This is Joe. I was in Billings’ Josephine Park on Saturday, hoping to find my friends Al and Marypat floating past on the Yellowstone River, when Joe caught site of the cameras hanging from my shoulders and asked me to take his picture.

Joe and I had a long talk. He said he was a descendant of Chief Joseph, whose image is tattooed to Joe’s left shoulder. He said he used to be a cabinet maker in Minnesota with a big house and a family, but now he lived alone in a trailer in south Billings. He said he doesn’t get along well with his kids and he said his sister was the only one who really cared about him anymore.

He said other stuff too.

I didn’t know what I should do, how I could tell him I cared about him as a fellow human being. I didn’t want to spout clichés or to preach or to say to him things he either already knew or had heard so many times before they had lost all meaning.

We talked some more and gradually, he seemed to feel better. He started talking about selling his trailer and moving back to Nevada, where he was born. Maybe starting over there.

I promised him I would send him the picture and I got his address. He said he would send me $20 when he got his disability check on the third. I said not to bother with that, but that I was going to call the police and tell them to look in on him. He said that would be OK.

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