A Story by John Cox – Cascade Mountains 2020
“Didn’t have nothin’ ta do, cept sit I suppose. . . Turned on some of that Reality TV. . . I watched what ya’ll said, some kinda popular show people watched,” Ol’ Bob said, while shaking his head, pointed his crooked-finger at the TV.
I looked at Ol’ Bob, and knew right off he would never turn on the television. He thought it was evil; actually, he spent his life at Line-Shacks in the mountains, and on the range tending to cattle and horses. He had to have been bored witless, sitting there, to turn on the TV, at all. His old warn-out hands, thick, arthritis set in. His fingers crooked, like a creek in the woods.
He was One of those Forgotten Heroes, we only hear about. Most people only listen passively at best. Then we go about our own business, never thinking about wars-past or the people that fought in them. American’s like Ol’Bob, that everyone has pretty much forgotten about. Obvious his PTSD alive and well, isolated him for years on end; actually, buffered him from the world.
“Pawnbrokers! Fer Crin’ out loud! Bottom of the barrel Pawnbrokers! Where I grew up, Pawnbrokers were thought to be scum, bad people, bottom-feeders. Ya only yaked at a Pawnbroker in the lowest part of yer life, and down to yer last dollar bill — and those people knew it, still stole most of it! What’s wrong with people today? How is a cotton-picken’ person like that even liked, at all?” — Ol’ Bob grumbled, Wrangler and Ranch Foreman 60+ years, now 98 years young . . .
So I sat with Ol’ Bob, a Korean War Veteran, from long ago. His perception of television, which, he never watched — His life was spent in the mountains, and on the range. He was one of those honest, and descent Good Ol’ Boys, that knew his homelands like the back of his hand. He had to. His life and the life of the cattle and horses, he was responsible for, depended on it. And that is what he did, his entire life.
He would, every early fall, take the cattle in, then watched as they were loaded onto cattle trucks — he seen the trucks from the 1950’s up to the 2010’s. It was how he kept track of time.
He sat on his horse, watched, until the last cow loaded. His way to say goodbye to them all. He watched the dust from the trucks pulling away. They drove onto the pavement. Then banged gears down the road. Then disappeared around Collins Curve.
He would get paid. He would always go to the Post Office, stuff an envelope with most of his pay, address the envelope, then send it. Nobody knew Ol’ Bob that well to really know where he was sending his money to. He done it for 60+ years.
Ol’ Bob would then go to the store down the block, get his groceries for the month, load’em up on two of his mules, then lead them out. He disappeared for the winter, only to show up in early Spring at the Ranch, gather cattle, and take them to the mountain ranges, the pastures.
For sure, Ol’ Bob knew no other life. I suppose when things changed in that business, was when he realized his knowledge, or, his way of doing things, were simply no longer needed, or, even paid any attention to.
Years later, no one knows what he did throughout that time, as he never spoke about it. . . He wound up at the old Veteran’s Home. He could look out his window, in his room, and see the Mountain Range he spent his entire life, one could easily say, roaming.
When asked about any of it, he would merely bow his head, and start talking about the horses he had, lived with, and rode daily. For gosh sake, he would even speak highly of the character and significance of his mules.
We lose a lot, not knowing or sitting people like Ol’ Bob down, and getting their stories.
The quality of people like him, we will never know. We ignore him for the gilts and glitter people in the movies, thinking that is the way it is — those with no soles, unworthy of notice. The real people, those people uniquely driven to live their own life the way they see fit, remain ironically, unacceptable in our society — and their values?
Ol’ Bob told me once, “. . . John, I go about my business, harm no one and never would, and do what I do, no matter if others like it, or even paying attention to me at’all. As a matter of fact, my rather’s would be, just leave me alone.”
I made sure his gravestone had that, exact words.
A Wrangler the Mountains, Grasslands, Horses
A Story by John Cox – Cascade Mountains 2020
October 20, 2020 at 4:58 pm
Truly a life well lived.
October 20, 2020 at 5:02 pm
Telling, isnt it? But then, I’m old enough to remember my uncles serving in the 2nd world war (before Korea & Viet Nam) And yeah, we all knew a different way of living. Decency & honesty AND empathy were a thing back then! Need I say more?