I hadn’t seen Ted in 20 years or so, but found out he was shacked up in a frame house just outside of Balmorhea, Texas…retired, of course, ‘cause he was 96-years-old by my figure.
Didn’t call to tell him I was comin’ over.
Just got in my pickup and headed west, to Balmorhea … to find Ted.
Drove the speed limit and reminisced ‘bout Ted as I drove, who’d worked the ranches in West Texas as a young, and older, cowboy.
He went to the War, and came back and went to cowboying again.
When I was a kid and my pony and I tangled with a big mesquite, he clipped and pulled a big thorn out of the fat part of my skinny hand.
“There ya go,” he smiled.” Hurt?”
“Yes” I confessed.
“C’mon, git up. Mr. Vic Collet’s gonna be wonderin’ where we’re abouts.”
So, we did mount up and trotted toward the pens.
Several years later, when I was less of a kid, I was visiting San Angelo…early seventies or so, I stopped by a bar that Norman Wolfe had shown me years before on North Chadbourne Street and where I played poker with the older guys under Wolfe’s tutelage and dancing eye (he had only one) and there, I found Ted, drunk.
When he looked at me for several moments, he said,
“How-dee-do-to-you, Little Ed! Have a sit! “
I did…sit, scraping the wooden chair legs on the old, wooden floor of the bar.
He looked at me and I looked at him.
“You growin’ up.”
“And you’re drunk.”
“That I am… that I am…and lovin’ it.” as he weaved in his chair and sipped more whiskey from his whiskey glass.
“Whatcha doin’ here?” he asked.
“Just visiting…getting out of the city.”
“You was always one didn’t like too many people around.”
“Mr. Ted, you’re fancy drunk”
“So what!” And took another swig.
“You’ll be passing out soon and I’ll be taking you to a pillow…where you live?”
I looked at some other guys at the next table…we nodded at one another.
They weren’t sure about me because it was the seventies and I wore my hair long while they all wore crew cuts, but they could see I was dealing with Ted.
“How long you been here?” I asked.
Pulling a watch from his pocket, he tried to focus on it, then said,
“Near three hours.”
“Mr. Ted…it’s time to go. You can crash at my family place.”
“Bull corn!” (I had never heard the man use real profanity)
“Mr. Ted, come get into my car, let’s find you a pillow for your head that’s not going to feel so good tomorrow.”
“Dontcha want a drink.”
“No, don’t think so. Let’s go.”
“Let’s go!”I said and pushed the chair back and arose.
“Little Ed, who are you to be bossin’ me around?”
“I’m sober and you’re Cooter Brown drunk. I know you got your pickup out there in the parking lot but if you try to drive you’ll kill yourself or someone else. Let’s go.”
I looked over at the guys at the nearby table and the gents sitting there, who nodded again, apparently in agreement with the conversation they’d overheard.
“Let’s go!” and I moved around the table and grabbed his armpit to hoist him up.
“Let go!” and he thrashed a bit.
“Gentlemen?” I looked at the men at the nearby table.
The waitress came around, as did the bartender.
“Not to worry, Gail.”
“You know my name?”
“Well, it’s right there on your plastic badge,” and I poked her in the chest.
The guys at the next table made quick glances at one another and two of them stood and came over.
“Time to go, Ted.”
“You’re a rat.”
“No, I’m your savior.”
The three of us hoisted Ted from his chair and ushered him the passenger seat of my pickup where he immediately passed out against the passenger seat window.
Thanks and handshakes with the two guys who helped, $10 to the barkeep to protect Ted’s pickup and 20 miles down the two-lane to my place where I left Ted, head against the passenger-side window, to sleep it off.
Six thirty a.m. I arose and made coffee. Went to my pickup and rapped on the passenger-side window to be greeted by blood-shot eyes that said, “where am I?”
I opened the door to the pickup…Ted lurched a bit.
“Here!’ I said, and thrust the mug of coffee at him.
Twenty minutes later and three mugs of black coffee
“Where’s my truck?”
“We’ll go get it in a while.”
That was a long time ago.
When I knocked on the old wooden door of the frame house just outside the city limits of Balmorhea, I heard a creak of old wood and a shuffle behind the door.
“Who’s there? I gotta gun…”
A few moments and the old door creaked open…just a crack
And there stood Ted, holding hard on the door’s handle and a cane in his other hand.
He blinked several times as he sized me up, then looked at the floor, then back at me, standing in his doorway.
“You’ve gotten older, Little Ed!”
“So have you, Ted.”
“What brings you hereabouts, youngster? Way out here in the middle of nowhere?”
“You.” I said.
He smiled a bit, tottered a bit more as his hand slipped from the door handle, and said, “Come in and have a sit. Place is a mess…I’m not much of a housekeeper.”
So I went in, removing my Stetson, and sat in a straight-backed chair while Ted collapsed into his small sofa throwing his cane aside.
“Dagnabit! I hate that thing!.”
“Remember when you cut that thorn outta my hand…?
“I remember lotta things, Little Ed.”
And we talked for hours….
Thank you, Ted.