What it’s all about is love. Love goes before the fall.

551

I SPENT A LOT OF TIME with them.

Old men.

Running from something.

Running toward nothing.

They were caught somewhere between life and death.

And their lives remained in limbo.

Sometime in their lives they would have cared.

Not anymore.

They were the homeless back in a time when no one had coined the phrase homeless to describe those who lived on the streets, never quite knowing when they would eat again, where they would spend the night, or if they could find shelter when it rained, warmth when the nights turned cold.

We called them drifters.

An earlier generation had called them hoboes.

The ones I knew were mostly from the north.

And when the winds were possessed with the chill of a late autumn, they would head back South again to Fort Worth.

Fort Worth had a place for them.

They walked.

They crawled into empty boxcars on trains headed toward Texas.

They exchanged a few boxcars along the way.

The hitchhiked, hoping some truck driver with a heart would stop for them, and some truck driver with a heart always did.

They exchanged a few truck cabs along the way.

The journey took weeks, maybe a month.

None of them was in a hurry as long as they could keep a mile or two ahead of the next snowfall.

Some died along the way.

Some simply vanished.

No name.

No address.

No next of kin.

We never knew what happened to them.

It was as though they came to the edge of the earth and dropped off.

The men always looked for old friends when they arrived.

New faces.

Friendly faces.

What happened to the old faces?

A place at the table, maybe more, was always missing.

For the first few days, they would eat in silence.

They kept their prayers, if they had any at all, to themselves.

As soon as they realized an old friend would not be coming for the winter, they quietly and mentally buried him, and moved on.

Life was for the living.

Fort Worth had a large wooden dormitory for them in the woodlands outside of town. It had everything they needed.

A nice, clean room.

Three hot meals a day.

It was free.

It welcomed them all.

When I needed a feature story for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and it happened to be a slow news day, I would wander out to the place the men called The Goat Farm, and talk to one or two of them.

None of the men belonged there, not if you consider their past lives.

I met attorneys.

And businessmen.

And educators.

One had even been the lead singer for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra back during the swing days of the Big Band era. He had old newspaper clippings to prove it.

But all had turned to alcohol.

And alcohol had consumed them all.

Why?

That’s what I always wondered.

And almost every one of the men told the same story.

He had been in love.

And a wife left him.

He had been in love.

And a girl friend had run out on him.

He had been in love.

And a wife found out about the lover.

He had been in love.

And a lover had walked away when he refused to leave the wife.

He had been in love.

A beautiful woman had turned him down.

He had been in love.

A beautiful woman loved another.

Love was hard.

Alcohol was easy.

Alcohol was cheap.

They drank to forget.

No one forgot.

“Bad whiskey ruined me,” one told me.

He shrugged.

He smiled a sad smile.

“But it was love that killed me.”

In some form or fashion, it’s the passion and the overriding factor in every great novel ever written. It’s the only relationship that matters.

Please click the book cover image to read more about Caleb Pirtle III and his novels.

Deadline Cover Jul 31

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