Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Old Hag Shows Up Again

Part 8—Fifty Years in a Thousand Miles--Dalhart.  What are the Odds? 

A short time later, Calvin did lose his job as manager of the Quien Sabe (Who Knows?) ranch. I heard that he had moved to Dalhart. He has little or no presence online since he left the ranch (not much before), but I had found enough information to chance finding him there.

Without benefit of a town map, I followed my instincts and almost immediately located a street named Peters and wondered if he had already had a street named for him. A few houses down, I stopped at the only address I found online, a small but nice brick house with a single garage in a residential neighborhood. A white pickup sat in the driveway. 

I knocked on the door and a man opened it. “Yes sir. What can I do for you?”

He was in the dark and covered his eyes as he looked out into the setting sun. When he did not recognize me, I thought it might not be him. He had put on a few pounds, aged a little. I counted off almost fifteen years since I had last seen him. “Looking for Calvin Peters. I’m Jimmy Ainsworth.”

“You found him. Well, I’ll be, it is you, ain’t it?”

It was about suppertime and I vowed not to interfere with that, so we sat on the porch. I had already dropped in on wife Linda unexpectedly for a meal on that last visit. Calvin, always a great story-teller, told me what had happened since leaving the Quien Sabe. 

He feels God led him north from the ranch rather than south and back to his old home turf around Adrian. He rented a small house and he and Linda began to rebuild their lives. He found a job driving a fuel truck. Kids and grandkids said he was driving a bomb down the highway, so he quit that and found a job at the XIT Feedlot (XIT Feeders). He worked inside for a while until he learned that riding the lots horseback paid better and suited better. 

When his boss learned he was looking for a house, he sold him his on Peters Street. Again, Calvin and Linda felt God’s guidance. They remodeled the place and “cowboyed” it up. Calvin told me they had already paid off the mortgage. This despite the fact that he was injured in a horse wreck that led to both head and back surgeries. Back at the feedlot, he decided to give up the horses and ride in an air-conditioned and heated tractor. Through it all, they maintained a positive attitude.

Calvin insisted on taking me inside and showing me their improvements and his displays of spurs, buckles and other awards he and his son and grandchildren have won in rodeos and roping events. In the kitchen, I took a step back when I saw Jay Dusard’s famous photograph of Julie Hagen entitled “North American Cowboy: a portrait”.  Julie Hagan was the top hand at Wagstaff Land and Cattle Co. in Wyoming when the shot was taken. I met her years later on a Wyoming mountain. 

From A River of Stories . . . Laughter filled the pre-dawn mountain air and lights came on in the cook tent. “The Old Hag” had finally arrived. At breakfast, we all knew Julie Hagen before we took our first bite. She was a ranch manager who had worked for ranches in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming. He was also a painter and poet. Her brother was an Olympic skier, her father a biologist, her mother a professional flutist. 

Calvin’s photo is signed by Jay Dusard. Jay came to the ranch to capture some of its majesty in photographs before the way of life disappeared. My photo was signed by Julie Hagen.

What are the chances that two guys who attended the same tiny school fifty years earlier in the Texas Panhandle would have the same photo of a woman (that I met once and Calvin never met; a woman from a state more than a thousand miles from Texas) hanging in their homes?

I had heard or read something about a civic award Calvin had won for community service, but he pretended not to know what I was talking about. Linda has taken a job with a local restaurant and arrived wearing her welcoming smile. 

Calvin and I swapped old stories for about an hour and a story about Sidney and the unusual lifestyle he chose came up. I said that compared to Sidney, I had been a wild and crazy guy in high school. 

Calvin put a hand on my shoulder and said, “Jimmy, you were a wild and crazy guy compared to me and most of our classmates.” That surprised me, because I had always seen myself as the shy introvert that I was inside—the new kid who tried to stay invisible. 

If you read Circle of Hurt, watch for remnants of this visit. 

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