I’m sitting outside a quiet roadside diner in western Texas, a sea of cloudless skies arch above. Blue is the designated color of the day in Marfa.
A white Ford F-350 truck sits behind me, exhaling as the motor block cools. Tick, tick, tick. I take a pull from my chilled Topo Chico.
I feel eyes on the back of my neck. Turning, I look up to find a small black-and-tan ranch dog resting on the roof of the pickup, nose pointed down for the best herding view. Today, we are his livestock, his charge.
A sucker for dogs, I get up and walk over. The dog jumps up, making sure I understand the truck is his turf and I shouldn’t think of making any stupid moves. My boots pause in the gravel, and I offer a hello. Another head pops up to greet me.
A voice comes out from behind the truck.
“Hello,” says the young man, sharing his dog’s name.
“She’s a sweetheart, don’t worry,” he says.
Dressed in worn blue jeans, a western work shirt and a pair of boots worn on a ranch, he smiles and tips his hat. There is a welcoming air to his words.
“She’s my newest, and the other is an offspring.”
Both share a black coat with tan accents and effortlessly migrate across the truck bed to his voice. Neither weighs 30 pounds wet and caked with mud.
“Love them both.”
We get to talking dogs.
“I was looking for just the right size dog, ones I could take anywhere, go anywhere. They fit the bill perfectly.”
He tells me he moved to western Texas after years of wishing to work a ranch and do the work himself. He needed help and went looking. Soon, he ran across the older dog and was hooked.
Inviting me to brush my hand against the dog’s coat, he explains the wire-like texture allows it to run through nearly any brush. Steel wool comes to my mind.
The young man is polite and well- spoken, as friendly as a screen porch in summer.
The dogs keep a watchful eye from the roof of the truck. He and I talk breeds, share dog stories and wallow around knee-deep in general dog fandom for a few minutes. They may be his working dogs, but they are much more than that — each is a part of the things that bring joy to his life.
The younger one comes over, nudging her head beneath his hand, begging for more attention.
And if I didn’t think he could soften more, he leans in and speaks softly to the pup. The bond is unmistakable.
His breakfast comes out in a takeaway bag. He settles with the waitress and tips his hat.
The dogs jump back into the bed, and the man fires up the big motor.
I watch as the dogs and young man head down the dusty road, knowing there is a whole lot of love riding in the truck.