PALMER, Texas — Every Sunday, Gretchen McGuire sees him: a cowboy dressed to the nines like he just took a time machine from the 1800s, sitting atop his horse in Palmer, waving and smiling at motorists from an Interstate 45 overpass, while holding an American flag.
On this particular Sunday, McGuire had to stop and meet this western character who always brings a smile to her face.
She had just finished a 24-hour shift from Parkland and was heading home on I-45 when she pulled up next to Clint Sparks and his trusty steed 'Dakota.'
"Hi!" McGuire yelled. "It just warms my heart every time I see you!"
Sparks smiled and pleasantly introduced himself.
"You just made my day," Sparks said.
It's ironic to hear Sparks say what he did, because he's the one usually making an impact on people.
"Life's hard enough, I just want you to have a good day."
Around 2015, Sparks had a revelation: He wanted to commit himself to uplifting others on Sunday before church.
He sits atop his horse on I-45 along FM 813, down the road from the J Bar C Cowboy Church in Palmer, where he is a member.
It's a Christian calling for the 65-year-old. It also fits with a 'cowboy code' that Sparks lives by.
"It's just a kind of way of life or the way you think," Sparks said. "You know, integrity means something, and honesty means something. You try to make things good for your fellow man. We've lost a bit of that, and we need to get it back."
"This country is still great, but I think we have to help it."
Since 2015, Sparks hasn't been on the overpass every week. He's missed some Sundays here and there due to family commitments or conflicts.
But if you were a gambler, you could bet on seeing him in the same spot every Sunday.
His day starts at the church. Sparks pulls his horse trailer in, and he prepares his horse Dakota for the ride down the road.
Dakota is surprisingly agreeable about Sparks' mission. He stands on the overpass, unfazed by the honking or traffic.
"He don't mind it at all," Sparks said. "He always gets goodies, though."
Sparks gets dressed after saddling Dakota up. He also wears boots, chaps, a cowboy hat and has two western pistols holstered in his belt.
If there were a casting call for an 1800s western show in Dallas, Sparks would have a head start to be an extra.
"I like looking as authentic as I can, from the 1800s somewhere in there," Sparks said. "Back then, your word meant something."
Once he's ready to go, Sparks grabs an American flag, as long as it's not too windy, and heads to the overpass.
That's when the honking begins.
Sparks does nothing but stay in the same spot, smile and wave.
Motorists respond in kind by flashing their lights, honking their horns, or waving back.
"If it makes their day, that's what I'm here for," Sparks said. "People will stop down below me, or they'll swing by for a picture."
"They ask me, 'why are you doing this?' All I say? I want you to have a blessed day."
"Just keep smiling, keep putting that one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward," Sparks added.
Sparks did laugh, saying the Ellis County Sheriff's Office and local police know him well.
Some people have called, reporting that someone might be trying to jump from the overpass.
This reporter is here to set the record straight once and for all: it's just Clint, someone trying to make a difference.
"If it makes you smile, that's exactly what I want to do. Just try to help everybody," Sparks said.