As a 5-year old boy, Rick Hamby says he was forever changed by rides on a Silver Dollar City stagecoach. Five decades later, the man from West Plains, Mo., has owned that coach for years. He takes it on cross-country treks, shows it to school children and tells them lessons for life.
The excitement and challenges of driving an old coach from place to place are two reasons for owning a working stagecoach but they’re not enough for Hamby. It’s his transportation to a destination -- and inspiration.
“To be successful in life, it’s not about money. It’s about impacting and impressing goodness in people,” Hamby told a crowd last week in western Texas.
Hamby and his stage crew recently stopped in several Texas towns to share their ideals with children.
“Don’t be a bully. Being a bully is not cool. That doesn’t make you tough. It makes it look like you have a mean heart. Pushing around someone, making fun of someone, there’s nothing cool about that,” Hamby told the children.
He says it’s the cowboy way: Do the right thing and be kind to others.
“You guys, be gentlemen; you be nice and you be polite. And you be kind, and all manners,” he said. “And ladies, you’uns be ladies.”
At this stop, Alex was sitting shotgun on the stagecoach's high seat. He was blind at birth, weighed a pound and a half, and was not expected to live. He’s 18 now.
Hamby first met Alex in Arizona on one of these stage trips. Three-year old Alex and Hamby bonded.
This day, Alex recited a tribute he’d written to Hamby.
“From the bottom of my heart, we want to be a part of history,” Alex said.
“Thank you so much! Come here old buddy. Give me a hug. I love you,” Hamby said as he climbed up on the stagecoach and the crowd applauded. “Thank you. Yeah.”
“What does it mean to you?” a reporter asked Hamby once he came back down.
“Well, that you’re doing something right,” Hamby said through sniffles. “Yeah, that you are making a difference in people’s lives. Yeah. That’s what stagecoaching’s about -- makin’ a difference.”
“The reason there’s problems all over the world today is that there’s not enough goodness, not enough caring,” Hamby said later.
On his many journeys, Hamby’s talked to thousands of youngsters. His coach is his transportation to a destination to foster inspiration.
“The most impressionable age is as a kid,” he said.
The stagecoach journey ended last Friday in Matador. Hamby said he doesn’t plan to take any more trips and will park the stagecoach at Silver Dollar City starting this fall so people can see part of the area’s heritage.