When I stepped into a bar a few miles from the Rio Grande bridge in Texas, I spotted a lone man sitting near the doorway. In one hand, he held a cane, and in the other, the handle of a half-empty mug.
I tried to introduce myself, reaching out my hand. He grinned but kept his hands on the cane and mug. The bartender called out from across the room, “No use talking to the old man. He’s stone deaf.” I then began writing a note to the old man asking his permission to sketch him. Again, the bartender commented, “He can’t read neither.”
I gestured that I painted, and the old man nodded yes, so I began sketching him. I sketched for an hour. He sat motionless, basking in not what I was doing but in the attention of the other men in the bar watching the scene.
When I sensed he had had enough, I turned the pad toward him. He smiled, shook his head, then turned back to face the doorway. I ordered him another mug of beer and one for me.
The bartender explained, “He just comes in, drinks alone, may do that for two or three days, then disappears.” Another man added, “I think he’s a sheepherder.”
As I left, he shook my hand once. I have pondered the old man’s enigmatic face a thousand times since. We had an afternoon together and some beer in Del Rio. But I never knew his name.
Size: 19 X 25