One day, my husband decided to build a new fence between us and our neighbor, the baptist church. As he was working in the summer heat, a man approached him and asked if he needed help digging holes and pouring concrete for the metal posts. My husband’s answer was an unequivocal yes, as it was over 100 degrees outside at 10 am that morning and the faster it could get done, the better.
This man, who said his name was Terry, was on his way to the church for their weekly ‘church relief,’ in which congregation members lined up to provide homeless individuals with food, toiletries, etc. Terry had been going to the relief for years, and as he walked there from wherever he was staying the previous night, he would keep his eyes open for odd jobs, day labor, to get some cash in his pocket.
The fence between us and the church took three weekends to build. Terry was there each Saturday and Sunday at 8 am, the agreed time. Our friends would come over to help too, and I would hear occasional laughter and a lot of banter between the two, three, or four gentlemen outside, over the pounding of sledgehammers into the dirt or the welding of metal to metal.
I didn’t spend a lot of time talking to Terry, as I wasn’t helping out with the fence too much, but my husband and his friends did. It was a strange sort of impromptu friendship between them, centered around backbreaking work. When the fence was completed, Terry told my husband that if he ever needed him, all he needed to do was ask for “Shirtless Terry.” He picked up this name, I guess, because he never really wore clothing on his torso, as his leathery skin attested to. I just thought that was interesting, the notion that we could ‘just ask’ for him in the homeless community of Tucson. It made me think, who else could I ask for? Who else could I find? What other names have been adopted, and what do they mean?
I woke up this morning to the aching creaks of a tree stump being excavated. I looked outside and saw the usual suspects, this time working on a front gate for our yard. It was my husband, wielding a chainsaw, his two best friends, squaring metal stock and pouring concrete, and Shirtless Terry, hacking away at the roots of the once mighty salt ceder whose demise was inevitable. I guess he had made his way to the church relief again and saw that there was more work to be done, and dug right in. He’ll be back again next week and maybe the week after that, as long as there was something to be constructed, to be made.
Thanks for your continuing help, Shirtless Terry.