Storytellers

She has two kids. She dropped out of high school after she had the first. She was raising them as a single teenage mother. Her mobile home caught fire. It was heroism. There’s no other word for it. She saved her babies, and she bears the scars of it.

Kansas. An itty-bitty town. An old cafe. Linoleum floors, vinyl stools. The coffee tastes like ditch water.

In the parking lot: one semi truck, and fifty Fords. George Jones is on the radio.

Thank the Lord these places still exist.

This morning, I visited a river my father used to fish. I had to see it again. I was going to go fishing for old time’s sake, but decided I wanted eggs instead.

My waitress has the personality of a saint, and the smile to go with it. She warms up my coffee. I notice the skin on her chest and neck is marbled red and purple. Burns. Bad ones.

The man beside me is white-haired, wearing a cowboy hat. So are the old men beside him. I don’t know them. But these are the men my father came from.

We start talking.

“What’cha do for a livin’?” one cowboy hat asks.

Men have a biological need to ask this question of strangers. It’s as essential to manhood as fishing rivers our daddies fished.

“I’m a writer,” I say.

This causes a stir among the hats at the counter. They lean forward to get a better look at the out-of-towner.

“What’cha writin’ about?” one asks.

Between five of them there are four cowboy hats, three pairs of suspenders, and enough white hair to sink the U.S.S. Uruguay. These men are the men I come from.

“This, that, and the other,” I say.

“Well, son,” says Cowboy Hat. “I’m gonna tell you a story about Bigfoot that I been trying to get published for SIXTY years…”

The other men laugh, but the old fella is serious.

“I was a boy,” Cowboy Hat goes on. “Saw this big ole thing in the woods. I’s scared to death, but got me a good view… It was Bigfoot, alright.”

The others are cackling. One is wiping tears. I’m not sure if they’re laughing at me or him. But Old Cowboy Hat isn’t laughing. He’s staring at me like he’s just seen Elvis.

Our waitress refills my cup. This time, I notice there are bad burns on her hands, too.

She asks how I’m enjoying my eggs. I tell her they’re the best I ever had—not counting my mother’s. She curtseys, then walks away.

“So what’cha think of my Bigfoot story?” Cowboy Hat asks. “You wanna write it?”

I’ll pass.

“So what DO you write about?” another asks.

Good question. I suppose I write about people who deserve the poets, lyricists, and prize-winning authors to tell their stories, but get stuck with me instead.

And dogs. I write about dogs.

“You know,” says one man. “Oughta write about her.” He nods to our waitress at the other end of the restaurant.

The men’s voices become whispers. And here’s what I learn:

She has two kids. She dropped out of high school after she had the first. She was raising them as a single teenage mother. Her mobile home caught fire. It was heroism. There’s no other word for it. She saved her babies, and she bears the scars of it.

“And there’s more to the story,” another cowboy adds.

A lot more.

A few years ago, she finished her GED. Today, she takes night classes at a campus two hours away. She drives to class almost every night.

To pay her way, she works part-time as a custodian. She push mows a few local lawns on weekends for cash. She picks up shifts at local restaurants.

While the men talk, she appears with a coffee pot. Everyone gets quiet.

“Hey,” she says to them, “why’s everyone wearing silly grins?”

One man says, “We’re just telling this guy how beautiful you are, darling.”

It makes her blush. “Me?” she says. “I’m not beautiful.” And she seems to mean it. She really doesn’t know how bright she shines.

She walks aways. The men tip her silly. So do I.

Cowboy Hat says, “You ever change your mind on my Bigfoot story, come see me. We’ll go fishing, got a nice river outside’a town.”

Yes sir. I’ll do that.

18 comments

  1. Sandi in FL. - June 8, 2018 6:07 am

    What a delightful encounter you had at the restaurant! My favorite part is when you told the men in cowboy hats that you’re a writer and their interested reaction! And God bless your ard-working wonderful waitress.

    Reply
  2. Linda Chapman - June 8, 2018 6:42 am

    I want to say ‘I love you, Sean!’ every time I read one of your posts! I really do! You make us all so proud. Proud of you and proud of all the people you write about and proud to be a part of the wonderful and awesome world we live in……a world that it seems only a few people like you experience and write about.

    Reply
  3. Beth Reed - June 8, 2018 7:22 am

    Awesome conversation with the cowboy hats and lovely waitress. Men and Women from all walks of life don’t realize how beautiful they really are. They are to busy working, taking responsibility for their children and trying to get by, living their lives as they can and survive one paycheck at a time to take a really good look in the mirror. If they did they would see what you and the cowboys saw. A beautiful woman. I read something once about scars. They are beauty marks…. And this lady has them in spades.
    Thanks for your touching story… I hope that you look up that man and fish in his river for old times sake. Beth Reed

    Reply
  4. Gary - June 8, 2018 8:35 am

    I wanna read the Bigfoot story! 😂
    And God bless the beautiful waitress!

    Reply
  5. Edy Holmes - June 8, 2018 12:07 pm

    Thank you

    Reply
  6. C.F. David - June 8, 2018 12:32 pm

    On this trip I think you’ve driven a loop around Cimarron County Oklahoma, and it makes me sad you were so close and I wasn’t lucky enough to be in a cafe….

    Reply
  7. Ann - June 8, 2018 1:34 pm

    Your stories are simple and sweet. Like life should be. Thank you.

    Reply
  8. Jan - June 8, 2018 2:01 pm

    Love your stories, all of them! These Kansas stories are something special. Loved yesterday with the couple you met in the elevator. The lady telling you that we are proud of you. We are so very proud of you. It is as though you represent us all – listening to people’s stories, loving them and then sharing them with those of us at home but wishing we were riding shotgun. You make us feel as though we are seeing it all! Thank you!

    Reply
  9. Kaw - June 8, 2018 2:03 pm

    What part of Kansas?

    Reply
  10. Shelton Armour - June 8, 2018 3:41 pm

    Angels come in all shapes, sizes, and genders. Hope she passes college and gets a job worthy of her light to the world.

    Reply
    • Richard Cotton - June 8, 2018 8:40 pm

      Well said.

      Reply
  11. aerialhorizon - June 8, 2018 3:54 pm

    Beautiful. I can feel her shine.

    Reply
  12. Edna B. - June 8, 2018 5:03 pm

    I love how you pick up on the beauty in the folks you meet. I wish this young mother much good luck and happiness. You are the first blog I read every day, and with good reason. You brighten up my day. Thank you. You have a super day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  13. Richard Cotton - June 8, 2018 8:38 pm

    Sean, I really enjoyed this morning’s story. Thanks for writing about true Americans.

    Reply
  14. Beth - June 8, 2018 8:43 pm

    I can relate. Lot’s of farmers get up early around here. They head to the local diner to talk about crops, equipment and etc. Ater breakfast they are out and about for the day. That night they all have the latest news to share. Good memories.

    Reply
  15. Mike (of the South) Clark - June 8, 2018 9:22 pm

    For the most part, I grew up in a small town in Mississippi, populated by folks just like those you write about. One of the reasons I enjoy your stories is that I personally knew or, in some cases, know those people. Well, maybe not those people, but folks that very well could be those people. And those are really the important people in life, not the Kardashians. On top of that, some of your personal story might well have been my story you are telling. But some of my story, and I’ll wager some of yours too, has never been told and remains locked up in a private place. To stay. I lost my Daddy when I was 9, almost 10. He didn’t die until I was 40, but I lost him when I was 9. He simply needed/loved whisky more than he needed/loved me and my little sister and my Mom, who went to her grave at the age of 90 still loving him. So many stories I could tell. Many of them just to painful to tell. I’m glad you’re telling some of yours. Some make me smile, some cry. But it’s good, and I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing.

    Reply
  16. Jack Quanstrum - June 9, 2018 2:54 pm

    Great story 🙂

    Reply
  17. LARRY WALL - June 12, 2018 9:57 pm

    I love old men, and at 72 myself that makes them OLD men and especially those who wear cowboy hats and jeans. My 95 year old brother-in-law is one of those ‘old men’. So wise and so good.

    Reply

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