He Lives Outdoors
"I live outdoors," he tells me, drawing linen thread around a small bunch of red-dyed deer hair along a string stretched taut--for a Native dance-headdress.
Homeless, he's helping my elderly Trading Post friend with a backlog of roach-headdress orders from the Reservations and Pueblos--the head regalia further stiffened with porcupine hair that bristles in an arc, crown to occiput of the dancers.
A lock of the dancer's hair is drawn through the woven base to hold it on the head, and tied with an eagle feather or two. The warrior-dancers look otherworldly and ferocious.
I watch the old hands, slow at this new craft. It has rained heavily through the night and turned to snow by morning.
"Do you have shelter?" I ask, wondering whether to offer him the tent that was my home last year.
"Yup, I'm setting up my tent for winter camp now under a big tree." He describes the location; I nod. "I'll make things there to sell."
"Do you have a campstove?"
"Yes, but it's propane, way too expensive. I just use it to heat my coffee. I eat my food cold; I'm used to it." I imagine him dipping a spoon into a can of beans.
"You know the Free Box?" he asks.
"Yeah, I do." (It's a shed by the recycling center where folks leave off donations of clothes and useful items. Pretty desperate energy there when a drop-off is made. Families crowd in hoping for winter clothes for the kids and such.)
"Well, somebody dumped off a dog, pretty beat up. Three-breed mutt. Nobody wanted him. I've never much cared for dogs, but he seemed alright and I took him home with me. It kinda keeps things calm with him to look after."
My elderly friend who runs the Trading Post comes back into the thick-walled adobe, after standing in drizzle to get cell phone reception. He's excited to show me the new issue of National Geographic. "The Iceman's eyes were not blue!"
The homeless fellow looks up puzzled. "Iceman?"
"Uh huh," I reply, "a man from long time ago, found frozen in a glacier at high elevation in the Alps, with his clothes and tools intact."
"How old was he?"
"In his thirties, maybe?"
My Trading Post friend, widely read and more precise, lets out a snort: "Five thousand three hundred years ago, and forty years of age!"
The homeless crafter sits quietly. His face high elevation sun-weathered. Still has most of his discolored teeth, a grizzled gray beard. "And they found his tools? And no one with him?"