Can I tell you that I have been absolutely dying to write a bio about this week’s cowboy? The second a reader suggested him, I knew I had to do it. I’ve seen him, y’all. He’s good. He’s really good. And he’s mighty handsome, too. He’s truly the epitome of a cowboy… rough, rugged, well-mannered… all those things every man wants to be and all those things every woman wants in a man.
Can I also tell you that he has been, by far, the toughest cowboy with which to set up a meeting? His schedule does not allow much room for interviews. He’s 8. Yep… 8… as in 8-years-old. He’s in second grade. (Sorry to get your hopes up, ladies. If only he were twenty years older. Ha!) So, with him living and going to school in Hamilton, and me working in Comanche, it’s been tough. Thank goodness for Christmas break because his mama was finally able to bring him over to sit down with me.
Here I sit one Friday morning before Christmas just tending to my daily work duties. And, then walks in my cowboy. He’s a little unsure. Nervous. He kinda shuffles his tennis-shoe clad feet through the door. He’s apprehensive. He’s dressed in a Duck Dynasty t-shirt and jeans. He looks like he could’ve just strolled in from recess. He’s adorably handsome. If he were a stranger to me, if I passed this kiddo on the street, I would never have known that he’s a real life cowboy. He looks like a regular second grader. What do second grade boys like to do? What are they into? That’s what he looks like to me.
But, alas, he’s got this alter ego. The rugged, skilled, handsome cowboy is simply disguised as a mild-mannered, adorable second grader. I’ve seen what he can do, and I’m quite sure he could run circles around tons of would-be cowboys out there. And, I quite enjoy seeing something dynamic and unexpected coming from a little being. I quite enjoy seeing children, specifically, take the bull by the horns. (Ha! Fitting analogy, hey?) And, that’s just what I see with Ace.
So, I’m nervous. Honestly, I’m not all that great with kids. And, I’m about to sit down one-on-one with a kiddo that I really don’t know. We’re about to talk about cowboying… stuff I really know nothing about. I’m beginning to grow accustomed to prying into the lives of adult men. But, Ace, fortunately, has not experienced the gamut of emotions and heartache and passions and regrets and general life experiences that I typically look to pry from my cowboys. So, hmmm… what shall I ask him?
As we begin to talk, I can see that he’s nervous, too. Our conversation goes a little something like this:
Me: What’s your name?
Him: Ace Gunter Lane
Me: How old are you?
Him: 8. I’m in 2nd grade.
Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Him: I do not know yet.
And, with that last answer, I fall in love with this kid. Why? Because, accompanying that simple little matter-of-fact, articulate, nervous answer is an enormous smile, a bit of fidgeting, and the swinging of his feet… you know… because his feet don’t reach the ground yet. Sigh. He’s adorable. I wonder when he’ll decide that he wants to be a cowboy for a living? I’m quite sure it’s in his blood. Or, maybe he won’t ever make that decision? Who knows. Time will tell, and time is definitely on his side.
He tells me that riding horses is his favorite part of being a cowboy. He tells me Pa Bud (Buddy Lane) started teaching him to ride at 3-years-old. “Dad helped a little bit,” he adds. I think to myself, “hmmm… just a little bit?” I’m amused by this because I went to school with dad. I work with/for dad. I immediately muster up as much self control as possible so as not to dig for amusing anecdotes about dad simply for my own laughs. I succeed.
Him: Nothing much scares me. Sometimes, when the horses start acting up and start bucking, that scares me.
Me: Whoa! I’m scared of horses, you know that? What do you do when they start acting like that?!? (And this is a genuine question riddled with concern and urgency. I have NO idea what someone should do in that situation.)
Him: You just hold on, and wait for the horse to get tired. And pull back on the reins.
Me: Pulling back on the reins makes them tired?
Him: (Insert confused look) No. Pulling back on the reins makes them slow down.
Me: Oh. (And, then I think to myself, “duh, Amy”. Sheesh.)
Well, this is going swimmingly.
He tells me that he has a lot more to learn about being a cowboy. He also tells me that maybe girls can be as good of cowboys as boys. Hehe. I love it. Kids are awesome. They say the best stuff.
And then I lose my self control that I did so well to muster up earlier. I just can’t help myself, so I ask him, “Who’s smarter? Your mom or your dad?” I know, I know. I shouldn’t do these things. He looks up quickly with a mischievous grin. I’ve caught his attention. He thinks momentarily then responds with, “Uhhhh… probably my dad because he can do math a lot faster, and mom always has to ask Faith.”
Faith, by the way, is his 12-year-old sister. I stifle a smile. Oh man, I’m loving, loving this kid! Out of the mouths of babes, right? The honesty is admirable. At the same time as I’m amused, I’m feeling slightly put in my place. Ha! See, my math skills lack. I’d like to believe I’m still a smart girl, though. I’d like to believe my intelligence level does not hinge on whether or not I count on my fingers. But, I suppose that’s what I get for asking that question.
Speaking of Faith, I know he has another sister as well. She’s younger. Her name is Lanie. She’s six. I wonder what it’s like to be the only brother. I wonder how that works out for him, so I ask, “do you get along with your sisters?” His reply, “Mmmm… I don’t know. I fight with Faith more because she has sheep, and I don’t like to run them and work them. Sometimes it’s super cold. It was so icy so it was slippery. Then, when it melted, it was muddy. I don’t like to get muddy, but I like to get dirty. Me and Lanie are buddies, though.”
Okay, so he likely won’t be a sheep herder when he grows up, and, frankly, I don’t blame him.
I love that children have no filters. I love his honesty. And, I love where it goes next. As is my routine with all my cowboys, I asked him, “What makes a man a good man?” He answered that question in four words: “he always uses manners.”
I love that he values manners. It is evident in his own behavior. He has been taught well. I just want to hug him, but I’m pretty darn sure he would think I’m a crazy lady, so I refrain. I press on. “Who is your hero, Ace, and why?” I’m fully expecting him to say his dad or Pa Bud or someone like that. Nope. Sorry guys. His answer blew me away. I guess the first part of the answer could be somewhat expected. But, the second part… the why… wow.
“God because I can talk to him whenever I want; whenever I need to. ‘Cause if it was someone else, they might be somewhere else when I need them.”
Again, I say wow. I love that children can be so profound. I love that they say the unexpected. And, I love that they smack you with introspection when you least expect it. I love that their little beings, their little hearts and minds are more developed than most adults. In this moment, I cannot affirm him enough. Sitting down with this boy makes me reflect on life and adulthood and all the other cowboys with which I’ve talked. I mentioned earlier that fortunately Ace has not experienced the gamut of emotions and heartache and passions and regrets and general life experiences that I typically look to pry from my cowboys. I think it’s those life experiences that rob us of our childlike honesty. Ace never once worried about what he said to me. There is a purity about him; a purity that us grown ups can only hope to tap into now and again. He may not know what he wants to be when he grows up, but I am confident that he will be a darn good man.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” -Frederick Douglass
***All photos by Chrissy Lane unless otherwise noted. Follow Andi Artze Photography HERE.***