I wrote this story in 2003. It first appeared in print in the ‘Record Herald’ of Washington Court House, OH.
Stories are everywhere, if we just watch and listen. While on vacation I found a story in the form of Fred Cyote (He said that is how he spells his last name). His appearance caught my eye. He had long shaggy gray hair and beard, he wore a billed cap and his T-shirt with the green alien, the kind with the big oval bug eyes holding up his hands giving two peace signs, was tucked into belted work pants. He was thin, but not emaciated. His shoes were well worn and he carried a large backpack stuffed with all his belongings. Fred had three traveling companions, a little black and white border collie named Maggie, and two totem-pole like walking stick puppets. He introduced them as his horses; Jake, the one he was holding, and its sibling, Sissy who was sticking out of his back pack. The horses were nothing more than broom sticks wrapped on one end with socks and rags and decorated with beads. They did resemble toy stick horses, though, with ears, eyes and noses.
Cyote was very friendly and allowed me to photograph him and Maggie. He talked about himself and after listening for a while I concluded that he was not some crazed mental patient roaming the country, but just a man who is a little different than the rest of us, a man on his own path, walking the roads and byways of America following his own drummer.
He said he was from Oklahoma, but later he said “I’m from the South, so I know about a police state,” and “I took Maggie from a neighbor’s yard in Arkansas.”
Cyote told me that he had just come from Wyoming where he had been sick. On 4th of July he went to the hospital for a nose bleed and he added that “They are not too friendly up there. Don’t like people with no money.” He told about some friends, Sunshine and Moon, who gave him the $12 to buy his medicine. He has high blood pressure and had a sinus infection. “Sunshine told me it was important that I take all my antibiotics because a sinus infection can kill you.”
Here I commented that it seems that someone who walks as much as he did would be in very good health. He replied “Not if you’ve abused your body as much as I have.” I asked how long he’d been traveling, he said this time since May. But his first trip he walked for over five months. His purpose back then was to “get a ride on a UFO” and he carried a sign saying “UFO Ride Wanted.”
Cyote wanted to tell me one last story, so I patiently listened as he chronicled his travels in the last few weeks, and how he came to be here in Glenwood Springs. He said that “sometimes God speaks to me through rude people,” and he told of how he was run out of a shop by a rude man and because of that incident he was in the right place at the right time. This event was the first in a series of happenings that led him to find out about the Rainbow People.
I asked if he could use a little cash and he said yes. So I gave him a few bills and then poured all my coins into his outstretched hands. When a penny fell on the pavement, he put his foot on it to make sure it wasn’t lost. He said he’d get something to eat later. He said that each day his biggest concern was getting food to eat and went on to tell me about his morning.
“I walked into Java Joe’s and sometimes I just get a cup of coffee and leave, but I guess that’s not very nice, so I asked the girl for a free cup of coffee and she was very nice and let me have a cup. The people here in Colorado are nice to tramps. They were rude to me up in Wyoming. But here they just let you alone. A lot of times if I go in and say I have no money, I can get a free meal or coffee. In most towns the cops and tramps have an unwritten rule. If you don’t mess up their town, don’t bother the people too much, and you don’t stay too long, they’ll generally leave you alone. So here I am in Glenwood Springs because of a rude person. Now I want to find the Rainbow People.” Here I asked who they were, a group of Native Americans? “No. They are a bunch of Old Hippies and I figured I could stay with them for a while.”
I said good-bye to Fred and shook his hand and wished him luck. Then I turned around and asked if I could write about him and Maggie.