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  • I stopped at the grocery store after work today and as I was leaving but still in the store I saw a man in the parking lot. He was Campbell 72.

    Campbell 72 was a sight. I made a comment to the cashier that "He needs one more hat I think." She laughed and I headed out.

    Campbell 72 was dressed rather simple. He had on bibbed over-alls, boots, a long sleeve flannel shirt and he was walking with a cane. A cane I'm convinced he had carved. It was about as tall as he was and it was very twisted but well suited for him and for walking. But Old Campbell wasn't much for walking today.

    As I crossed the traffic lanes from the store to the parking area I heard Old Campbell hollering at a gentleman in his mid 50's or 60's who was also headed to his nice white Cadillac. The gentleman was dressed well. Business suit and wearing a coat and tie and seemed to be a nice, older fella.

    Well, I heard Old Campbell ask very loudly if he could get a ride. The man in the suit said something to the effect "I'm just driving down the street." That's what we do in the South. We politely say no. But just as I was putting the key to my truck door I heard it. Old Campbell had spotted me. He hollered from about the same equal distance from the gentleman my way, "Hey, Mister! Could you give a man a ride?"

    I said, "where are you going?". He told me and I knew exactly where he wanted to go. By the time I had asked him where he was going (he was explaining as he approached me) I was sizing him up. I mean I already had an impression of this fella before I even heard him. When he was outside while I was still in the check-out I noticed he was dressed a little different.

    See Old Campbell was wearing the biggest frigging sombrero you have ever seen in your life. And it was purple. And on top of the sombrero he had placed another white Stetson cowboy hat. The sombrero, I noticed when he was face to face with me at the truck was the real thing. Purple, with sequins, yellow ones, red ones, and rope accents. It was odd and nice at the same time. Then on top of this elaborate Mexican "hat hut" he had placed this perfectly white, quality cowboy hat. The cowboy hat had a leather black band around it. From the neck up Old Campbell looked like a true looney.

    He was also wearing eyeglasses. And over the eyeglasses he was wearing sunglasses. Those big kind that are kinda boxy but made to wear over regular eyeglasses. The lenses in the sunglasses were orange so they complimented his purple sombrero quite nicely. Around his neck he had a wooden Christian Cross. The Cross was about 3 x 5 and etched on it "Jesus loves you" . He also had a walkman, a newer model but the same thing none-the-less. His antenae was gone and to fix that he had taken a coat hanger and folded it (all of it) about 4 inches in length and crimped it so it made a wavy grill look across his chest and stuck the end in the hole where the original antenae had been. His "walkman" was blue with white dials.

    He was also carrying a black duffel bag with I don't know what, but it was full. He had this on one shoulder and by the shoulder strap it hung down by the opposite hip and of course he had his purchase in the white plastic bag from the store.

    As he approached me and until I got him to his destination he talked.

    I had all kinds of crap in the front seat from work and my lunch box so I had to throw everything in the bed of the truck. I didn't clean the floorboard out and asked him if he could maneuver the circular saw and stake puller. "Sure", he said.

    It was funny. He told me when we were face to face that he "done" time in prison for "stickin" someone but that "the Lord had removed all those chains". He told me about his brother who boxed at the old Legion Street Gym years ago.

    He told me about his daddy who was a coal miner but that his daddy had lost his mind and was sent off to Lakebridge in Knoxville. His Daddy died 33 years ago.

    Old Campbell was one of 22 children from 18 mothers. He had another brother that killed himself at the age of 39. That was 31 years ago. And he had another brother that died from the alcohol.

    I forgot to mention that when he got to my vehicle and I had agreed to give him a ride he started to reach for my arm but hesitated but he said "I want to pray with you and thank God for this meeting and your kindness."

    He said a prayer aloud. His hands and gestures were those of a priest. His appearance was comical but his heart was pure and true.

    As we drove out of the parking lot I realized because of this incredibly huge sombrero I couldn't see ANYTHING to the right while driving. There were a couple of times I just gunned it and hoped nothing was coming. hehehehe

    Anyway, we drove the half a dozen blocks that he needed to go and I was only 3 blocks from home. He was going to a doctor's office just below my house. He said that's where they have "meetings" He said "I've been clean for 36 years, Praise the lord." "I'm a lucky man."

    When we were in the parking lot of the doctor's office I helped him get his stuff. He asked me for money. I never carry money. I always use my credit card but this morning I had stopped at the atm and gotten $20. I had $13 left. I gave him $10. He got his things and he wanted to pray again. He prayed and I left him there.

    I labeled this "Campbell 72". I don't know his name. He never said. His "brothers" names were "Bill Campbell" and he said he was 72 years old. He asked my age at some point and I had told him.

    I don't know about you but this is american too. This is what my tax dollars, if government must continue taking from my wallet, then this is one way my money SHOULD be used. These folks aren't useless. They are NOT a burden. They just need a hand. A ride. Help them or give me my money back and I'll help them.

    Old Campbell didn't have a tooth in his head. But his heart could bite your heart out.
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