There’s a stone house across the street from my brother Jim’s Mobile kitchen and I am gazing at it. It has been there since before I was a kid. The lady who washes my windows and skylights lives there now.
A man walks to the mobile kitchen’s ordering window. He is tall and big and he is a “Real” Cowboy. He is not a Pretend Cowboy who may dress and act like he’s just off the ranch for a hamburger. There are a lot of those kinds of cowboys, but this man is for real.
He wears a slouchy old cowboy hat pulled down around dark hair that is splattered with gray. A blue kerchief bunches up around his sun-wrinkled neck. He wears an old faded shirt, well-worn blue jeans, and cracked boots. He smells like horses and he spits in the bushes.
He makes me think of other real cowboys in my town.
When I was little there was Valley Mitchell. He was a cowboy with a huge lump on the side of his neck that he kept covered with a kerchief. As the lump grew, the kerchief grew. I was enthralled as I watched his swelling grow more massive every year.
Wayne Tinnen was a cowboy that was always old. He fixed all my father’s barbed wire fences. He fixed a lot of fences in town. He was thin and always seemed to be hunkered down by some rusty wire fence in his tight blue jeans, old shirts, dusty boots, the regulation neck kerchief and an old cowboy hat stained with heavy sweating. He smelled like rolled cigarettes and black coffee. He coughed a lot and told my younger brothers racy stories. He respected women and said “Howdy” to us sisters while he flicked his cigarette ash in the other direction.
When I grew into my twenties there was the World Famous Rodeo Cowboy in my town, Casey Tibbs. He was handsome when I knew him. He was older, liked to drink, and liked the ladies. There was a party in a garage once and he danced with me. He was so drunk he stomped and fell all over my feet. If I had been a cowboy idolizer I would have stopped my idolatry in that garage. My feet hurt for a long time.
Years later, when I had the knowledge of herbs and healings, Casey came to see me. He had advanced cancer and wanted to know if I could help him. I could not. He died a short time later.
All of these men were Real Cowboys. They smelled like cows, tanned skin, and blue skies. They smoked. They drank. They liked women with penciled eyebrows, long, dry, bleached blonde hair, pouffy skirts and jangle bangles on their arms.
For a long time there haven’t been so many real cowboys in my town. Lately, I am seeing more. Maybe, with the ranches and land holdings getting smaller, they come into town more; I couldn’t say.
How do you tell a real cowboy from a fake one?
Maybe it’s the way you tell the real Santa Claus from all the fakes who show up around Christmas. When I was two or three my father took me down the mountain to the city to see Santa Claus. With every Santa he took me to I would say, “No Daddy, that’s not the real Santa.”
And so my father would take me somewhere else in the city to see another Santa. Each new Santa was always the fake one.
My father had probably gotten over his amusement with me and begun to feel desperate by the time he and I rode the escalator down to Penny’s basement. We walked through racks of bargain sale clothes, piles of shoes and stacks of cheap dishware. As we approached the luggage section I saw The Real Santa sitting by himself in a big chair, with stacks of leather luggage piled all around him.
“This is him,” I whispered to my father. “This is the real Santa.”
“Well, Venus, how do you know that?” My father sounded genuinely surprised and impressed that I could tell the difference; that I could see a dozen Santas and know they were fakes but know the real Santa immediately when I saw him.
Later, I heard my father tell family and friends how I had dragged him all over town looking for the real Santa and had finally found him way back in the basement of Penny’s department store, almost hidden by luggage.
Everyone was very impressed with my startling powers of discrimination.
If you were to ask me today how to know a real cowboy from a fake one, the real Santa from a fake one, and a genuine person from one who pretends to be something or someone they are not, my answer would be the same. I just know. And, I think we all know, at some level.
Most genuine people aren’t as easy to spot as real cowboys are, or the real Santa is. Genuine people can sometimes appear to be in disguise. It’s odd, but people without a discriminating eye can’t see them. The Real People don’t wear a plastic shell like some other people do when they don’t want to be “known.” The Genuine People don’t pretend to think or feel things they don’t think or feel or pretend to be someone or something or somebody they are not.
When we stop and look carefully at someone, it’s not their appearance we look at or how they dress or what they say or what they pretend to be, or what high position they may or may not hold in society.
Genuine People with their real natures shine through all appearances. You will find these people everywhere and often in places where no one else looks for them. One might be scrubbing floors in someone’s mansion or raising five children by herself or feeding crumbs to birds in a park or sitting by the side of an old road. Or maybe this person is running a country or singing nice songs in fast bars.
A person who is true to their real nature may even be busily building a great career in thievery or the porn industry. Or they may be producing inferior food for their own benefit and profit and to hell with you and your health. Or maybe they are only happy when enjoying all the darker things the world offers.
You never know who’s what unless you look deeply. Genuine People who are truly themselves don’t always dress like cowboys or Santa Claus or what you might expect. Even criminals don’t always dress or act like thugs, so you have to be clever when you’re ferreting people out.
Looks and words can indeed be deceiving. You need to be like a little child who’s brilliant and discriminating to see the truth of a person. The Real Santa might be hidden behind the luggage. Some cowboys are real but you might not see them that often. There are a lot of Genuine People who do good works, live their real selves in life, and leave a nice mark when they leave this earth. Maybe nobody ever sees who they are, but the person himself knows who and what they are.
And again, there are the people who pretend to do and be these so called “good” things, while instead they specialize in debauchery, ruthlessness, using people or small fibbing.
It’s not for me to judge who a person is or what a person does. How would I know the ultimate reasons for why someone lives their life as they do?
I only like to be able to see who is who and what is what. I’m more comfortable knowing the truth of the matter. When I know who a person really is, then I can consciously choose who I want to play with. Choosing playmates wisely makes life so much easier.