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Cowboy Dreams

by in Family and Faith

Lately, ’round here, the boys have been telling me that when they grow up they’ll be cowboys. They’ll live on a farm together, and I’ll be permitted to visit.

It’s hard to imagine that at two and four they are already plotting their exit from my roof. At least they’re planning their escape together. And at least I’ll be allowed to mosey on over.

Today while lollygagging on the swing Bronson filled in the details of his cowboy dreams.

They’ll be Colorado cowboys, and their barn will be located near a mountain, but not in it. I’ll find my way to them if I follow the blazes on the trail and look for the barn near the trees. I’ll take a plane there first, though, because it’s quite a ways there.

As cowboys, they’ll have two horses each. Since Bronson was telling the story, he has a gray horse. Oli takes the seconds with a brown horse. They’ll have extra cowboy stuff for me when I visit, and I can borrow a horse. They’ll have campfires with s’mores, and we can cook hotdogs too. It seems that’s the only food they’ll have. But they have water, B tells me. I’m not sure if I need to bring my own canteen or if that’s some of the extra cowboy stuff lying around.

I ask if there are cowgirls around. He says just me when I visit. At least there’s that.

He also has some cages with butterflies in them to check out. I can take a gander if I’d like. They have extra rooms in their house, so if other people want to visit, they may.

Suddenly they have more horses. Yellow horses. Blue horses. I don’t know what’s gotten into the Colorado River, but I guess I’ll bring my own water after all.

After a few more details that I had a hard time keeping track of, he let me know that I could stay awhile and then go home. And then he told me he was tired from talking about being a cowboy and having his barn. Basically, he wanted me to leave and stop asking questions.

The thing about Bronson is that this isn’t a fleeting thought. It’s something he’ll remember, re-hash and re-tell for years to come. That’s just who he is. Wide-eyed imagination, with enormous detail and a huge capacity for disappointment because he really believes things will go exactly how he imagines them. Meanwhile, Oli listened while on the swing. He’s the ever-present, spontaneous cowboy. He’ll let Bronson remember the s’mores and water, but he’ll be the one making people laugh around the fire. And he’ll be having a whooping good time.

I don’t know what they’ll do, but I love this cowboy dream. I’ll be there as much as I’m permitted.

When I was young, I always wanted to be a teacher. I think I liked the idea of being in charge, and I was good at grading. Big red marks made me happy.

There was one notable exception. In my school years memory book, in the fifth grade, I wrote I wanted to be a writer and a photographer. I did a lot of both that year. That’s when I first started snapping the shutter and exploring for that explicit purpose. I read Nancy Drew that year, so I wrote a lot of mysteries in cursive. The next year we learned how to type.

I think very early on I harnessed my dreams to some thoughts of practicality and to what other people might expect from me. For adults and maybe even older children, wild dreams are rare: dreams without any consideration of the effort to get there, the need for money, societal expectations.

I love the boys’ dreams now. They are as free as the wind, and as likely to shift. But I think our early dreams are often the purest, to most likely to say something about who we are and who we want to be.

What did you want to do when you got older? What do your kids want to do?

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