Sunday, January 12, 2014

BUS STORY # 375 (Portrait # 25: The Old Cowboy)

Cowboy by
Cowboy, a photo by on Flickr.

We’ve stopped in the middle of a block, and I am mesmerized from the moment the new rider works his way slowly up the stairs of the old 300.


Old cowboy, or maybe prematurely aged. Long and lean.

Long gray hair like the movie studios would have Sam Elliott wear for an 1880s cowboy movie, coming down from under a cowboy hat Sam Elliott wouldn’t be caught dead in. A curiosity in cheap brown felt, a brown that can only have been made in China. Front and back pulled down hard like those peacock-feathered, turquoise-rimmed, straw caricatures tourists pick up in Austin or Santa Fe.

He doesn’t have Elliott’s star-maker of a mustache, but a short gray beard and mustache, nicely trimmed. High, defined cheekbones make me think there’s some Oklahoma in him. Above the cheekbones are a pair of green-lensed, pilot-style sunglasses.

Dark brown leather car coat, blue jeans. The jeans are pressed, Texas style. Not new, but not faded, either. And not tight, but they don’t have to be: he’s got those narrow cowboy hips and legs. Brown boots, well worn, with walking heels.

And a wood cane.

I’m so absorbed I miss how he handles the fare. But when he’s done, he turns, slowly and stiffly, and makes sure he has his cane positioned to support him on his way to the bench seat where the elderly and handicapped sit.

Comes the thought: old rodeo cowboy. And then:
They’ll never stay home
And they’re always alone*
It was a short ride. He got off at the first intersection with a stoplight. Slowly and stiffly. He needed the cane.


*From the lyrics to “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” written by Ed Bruce, who performs a wonderful version here.


The photo at the top of this story is titled “Cowboy,” © All Rights Reserved, and is posted with the permission of You can see all’s photos on Flickr here.


Thanks to JM in Brooklyn for this week’s featured bus story: This Week In: Grand Central Station, NYC.


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