His abrupt movement snatched my eyes from my breakfast. I immediately lowered my chin back down to continue to observe the man from the top of my eyes. He was an old cowboy, much heavier and grayer than he must have been in his prime.
I got flashes of the gray hair and whiskers from under his faded and sweat stained white hat, as he loped from side to side, stooped over like an orangutan, struggling to make it to the breakfast bar. It looked like an old injury with arthritis cementing it all in place.
The old cowboy had a strap over his shoulders that carried a small oxygen tank on his left hip, clear tubes running up under his nose with straps around his big ole’ ears. The old cowboy didn’t pause to wait for someone to offer him a seat, he knew exactly where he was going; the bar stool at the counter closest to the front door.
He struggled his way onto the bar stool, about twelve feet from me, as the greetings began coming in stereo from all over the restaurant, “Mornin’ Don”! – “There he is”! – “How you doin’ today Don”! several pats on the back as the old cowboy answered with enthusiasm.
The late comers got some real love from the flannel shirt sportin’ cowboy, “Mornin’ beautiful”! – “How you”? The lady probably close to half of cowboy Don’s age answered with equaled enthusiasm, “Well, better now that my favorite big ole’ cowboy is here”! She hadn’t got the honey drippin’ compliment all out before one of the managers gave Don a slap on the back and sat himself on the stool right next to cowboy Don.
Cowboy Don was a celebrity in that place, I was just the out of place visitor. I can’t say I liked the breakfast so much, but I liked the place all the same. Some pretentious people and places wouldn’t have been so inviting to a man with the style and grace of cowboy Don. They were good people, my kind of people… They just didn’t know it. I didn’t tell em’.
I watched as cowboy Don drank coffee. He didn’t eat breakfast, just sat slumped over the counter, the precious coffee cup surrounded by the flannel covered forearms protecting it, opening up the sacred circle for the prompt refills.
For me it was a quick breakfast, for cowboy Don… it was his life… It doesn’t matter too much about what we look like, underneath the skin we’re all not so different. God hard-wired all of us to need others, some of us more than others, but we all have need of contact with other souls. It just takes a little longer for some of us to realize that fact, that’s all.
It occurred to me to anonymously buy cowboy Dons’ coffee, but I’d bet a good saddle that ole’ Don drinks coffee there everyday for free…
I’d also bet his company is worth a lot more than a cup-a-coffee…