An animal trainer
“Don’t eat that!”
By Bob Ferguson
The blistering sun and dust from the corn fields gave his face a swarthy look and his hands a leathery feel. He was tougher than the land he had tilled his entire life, but looked older than his sixty years.
It had been nearly a year since Samantha had passed away and Samuel Butler couldn’t move on. She was his ranch partner as well as his wife. In Fox Hollow, Alabama they were referred to as The Sammies. Everyone called each of them Sam, but to each other they were Samantha and Sam. They had been high school sweethearts and were fixtures in the community their grandparents had helped build. Her death came after a two year battle with cancer. Watching Samantha die had been like watching the slow wilting of the grandest rose in the garden. It withered Sam. He was a hard-boiled, horse trainer, but her cancer was not something he could rope, brand, hog tie, and bend to his will. He could only watch and weep.
Sam put the tractor in the barn for the season. Harvesting was done. His tired body climbed the well worn stairs and he took a seat in one of the two rockers. He looked out over his acreage and was pleased with what he had done by his own hand. He took a cigar from the box of White Owls he kept on a wicker table.
The night was warm. He grabbed a cold PBR from the fridge.
He looked at his old acoustic guitar hanging on the wall. He took it down, tuned it, and began to sing. His voice was like the rest of him, ruggedly sexy, and welcomed anywhere. He had been singing the same song since Samantha’s, the Hank Williams classic “I’m so lonesome I could cry.” He sang the same verse over and over:
“Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves begin to die
That means he’s lost the will to live
I’m so lonesome I could cry”
Tears streamed down his face. Six PBR’s couldn’t ease the pain. For some odd reason he sang the last verse.
“The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple sky
And as I wonder where you are
I’m so lonesome I could cry”
That verse jolted him from his misery. While he was wondering “where you are” he knew Samantha would be the first to tell him to buck up and get on with the business of living. He drank the last of the beer and began packing.
His ’63 Chevy was like the one he had in high school. It was made to run. He put the guitar in the back seat and a few bags of clothing in the trunk. He had arranged to have the farm taken care of for the next month and he now had a plan to live with gusto. He even whipped a few doughnuts in the front yard, and made a bee line to the county road. He would rejuvenate his mind and body on the beaches of Mobile, play his guitar and sing in the karaoke clubs. Samantha would like that.
On the edge of Montgomery Sam stopped for lunch. Nothing fancy, but a city diner.
“Hi there hon, take a seat anywhere,” the waitress said. “You look like you’re the real deal, not like the guys who come in here, they’re all hat and no cattle.” She handed him a menu and said “We had a little problem with our stove today so you don’t want to eat the jambalaya, but we’ve got some good four dollar gumbo.” She was filling his water glass and wiping tables all at the same time. She was a hard worker like Samantha.
“Where ya’ll from?” She asked.
“I’ve lived my whole life up in a little place called Fox Hollow,” Sam said.
“You gotta be kiddin’ me,” the waitress shouted. “Let me take another look at you baby cakes. I lived in Fox Hollow for a few years myself. I hated to leave it, my dad got transferred.”
Their eyes met. They were of the same vintage, no wedding rings, life’s experiences etched their faces, and there would be no need for awkward flirtation.
“Charley, I mean Charlene is that really you?” Sam said, remembering her as one of the prettiest girls in school.
“And you’re the guitar playing Sam who married Sam!” They had the rest of their lives to fill in the rest of their stories.
“Well, I’m single again.” Sam was going for it. He was starved for fun. “Since we seem to be between the lunch and dinner crowds, how about if I sing for my supper?”
As he went to fetch his guitar he heard another refrain that Hank made famous,
“Hey, hey good lookin’ What ya got cookin’
How’s about cookin’ somethin’ up with me?”
© 2013 Bob Ferguson