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I was so proud the day my Grade 7 Landon High School teacher, Mr. Danpier, agreed to come to the orphanage to eat supper with me. We orphans were astounded that Mrs. Winters, the head orphanage matron, would allow us to have our favorite teacher over for dinner. It had to be a miracle, because no one ever entered the orphanage grounds that did not live there or at least, have business at the head office.

Many of the teachers brought their own children. After dinner, the orphans and teachers’ kids were out in the yard to play tag around the large grass circle in the center of the orphanage. Out of breath, we sat down in the grass to discuss what we wanted to play. One of the teachers’ children yelled out, "Lets play orphan. You two (pointing at Bill Smith and me) can be the mommy and daddy.”

All of us just looked at him, wondering what it was he meant. One of the little girls jumped up, grabbed Bill Smith by the arm, pulled him to his feet and told him to stand beside her.

"You will be the daddy and I will be the momma,” she said. "Now who is going to be the orphan?" she asked, putting her hands onto her sides as our matron did when she was disgusted with us.

One of the little boys about 3 years old, who had been dumped off at the orphanage by his parents just a day or two before, got to his feet and walked slowly toward her. The little girl reached out, turned the boy around, placed Bill Smith's arms around him and said: “Now daddy, you are supposed to hug your little orphan boy.” All the teachers’ kids started laughing very loud and for a long, long time. However, none of us orphans laughed. We just sat there quietly watching the little boy cry his eyes out. We were puzzled about what was going on. “What kind of weird game are these strange kids playing,” we thought.

After all the teachers and their children left, we resumed our usual game of cowboys and Indians, with our bamboo bows and arrows, and Coca Cola tops bent around the ends as arrowheads.

When I now look back as an adult, I realize what was really happening that day at the orphanage. That poor little boy, who had been dropped off at the orphanage by his parents, still had a soft, gentle and loving heart that needed love. He had not yet learned, like the rest of us, that not getting hugged, held or kissed was no big deal, and that it was certainly nothing to cry about.

Playing cowboys and Indians was the only game we really knew. It was all we really had to do and what we counted on in our lives. It was something that made us feel good about ourselves and we all knew that we wanted to grow up to be cowboys.

That was about 43 years ago. Now as I sit at my desk, I wonder where all those un-loved, un-hugged, un-kissed, lonely old cowpokes are today? Roger Dean Kiser, Sr.

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