An Old Cowboy

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The glance of my eyes has passed over this photograph many times. But today my eyes fixated on this stranger. I call him a stranger only because we have not met, nor will we ever. It is odd to think that there will be and have been thousands of faces I have only seen at a mere glance, and those unfamiliar faces then become out of sight, and out of mind. Today, I have found myself with different eyes; eyes that yearn for more. It is almost as if they have a mind of their own, pondering, and questioning everything they see. They are like a three-year-old asking “why” consecutively for hours on end. The eyes that are usually lodged in my head would just see a picture of an old cowboy and flash back to the treacherous homework they had been avoiding. Oh, the perspective of these new eyes. They have this desire to soak in every black and white detail of this photograph. As if it were the first day of summer after a cold winter, and the only thing on their mind was the hot sun seeping into their defrosting skin.

In this matted picture frame rests a photograph given to my stepfather (a true cowboy). This man sits on a wood bench; rough, not sanded. The kind that if you would slide your rump on too quickly, splinters would bolt into you before you realized what happened. Simply looking at the settled dust in this tack room makes my mouth chalky. The boots so familiar to his feet are worn with the leather faded from decades of use. Anyone can see that this man has ripened with time. His soft leathery skin resembles a one-dollar bill that has mistakenly tumbled many times through the wash. It is strange to think the deep crevices, and sagging skin once were taught and glowing. Don’t deceive yourself; the weathered skin does not hide the strong large hands that set on his knee griping a braided rope. Blood and dirt stains on his frayed leather chaps seem to hold many stories of cattle brandings, and long lonely nights on the range, (castrated cattle tend to bring some blood). My eyes want to know. They enquire about this man who sits hunched with pride. I forget that the elderly were once young. Their lives have been jam-packed with experiences we’ll never know about as long as we just glance. Oh, but if we possessed the eyes I have today. Assuredly, I’m not implying a gruesome surgery. I found a new perspective, wondered, and questioned things that I normally wouldn’t notice outside of my oh-so-busy life.

There is more to this wrinkly cowboy than one might suspect. They called him Bill Dorrance. His life lacked the technology that envelops our generations. His parents raised him on a homesteaded ranch during the time when the train had only been chugging for a couple of decades, and the automobile soon replaced the horse. At just a glance, I wouldn’t have known that Mr. Dorrance fought in World War II. My fresh eyes have made me wonder what stories sit behind his 1950’s styled eyeglasses. A portrait of contentness is painted through the twinkle of his eyes. Does the idea of death creeping nearer weigh heavy on his beating heart? The stories of his life live behind the transparent glass of this picture frame. His Mona Lisa smile lets me know that there is so much more to him. At a mere glance I wouldn’t know that in his time he was the best. He roped and trained horses in a revolutionary way, which explains why people ventured from all over to simply watch him. What he brought to horsemanship, Elvis Presley brought to music.

Having eyes that wanted to know more motivated me to find out that a few hip surgeries didn’t keep him off his horse, even at the age of 93. That the worn rope resting on his knee, and the dozens of bridals hanging behind him were only several of the hundreds he braided himself. Mr. Dorrance seemed to focus on the good in the world, had a sense of humor, even though the love of his life gave in to cancer. Too many years before his time came. He pushed forward with making everything more efficient. As he aged, lifting a forty-pound saddle could no longer be executed. He constructed a pulley contraption that raised the saddle onto the horse, (I don’t think he believed in the idea of retiring; a trait of a true cowboy). He did more than exist, he thrived, and he lived. I once glanced at a photograph of an old cowboy, but now my eyes are fixated on a legend.





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Country_Boy said...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 11:53 pm
This reminds me of some pictures, and relatives my family has.
 
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