Kind local hearts can inspire us all

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Four inspiring people, two horses, at least one 18-wheeler and countless other cars crossed the Mississippi River Bridge in Natchez Monday.

But only two horses and one lady turned heads.

The story of homeless cowgirl Donna Byrne has traveled along the Southeastern United States much like she has in the last few months. What a Tampa, Fla., newspaper started, other newspapers, TV stations and blogs have continued.

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And it was obvious Monday that Byrne is used to the attention. In fact, she was shocked Natchez had no TV station in town waiting to interview her.

Now, Byrne’s reputation precedes her as a network of newspapers has taken on the task of calling the next newspaper down the road to alert them of Byrne’s arrival.

But the story behind the story is what’s really inspiring.

Byrne left Natchez Monday with an escort of more than just a trailing police car.

In front of her was a car carrying two Natchez women who opened their home, their stables and their hearts to Byrne.

Delana Tradewell and her daughter Brandi hugged Byrne and wished her well as she prepared to leave.

The duo had nothing but kind words about the woman who lost it all in Florida and has begun a trek to Texas seeking employment.

“She’s just as tenderhearted as she can be,” Delana said Monday.

But I’d argue the Tradewell family is also tenderhearted. Delana and husband Bert helped Byrne get from Monticello to Natchez, they got her much-needed medical attention, they fed her and the horses and they invited her into their home.

Not many people among us would allow a total stranger to stay in their house like that.

The third person traveling ahead of Byrne Monday was Dwayne Rogers, pastor at Pine Grove Baptist Church in Pineville, La.

Rogers entered the picture when Byrne got ill while in Natchez. She was eventually taken to a charity hospital in Pineville, and Rogers was contacted. He stepped in as friend and caregiver during her weeklong stay there.

He also put up the money Monday to buy Byrne a few extra horse supplies at Cathy’s Cowboy Corral in Natchez.

Neither Rogers nor the Tradewells had any connection to Byrne prior to this month.

Yet, Monday, they looked a bit like family.

I’m sure these names and faces were only a few of those along the way that have made a difference for Byrne. But I was proud to see that our community could stake claim to a few inspirations of our own.

The Tradewells and Rogers will go back to life as normal now.

Byrne will ride on.

No doubt her story will be cataloged by countless newspapers and a blog — — is already tracking her progress.

She may find work in Texas; she may not.

Her situation is not a good one anyway you look at it.

But thanks to some kind hearts in our area, the journey was a bit easier.

That’s inspiring.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or