Big Brother. Happy Birthday Sarah. Count your blessings because your Big Brother definitely it one.

    Reply
  28. Reneezydaizy - January 26, 2019 10:12 pm

    What a beautiful, beautiful tribute to your sister. You’ve made her proud a thousand times over.

    Reply
  29. Shelton A. - January 26, 2019 11:36 pm

    Happy Birthday, Sarah. You’ve got a good man for a brother…call on him if need be and he’ll be there for you. May you have many, many more birthdays.

    Reply
  30. suewatson12014 - January 27, 2019 1:48 am

    Sean, I was Sarah; my brother Bo, the cowboy. Thank you for caring for Sarah after the same unthinkable we experienced. Tomorrow, Sunday, my cowboy is having open-heart surgery. I’m not ready for somebody else to hang up his spurs. I’d appreciate a prayer or positive thoughts.

    Reply
  31. Gale Smith - January 27, 2019 11:51 pm

    Lucky me….I have 2 brothers that I will love forever. Happy Birthday to Sarah (That was my sweet Mama’s name).

    Reply

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