The Old Man And The Mask

The old man stared into the dying embers of the fire, watching as one glowing coal hissed a fleeting spear of flame. The flame flitted and died then a wisp of smoke drifted into the starry night.

The old man’s companion, equally ancient, spoke in a deep soft voice, “Reminds me of you and me, my friend.”

The other nodded solemnly, pushed his long gray hair aside with a trembling, age-spotted hand. “Dying?”

His friend did not answer for a long minute. “Is that how you see it?”

Another nod, more silence. “It is what it is. I’ve lived a good life.” He looked at his dark-skinned companion; a man who’d fought beside him for many years. “We’ve lived a good life.”

A pack of coyotes yipped in the distance. Both men turned their heads and stared into the dark. The fading fire snapped, drawing their eyes back to it.

The gray-haired one gazed into the orange glow. “Did we do any good?”

“I think we did,” his friend answered. “We did our best to make this country a better place. We did what was right for our God, our country, and our fellow man.”

“True.” Sighing, he lay down on his bedroll, and as he stared up at the stars, one streaked across the sky like a silver bullet.

His friend watched him, knowing he was troubled. “What is it, my friend? What troubles you in these last hours?”

The old man closed his eyes; the silver streak was there still. “The mask,” he said; his voice almost a whisper.

His friend nodded solemnly. This conversation was not a new one. He understood the pain his friend bore; the pain of living his life behind a mask; the pain of doing good for his fellow man and never being recognized for it. “You had to wear the mask, my friend. If you had not, Cavendish would have hunted you down and killed you.”

The man rolled onto his side and looked over at his friend. “Still, it’s been a lonely life.” He dug in his vest pocket, and brought out the small black mask that had concealed his identity all these many years, looked at it then tossed it onto the last remnants of the fire. Smoke curled around it then it caught and flamed into nothing in an instant. “No one even knows my name. No one knows the things I did for this country and for my fellow man.”

His friend was silent for a long while. The coyotes were silent, too, seemingly near and listening for the answer he would give to his friend.

The old man rolled onto his back, looked up at the stars one last time then closed his eyes. The last words he heard as he drifted away were from his friend.

A tear drifted down the cheek of the old Indian as he said, “God knows.”


This story is about one of my childhood heroes, The Lone Ranger. Yes, he and his faithful companion, Tonto were fictional characters, but they fought for what was right, and they helped teach the children of that era to believe in the good that exists in this world. We don’t have heroes like them today, and I think it shows.

Posting this on “Doing the Write Thing’s” October/November writing challenge. 

Me in my Lone Ranger outfit


  1. Wow. what a great story.. I got all teary eyed here in work. I love how you captured the relationship between the two men in so few words.

    Excellent job. 🙂


    • Thanks, Darlene! I love it when I make ’em teary eyed! When my wife, Sherry, tells me something I wrote made her cry, I tell her, “That’s my job, ma’am.”
      Thanks for the read and comments! I appreciate them a bunch!

  2. MichaelLyons said

    Nice story, Charles!
    I enjoyed the melancholy of it, and the coyotes reflected it nicely with their lonely-sounding howls.

    One question, as I am not an expert on the Lone Ranger but, wasn’t he like a Texas Ranger? Doesn’t that imply that his superiors know his identity?

    But yeah, a good little tale.
    I think you’ve inspired me. I need to write a story about the Lone Ranger and Zorro meeting in a bar somewhere. 🙂

    • You are correct, Mike, he was indeed a Texas Ranger, but, while details differ, the basic story of the origin of the Lone Ranger is the same in most versions of the franchise. Six Texas Rangers are ambushed by a band of outlaws led by Butch Cavendish. Later, a Native American named Tonto stumbles on the scene and recognizes the lone survivor, Dan Reid, as the man who had saved his life some time in the past. He nurses Reid back to health. The two men dig six graves for Reid’s comrades, among them Reid’s brother, and Reid fashions a black mask using material from his brother’s vest to conceal his identity, so that Cavendish will think there were no survivors. Even after the Cavendish gang is brought to justice, Reid continues to fight evil under the guise of the Lone Ranger. Note: they dig six graves, so it will appear all six were killed. Not even Reid’s superiors knew he had survived and was fighting justice beneath the mask of The Lone Ranger!
      Thanks for the comments! I’ll be watching for the Lone Ranger Meets Zorro story!

  3. cheri said

    GREAT job my friend…i loved it:)
    and you are right-heros are hard to find these days!

  4. terri0729 said

    Lol, Charlie! I’m sure you are her hero!! I loved this story. very touching! Peace and love, Terri

  5. Sherry Mashburn said

    We need more heroes like the Lone Ranger and Tonto . . . and YOU!!

  6. Well done! So tender and melancholy. It’s fascinating to learn more of the backstory on the Lone Ranger too. I loved the stories when I was a kid but I never knew the back story. Thank you so much for joining the writing challenge. Great take on the Mask theme.

    • Thank you, Sonia! I enjoy all the different opportunitys to post my stories and poem, and appreciate the chance to display one on your site.
      Thank you for the wonderful comments on the story!

  7. […] Charles Mashburn – The Old Man and the Mask […]

  8. A more than fitting tribute, Robin

    • Thanks, Robin. I appreciate your taking the time to read my story and comment!

  9. […] Charles Mashburn – The Old Man and the Mask […]

  10. […] Charles Mashburn – The Old Man and the Mask […]

  11. Shadlyn said

    If you want a really good, recent hero story, I can’t recommend the TV SHOW of Avatar: The Last Airbender enough. It’s one of those kid shows that I keep rewatching as an adult. Each time, I find new lessons on being a good person.

  12. I love this Charlie! :] I know, It’s been a long time…. do you remember me? :] Hope you had a lovely Christmas and are now being blessed with a wonderful new year. :] xx

    • Of course I remember you! How are you!
      We had a great Christmas and the Year is starting out wonderful.
      Hope to hear from you again soon! You’ve missed lots of good stuff!

      • I am well thank you! I have been really quite wrapped up in the madness of final year and people and church stuff and all the crazy stuff that happens and takes over your life ;] I’m always so aware of how much there is that I would like to read…. I am only allowed novels when I start the summer break, though, this being final year I will never have a summer break in the same way again, haha, have to hit the real world!! Bless you. xx

      • Good! Real world? GACK!
        Well if your reading boss will allow it, you need to catch up on my new serial write which started with “The Last Grain of Sand”.

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