Cowboy finds haven

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

Mississippi cowboy Clifford Bowden said he went from having nothing in the hurricane ravaged town of Poplarville, Miss., to having a home, a job, a car — and even a girlfriend — after several weeks in Tucumcari.

“I like this town,” Bowden said. “It’s really going good.”
Bowden, age 24, said he didn’t start with nothing living in the small town of Poplarville, a farming community with a population of 2,600. He said he was cozy living in a travel trailer and had a fulltime gig with a concrete company.

But, he said, his idyllic life was gusted to dust when he woke up one morning to find the front window blown clear out of his trailer — and trees of all sizes tumbling down all around like giant bowling pins.

He said he really knew it was time to get out when a hefty blast of wind picked up his trailer and slammed it down on his roof — with him still inside. He said the only injury he sustained from the ordeal was a bloody mouth.

“I wasn’t really scared,” Bowden said. “I wanted to see the huge trees fall down.”

He said he didn’t stick around for that after signs in the wind were clearly telling him to leave.

“It (the wind) took the sole off my shoe,” he said, adding he had been wearing sandals but quickly changed to cowboy boots and piled up any clothing he could cram into a duffel bag and about $250 in cash to make a beeline out of town.

He said the trek was not an easy task — he initially had to get gas into the company vehicle he was using by siphoning it out of nearby farm equipment. And the haul to the Houston airport took him through Baton Rouge, where he had to refuel after a long line of others waiting.

“They had fights over a couple of gallons of gas,” he said. “It was pathetic. You wouldn’t see a pickup without a 55-gallon drum full of gas on the back because you didn’t know when the next time you could get gas would be.”

When he finally made it to the airport in Houston where he left the company truck for his boss to retrieve, Bowden said his first plane ride ever was on a tiny jet in which he could barely stand. He knew he was headed to Tucumcari, not by divine intervention or fate, but because he called his brother earlier and asked if he could stay with him.

“We’re not blood brothers,” said Bowden of Shawn Patrick, Mesalands Community College rodeo coach, “but we were raised together.”

He said his brother doesn’t mind having him around, especially since Bowden helps out by tending to the rodeo bulls and horses.

His cowboy ways are so entrenched he didn’t flinch when they even caused him some grief at his new job at Ken’s Ice Cream.

The grief didn’t come because he helped retrieve loose cattle he saw roaming by the railroad tracks, but because he came to work for his afternoon ice cream shift in a shirt dirtied from the retrieval.

“I think it’s crazy,” said coworker Brittany Griggs, not of the dirty shirt but of Bowden’s entire ordeal. She said she is unsure how she would react if placed in the tumultuous situation.

“Tucumcari is quiet and small and the movie theater’s nice,” Bowden said of his now-calm residence – and he said he is not hankering for what was lost.

“I don’t want to go back,” he said, adding he did miss the misty haze that hovered over bodies of water.

“It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, there would always be fog over the lake. Mississippi is full of swamps. And there’s no wind,” he added ironically.