By Grant McGee: Local columnist
The Lady of the House and I were road-trippin’ from Clovis to Amarillo last weekend, having one of those conversations about nothing in particular when the word “enlightened” came up.
Suddenly a memory came rushing from the back of my head, a memory of a person I considered enlightened, the memory of my encounter with “The Barefoot Prophet.”
My encounter with The Barefoot Prophet happened a few years ago, six counties and a state line away in Bisbee, Ariz. One cold, overcast December day he showed up in his bare feet wearing a white toga and a smile.
In Clovis he might’ve caught the attention of authorities. But in a countercultural enclave like Bisbee nobody gave him a second glance. It’s a town where a guy could even walk down Main Street wearing a pointed wizard’s cap festooned with stars and quarter-moons without being noticed.
It wasn’t The Barefoot Prophet’s toga, long hair or smile that struck me as much as his bare feet. I couldn’t understand how someone managed to walk barefoot across the hardscrabble Arizona countryside without picking up a mass of goatheads and sandburs. But I learned this and more when I was invited to a dinner where he was the guest of honor.
That evening The Prophet discussed his interpretations of The Good Book and shared tales of the worlds he had walked through.
“What about stickers in your feet?” I asked.
The Prophet simply laughed and patted the armor-plated bottoms of his feet. Those calluses must’ve been a half-inch thick.
I thought The Prophet’s most interesting story was about being in a Mexican prison. He told of deciding to go into Mexico and walking the streets of Tijuana sharing his views on The Good Book and stuff. He apparently irritated some tourists who reported him to the authorities. Federales approached him asking for his ID.
“I told them, ‘I don’t need identification, I’m a child of God.’ That’s when they hauled me off to prison,” he said.
The Prophet acknowledged that the first few days in the prison tested him, but soon he won the protection of a prison gang leader.
“He believed I was a holy man,” said The Prophet. “Soon, people were sharing everything with me.” He said after a month he was brought in to the warden’s office. From there he was rushed into a van, driven to the U.S. border and dropped off with an admonishment not to return to the Republic of Mexico.
“And I walked all the way from California to Bisbee to share my good news,” he said.
I looked at his feet again.
I don’t know what happened to The Prophet. I saw him around town for a few days after our dinner and then no more.
“Holy men pass through here a lot,” said Janet, a friend who ran a bed and breakfast in Bisbee. I had been telling her about meeting The Barefoot Prophet. “Maybe they’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, even Pagan. They pass through, share a bit of wisdom and move on.”
I thought about The Barefoot Prophet. Holy man? Happy wanderer? A true prophet? A can short of a six-pack? I’ll never know for sure, but he is filed in my memory as an enlightened person.
I don’t know if he’ll ever visit Clovis. Our eastern New Mexico goatheads can challenge even the most enlightened.
Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: