The Road to Redemption

The Road to Redemption

By T. Delaplain

The old cowboy boarded the bus, hat in hand, boots freshly polished, his steps hesitant.
“Mind if I sit?” asked the young man in newly pressed black trousers, starched white short-sleeved shirt and black tie.
“You can sit anywhere you like but the only guidance I need at 90 is directions to the toilet.”
Undeterred he asked, “Have you found God, Sir?”
“Probably so, I’ve done my share of kneeling.”
They rode in silence another 100 miles.
Adrift in regrets, the cowboy asked the sleeping missionary, “This God of yours, you reckon he forgives rough necks and ol’ fools?”


The Road to Redemption was first published at my blog in 2015 at Friday Fictioneers.

Friday Fictioneers is a flash fiction challenge and you have to tell your story within the constraints of 100 words. Sometimes I want to tell the rest of the story. The Road to Redemption was inspired by my dad’s last solo journey. My father was a Montana cowboy and a gifted story teller. This was always his story to tell. I gave you just 100 words of that road to redemption and it wasn’t until I revisited the story that I started to wonder about who redeemed whom.

Here’s Edward’s story of redemption and my musings about the same. 

Rough Necks and ‘Ol Fools

by T. Delaplain

His journey began with a one way bus ticket. He’d have preferred to drive his old red pickup but the trip to Nevada was getting too long and he refused to fly, “I better be dead if you put me on an airplane again. I flew to and from Europe during the War and that was enough.”

He had planned and executed a surprise 36 hour bus journey from Montana to Nevada. It wasn’t a complete surprise to everyone in the family because he had conspired with my then 18 year old son, Patrick. Pat had confessed to me about his Pa’s surprise visit, once the bus rolled out of Bozeman.  If Patrick felt any doubts about the wisdom of this clandestine plan, he’s never fessed up. After the bus pulled out of town, there was nothing for me to do except wait and worry. Thirty six hours later, the big surprise wasn’t that he’d done the sojourn but that he’d lived to tell the story. 

As luck would have it, Dad was seated next to a Mormon missionary for 200 miles. “Near as I could figure, this was his route for collecting souls or some such nonsense. I didn’t reckon I was dying any time soon so I told him that I’d just as soon keep my soul. I did tell him maybe it wasn’t okay to take things that didn’t rightly belong to him, like a man’s soul. I don’t remember much of my catechism but the Catholics aren’t collectin’ souls are they?  He was a nice enough fella, maybe just lost like the rest of us. Maybe his God had put him on that bus for a reason, I don’t rightly know, maybe he was serving penance. In my day, a few Hail Marys and an Our Father would but you right with God or at least with the priest. No need to collect souls to secure a place in heaven as far as I know. I couldn’t argue with his method, Grey Hound attracts a lot of down and outs who might need saving; down on their luck, outta work, and outta money. Me being 90, I reckoned he thought I was down, and outta time.” 

Among the bus congregation a few angels appeared along his journey including a starving teenage boy and a crusty battle-worn bus driver. Not one to judge people, I’m sure there were some demons on the road as well but I he didn’t waste any time talking about them. He was never one to judge but he reckoned there were a lot of lost souls crossing the country on buses and that’s all he said about them. 

A scrawny kid in filthy jeans and worn work boots boarded the bus somewhere in Idaho. I’m pretty sure my dad recognized himself in that kid, having scraped by on hard work and luck for more years than he cared to admit. 

“Nice looking kid but sure as hell he’d been sleeping rough for weeks and hadn’t eaten in days. I know for a fact that he didn’t have two dimes to rub together.” I told him, “Son, it ain’t none of my business but if I was you, I’d be heading home, maybe get a fresh start.” I like to think there was someone waiting, praying him home.”

My dad’s best advice was always peppered with, “If I was you…” We all knew he really meant, “This is what you should do, if you had any sense.” I’m sure the kid took his meaning too. 

Using his advanced age as an excuse, Dad fed that kid for the better part of the trip. “Now, I’ll need you to get me some food at each stop. I cain’t get around very well so you’ll have to be my legs. Ya best get yerself something to eat too, so as to keep your strength up.”

“That skinny kid accounted for every penny he spent and never failed to return to the bus. I figured he just needed someone to trust him. He stayed on the bus into Elko. I like to think that someone would help my grandsons, if they was lost and hungry. Food is probably a little more helpful than prayer anyway.”

I imagine a long haul bus driver has seen more than his share of addicts, thieves and drifters. Probably makes the drivers feel a little protective towards an old cowboy dressed in his best hat and boots with a genuine smile and a cordial, “How do ya do?

“The driver outta Bozeman was a bossy son of a bitch but I liked him. He issued orders to every hobo who stepped aboard. He told me in no uncertain terms, “You, sir, will sit right there across from me and take that same seat when you change buses in Salt Lake. You hear me? We drivers don’t take no shit from those people.” I think my dad was glad that he wasn’t considered, one of those people, although I never knew him to put himself above anyone else unless they proved themselves to be jackasses. He always gave strangers the benefit of the doubt but he sure as hell didn’t suffer fools or bullies.


My thirty six hours was nothing compared to his but I did call on my Catholic ancestors and sent out a few prayers to Our Lady of Traveling Fools. Waiting outside of the downtown bus station, my anxiety rose as I watched the rough crowd shuffling around in worn shoes amongst the discarded cigarette butts and empty potato chip wrappers. It should not go unsaid that I’m not nearly as non-judgmental as my father.

My prayers answered, Dad emerged from the bus, shuffling with stooped shoulders. Carrying his own burdens, he seemed somehow smaller and slower than I had remembered. He had always been larger than life while I was growing up but maybe he really was getting old. I asked if he was ok, he nodded yup and I held back my own, “If I was you, I would not have taken the bus” comment. I reckoned it wouldn’t have been fully appreciated in the moment. 

“I’m tired, but maybe not so tired as some on that bus and I still have my soul,” said with his wry smile. That smile was a sure indication of a good story forth coming. I figured he’d get around to telling me about the threat to his soul, so I didn’t ask. 

Far as I know, Dad didn’t give much thought to Gods or religion, his cathedral was the Big Sky and his church was a wild Montana river. He would have laughed at my musings about such things as redemption and angels. He and I didn’t discuss such nonsense, he preferred common sense over college theology. I couldn’t help wondering if perhaps redemption comes to us by leaving an old Catholic cowboy his soul or bringing food to a tired old man and leaving his money clip alone. Maybe you get prayer points for fiercely protecting the most vulnerable among us; old men and starving kids. I reckon God does forgive rough necks and ‘ol’ fools. Dad had long forgotten his catechism but he never hesitated to be charitable. 

His story wasn’t so much about his own redemption but maybe it was a road to redemption for the angels who surrounded him on that bus and brought him home safely. I doubt he needed any type of redemption, he always seemed settled with his life’s decisions, although we never talked much about the forty two years he lived before meeting my mother. I don’t think you can every really know your parents, maybe it’s none of your business anyway. I do know that my dad had a soul worthy of redemption whether or not he believed in any god. 

“It’s simple Trace, you do what’s right and you help out when you can and not just when someone’s watching.”

I reckon that was as good a sermon as any. 


The co-conspirators 

2 thoughts on “The Road to Redemption

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: