Meeting the Man with the Big Black Backpack

While I was walking through Scott Carpenter Park this morning about 10, someone said “Hello” to me softly. I turned around to see a man with grayish hair, a large black backpack that looked heavy, and another bag in his right hand. I returned the greeting and kept walking. Then I stopped to look for birds at the place where the path skirts some backyards on its way to Boulder Creek. I was hoping to see a green-tailed towhee here again. He stopped to talk to me.

I told him I had just been to the dentist, and he said he needed to go down to the VA and get some dental work. He said he didn’t live in Denver anymore because there were too many people. Although he didn’t look old enough, he claimed to have served during the Vietnam War in the South and in California, where he was discharged for drinking the water. He said it had benzene in it. It was an intriguing story, although it didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t ask if he had been homeless since then.

We talked about birds a bit. He said something about a woodpecker with a red throat—perhaps a sapsucker? I asked him if he had ever seen a pileated woodpecker, and he said yes, they looked like Woody Woodpecker. Then we talked about BP being done with the cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico and laughed about how the cleanup would take decades, not just three years. He described how the dispersant broke up the oil into smaller and smaller pieces and how shrimp consume that chemical and oil. Finally, he apologized for interrupting my birding and said he had to walk down the path a while. We introduced ourselves and shook hands.

He was a very nice man, and at no point did he make me feel uncomfortable by approaching too close or asking for money. I wonder if he was feeling lonely that day, or if he makes a point of greeting people as he trudges around Boulder with “all his worldly goods.”