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3- Clint Was A Cowboy

3- Clint Was A Cowboy

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Published by David A. Schmaltz
Chapter Three of The Panhandler's Paradox
Chapter Three of The Panhandler's Paradox

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Published by: David A. Schmaltz on Jun 15, 2011
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06/15/2011

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Clint Was A Cowboy
Clint was a cowboy. How he ended up a member of the software group, I never did find out. Butthere he was, bigger than life; cowboy boots, oversized championship buckle, and enoughgenuine presence to spill out of the Pendleton Round-up Happy Canyon main arena.Most of the others on the team were what you’d expect: introverted, contemplative, brainy.Some a bit more anal than others, but generally a careful, risk-avoiding lot. Not Clint. He rodeevery requirement like he’d once ridden brahma bulls: tenaciously; filled with the passion of pursuit, the joy of conquest.Clint was a noisy learner. He rattled windows. He seemed to have a panoramic picture windowinto his soul, and every twitch, every nuance took center stage. He told embarrassinglyimproper jokes when the rest of his teammates were stuck; class clown, court jester, and theperennial winner of the yodeling cowboy competition, all rolled into one.And his distractions worked. Often as not, he’d jangle their stuckness enough for everyone togain some traction. It seemed as if he had just the right hammer to nudge anything loose. And hewas never once shy about using it.Most on the team never understood what this frantic dancing cost Clint. He seemed like anyfree-spending cowpoke; bottomless pockets, endless good humor, always ready for another bigadventure. The life of every party.Clint was no superficial fool, though you’d be excused for mistaking him for one. Behind thoseeyes, tearing up over his latest inappropriate wise crack, was one wounded wise man. He’dtraveled the circuit, living out of his backseat in lean times, a trailer when winning. He’d won andlost it all so many times, the distinction between winning and losing melted away. He continuedriding bulls, breaking horses, being broken by them, too.He’d broken just about every bone a cowboy can break, even earned a couple of championshipbuckles before switching rides into IT, where the competition was more subtle, thechampionships few and ever further between. But he settled in, confining his carousing to theweekends and after hours. Every cowboy understands that drunk sick ain’t never sick enough tomiss roll call or the supper bell.He showed up every morning, freshly showered and starched, polished and bleary-eyed, bootheels leaning him into whatever this next workday might bring. It would not bring money. Whathe made paid back child support. What he could charm out of instant life-long friends sustainedhim. He had a string of exes, each one dearly loved, mumbling along beside the trails he’dtrodden. Each in turn had fallen under the spell of the fearless buckaroo, the charming cowpoke,that kid in cowboy boots, only to learn that he really was fearless, he really was unrelentinglycharming, and that he’d never, ever, under any condition, be able to grow up.Not that he had not tried. He’d served in the Army. He’d graduated from technical school. Hewas capable of passing for an adult, ... mostly. He could not lose his innocence, no matter how
 
hard his experience tried. He cried himself to sleep when nobody was left around him, and noone was supposed to know how he hurt inside; least of all himself.The broken bones healed ragged, leaving aches and pains nothing could relieve. But Clint’sbroken hearts hurt him more, and he seemed to have a broken heart for every time he’d fallen,inevitably head over stirrup-heels, in love. And he’d loved at least as many as had loved him, andprobably many, many more. And his love, though apparently fleeting, was eternal, the love of aninfant bonding with sustenance. I don’t think he ever understood where his lovers disappearedto, even after they’d filed papers to take his house and half his future income forever.He’d taken to sleeping in backseats again, closing the VFW every night—not just Saturday night —and his performance was falling off at work. His team lead was an idiot, but present enough tonotice that Clint was limping, favoring his weak leg again.Clint had been in and out of the state hospital. Drying out. Cleaning up. This time was a little bitworse than before, like each time before had been a bit worse than the time before that. Heseemed near the end of his rope. His employer was patient, but not in the business of playing Job to his self-destruction. And he was destroying himself. Literally killing himself with cigarettesand scotch and the recently fruitless attempts to cobble together one more good time, just likethe old times.The good times caught up with Clint. Maybe he was just overtaken by the stampede, trampledunder hoofs and dusty-billowing wagon wheels. He’d had a few heart attacks, DUIs, weekends in jail, but he’d made bail. He’d been in the state hospital before, and swore he’d clean up his actwhen he got back home. But this was no act for Clint, and the ex who owned his home wouldnot come to the door anymore when he knocked at three am, having fallen for him all overagain, again and again and again. She wouldn’t face him anymore because she just could not avoidfalling all over again for this fallen rodeo star who’d now fallen far too far to ever come home.They say there’s a point on the way down where gravity just takes over. No will in this worldcould pull back to ground level anyone descended to that depth; and I believe this. Clint wasfalling, no longer by volition, but by thrall. Something or someone was calling him, and no onecould turn him back.So, he’d nearly died that time. They found him, still drunk and grey as cigarette ash on an oldtown sidewalk, and admitted him to the state hospital again. His employer granted him leave, butshortened the lead. He’d stay clean or be turned out. And he’d been there a month or morewhen, visiting my client, I learned that he had been incarcerated, and was to be released thatday, and that his team lead, that marginally-functional idiot and nearly Clint’s last friend on earth,had volunteered to go fetch him from this stir. I could not stay away, and asked to go along.The three hour drive down through the Carolina Piedmont, I’d planned as the perfectopportunity to ply my trade. Consultant to the team, I’d tried to coach this leader-in-name-only,but he’d not taken my bait. Still seemingly clueless, I was confident he possessed a heart that wasno tin badge. But between his intentions and his actions laid territory completely mysterious tome. Perhaps to him, too.

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