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An Old Journal and a Cowboy's Quest


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In November of 2018 my husband and I were on the way to far West Texas and decided to stop for a while near Ozona. We pulled into the TXDOT overlook parking lot on 280 near Sheffield for a snack and a walk-around.  Hubs wandered over to read the historical markers.  I noticed a fellow over on the other side of the lot, sitting on a stool behind a dusty old blue station wagon and stabbing into a watermelon with a big knife.  I walked over to say hello.  He said "Howdy" and offered me a chunk of melon from the end of his knife.  He said he’d seen the melon for sale back in town and it looked good, so he bought it for dinner but I was welcome to have some.  I took a chunk of melon. It was good!

He had a guitar case on the ground next to him, so I asked him if he was a working musician. That was the beginning of a very interesting conversation. 

He said that he did play from time to time, and he wrote songs, too.  But mostly he worked cattle up in Montana and Wyoming. He was a working cowboy and had always been a cowboy. But, he said, now he was on a road trip.

(My husband joined us then; he had noticed me talking to this guy who was holding a knife and thought he’d better come see what was going on. 😂)

The cowboy told us he had inherited a journal written by an ancestor, his grandfather’s brother, who was from Alabama. This man had followed the Westward expansion, serving as a hunter for the railroad and working for the Quartermasters to feed the troops. In his journal the great-uncle wrote of his travels from Alabama through the South, into Texas, then up through Oklahoma, the Great Plains, and into the Northwest.  The cowboy said he’d read the journal several times over the years and had finally decided the previous year to take time off from working cattle and follow his great-uncle’s route as described in the old journal while he was still young enough to make the trip.

The cowboy said he’d be heading further west to the Fort Davis area then would be cutting back towards Oklahoma. He wanted to be back home in Wyoming come Spring, he said.

He told us that sometimes he’d find a bar or a roadhouse where he could play his music for tips.  We asked if he would play for us, and he agreed, picking his guitar and accompanying himself on harmonica.

As we said our goodbyes and wished him well on the remainder of his journey, he looked up at us and said that he had been on the road a long time. and stopped his old car in a lot of parking areas to rest and have a bite.  When people saw him, he said, they always eyed him suspiciously or even fearfully, parents pulling their kids into their cars, or even relocating their cars far away or driving off when he pulled in to park and set up his stool.  He said he was so surprised when a woman alone—me—just ambled over to him and said hello while he was stabbing at his watermelon that he had been happy to play us a song.  He said we had restored his faith in people and wished us a good evening.






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