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 — Saddle Up and Ride

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.

SADDLE UP AND RIDE

With the states of New Mexico and Arizona behind me, I continued west. Lulled by the mirage on the hot ribbon of road, I thrilled at sights I’d never seen — the proud saguaro cactus and jagged mountains cutting a sharp edge on a distant horizon.

I was feeling under the weather when I arrived for a two day visit with my childhood friend Darla in southern California. But I was made to feel welcome and comfortable, as her family is like family.

The next morning, I asked her Mom, Judy, if she had any suggestions on where I should go for the day. The answer was quick and certain. “Norco!” she said. “Also known as Horsetown, USA.”

She knew about Another Door Opens and encouraged me to keep going.

“Go to Norco. And you find yourself a door, and you find yourself a cowboy!” she laughed.

I drove the strip of Sixth Street through Norco, noticing several people riding horses and waiting at stoplights where cross signals are horseback-high.

Still feeling under, I stopped at Circle K for some Vitamin C. I sat in the parking lot with my window open trying to open a bottle of orange juice when a dog came running up to my front wheel well, followed casually by a guy (Brian), then another guy (Michael Dean). They were laughing a little, and I heard Brian say, “See! When he runs away, he always runs to Circle K!”

By this time they’d followed the dog to my vehicle and open window.

Then Brian looked at me. “He always runs away to Circle K.”

And so it began, by chasing Henry.

We talked about what they were doing, what they do, who they are a little bit. They clearly had a long brotherly bond, and with all their joking, I didn’t know when to believe them and when they were pulling my leg.

Then they asked me what I was doing and what I do. Since I’d just left my job months prior, I still had trouble knowing how to answer that question. So I told them about Another Door Opens.

Immediately, Brian pointed to Michael Dean and said, “You have to do a story about him. He’s had a kidney transplant, a pancreas transplant, triple bypass heart surgery and he’s blind in one eye.”

I didn’t believe him. That’s a fast turn in a conversation, and the guy standing in front of me looked strong. Turns out he’s even stronger than he looks.

They sensed my skepticism and got serious. “No, really,” said Brian.

Silence.

“That’s all true,” said Michael Dean.

The conversation went on for hours that day and topics changed and circled back throughout the morning and into the afternoon.

Finally, we all agreed to meet the next day to do an interview and photos, where I met their families and was welcomed into their homes.

Thank you, Michael Dean. Thank you, Brian.

Back to Darla’s house, and Judy opened the door.

“Well, did you find a door?” she asked.

“I did.”

“And a cowboy?” she asked.

“I found two.”

How We Met — Where Is Home

Readers! I’m going to take a walk back and share with you how I met the first 10 people of the Another Door Opens project. I’ll begin with the most recent and work my way back to the first. 

Where is Home?

Anita Ong and I took Mandarin Chinese language classes together. At 6:30pm on Tuesday nights, we’d meet in a nondescript tiny classroom in Chicago’s Chinatown. Usually I’d speed from work through southbound traffic, past many Chinese restaurants and beyond commercial glass doors to a class that consisted of one teacher and two students: Anita and me. Our mutual friend, Z.J. Tong, founder of the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute, had placed us in this class together, a chance for small-group adult language learning. Although we learned a bit about each other through our structured Mandarin dialogue, I knew only small pieces about Anita’s background.

Schedules and geography changed, and our class disbanded. More than one year later, while having lunch with Z.J. at Chi Cafe, one of my favorite spots in Chinatown, he told me about Anita’s citizenship and how until that time, she’d been stateless. With Z.J.’s encouragement, I reached out to Anita by email, and we met for lunch about a week later at the very same restaurant.  We talked about the possibility of doing an interview so Anita could share her unique situation in the form of an Another Door Opens story.

She told me after some thought that she would do it. She told me she does at least one thing each year that requires extra courage on her part, something that scares her a little or a lot, and that puts her outside her comfort zone. And so we met again. And she shared her story. Congratulations, Anita! And thank you.