Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The couch-surfing cowboy.

It all started with the cowboy on my couch.

Ty Mitchell, a complete stranger to me at the time, had told his friend Ginger, who told my friend Nancy, that he was headed to Dallas to audition for (yeah, I know) Dallas.

"Welp, I guess I'm gonna haveta get a motel room," he said.

But Ginger was having none of it. In West Texas friends bend over backward to help a guy out, and that's exactly what she did. Though backwards bending was really unnecessary in the case. Because Ginger called Nancy and then Nancy called me and she asked me if I wanted a cowboy on my couch. And when Nancy Newberry offers you a cowboy on your couch, you better damn well do it.

Only problem: the man was a complete stranger (city people are taught as children about "stranger danger," a lesson I have never forgotten, nor allowed me to move past my fear of windowless vans.)

Oh, and the other problem: I only had one bedroom. Hence the couch-crash idea. Which is really uncouth for a Southern hostess to allow. Guests, we are taught subliminally from the time we are tots, must be pampered just so; it is particularly lovely to set a carafe of water by their bedside, for example. Couch surfing does not offer itself up to chilled carafe-ing.

Nancy could tell my hesitation. After all, she's a nice, Southern girl too.

"Listen, he's a cowboy! Cowboys don't care! He'll be fine on your couch!"

*shudder* *crickets* What would the neighbors think?!? (P.S. My neighbors? A waitress, a truck driver, a hoarder of Whataburger sacks, and an emaciated skeleton man.)

"Paige. It'll be an adventure. You'll have a blast. Trust me. ...Besides, it's always a good thing to know a local in Marfa."

She added the last part as enticement. I had never been to Marfa, but Nancy had a house there and I'd always wanted to go. A real Marfan who could give me street cred (if there is such a thing in West Texas)? Now that sounded good. ...Besides, it's not really that hard to get me to do something. Carrot + Stick = you're golden. And most of the time you can leave out the carrot. Plus, quick backgrounder on Nancy: she rocks. So, you know what? Why the heck not!

Now, the way my brother, Craig, remembers it, I called him up and said I had a Marfa cowboy coming to crash at my place and would I like to meet him and grab a beer. He did. This is what he had to say:

"I've met a lot of cowboys in my life, but I've never known one as energetic as Ty."

This, of course, is hysterical. Ty is a tall, skinny thing who walks slow and talks slower. He rolls his own cigarettes almost without having to look and can sit in one spot for hours staring at the dogs sleeping in the dirt outside. He eats his BBQ with his pocket knife, tells a good story about gettin' drunk, and continues to be quietly exasperated by the idjits of the world. He can spin a good yarn and, boy, has he lived a life, but hmmm, "energetic?" Energetic is what I would use to describe a cowboy dancing backup in a Madonna video. That is definitely not Ty.

"Yeah," my brother says. "Most cowboys say few words and when they do, they're well chosen."

Let me tell you about Ty's words. When he was 17 and he ran off to Marfa the first time to follow a girl going to Sul Ross, somewhere along the way he started running guns across the border, then he mended his ways, worked on ranches, construction, I'm guessing pretty much you-name-it, and along the way he married twice, and had (according to his stories) approximately 1100 girlfriends. He flirts relentlessly, referring to all pretty ladies as "darlin'" and he just shines when he's asked a million questions from city folk like me.

Ty currently runs the Lost Horse Saloon in Marfa that might have the best damn BBQ I've ever tasted, ever, EVER, which I swear to god made a tourist weep (no lie, I was there). "I'm sorry," she said. "This is just the best barbecue I've had since my daddy died 7 years ago." And Ty thanked her kindly and invited her to sit with us. And did I happen to mention he's an actor? He's worked with some of the best, including being directed in a scene by the Cohen Brothers with all the stars of True Grit.

"I told them, there ain't no way cowboys ever annunciated their words like that, it wasn't natural. And Joel said to me, 'How many Oscars have you won?' So I shut up and annunciated them, all right," said Ty.

He's also lived in a haunted house. Yep, he said his daddy built a house from the ground up and would buy antiques and architectural remnants to finish it. Bad idea, apparently.

"That place just wasn't right, ever," he said. "I mean, you'd be standing there and plates would fly off the shelves and crash on the ground, or a chair would move across the room. One time, we looked on the wall and there was blood flowing from it. Bright red blood dripping down the wall."

"Oh my god! What did you do?"

"I mean, what can you do? We just put up a mirror to cover it up."

Which makes me believe it would really suck to haunt a cowboy. Poor evil ghost, eternally bound to terrify tenants only to find it's landed in Far West Texas where stoicism runs so deep, babies coming out with a shrug.

So Ty and my brother and I drank beer and laughed. And he smoked about a million rolled cigarettes and then it was time to leave the bar. Ty's truck was parked on the opposite side of the block from my car, but I noticed he started to follow me. All my radar systems went off. And it takes me until this cowboy is literally holding my car door open for me to realize that he was ACTUALLY WALKING ME TO MY CAR JUST TO BE NICE, which hasn't happened in quite some time (if you couldn't tell by the universal sign for astonishment: ALL CAPS).

And so yes, he crashed on my couch, in his jeans, no less --I don't think cowboys wear pajamas, but don't quote me on that just yet-- and in the morning when I asked him how he slept (in jeans, on the couch), he said, "Darlin' I'm used to sleeping in a bed roll, so that was about the most comfortable sleep I've had in a long time."

And when he called me later to tell me he was leaving town and thank me he says, "Now, anytime you need a place to stay in Marfa, you got it."

Which would be prophetic, since about two weeks later, randomly, I overheard my coworker talking about extra tickets she had to a concert in Marfa. And when I called up Ty to ask him if it'd be OK if I really did crash with him, he really was, as Craig said, energetic.

"Come on down, darlin'! I'd love to have ya!" He shouted into the phone.

And that turned out to be the weekend that changed the trajectory of my life.

So really, I've got to thank Ginger, who contacted Nancy, who contacted me, to ask if I could let a cowboy named Ty crash on my couch. And then I need to thank Ty for actually doing the couch-crashing.

And no, I'm not moving for Ty. I hope you didn't think that was the point of all this. But if it hadn't been for Ty, I wouldn't be moving and I can tell he's going to be an amazing friend. I'm not moving for anyone, I'm moving because I want something bigger- a new take on life, a new viewpoint, a slower pace and nicer people. Ty was just the first person I met from Marfa and then circumstances just fell into place. It was kizmet that way, I guess.

Jesus. I hate to think where I'd be right now if I hadn't said yes.

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