The Lone Ranger was one of my childhood heroes. Yes, it was fiction, but I loved to watch each week as he and his faithful companion, Tonto, led the fight for law and order in the early west. I believe they, and other TV heroes helped teach the children of that era to believe in, and stand up for, the good that exists in this country. We don’t have heroes like them today, and I think it shows.
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 Indian 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 across the fading fire at his life-long companion. “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 glowing embers. “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.
The man rolled onto his side, and brought a small black mask from his shirt pocket; the mask he’d used to conceal his identity all these many years. He 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 waiting to hear what the old Indian would say 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 Tonto’s cheek as he said, “God knows, my friend.”