The One-Armed Cowboy(s?)

The One-Armed Cowboy(s?)

I live in a rural town. Like most rural towns, it contains a Dollar General and a box auto parts store. They line the edge of the two lane highway. They share a sidewalk that runs before both stores before ending, some long gone city planner's attempt to pave a path to progress.

I drive past these two stores every day on my way to work, and one day, I saw a man walking between the stores. He looked older and was dressed like a dirty cowboy. And he was missing an arm. I didn't get a good look at his face, the angles and my speed weren't right, but I didn't think much of it other than, the guy was on the sidewalk and therefore I didn't have to worry about hitting a pedestrian.

A few days later, I was driving on the same stretch of road, going the opposite way, in the afternoon, and I saw a younger guy, decked out in a flashy, new ten gallon hat, a shiny pearl button shirt, crisp jeans, a belt buckle with serious bling, and he was missing an arm.

He was walking between the Dollar General and auto parts store on the sidewalk that just ends.

This time my husband was with me.

"Was that guy young or old?" I asked.

My husband, who was annoyed that I had been insisting we stop to buy Sweet Tarts, a candy he doesn't understand, wasn't paying attention to a guy who was safely ensconced on the sidewalk.


"That cowboy, the walking one. Was he young or old?"

"I don't know."

"How many one-armed people do you think are in this town?"


"Why was he on this section of sidewalk?"

My husband, who pulled into the Dollar General, insisting they had a wide array of candy looked at me with one of those expressions that said, I love you, but you're capable of walking home from here too.

"How many one-armed men wearing cowboy attire walk on this section of sidewalk?"

"Just go get your candy," he said.

The Dollar General did not have the candy I wanted, so I made my husband drive me to the pharmacy, which was approximately sixty-five seconds away, although he bemoaned me making him drive all across town.

But I was still concerned about the age-shifting, one-armed cowboy whom I had seen on the exact same stretch of sidewalk. Was it really two guys? Where were they walking to? Why were they dressed in similar garb, although the old one was all faded and ragged? This wasn't that big of a town.

A few days later, I saw the young cowboy again. He was, as I had seen before, well dressed, looking like he was going to a rodeo, not coming from it, and he was walking on the same stretch of sidewalk.

Then, on another day, I saw the old cowboy. Same spot. Same grimy appearance.

My husband would say that there are just two guys, one old, one young. One who wears sun-cracked clothes and one who wears starched clothes. Both missing an arm, and both walking on the sidewalk that just ends. He would not agree that there some sort of time paradox involving cowboys and missing arms between the Dollar General and auto parts store, but as smart as he is, I'm not always sure he's right.

I think we are possibly seeing one guy at different points in his time traveling career. We see him young and we see him old. I never see the two cowboys together, but they are always in the same place.

It pleases me to no end that my town may contain some sort of time travel portal between the Dollar General and auto parts store. And it pleases me even further that the one guy using it is a one-armed cowboy walking to where the sidewalk ends.