The Mercantile parking lot had its normal collection of dirty pickup trucks, motorcycles, RV's, sedans and a horse trailer. It wasn't normal for most grocery store parking lots, but this was Colorado cowboy country. It was in the mid 80 degrees and sunny, so I opened my truck windows for my dog before going in to get a few things.

Living half an hour away from most of civilization, including my mailbox, means that anytime I go to town, it isn't just for one thing. I need to plan ahead. Today it was to take some trash to the landfill, get some motor oil and a filter for my wood chipper, pick up my mail, wash my truck and get an ice cream cone. I always get a butter pecan cone when I'm in town.

It was Saturday afternoon, and the furthest thing from my mind was Terry Mitchell. But as I passed the banana table, there was Terry. The last I'd heard about Terry, he was in jail for his third DUI. But first he had gone to the hospital with a broken neck, back and miscellaneous other parts. The Flight-for-Life helicopter medic said Terry had died twice on the flight to Denver.

Terry had been driving drunk with a suspended license and passed out at the wheel. He regained consciousness two days later in a Denver hospital. Three weeks later his wife brought him home. His dog had been in the back of the truck when the accident occurred, and no one had seen the dog in the intervening three weeks. Terry's wife drove Terry out to where the accident happened, and there they found his dog, much thinner, but very glad to see him. Evidently his dog had been waiting three weeks for Terry where he last saw him. You can't find that kind of devotion in any other living creature.

I first met Terry about six years earlier when he was bartending at my favorite cowboy bar. I'd come in there late at night, when we often had the place to ourselves, and we'd play pool until closing time, which was 2 AM. It had been two years since I'd seen Terry, but there he was, out of jail and sporting his normal do-rag. I have never seen him without it. 

After a hearty greeting, he said, "I just got out of jail this morning and we're celebrating. Come on over for some brauts." It was just what I needed to avoid changing the oil in my chipper, so I said I'd see him in an hour.

The 'Welcome home from Jail' party consisted of Terry, his wife Peggy, and a guy who looked like Grizzly Adams. Grizzly was 45, divorced, had lost his home, and was $48,000 in debt from back surgery and no insurance. He was living in Terry and Peggy's basement. Peggy was already very drunk, and she passed out before the grill was even turned on. Terry and I sat and talked while Grizzly, who was starving, got the grill started and put on the brauts. Then he came out with a plate of sweet corn and a salad for himself, and said, "Stuff's in the kitchen. Help yourself. "

Terry went inside to see if Peggy could walk, and I went in and got some corn out of the pot and some salad out of the refrigerator. Just about the time I finished my corn and salad, Terry said the brauts were ready. But as he spoke, he bumped (staggered) into the grill and it, with all the brauts, went flying into the bare dirt. Evidently his cooking skills are no better than his driving skills when he has been drinking.

The two dogs were quite excited about it, but we rescued the brauts from the dirt before the dogs got them. Grizzly picked one braut up and ate it, dirt and all, muttering something about being too hungry to worry about dirt. Terry took the rest of them in the house and washed them off in the sink while I set the grill back up and got it going again.

Once the brauts were hot again I searched their refrigerator and found two hotdog buns, one of which I requisitioned for my braut. I then discovered that the brauts were not grit free, even after Terry's washing, so I wiped mine off with a paper towel, and it was quite tasty. I never did see Terry eat one, but Grizzly ate a few more and I think the dogs eventually got a couple of them.

The party sort of died after that, in spite of the fact that there was still more beer, and the two guys said they were going to crash a wedding reception. I declined to go with them, saying that there was still enough daylight to change the oil in my chipper. I got Terry's new phone number and we agreed to get together and play pool sometime soon. There is only one bar in the area where Terry isn't banned, and Grizzly is banned from all of them, so I guess Terry and I will go to that one. But I'll have to drive, since he lost his driver's license for five years.

Over time I've learned that the people I count as friends don't have to meet any particular social, economic, or educational criteria. They range from doctors and corporate CEO's to ex-cons, alcoholic, and high-school dropouts. It gives me a much broader perspective on life and a richer set of experiences. I really enjoy Terry's company, and I am looking forward to a few afternoons or evenings playing pool with him at the local cowboy bar. I may even wear my do-rag.