A Journal For Charlie

Old Tex, The Roadside Vendor

I

On Friday, Boy and I stopped at a fruit stand to buy a watermelon.  That’s where we met Old Tex.  When I got out of the car with my camera, I motioned for him to stay where he was.  He was sitting in a chair behind the fruit and vegetables.  I told him we wanted a watermelon and I wanted to take his picture.  Immediately, he found his groove.   He picked up two cucumbers and began to smile and wave them around for the camera.  I kept saying, “No, No, put the cucumbers in your lap”.  He ignored me so I photographed the waving of the produce.

As we talked, he told me that he had been selling produce on the road for thirty years.  He is eighty-three years old.  Now, he lives “where the rich people live”.   With a lot of gesturing and explaining, he made me understand that he lives in a rather affluent part of town where he has to keep his produce trailer in the garage.  I agreed that proved the status of his residence.   He is a funny old guy in that special way that all very old men are.  They are my favorite people, and I am certain he knew it.  He’s old but he isn’t slow.

Old Tex had lots of fruits and vegetables, but he didn’t try to sell them to me.  He was more interested in talking to Boy and to me.  He was having fun.  It gets mighty boring  just sitting on the roadside waiting for customers.  I knew that.  Soon, his friend with whom I assumed he lives, rode up on a motorcycle.  He told me that Old Tex calls himself, “Old Texas”.  He did not want to give the man’s name to me.  Never mind.  Old Tex would do.

I don’t know what it is about old men.  They always make themselves in charge.  Perhaps that’s how they got to be old.  Tex was no different.  He instructed me to wait up while he fetched his leather vest from his truck for THE picture.  I waited as instructed.  Many years ago, as a social worker, I learned not to argue with old men.  If they cannot be persuaded, walk away.  Come back another day.  While I waited, Tex put on his vest, adjusted his felt hat at a rakish angle, and signaled that he was ready.  He posed and posed.  I snapped and snapped.  And, I smiled and smiled.  What a beautiful man.  I have known many old men, but I have rarely known one who was as classically beautiful as Tex.

Tex kept picking up a jar of honey.  I thought he was trying to sell it to me so I said I’d take the honey.  His eyes squinted a little more and said he’d paid fourteen dollars for that jar of honey.  I realized that he eats it himself since the jar wasn’t completely full and the label was a bit worn.  It was then that I noticed how absolutely dirty his hands were.  I almost asked how in the world he kept himself and his clothes, right down to his sparkling white socks, so very clean.  Boy liked the old man, and he was totally impressed by his dirty hands.  Later, I realized he’d worn dirty gloves that day.   He wouldn’t sell me the honey either.

After a lot of chatting and laughing, we got around to negotiating the purchase of the watermelon.  I told Boy to pick out a melon.  Tex started shaking his head and muttered off to his produce trailer.  His assistant laughed and said he was going to get a good one for us.  Now, I understand how to get a melon from a fruit vendor’s private stock.  Get out of the car with a camera and a big grin.

There were nice looking watermelons on display.  However, Tex didn’t think they were nice enough for Boy and me.  They all looked the same to me.  I guess Tex knows something about watermelons that I don’t know.  All old farmers and ranchers think they know a good watermelon when they see one.  Some old guys thump them and some evaluate their readiness by looking at the stem end.  I didn’t ask Tex how he evaluated his own watermelons.  Soon enough, he reappeared with a melon in his arms and a big smile on is face that said Boy and I were special customers that day.

When Tex approached Boy with the melon, he put his arm around him an grinned for a final photograph.  I obliged.  Tex knew very well what I was doing, and he approved.  I gave him the eight dollars for the special melon.  I had nine dollars in my pocket so I handed him the extra dollar and told him that he might as well take that one too since I couldn’t buy anything with a dollar anyway.  He chuckled and took the dollar.

When I looked at the photographs, I was disappointed.  I forgot to change the ISO setting on my camera.  The photographs of Boy and Old Tex were very grainy because they were standing in the sunlight.  Oh, Well.  I can still see the smiles and remember the old man who sold watermelons on the roadside.  I’d bet good money  that Boy will remember too.

When we got home, Boy and Irma (the housekeeper) sliced the melon in half.  We all stood around with a shared knife cutting chunks out of the heart.  We ate almost half while we stood over it eating.  That’s the only way to eat watermelon.  It was a good melon too.

43 responses

  1. Well done. I really enjoyed both your wonderful photos an your commentary.

    May 5, 2013 at 8:54 am

    • Thank you, Elena. I’m happy that you enjoyed the story. Old Tex is still selling is fruits and vegetables on the road. Such a nice old man! :-)

      May 5, 2013 at 4:03 pm

  2. wow.. nice melon.. great picture too

    June 6, 2012 at 2:40 am

  3. I’ll bet that was a good melon! It certainly looks good, and more importantly it came with a dose of goodwill and a laugh.

    May 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm

  4. I love what you have captured here…it’s beautiful. All the pics are wonderful…you tell wonderful stories! :-) I love!

    May 23, 2012 at 10:01 pm

  5. I love that Boy had a chance to participate in this beautiful exchange (so wonderfully recounted here). It will be another unforgettable experience that he shared with you, one that will deepen and further shape his respect for others. The photographs are so, so lovely. Tex’s face is simply lit from within, his warmth and big-heartedness written all over it.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    • Tex is a real character. And a nice old man who is having a good time at eighty-three! Charlie liked him a lot. For some reason, Charlie is taken with old men. They tell great stories and Charlie is fascinated with the Civil War and cowboys and anything old. I think Tex has such a beautiful face. I kept telling him what a wonderful face he has! You are right. It is lit from within. Charlie is very shy, but he snuggled right up to Tex as if he’d known the old man forever.

      May 22, 2012 at 12:35 am

  6. Amazing photos and story Geroge.
    I can’t stop reading you, your way of writing is amazing; and what is very interesting is that you really interact with your subjects.
    Have a great weekend!

    May 18, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    • Pablo, I thought I answered you, but I see that I did not. Of course, I talk to anybody who is standing next to me…if they’ll talk! :-) Thank you so much. I had a good birthday! I always do. Now, I am as old as dirt. I can do whatever I like, huh?

      May 22, 2012 at 12:56 am

  7. Pure Light! Loved this series of photos and your words. Felt light and free and beautiful. The honey jar and hands, the smile, this man’s personality that you captured so well in photos and your writing. One of the best posts I’ve read in the last months that I’ve been reading blogs. Bravo. Made my heart smile. Very profound. Thank you. Sam :) Gorgeous photos…could be a picture book for children, or those that will ever remain young at heart.

    May 18, 2012 at 11:54 am

  8. elmediat

    Lovely sequence and narrative. He reminds me of the farmers my parents were acquainted with in my chilhood. You are about them having a certain character, both men & women. The ones I knew were mostly of Ukrainian and Scottish descent., yet all would blend with Old Tex. Thanks for reminding me of a now rather distant experience.

    May 18, 2012 at 10:32 am

    • Lord, people like Tex are all around still. They haven’t all died yet. I have known a good many people like him. Good and honest and kind people. What I enjoy most is the sincerity of the response I always get from old people. I told Tex that he is 13 years older than I, and I am not going to make it to his age! He thought that was funny. I was a social worker for aged and disabled people for a long time. My favorite people are old. Good thing since I’m old now too. :-)

      May 22, 2012 at 1:00 am

  9. Amazing shots! I love them all! The “pure honey” one is my favorite! The detail in his hands is superb! The grain in the last shot is not noticeable to me. I think its perfect! :)

    May 18, 2012 at 6:19 am

    • Thanks, KT. I’m glad you liked them. I enjoyed visiting with Tex. Charlie did too.

      May 22, 2012 at 1:03 am

  10. Love photos of people, nothing wrong with a bit of grain, somehow with an older person grain suits the occasion.

    May 18, 2012 at 3:22 am

  11. Tex reminds me of a character in a movie. Actually, he probably COULD get a job as a character actor! (You’d get the commission!) Your pictures are wonderful. I really like the shot of his hand on the honey jar!

    May 17, 2012 at 6:26 pm

  12. now that is a good post

    May 17, 2012 at 5:47 pm

  13. I don’t know what makes me happier: the delicious fresh produce or the delightful Tex, who you captured in all his mirth.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:09 am

  14. I have seen your gravatar on many other sites and today your comment to someone else grabbed me, so I followed! Your work is awesome and your storytelling is wonderful! Glad I stopped by! ~ Lynda

    May 17, 2012 at 8:52 am

  15. Dear George what great photos, he’s a real sweetheart! My father-in-law is 90, mother-in-law is 87. They’re great! I enjoyed your post and photos very much today. Bless you

    May 17, 2012 at 3:01 am

  16. what a wonderful post George..
    I love the way you keep your camera ready for all occassions…its so wonderful and poetic in a way to capture the flow of life :)
    Hey now i know how to get the best vegetable and fruit too ..will carry a camera next time :)
    I dont think Ol’Tex ever got the kind of attention you gave him from anyone else…it shows in his grin and the way his eyes are smiling…it was very sweet of you :)

    May 17, 2012 at 1:18 am

  17. The story and the photographs were brilliant, George. Have you thought of doing a book?

    May 16, 2012 at 11:56 pm

  18. Great post and images. I love photographs of faces with true character, like Old Tex.

    May 16, 2012 at 9:32 pm

  19. Here’s another ost where I wish I could press the LOVE button. Really amazing photos, and I wish I could have been there to hear his stories, and your conversation. Wonderful post, George. Boy, is Boy lucky to have you for a Grandma.

    May 16, 2012 at 9:13 pm

  20. It is the only way to eat watermelon – standing on the edge of the veranda, leaning over slightly so any drips land on the grass, and pips can be shot out to scatter for the birds! The parents of one of my friends grew melons, and used to chill one for us to eat when when we got home from school of a summer afternoon. Bliss after a three mile ride in the hot sun. A lovely memory stirred by your fabulous pictures (whose shortcomings, if any, aren’t visible in this format!). :)

    May 16, 2012 at 8:19 pm

  21. I hold the world record. I can spit a watermelon seed over 200 feet. I can also….

    May 16, 2012 at 8:16 pm

  22. these photos are FINE! nothing better than fresh fruit…maybe beautiful old man should visit your dentist :)

    May 16, 2012 at 8:16 pm

  23. I just loved this story and as for the images..TERRIFIC!! LOVED Boy and Old Tex together!

    May 16, 2012 at 7:37 pm

  24. What a character! I would have loved Old Tex. I bet he had some great stories to tell. And you are really talented with your camera, George! It’s a natural talent. I loved your post. It made me feel good.

    May 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm

  25. What a wonderful shopping… This old man is amazing. You captured beautiful moments… But the final one is great, I loved the smile on this young man’s face… Thank you dear George, with my love, nia

    May 16, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    • George Weaver

      Yes, I was happy that Boy met Old Tex. Kids need to be associated with old people who are fit and productive and gracious. Tex is a good role model for little boys. Charlie is shy about new people, but he was not shy with this old man. His smile was genuine. Old Tex charmed that child. We had a good time. Glad you liked the story. Thanks, Nia.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:56 pm

  26. Linda Zealy

    That’s a really great post. I loved all the pictures and was happy to see my sweet Charlie in the last one!

    May 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    • George Weaver

      Old Tex charmed the socks off Charlie. We had a good time visiting with him. When we left, Charlie asked how to spell “Old Texas”. I thought that was odd since, of course, he could spell it. I spelled it, and Charlie said, “That’s his real name!” Then he got the idea. He was hanging onto every word Tex said, apparently and taking it all seriously. I laughed big time about that.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:48 pm

  27. Blood-Ink-Diary

    First, let me thank you for a kind comment you left on my blog – through which I am happy to discover yours! Yes, Soma and I are friends, but we regard each other as sisters! I have never met Soma or her wonderful mum in person – nevertheless, they are part of my journey.
    I totally relish your blog as much as I have seen today! Shall explore more in the coming days!
    Truly a stunning and heartfelt photo-essay that tugs at my heart. Keep in touch! Cheers.

    May 16, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    • George Weaver

      Thank you, Shaheen. I must come back to read more of your totally intimidating blog! :-) You and Soma are beautiful, talented girls. You were sisters in another life, I know. Yes, Old Tex is a dying breed, I’m afraid. He is a totally gracious, genteel old man who sells fruits and vegetables as a means of keeping busy and productive and meeting people. I was happy to introduce my grandson to such a character. Kids should be exposed to happy, productive old people who have something to share with them. Tex is a perfect role model. It was a good day. Thanks for visiting. Come back anytime!

      May 16, 2012 at 9:45 pm

  28. i just love stories like these…and it’s so rewarding being able to interact and really talk with your subjects, what a pleasure and great experience for both of you. great photos

    May 16, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    • George Weaver

      Hi, jmpix. I have known lots of old men much like Tex. There are getting to be fewer and fewer of them. OR, I am aging out myself. Boy loves the old cowboy movies and anything Civil War. He was delighted by Tex. And, I was happy to introduce him to a gracious, intelligent and kindly old man who is still fit at eighty-three. Kids need exposure to old people who have lived interesting lives and are still positive and happy and productive. Old Tex is a good role model for little boys. We had fun. I always talk to anybody who will talk to me. I don’t normally photograph anybody who is not receptive and friendly. If I don’t like them, I don’t snap them. :-) I snapped one person coming out of a run-down motel on the wrong side of town. Never again. I was a social worker for years, and I don’t like contributing to the stereotype. I was sorry that I published the photograph. Thank you for coming here and commenting. I appreciate it.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:37 pm

  29. Great photos — I especially like the first one!

    May 16, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    • George Weaver

      Thanks. The first one looks exactly like the old man. That grin is just too appealing. You think his eyes twinkle although you can’t really see them. I don’t know a handful of people thirty or forty years younger whose skin could stand that kind of close shot. He is a gorgeous old man. And a graceful one too. He entertains himself by selling that stuff. He certainly doesn’t have to do it to live. I chuckle when I think of him.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:24 pm

  30. i love Tex. and these photos. and your story.

    i think old men are just really good at being comfortable with being old… we could probably take a cue from them. when the time comes, of course! ;-)

    May 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    • George Weaver

      Yes. They are far more graceful in old age than most women. Tex is a good role model for kids. He should be entertaining himself by telling stories to kids in school instead of playing vendor on the road with his thousands of dollars worth of the latest digital hearing aids in his ears! I was happy that Boy got to meet him. Children need to talk to old people who are positive and funny and comfortable. Boy doesn’t smile like that unless he’s really at ease. Nobody could be uncomfortable around Old Tex! :-) He saw to it that we all had a good time that afternoon.

      May 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm

  31. You know I was gonna’ like this. LOVE faces – especially close-ups & that of older people.
    And – the “grainy” pictures looks fine to me. :)

    May 16, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    • George Weaver

      Tex is something else. He does this because he wants to do it. He certainly doesn’t have to do it for the money. With several thousands of dollars worth of the latest digital hearing aids in his ears and all of his stuff, I knew immediately that he was a different kind of vendor. He obviously likes talking to people. I was happy to be able to introduce Boy to such a generous and gracious old man. Tex is a fine example of how to grow old gracefully. Boy is learning that being old or disabled does not diminish a person’s worth. When we got in the car, Boy grinned and waved and said what a nice man Tex is. He liked him. We had a fine time. I’d like to sit with Tex on the road one day and hear his history. Maybe I will … if the heat doesn’t get here first! :-)

      May 16, 2012 at 9:14 pm

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