It would be wrong to call him a cowboy. That implies something he's not.
He is, in fact, a farmer. Chile, corn, cotton, alfalfa. He fretted the drought and smiled at rainy skies.
Except that time it rained so hard it washed away the seeds he'd just planted. That night, he fretted while the rain fell.
That's unusual for a farmer.
He has a smile that could light up a room, the sky, the world.
He has the mind of a trickster, and his wry sense of humor is what drew me in.
Back then, he was a tall, slim drink of water.
His chest bore a long scar, a remnant from open heart surgery in childhood. It fixed a congenital problem. For a while, anyway.
That surgery colored his whole world. He was told he might not live past the age of twenty.
But he did. He lived. Oh, he was alive.
He took me out to dinner. We each ordered steaks at the truckstop diner in Vado, New Mexico.
It was far more romantic than it sounds.
He took me fishing and let me use his brand new rod and reel. I managed to irretrievably knot up the fishing line. He didn't even get mad.
Because he is a gentleman.
He took me for long rides down bumpy dirt roads. I sat next to him in the cab of his pickup, holding on tight, grinning.
He has a confidence that is older than his years.
He and I had some fun then parted ways amiably. I still call him my friend. More than a friend. A dear friend. "One of us" from a loosely knit group of kids who made a family while running around Las Cruces, growing up and getting educated.
I haven't seen him in years, but over the years I'd ask after him and sometimes he'd ask after me, too.
He's got an amazing wife and three sons and the weight of responsibility for his family's farm. A responsibility he stood up to each and every day.
Last week, he had surgery. That ol' heart problem was giving him trouble again.
The surgery went well, but he got an infection at the hospital that he couldn't quite fight off.
Sunday morning, my friend, my family, someone who showed me how to live passed away.
He was just 40.
I can't stop being angry. It's not fair. No one ever said life was going to be fair, but I don’t care. It's not fair.
I'm not good at grief. I've lost a father. I lost my best friend from high school. I lost a grandmother who was very integral to my life.
You'd think all the practice would make me better at this.
I'm not good at this.
Sometimes it's just easier to be angry.
It's an acceptable stage of grief.