Stories from behind the cardboard sign part 3
I stopped at a rest stop, he was sitting there with his cardboard sign and can. His face was lined with a million stories. He wore rough work clothes, worn work boots and a cowboy hat that had seen decades of use.
I summoned my courage to stop and talk to him. His face was compelling, it had a million stories in the wrinkles and crinkles, I wanted to hear at least one of them. I told him I did not have cash but I had some energy bars in the car, would he like a few? He looked up with hazy blue eyes that still had a twinkle to them, he said yes he would love them.
I sat next to him, handed him the bars and a bottle of water. He thanked me and told me that he was so ashamed to be sitting here asking for money, he had a small trailer to go home to, but he needed a medical procedure and he did not have the money for it. We chatted for a few minutes, he told me he rode in rodeos, worked as a cowboy on ranches, he said there is no retirement fund for those jobs. He reminisced for just a minute about how he loved that work.
I mentioned to him I was a photographer and that I would love to take his picture, he very politely declined. I told him was I understood, but in truth I was so disappointed, he had the most interesting face. He told me he had done things in his past he did not want his face on that “web thing”. I told him I respected his privacy.
He questioned why I would want a picture of him, he was just an old wrinkled man. I explained about how his face drew me to him and how I thought he had many stories. He smiled shyly, and shook his head a little embarrassed.
He was well-spoken, shy, and a little ashamed, but he would not trade the “cowboy days” and would still be riding if he was able. I left him with a hand shake, and wishing I could hear more. I still check out that rest stop when I pass in hopes of seeing him again.
Author’s note: I spoke with this man “Cowboy” last spring. Out of this conversation came the courage to actually do this project that has been in my head for years.