Thursday, March 08, 2007

the legend of...Cherokee

(note: It’s been a while since I’ve written one of the “legend of” series. This series of reports usually spotlights a friend from the days of yesteryear with the izzy group ministry.)

Today the family and I went on an agent outing to a local nursing home. At his request, DJ, the uncle of Princess (Agent Wife’s young friend) asked us to come by to visit and pray with him.

Recently, DJ was struck by a car one night while stumbling around drunk on a busy street on the north side of town. Both of his legs are messed up. He had an operation and is currently wheelchair bound in a local nursing home.

When we got to the place, we were told that DJ could be found outside in the smoking section. There, fate would have it (or the CEO) that I would run into a legend of the fair mother city: Cherokee.

Cherokee is the first homeless person I had close relations with back in my junior agent days, just prior to joining the izzy group full time. The Bossman and his wife along with Agent Wife and myself use to bring hot food over to his camp once a week and eat with him and whoever else lived there at the moment.

That was the summer of 1999. Something about eating with guys in their shanty-ville encampment amongst the mesquite scrub brush on the outskirts of town really slapped some reality in me. A huge barrier was taken down in my own heart and mind. These guys were real people to me, for the first time. I’ve never despised homeless guys before. But I saw that there wasn’t much separating their life circumstances from mine.

Cherokee is the patriarch of the streets. He’s quite old: 60 or so. That’s ancient for the short-lived lifestyle of homelessness. Most homeless guys barely make it to 40.

I can’t remember where he got the name Cherokee, because he’s not a native. He’s a skinny, wrinkled leather-faced white guy with a real Texas accent.

For the last ten years or so, Cherokee could be seen flying a sign at a major traffic intersection in the fair mother city. He’s tough as nails and won’t go down easy. Cherokee’s lived outside for years in all sorts of weather, spends half his life drunk, been beat up, stitched up, hit by a car, had his leg rebuilt, and so forth. Currently he’s recovering from being beat up by a guy with a club.

I hadn’t seen him in months. I never saw an obit for him so I figured he hit the highway and moved.

I asked Cherokee his story once. You know, like what made him want to live on the streets, etc.

He said he once lived a regular life. Worked various blue-collar jobs in the Dallas area. He was married. Twice. His first wife died somehow. I think it was a car accident. He remarried. One weekend he returned home from some work related trip to discover his new wife gone. Then he opened the newspaper to read her name in the obituary. She too was in an accident. There’s probably more to these stories but that’s all he told me.

After the news of his second wife’s death, Cherokee hit the streets with the bottle and has been there ever since. He’s been sobered up with nursing home stays like the one right now. But he can’t stand being cooped up for long after all these years on the streets. It’s all he knows now.

I realized that could be me. I have no idea what I’d do if I learned my family died via a newspaper obit.

I would hope that there’d be enough friends around to prevent me from hitting the streets with a jack daniels.

But they might have to fight me from trying.


agent wife said...

I thought one wife died of cancer and the other along with his daughter were killed by a drunk driver. That's what I remembered, but it was a long time ago. I had the same reaction when I heard it though. "no wonder he just wanted to shut down and be away from everyone". Not that that is a healthy solution, but very understandable.

Agent B said...

Cancer. Drunk driver. Something like that.