Lately their has been a lot of talk about who is a hero and who is not a hero. The idea of “Essential” and “non-essential” has sparked a huge debate and I honestly hate that classification. I was talking to a dear friend about how I felt like some people that had been classified as “Essential” were letting it go to their heads and acting like they were owed something when in fact they were just doing the job that they signed up for. She explained to me that we need to get rid of this way of thinking and that in fact we are ALL Essential to God and our loved ones! So throwing out Essential vs. Non-essential as a way to figure out what a hero is then what makes a hero?

When I was a kid and you would have asked me who my hero was I would have told you without hesitation Ray Avery! Now you might be asking who is Ray Avery? Well let me tell you about this hero of a cowboy! He didn’t come around everyday but when he did it was always best! Sometimes when I would get home from school I would see his truck at the house and I would run from the bus stop, saddle my mare Soxy, and down we would go to the old corral and practice some big loop roping. Then we would all head back to my dads office and the guys would talk while I worked on my homework. Ray would always make a point of coming over for as he called it “girl talk.” During these little chats we would talk about what my goals and plans were for the future, what I was working on in school, what my favorite classes were and then he would always leave me with the parting knowledge that school was important and that I should continue to work hard on my studies. I remember one time he came out to have my dad help him put a first ride on a filly but my dad was gone so he said that would be okay I could help him. I was pretty sure that this was a horrible idea but I saddled up my trusty partner Moo, said a little prayer and hopped on. His instructions were to dally up to the filly and just walk around the round pen nice and easy. I’m not sure how he got on or how I got dallied up or how we got to walking around the arena but I do remember him saying “Now, your doing a good job but it might be helpful if you opened your eyes to see where your going.” Well I pried my eyes open and we finished the ride and when we got off my dad showed up and Ray told him about how great I did, he didn’t even bring up having to tell me to open my eyes. It made me fell like a real handy cowgirl and I was floating on clouds for weeks. I also remember the first time that I got to go to a branding. I was so excited that I was going to get to go! I didn’t sleep much because I was too excited and I barely ate breakfast because I was rearing to go. When we finally got there I was regretting my choice of skipping breakfast but as always Ray had me covered he filled all of my pockets with Boston Baked Beans. He said, “Every cowboy needs some beans and snack for the ride.” From that day on I have always loved Boston Baked Beans and whenever I see them it takes me back to that day. I remember when I was in high school and him and my dad got the biggest kick out of putting cattle banders in my backpack, truck, purse and anywhere else they could think of. Ray’s reasoning was that if I decided to date a boy and he knew what they were he would know that I knew how to use them. If he didn’t know what they were I shouldn’t be wasting time with them. When I was in high school, he decided to go off and Cowboy all over the place and would send a disposable camera and $5. I always got a kick of seeing the pictures! My mom always asked why he didn’t send a note and never took a picture of himself but I understood. The pictures where his note and they were all of things that he knew I would love, pictures of his string of horses, his feed pickup, the cows he was taking care of, cow camp. Each package inspired me to dream and left me with the idea that it’s ok to sometimes pick up and go on a wild adventure that others might not understand. I have a ton of memories of Ray but the overwhelming memory that I have of him was always how proud he was when I pushed for more. When I went outside of my comfort zone whether that was to become a better horseman or to go to college. He always inspired me to go on adventures and say yes to a challenge and dive in head first even when I’m scared.

So what is a hero? I think that a hero is anyone that goes out of their way to inspire and push you to be better. If a little kid is driven to work harder in school and push themselves harder in practice because of a football star he see’s as a hero then that football star is a hero. If a singer makes a little girl feel empowered while singing along and pushes her to follow her dreams like the singer then that singer is a hero. If a child see’s a nurse caring for a sick loved one that inspires them to want to take care of the sick then that nurse is a hero. I know that I will forever be grateful to Ray for taking time out of his life to inspire and push a little girl to be the best Cowboy she could be.

Last I heard from Ray he was on some kind of riding trip across the country! I hope that I get to hear from him again but in the mean time I know that I will continue to push to be a better horseman and to continue to learn and stay adventurous. I hope that you think about your hero’s either from your childhood or now. I hope that you are making them proud. After all you never know who is looking up at you as their hero!

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