“Been cowboyin’ lately?”

The question came from a young farmer named Josh. He and an older man were checking out a 1949 Ford pickup for sale across the street from the local farm store.

“Been cowboyin’ lately?”

Twenty years ago, on my first visit to this town, I sat on a front porch with a deacon who had been recently assigned to serve the local parish. We were not seated on the porch of the parish rectory.

“Bad things happened in that house,” explained the deacon.

I nodded, well aware that the previous year the former pastor had died in the county jail after being arrested for pedophilia.

“Been cowboyin’ lately?”

I don’t know if it was Josh’s crooked smile, the grip of his handshake or the fact that I hadn’t seen him for some time, but his easy talk and slow drawl made me feel like I was talking to one of my farmer nephews back home.

“Every chance I get.” I said. “What about you?’

He shrugged. “Been kind of windy.” He nodded to the man next to him. “You met my dad? He works in Lubbock.”

“Name’s Billy.”

Same smile, same drawl.

Josh unlatched the hood of the truck. We surveyed the engine, kicked the tires and shook our heads when the owner showed up to tell us how much he’d sell it for.

After supper that night, I offered this prayer. Not for the truck, but for the conversation that took place beside its fender.

Lord, thank you for Josh and his dad. In particular, thank you for the respect Josh conveyed with the words, “Been cowboyin’ lately?”

I came to Texas, Lord, at a time when your people were hurting bad. I wanted to help and, with your help, I knew I could win their trust. Thank you for drawing me here.

“Been cowboyin’ lately?”

Josh and his dad are not Catholics. But they know a Catholic priest whom they respect. A common man. A decent man. A man who can ride a horse with the best of them.

Thank you, Lord, for making me that man. 

05 / 23 / 2022
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