Real cowboys do cry.
While a physical tear did not make a journey down his cheek, the man’s voice revealed the unmistakable sound of longing pain.
“First time I’ve had to be away from my family on business,” he said. “I sure miss them something terrible.”
We were standing in the parking lot outside a small Mexican restaurant. We’ve met inside, sharing stories about dogs, cattle and family. The sun already checked out for the day leaving the air temperature to gently free fall like a wayward feather dancing in still air.
His blinking pattern changed, a tell of his emotions trying to secretly escape through his tear ducts. Soft crow’s feet gently shaped his eyes.
“Here,” he said, pulling out his phone. A photo came up of a young couple, his arm around her shoulders.
Ten minutes before, we were total strangers. Sitting 5 feet apart, the only thing we had in common was we were both served Spanish rice.
“Excuse me,” came the voice. “I hate to make you think I am eavesdropping but I do believe it was the Indian Red Wolf.”
Back at our table, we were discussing the unusual heritage of our son’s new dog, a Catahoula leopard dog.
It was the result of the Spanish conquistadors bringing their greyhounds to North America in the 16th Century and cross-breeding them with the Indian’s dogs.
“I have 13 running with my cattle back home in Louisiana,” he said.
I got up and we shook hands; I offered my name. He nodded and shared his.
“I run cattle on a little place in south Louisiana,” he said.
Pulling out his cell phone he scrolled to a video of a team of dogs corralling a herd of beige cattle.
“That’s them,” he said. “See how they keep the cattle tight, baying them towards the gate?”
The dogs, heads down and barking, ran tight quick circles around the tightly clustered cattle.
“They start running circles at 8 a.m. and don’t stop moving until 3 p.m.,” he said.
He showed us a few other videos and then offered to share his Facebook page if we were interested in seeing more. He was not selling anything, only being polite.
Back in the parking lot, he told us more about his family.
“I’m here working on a temporary job for an oil company,” he said. “Hate being away from my family.”
It was then I spotted the reflexive hitch in his voice revealing even real do cowboys cry.
“Gotta pay the bills, though,” he said.
We shook hands, said our goodbyes and he climbed in a full-size pickup truck. The bed was equipped more for oil than ranching. An oil company logo was painted on the driver’s door.
Meeting people isn’t hard, just a numbers game. Meeting genuine people, those who will stay in your heart long afterward your one meeting is much rarer.
The truck came to life, belching back smoke into the air. Inside, however, was a man missing something only time and distance could repair.
Leonard Woolsey is president and publisher of The Daily News in Galveston County, Texas.