He was too injured and old for that. I don't remember what that was that he couldn't do anymore, but a broken arm and ribs were what it took to make chasing after that particular young mans' dream a foolish idea for Vic, and Windy agreed. We're sitting belly up to the bar in Austin, NV, and the conversation hasn't gotten that interesting... yet.
I have favorite things to do when I travel. Sometimes these things aren't that different than my favorite things to do at home, but on the road they take on a whole new meaning. At home one of my favorite things is to pull up a stool at a bar and get into a conversation with someone you haven't met before. It almost never fails to be interesting. But it's never as interesting as when you're somewhere foreign to you.
Austin is smack dab in the middle of Nevada on Hwy 50. Hwy 50 is touted as the loneliest road in America, and with a population of 192, Austin fits right in. Windy is a jovial old cowboy who looks the part. His brown leather cowboy hat is discolored from years in the elements, and it's as cracked and worn as Windy himself. But years of hard work and hard living have not made Windy a hard man, as he is very welcoming with a warm smile. Vic is just as weathered as Windy, but as friendly as Vic is he seems less warm and more in possession of a devious charm.
Based on where we are, and the looks of the people we're talking to, I assume it was the cowboy life that gave Vic his injuries, perhaps the rodeo? When asked what earned Vic his injuries, he answered it was from hunting bears. "Vic, next time you go bear hunting, you should bring a gun!"
"We used to put a knife on the end of a stick and then wait for the bear to charge. Right before the bear gets to you plant one end of the stick in the ground and you hope the knife gets the bear in the heart." Alright, this is great! My silly joke set off a genuine old timey tall tale! You only get characters like this in the still wild old west.
Having to know more about where a character with such a quick wit grew up I asked if Vic and Windy grew up nearby. "I grew up in Serbia." Holy shit this crazy asshole might have actually killed a bear with a knife and a stick! I hadn't noticed his accent until just now. "I had got the bear, but he didn't die right away and he got to me. I was crawling away from him with my broken arm, and he was crawling after me. Lucky for me he died before he got to me again."
Now, this is just the tip of the iceberg for our friend Vic. He was an uneducated shepherd in Serbia as a boy, and when he went to get the train to go as far as it would take him he had no idea what a train even looked like. He asked where the end of the train line was, and when the ticket agent told him it ended at a copper mine Vic told him "Then that's where I'm going!"
Speaking of trains, when the conversation turned to PTSD both Windy and Vic identified themselves as skeptics. Windy related his experiences in Viet Nam and Vic stated "Where I come from people get killed on the train. It happens all the time. There's no PTSD." But so help me god, I can swear I heard "Where I come from I would just kill people on the train." Not that Vic said that, he didn't, but it was like hearing the guy at the junkyard telling Chopper to sick balls. (if you didn't understand that last one, you need to watch Stand By Me)
A few ex wives in Ohio and more different lives than the rest of us will ever live later, and Vic finds himself the owner of the International Cafe and Bar in Austin, Nevada. "I got drunk one night and I bought the bar." I understand how this happens. Sometimes you can do some pretty stupid stuff when you're drunk, but sometimes when you're drunk your ideas will be brilliant! Our drunk idea the next day was to squeeze a few more drops of fun out of our road trip, and instead of heading home to Oregon, turning SW and heading to San Francisco, CA.
Now, Vic the man was actually a very friendly and kind man who has lived an interesting life. He's worked hard for anything he ever had and expects you to do the same. He's more interested in keeping his granddaughter from getting into trouble with boys than killing bears with knives and sticks. But if you get a chance to meet Vic the man, talk to him a bit longer and you just might discover Vic... the legend.