The eyes of Texas are upon a real cowboy, his family, his friends and classmates today as we say farewell to one of our own. Doyle Danford passed away yesterday following complications from surgery he had several weeks ago. Doyle was a special friend of mine in the eighth grade when I was the new girl in Brazoria, Texas, the daughter of the new principal everyone was wondering about. My classmate Doyle, his brother Neal, his younger sister Virginia lived down the short street from our house and the brothers regularly rode by on their horses. Soon the shy quiet Doyle reluctantly answered my plea for a ride with him. We rode many Sunday afternoons after church. The new girl in town had a real friend whose friendship remained for the next fifty years.
My heroes have always been cowboys like Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger and Sheriff Matt Dillon. I loved the good guys back in the days when they were easy to identify. Brave men who stood tall against villains with black mustaches curling oddly around snarling lips – those were the best. I wanted to be one of those good guys.
Cowboys, on the other hand, rode beautiful horses, wore boots with their jeans or buckskin pants and had great wide-brimmed hats with no worries about kryptonite. Their pretty girlfriends knew who they were and were prepared to wait for them while they fought their battles in the dusty streets or the sage covered hills. They always won because they could outdraw or outsmart their enemies. When we moved to Brazoria, I was thrilled a couple of cowboys rode past our house every weekend.
Doyle was also my first real date which I had at the age of thirteen; that first date represented an age of enlightenment doubtless lost on him but profound for me. I found the girl sitting on the other side of me at the eighth grade Valentine’s banquet more fascinating than the young cowboy with the crewcut sitting on my right. Doyle was my good friend, but he wasn’t my boyfriend – not really.
Doyle married his beautiful high school sweet heart Sharon and remained in Brazoria with her and their large family until his death yesterday. He did, however, put his beloved horses in a trailer to follow the rodeo circuits around the southwest for many years to win calf roping competitions while he worked to build a successful business for his family. Doyle Danford was the only real cowboy I ever knew in my life; I mourn his loss on several levels today including a part of my youth gone with him. Those days, those places, those people belong to a young girl who was happy to find a lifelong friend.
We’re really just passing through on a journey from here to there. I haven’t quite made it to “there” yet, but Doyle made it to “there” yesterday. His legacy is a family life well lived plus an empty saddle that will pass to a new generation. Rest in peace, my friend.
Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned.