Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Old Tom

The jingle gives him away when he walks in the door;
He rarely arrives unheralded.
On a kid you might think it was merely for show
But the spurs in this case were a natural part
Of the handmade boots they adorned.
The hair's getting thin on the top of his head
But rarely is it ever seen for the paper-thin covering
So yellow with grease that it is almost transparent
Except for the crust that has turned to
Permanent decoration in the vicinity of the hatband.
The holes in the crown were made with a knife
To let the heat escape as it should. The stampede string
That drapes from the back is worn to the point
That some pony's tail will soon be missing a few strands
To be plaited back in by the fingers that are gnarled
And scarred by too many years of working the livestock
That is his life. Fluent in Spanish or English alike
He has worked the ranges from Argentina to Canada.
The wildest he said was the time he was shot down
In a Piper Cub over Uruguay by a band of guerrillas.
It seems they had been raiding stock from the spread
He was hired to patrol by a corporate owner in New York City.
I asked if that meant he was a mercenary to which he replied
"No, I was just the company troubleshooter."
Tom was once known in the outback of Paraguay
As that Christian cowboy because he never failed
To conduct a Sunday Service at his humble home
Which was open to all comers at all times.
His son once told me that he had made more money
Than most people will ever see in a lifetime but
Gave it all away because he couldn't survive
Without helping people needier than him.
The first time I saw him I felt sorry for this man
Who was wearing the worn-out shirt that had
Been patched at least a dozen times. I suspected
He was a down-and-out drifter that couldn't hold
A job and didn't have a nickel to his name. The
Next time I saw him he was sitting in a pickup
With a laptop making entries into a program he
Had written that could tell you in detail anything
Anyone would ever want to know about the operation
That he was responsible for. It seems that he had
Written his Masters Thesis over "cell grazing"
Back in the days before the concept had
Seen the light of any other researcher's eyes.
This Aggie was living the life that he loved
And loving the life that he lived because
He never lost site of his calling.
I'm proud to call him my friend.

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