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 are 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.
He blinking pattern changes, a tell of his emotions trying to secretly escape through his tear ducts. Soft crow’s feet gently shape his eyes.
“Here,” he says pulling out his phone. A photo comes up of a young couple, his arm around her shoulders.
Ten minutes before we were total strangers. Sitting five 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 thirteen running with my cattle back home in Louisiana,” he said.
I get up and we shake hands, I offer my name. He nods, shares his.
“I run cattle on a little place in south Louisiana,” he says.
Pulling out his cell phone he scrolls to a video of a team of dogs corralling a herd of beige cattle.
“That’s them,” he says. “See how they keep the cattle tight, baying them towards the gate?”
The dogs, heads down and barking, run tight quick circles around the tightly clustered cattle.
“They start running circles at 8 am and don’t stop moving until 3 pm,” he says.
He shows us a few other videos and then offers to share his Facebook page if we are interested in seeing more. He is not selling anything, only being polite.
Back in the parking lot, he tells us more about his family.
“I’m here working on a temporary job for an oil company. Hate being away from my family.”
It is here I spot the reflexive hitch in his voice revealing even real do cowboys cry.
“Gotta pay the bills, though.”
We shake hands, say our goodbyes, and he climbs in a full-size pickup truck. The bed is equipped more for oil than ranching. An oil company logo is 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 comes to life, belching back smoke into the air. Inside, however, is a man missing something only time and distance can repair.