How We Met — Soul of a Cowboy

Many of you asked how I met each person I have interviewed for Another Door Opens, so this How We Met series is an answer to how I met the first 10 generous Another Door Opens people. Thank you for reading. Here is today’s short story.

SOUL OF A COWBOY

Greg Hathcock’s cowboy boots led him straight to my table and into my life at a Ruidoso, New Mexico, coffee shop.

Sixty-eight years old then, and 69 now, he stood to my right — his eyes as earnest and inquisitive as his questions. “I needed to come over here and tell you to have a good day,” he began.

Where are you from? Why are you here? What do you do? What are you working on? Are you married? Do you have children? Why? Why? Why?

Some days later, he arrived at the coffee shop with something he wanted me to read. A manuscript for a movie. I read the first chapter. And I loved it.

Energetic and quick-witted, he told animated stories like there was no tomorrow. Some about bull riding, others about his high school days and before I could speak, he hopped up and out the door to retrieve proof. Riding shotgun in his car was a large tattered album filled with memorabilia. He came back inside holding something that he clearly cherished.

Though worn, it was amazingly detailed. Medals, ribbons, newspaper clippings. All of his stories were there in print — accolades listed, records broken, awards won. Although he tempered mention of his accomplishments with some humility, it was clear to see how proud he was and rightly so.

That day I told him about Another Door Opens, and asked if I could interview him. He said he would do whatever he could to help me. “Just tell me what to do!”

We had to decide on a door, so we chose to do the interview at his restaurant, the Grazing Bull, in nearby Capitan.

I pulled into the gravel lot on the edge of town. Amber hillsides and open spaces reminded me I was in the land of Billy the Kid.

The austere exterior of the Grazing Bull gave little hint of the gem inside. And before I was through the door, I could hear the easy vocals and guitar of musician Mark Remington.

You already know the rest. We sat down at a pine table. Life lessons shared. And new friendship found.

Thank you, Greg.

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How We Met — Old Roads and Fresh Starts

Many of you asked how I met each person I have interviewed for Another Door Opens, so this How We Met series is an answer to how I met the first 10 generous Another Door Opens people. Thank you for reading. Here is today’s short story.

OLD ROADS AND FRESH STARTS

At the time, I didn’t think anything of parking my car in the lot at the drive-thru coffee window.

I realize now, that might have seemed odd.

I was just curious to know who was working in such a tiny box. It was delightfully inviting from the road, so I thought I’d try my luck at finding my door for the day.

About as bizarre as a pedestrian going through a McDonald’s drive-thru, I walked up to the window, said good morning, and ordered an iced coffee.

Kate Broeren, who was working there, didn’t blink an eye and was pleasant and easy-going. I told her why I was walking up rather than driving up, briefly mentioning the Another Door Opens project.  I told her I believe everybody has a story. And would she be willing to talk with me as part of the project?

A car drove up, so I stepped aside to let Kate work and to let them order.

Across the road, I glimpsed BNSF trains rumbling by behind a thin wall of pine.

I went back to the window, and Kate kindly agreed to talk with me. And so we began. Between thoughts and questions, cars would come up, we’d break, and I’d step aside.

Route 66 was getting busier.

After each car left, we resumed.

The last thing Kate said to me, about some of the discomfort she was feeling in her life at that time, was ‘this too shall pass.’ And she’s right.

Thank you, Kate.

Old Roads and Fresh Starts

Hum the song and you’ll instantly remember that Route 66 cuts through Flagstaff, Arizona. On the historic stretch of road that runs parallel to the train tracks, don’t let the morning sun get in your eyes or you’ll miss the bean-sized Wicked AZ. It’s a free-standing drive-up coffee window where you can find 23 year-old barista Kate Broeren.

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Like most 20-somethings, Kate seems happy and upbeat, but she has a lot on her mind. Last year, she graduated from college at Northern Arizona University, majored in Public Health and has been accepted into nursing school in Phoenix. She is one year into her three year wait period before she can begin.

“I swear I wanted to be a nurse since I was three years old. I have other interests, but I really enjoy medicine and taking care of people.”

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Maybe that love of medicine inspired the daily trivia question in the coffee shop window:
 
What ails you if you have a bilateral periorbital hematoma? 
 
The correct answer will save you 25 cents.
 
Another BNSF train rumbles past.
 
Kate is thinking about moving to Phoenix even sooner. “I really just kind of want to start fresh with my life.”
 
Change has a way of doing that — making people crave a fresh start. Among the things that have changed for Kate: One week ago, her parents divorced.
 
“They say it’s hard on kids when they’re young, but it’s just as hard when you’re an adult.”
 
The upside though is Kate is mature enough at this age to look for lessons within the hardship.
 
“I was sort of raised not to talk about my feelings,” she says. “But I’ve learned that if I want to be happy in life, communication is the most important thing you can do with somebody.”
 
Her motto — until more healing takes place: “This too shall pass.”
 
Another customer pulls off Route 66 and Kate greets them with a smile.