I watched him walk across the parking lot toward the bench in front of the store where I sat, waiting for the bus. It was obvious he was not from these parts. His jeans were faded but clean and held up by a belt. His cowboy hat had seen many miles of protecting him from the sun and rain. His walked in his boots like he had been born to them. As he got closer I could see that if he had not yet passed the 80 mile marker, he was close. His face was as weathered as his hat, but many of the lines had been put there with smiles.
He stopped in front of me and said, "Excuse me, Ma'am. I have some waiting to do. Would it be alright if I sat here and waited with you?" I said I would be honored.
He wasn't a jabberjaw type of man. When he spoke in his soft drawl, he chose his words carefully. We talked of many things. We watched the people come and go. We smiled at a naughty little boy staying just out of reach of his mother and at a little girl of about three years of age who obviously had just learned to dress herself, judging by the clashing colors and gaudy accessories.
He allowed as to how he liked the world better when a man's word meant something. He said that he didn't understand why more people weren't interested in what was going on around them. And more than that, why so many didn't bother to get ready for bad times.
He apologized for being nosy, but that he couldn't help noticing that my handy dandy little old lady shopping cart was filled to the brim with bags of rice, sacks of onions and jars of peanut butter. On top was a sack full of canning lids. He said those canning lids reminded him of his mother, working all summer and fall, putting up vegetables, meat and fruit to get her family through the winter. He said that people now think that these big grocery stores will always be there, open and full of food. He said he could see that I was thinking ahead and would probably be all right, but so many wouldn't. He said it was a shame that the old ways were being forgotten, but was glad to see that some of us remembered.
I was sorry to see my bus pull into the parking lot. I never learned that man's name nor does he know mine. But I think I will be a long time remembering a conversation with a gentleman, sitting on a bench, on a beautiful summer morning.
Abandoned bridge and rail line at Sharples, Alberta
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