When we beep our horn, it means, “hey, how ya doing?” But outright heavy-handed honking, means, “I wasn’t raised right and have no patience with any of you people from this small hick town.” At least, that’s how I interpret it.
We often hear the gentle “beep-beep” on one of our less-traveled side streets when drivers see Cowboy. Some wave, others ignore him and I’m sure there are a few who don’t notice him at all.
Cowboy sits on the sidewalk next to the public Senior Assisted Living apartments. Holding a cigarette in one hand and waving with the other, he uses his walker’s built-in padded seat as a perch to watch the cars go by. He’s there almost every day, watching and waving. There’s plenty of coming and going from the nearby school with lots of waving children each afternoon. Some walking home swing their backpacks and stop to say hello, while those on the passing bus yell their greetings from lowered windows.
I've driven past Cowboy many times over the years and wondered who he was. He’d wave, and I’d wave back, but I never had the time to stop and actually meet him. There were always groceries in the car or, “places to go and things to do.” It’s a cut-through sort of street where everyone is on their way to some other place. Drivers on this street are focused on the business of being busy.
Go – go - go. “Hello man on the side of the road," now, I’ve got to keep going.
But two days ago, I stopped. It was a gorgeous fall afternoon and for once, I wasn’t in a hurry.
Cowboy was happy to have a visitor that wasn’t behind a car windshield. His tooth-deficient smile was charming and he offered me his left hand to shake since the right held a Marlboro. His white hat let me know he was one of the good guys.
“I’ve always wanted to stop and meet you,” I told him. He acted like he was in the spotlight on opening night at The Fox. Without even asking, he launched into his story.
“Everyone calls me Cowboy,” he said, then tipped his hat, and introduced himself properly with his real name. He was born in the backseat of a car in Alexandria, Louisiana, then lived in Mississippi before moving to Alabama to be near one of his daughters. “She asked me if I wanted to live with her, but I said, no way!” He laughed and coughed at the same time, and said he likes to be on his own.
Cowboy told me a few more highlights of his life. He was polite and called me “ma’am,” then said, “I really do appreciate you stopping to meet me. I love people.”
My grandmother carried a wooden coin in her purse that said, “Tuit.” It was supposed to remind her to do things when she first thought of them and not put them off until she could get “around to it.” A “round Tuit” – get it?
I wanted to meet Cowboy for the longest time but could never seem to get around to it. I’m pretty sure that a sidewalk visit every now and then with a cowboy will be good for me.
It’s another connection with someone in our small beep-beep sort of town.