Shootin’ the Breeze With Jimmy

I’ve never been one to get star-struck over celebrities; they never struck me as anybody special; just folks like everybody else, only they had a pretty fun-looking job. Now, my brother, Ken, he gets all google-eyed and tongue-tied around famous folks; has a pretty hard time remembering their names, too. Check out my story, Dandy Don, and you’ll see a good example of what I’m talking about. This story, though, is about the time I met a celebrity when I was about nineteen or twenty years old. I was working in a gas station out on highway 80, at the eastern edge of the little town of Buckeye, Arizona, where I grew up. Those who know me, know I use the term “grew up” quite loosely. It was a farming and ranching community, made so by the miracle of irrigation, so, naturally, there were a good number of cowboys there.

One of those cowboys was Tom Cox. He was several years older than me, but he’d stop by the station every now and then and shoot the breeze with me. He came walking in one day while I was in one of the garage bays fixing a flat tire; he had somebody with him, but I didn’t recognize him—until he got up close.

I still couldn’t think of his name, but I knew he’d been in a movie with John Wayne—El Dorado—a couple of years earlier, and I’d seen him on TV and in other movie roles. Tom introduced me to Caan, and then the three of us just shot the breeze for a few minutes. Turns out Caan and Tom were calf-roping buddies, and got together to team rope quite often—still do, I’ve heard.

They didn’t stay long, and, obviously, I never saw James Caan in person again; always been a big fan though. How can you not be after you’ve shook hands with the guy and talked about calf roping in a Gulf station garage bay in Buckeye, Arizona? Haven’t seen Tom in just about as long.

It was kind of funny, now that I think back on it; I was working on the tire as we talked, and at one point I was struggling to hold the tire in place and get it started back onto the rim. James Caan stepped up and pushed down on one side of the tire, and the machine spun it on into place. I grinned and thanked him, and he did that James Caan head-tilt and gave me one of his already patented grins in return.

I like to tell people me and Jimmy Caan used to work together at a gas station. Well… we did, didn’t we?


  1. Sherry Mashburn said

    Now if this gets out there, his bio might reflect his job at the gas station!!

  2. Faye said

    When my son Blake was 16, he worked a local chain hardware store in Longview. Working the cash register one day, Neal McCoy came up to get his advice on something he was purchasing and finally purchase the item. Blake recognized him and even called him Mr. McCoy. They had a very nice conversation going until a few customers and store personnel realized who Blake was talking to. Some asked for his autograph and obviously the nice conversation ended there. Blake has never forgot that incident but he also remembers that he treated Neal McCoy just like he would any other customer.

    • I look at it as a two-edged sword; sometimes I think they like to be noticed, but others they just want a sense of normalcy–to be one of the crowd–normal, so to pseak.

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