He swaggered across the parking lot, a swagger enhanced by a pronounced limp. He was dressed in black from head to toe: black leather stetson with a star badge on the crown, black trousers and shirt, a black leather belt fastened with a large shiny oval buckle, and a long black leather drover’s coat that flapped around his black cowboy boots. All he was missing was the six-shooter on his hip and a Winchester rifle. Instead, he carried, and used, a heavy wooden walking stick. I could almost hear the theme from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”: toodle-loodle-loo, too-loo-loooooo.
He opened the store’s glass door and stopped, shocked to see me standing there. “Sorry, ma’am, I didn’t see you.” He bowed low and swept his arm out as an invitation for me to exit.
I smiled and shook my head. “That’s okay. I’m waiting for my ride.”
He smiled, whipped off his black sunglasses – one eye was covered with a patch – “Morning, ma’am,” and entered the store. Clerks greeted him by name; he was obviously a regular customer. They laughed and joked. He found what he was looking for, paid for it, then walked to the door.
* * *
Who was this Gentleman Gambler type? The limp, the patched eye suggested a veteran. Perhaps he had fought in Bosnia or Afghanistan, or one of the Gulf wars – he was too young to have fought in Viet Nam. But if he had, how could he be so cheery? War is a messy business. Your comrades die horrible deaths, or survive to live horrible lives, as do you, wounded in both body and soul. How had this man, if he had been a soldier, risen above despair and depression? He had obviously found something that made life worth living, and worth living well.
Or perhaps he had been a bull rider. That would explain the western garb, the big shiny belt buckle, the swagger, the limp. Bull riders are the king of the rodeo circuit. Anyone who would willingly sit on the back of a ton or more of an animal whose only intent is to throw you off its back and then gore you – well, that person is either supremely confident or insane. Probably insane. But also respected. Eventually, he decided he was too old for that contest of wills and for the bodily punishment that ensued. He retired happily – he had his earnings, his injuries and his belt buckle to prove his success in the arena. He had stories to tell over coffee or beer or whatever he and his friends gathered over. He had survived; no wonder he was happy.
* * *
I was still standing by the door, waiting for my ride to appear. As he left the till, I walked outside and held the door open for him. He tipped his hat. “Thank you, ma’am. Bless you and good morning.” I watched him swagger back across the parking lot. He was whistling.
And the tune he was whistling? The theme from “Rawhide.”
(Wars and bulls result in stories either funny or sad. Two such stories are in my book, “Our Bull’s Loose in Town!” Tales from the Homestead, available in both paperback and e-book. Like the story above, they are — as Hollywood claims — based on true events.)
#WesternCowboy #BullRider #Soldier #Contemplation #Attitude #Courage #Happiness #MargaretGHanna #OurBullsLooseInTown #BWLAuthor