The Lone Rider on a Grey Horse

Updated: Feb 9

I wrote this as a bedtime story for my preschool and 1st grade daughters to explain why I ran for Senate as Libertarian in a race I was not likely to win. It's still their favorite story.


Once upon a time there was a big Fortress, in a beautiful Valley, between two tall mountains, at the edge of a great plain.


Inside the Fortress, were huge rooms, filled with books. Thousands upon thousands of books in hundreds of rooms. People came from everywhere to read them. The Fortress had stood for 200 years.


But over the great plain a General came, at the head of an army. The General had heard of the Fortress with its books, and wanted to take the books for himself.


When he reached the Fortress he saw no army guarding its open gates, and he marched towards it. Before he reached the walls, a single Rider on a small Grey Horse rode up, and stood between the General and the Fortress.


The General called out, “Stand aside, I have come to take the books in this Fortress.”


The Rider said, “These books are not yours, and so you cannot take them.”


The General said, “You are alone, how will you stop me from entering the Fortress? I have an army of 100,000 soldiers, and you are just one rider. You cannot win.”


The Rider said “I am not alone, you are here. And I did not ask anyone whether I could win. I asked who was standing between you and the Fortress.”


The General was confused, and angrily asked the Rider, “Why would you stand alone before an army as large as mine? Why don’t you join us, and I will give you as many books as you can carry from the Fortress. I will tell you again: move aside.”


The Rider answered, “These books are not yours to give. I read books from this Fortress when I was young, and others read them now.” And did not move.


While the Rider stood there, one by one a few of the people who lived in the mountains above the Fortress saw the Rider. They came and stood on the heights in the Valley above the General’s army, unsure what to do. The General saw them and hesitated.


From over the plains in small groups more people came to the Valley to join them and stood behind the army.


Then from each corner of the Valley one by one more people came and stood beside the Rider on the Grey Horse.


And kept coming, until finally a million people stood from all sides, armed with whatever they had. When the General saw that his army was not strong enough to seize the Fortress, he withdrew, never understanding what had happened.


After he was gone, a little girl asked the Rider on the Grey Horse, “What will happen if another General comes with his army, will you come back to save us again?”


The Rider said to the little girl, “There will always be another General, and he will always have an army.”


“The General was right, a single Rider did not win today. But because I stood here this time, all of you came to guard the Fortress. And because you each came, the next time another General comes with his army, there will be a lone Rider on a Grey Horse to stand here.”


The Rider went home, and the Fortress which had stood for 200 years, stood for another year. The little girl went home with a book from the Fortress clutched in her hand and shared it with all her friends. On the cover of the book was a small horse, with a grey coat.


***


Why are you running as a Libertarian if you know you can't win? I was asked this question by many, many voters in my campaign. What I told both my daughters and those voters is this story. If this were a race I was likely to win, it would not have been worth my time to run, nor would I have been needed. We all only have one short life - use it to do what should be done, to make the world the way it ought be, not for what is likely to succeed, or for the imperfect world the way it is. Use it to challenge for a prize worth winning, not for the stone you can reach. If you do, you will find one day you've accomplished more than you had a right to dream, and the world is a better place because of you. If you do not, you may reach the end of your brief time on earth and find both your world and your life, wanting.


I ran for the voters who asked should I win, not for those that asked would I.


So 100 people will have the courage to do so the next time.


I ran precisely because the odds were 1,000 to 1.


And as my daughters grow up, no one will ever convince them they should follow the crowd or let a bully pick on someone alone, because they were with me at a farmers market in Alpine, Texas, 600 miles from home passing out flyers in a race we would win only 1 out of 1,000 times. And they were there in the booth when I cast a vote for my own name at the top of the ballot in the biggest race in the country with control of the entire of the US Senate still on the line.


And they will not forget.


- Neal Dikeman