Cowboy Heroes

by Jim Olson

“The Wise Prospector

One day, high in the Sierras, an old prospector came across a large gold nugget in a stream. It was as big as your fist! He also found a much smaller, but still very respectable sized nugget next to it. He immediately packed his burro and headed for town with his new treasures. Hard work and perseverance had paid off!

As he approached town, after a long three-day hike from the high country, the prospector spotted a local shifty character, a fast talker who never seemed to be at work, but always talked big plans. The man approached the prospector with a quick buck on his mind, as it was well known around the area that when the prospector came to town, he usually had gold with him.

“Sir, can you spare some gold dust? You see, I haven’t eaten in days and my wife and children, why, they’re hungry too!” begged the slacker.

Without batting an eye, the prospector pulled the smaller nugget out and offered it to the him. However, in the process, the swindler got a good look at the much larger nugget in the man’s pack. Greed took over!

The man excitedly talked about what he could do if he only had a stake. Why, with a nugget as big as that one, he’d be on easy street the rest of his life. He could make a fortune. His wife would wear the finest clothes. His children could get the best education. He would hob-nob with the important folk in town! He laid it on real thick.

“Sir, if you would only let me borrow THAT nugget, I would surely repay you when I could. I would invest it and make us both a nice profit!” The sly man begged—on and on he went.

The old man knew in his heart it was all a lie, however, something inside told him to give it up. Incredibly, the ol’ prospector reached out and handed over the treasure. “You seem to be very needy of this, perhaps it will solve your woes,” was all he said. Then he turned around and headed back towards the hills.

The slacker could not believe his good fortune! He’d really pulled one over on that ‘ol prospector. Now, he would have it all! He happily raced for town to throw around the weight of his new found fortune.

A few weeks went by . . .

Back at the stream, while panning for nuggets on a sunny afternoon high in the Sierras, the prospector spotted the town man coming towards him. He was shocked. Either he had come to beg for more nuggets—or perhaps, just perhaps, the man was actually here to pay him back like he promised. Either way, he waited to see what would come about.

“I am so glad to have finally found you. I have been looking for you for days,” puffed the exhausted man.

“What may I help you with?” asked the prospector.

“I come for treasure,” the man sheepishly admitted.

“But I have not found any other nuggets since I last saw you,” said the prospector, “I already gave you all I had.”

“I have come for something far greater than a gold nugget,” said the man.

Puzzled, the ‘ol prospector queried, “Well then, what is it you want?”

“You see, it’s like this. When I talked you into giving me all that gold, I thought I would never see an unhappy day again, the rest my life. I thought it would buy me prestige and happiness. I showed it around town. Folks wanted to be around me, buy me drinks. Some asked for money, others tried to con me out of it. It brought me much attention, both good and bad. But I was not happy. Well, maybe I was happy for a while, but it faded. I was constantly worrying and in fear of losing it.

“But you—you gave up your most prized possession and then came back to the mountains to work again while I stayed in town, living the so-called high-life. Why did you give me the nugget? I beg of you—give me a truthful answer.”

The prospector thought about it and said, “Because you seemed like you needed it more than me and something inside told me to do so. It seemed to be of great importance for you to be a rich man. It made me feel good to see you so happy. In the mean time, I have what I need.

“And, I figured with a little hard work and perseverance, I’d get another one. But that is not so important because I love what I do. For me, the search is as much fun as the find. I know that money in the bank does not ultimately determine how happy I am. I am happy every day just living the life I love.”

“That is exactly the kind of treasure I now seek,” said the man. “I want to know how to be the kind of person who can be happy giving away his things to those who need them more than he does. I want to be happy no matter the size of my bank account. I want to be happy in my every day pursuits, not depending upon some future ‘prize’ to ‘hopefully’ bring me happiness. I want to be the kind of person who does not need the approval and admiration of others to find happiness in himself. I want to find the kind of happiness that could not be bought with that large gold nugget. I would gladly trade all the gold in the world to find this kind of treasure. After all, I sure as heck did not find happiness in the gold alone.”

The wise ol’ prospector smiled and said, “Finding that kind of treasure is easy. Why it’s much easier than finding a big gold nugget. To find what you are looking for, to be happy, rich or poor, high or low, in good times or bad—you must first find God—and that is easy because He is everywhere. Then follow His instructions—you will hear them from within if you listen closely. The rest, why it’ll just fall into place.”

This is an old fable, retold in my own words with my own spin on it. I hope you enjoyed it as I felt compelled to share it with you here.