Years of summer sun and biting winter winds gave him a seasoned look. His age was hidden under sun-browned and wrinkled skin.
A star-burst of deep lines spread from the corners of his eyes. The face was slim and accented a strong square jaw covered with short gray whiskers proclaiming two or three shaves a week were ample. Steel gray eyes gave him a look of iron will.
The old sweat-stained hat wasn’t of the current western style. The sharper curl on one side of the Stetson brim showed his right hand was always used to lift it off in respect to a woman or greeting to a friend.
Elbows on the shirt were worn thin as tissue and threads were starting to show on both collar and cuff. A paper tab on a string hung from the right shirt said this was a man who “rolled his own” when he had that morning cup of coffee at a campfire.
Trails of white threads from the cuffs of his slim-fit Wranglers indicated they were a half-size longer than needed, but seemed just right as they touched the spurs that chased the heels of old scuffed cowboy boots.
Duct tape around the arch of right boot spoke of a sole coming unattached. Not a big enough problem to send him to the boot store. Maybe when the snow flies and the wind bites he will deal with that problem.
This was the guy sitting across the desk from the young woman who had recently been hired to charm new potential customers, help open accounts and talk about the “generous rates for savings accounts or certificates of deposit.”
“Thank you for choosing our bank to open your new checking and savings account,” she said with a warm smile.
“How much will you be depositing? You can get a better rate if the balance is kept above a minimum of $1,000 for six months or more.”
The old cowboy nodded to let her know he understood. Then he slowly dug a letter out of his back pocket.
He put on a pair of “readers” he had purchased at the feed store last month. He carefully unfolded the piece of paper and squinted at it to find the sentence he was seeking.
After a moment of silence, he said, “I’ll be depositing one million (pause) three hundred and forty-eight thousand (pause) five hundred sixty-two dollars (pause) and eighty-eight cents.”
The young woman sat upright in her chair with renewed interest and excitement over the new customer across her desk.
“My goodness,” she blurted. “You must be an excellent rancher.”
“Been pretty fortunate,” the thin old cowboy replied. “I came here from Ohio where I had a job in a tire factory. Hated the job and hated being inside all the time.
“Got a job on a ranch north of here for starvation wages, but I didn’t go to town to get drunk on payday. I put the cash in an envelope I kept under the mattress in the bunkhouse.
“After a few years I had enough for the down-payment 80 acres this side of the south fork of Powder River. Had a pretty good spring there and I got it fenced when I had days off.
“Then I started taking part of my pay in cows they didn’t think had the quality to wear the brand of my boss. Once in a while they would throw in an open cow so I could hope she might breed next year. Rented a bull from the neighbor.
“As time went on I was able to buy a neighbor’s place and had enough cattle to go on my own.”
“That’s an amazing story,” the sweet young banker said. “And you kept going until you had over a million dollars to put in our bank. What an amazing success story!”
Then the old cowboy held up his hand with palm facing her as if he was trying to stop a run-away horse.
“Didn’t say the cow business worked all that well,” he said. “Matter of fact some dry years and poor prices have been hard to deal with. I’m a little behind on my property taxes right now.
“But my sister, who lives in Chicago died last month. She left me this money. I think she was in the communication business. “
“Did she work for Apple or Verizon or AT&T?” the young woman asked.
“She never told me what company,” he said. But she did say she was a call girl.”
The Bench Sitters apologize for this “shaggy dog” story, and promise to do better next week.