Have you ever noticed that every town has its "characters"? You know the ones. That familiar face you have seen around town for years. He's the one that is a little different. He has something that stands out....his walk, his old car, the old clothes he wears. You don't see him with friends but he is often chatting with someone. He seems friendly but no one is really close to him. He sort of defines the town. Not that he is like anybody else, but if you saw him in any other community, he would be out of place.
I first noticed our friend sitting on the steps of Boulder's downtown post office. The old post office, built in the 1950's; the white building with the simulated Roman columns. You have to walk up 6 or 7 steps to front door. He was sitting there wearing a Indiana Jones style hat with 3 or 4 feathers pointing backwards out of the turquoise hat band. Pinned to the front was an eagle, the insignia for a full bird colonel in the army. His face was covered with a white beard, accented with a few black streaks and his tinted glasses covered his eyes. Through his 6 or 7 layers of coats you could see his army camo pants and his black military boots.
The first time I saw him, I passed him without acknowledging his presence. He seemed to be sitting on the steps almost every time I went past the post office. I started to wonder if he was a homeless veteran. One morning in June, just after I opened the store, he entered. At first glance, I was sure he was going to ask for a handout. He politely asked if he could see a magnifying glass. I agreed and handed him the one we use in the store. He pulled a small white stone out of one of his may pockets and looked at it through the glass. I asked him what he was studying. He handed me the white rock and asked me what I thought it was. I didn't need a magnifying glass. I was looking at a very smooth piece of white quartz with a piece of gold in a small notch. It wasn't very big and probably not worth much, but it was gold. I asked him where he found it and he told me it was in the sand down by Boulder Creek. We had a good laugh, he thanked me for the use of the magnifying glass and went on his way.
Since then I have seen him around town. When we pass, we smile and sometimes say "Hello". He came in the store last evening, about a half hour before I closed. He wanted to look at a clock we have mounted on the wall. It is a map of the world with a light projected from the rear, indicating the parts of the earth that are illuminated by the sun. I asked him about the white rock. He smiled and pulled it out of one of his many pockets. I had the munchies so I shared what was left over from my lunch, some nuts and an orange. He showed me a copy of a picture someone had painted of him. He wants to make some post cards and possibly sell them. I asked him about his military service. He looked me in the eye and could tell I was a brother. He said he was in the Air Force, 1969 to 1971. He didn't have to say any more. Those of us that served during that time frame have a bond, even though it was in different branches. We chatted quietly for a while and then he returned to his home, the street.