The setting sun stretched the cowboy’s shadow long across the desert plain as he rode. His tired eyes scanned the horizon one last time. He knew his final ride was nearing its end.
With a deep breath, he pulled back gently on the reins and brought his faithful horse to a stop. They had been through so much together. The old cowpoke removed his weathered hat and patted the mare’s neck tenderly.
“It’s alright girl, you done good,” he whispered. Slowly, he dismounted and looped the reins around the saddle horn. He gave his companion one last pat before turning toward the western sky ablaze in oranges and pinks.
The cowboy lowered himself to the ground, joints creaking. He leaned back against a rock and removed his boots, letting his feet rest after years of long rides. The cool evening air brought relief.
Looking up at the emerging stars, he breathed deep and removed his slicker, tying it onto the saddle. He knew this is where they’d find him come morning, one way or another. The coyotes might feast well tonight. But he’d made his peace.
As the last light faded, the cowboy closed his weary eyes, picturing himself riding off into the sunset one last time. Wherever the trail led next, he was ready. His long ride was ending just as he’d hoped – out here among the sunset and sagebrush, beside his faithful mare.
Every cowboy I know, would trade all the days from here to then, to be assured his last ride would end by leaning forward in the saddle, stroking the mane of his horse and pulling the bit out of its mouth. Realizing If his slicker stays tied to the saddles horn, that’s where they will find him, if not the coyotes eat well tonight.
The Old Man