S2: Episode 3 - Pepper Lewis

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator:  Welcome to Hunger and Resilience, narrative histories about the complexity and experiences of hunger. A traveling exhibition and weekly podcast edited and hosted by Michael Nye, supported by the San Antonio Food Bank, Eric Cooper, executive director. We are grateful for the honesty and eloquence of every voice. Episode three, Pepper Lewis.

Pepper Lewis: I’ve worked on them. Shot hole rigs. I’ve surveyed, I’ve welded, I’ve done some roofing. Done a lot of cowboy in four states. I’m a mechanic. I ain’t never hired a mechanic. When I was 13, my grandpa gave me a muffler, told me, build a car around it. Cowboying ain’t crawling off a bucking chute onto a horse or a bull. That ain’t cowboying, that’s just rodeoing. Cowboying is living the life. It’s nothing like riding in pretty country on a nice horse. Last horse, I sold it, called him Sandman. He was a big yellow Palina horse. I roped a big old fighting cow on him one time. And a lady, she’s come up there, she’s looking at some horses and she asked me what I thought about these horses for our kids. I said, ma’am, I said, you don’t want none of these horses. They’re, they’re bronte and they’re, they’re cheaper horses.

I said, I got a horse. That’d be just right. You can pile kids on ’em. He’s gentle. She asked me what a one for ’em. I told her, she said, that’s awful high. I said, ma’am. I said, what’s your kid’s life worth? She come looked at the horse and bought him and, and she thanked me for that horse. She still has him. I was riding horses for a man. This trail went under this bridge and this horse, he blowed up and went to pitching, which I rode him through the pitching part, but he pitched up under this low bridge and throw me up into this concrete pillar. And when it did it, it busted my skull and about three discs on the top of my back. And then it drug me till my boot come off. I was all bloody and stuff. And they done test.

I haven’t worked since then. You’re not outta food all the time, but there’s times that you don’t have as much as what you’d like to have. I’ve seen people at five o’clock, everybody goes home from the food bank and they’d throw away these bent cans of food. Well, I waited till five o’clock and I was helping myself to some of these bent cans in that dumpster. And there were lots of different kinds of like ravioli and canned peaches and soups, chili and all kinds of good food. I was bent over in there, my legs sticking out. And then that lady come out there and told me, you can’t get that food outta that dumpster. Well, I’ll call law. And I said, well, call ’em. I’m gonna get some of this food. I’m hungry. She said, you put that canned stuff back and I’ll get you emergency food box. And I did. I put the stuff back. Most of it, she gave me a big box of groceries, but I wasn’t trying to steal no food. I was getting it outta the dumpster. I didn’t consider it stealing. I know exactly what hunger is. It’s doing without, I didn’t eat nothing last Thursday or Friday. Just makes you short fused and feel like you, your belly’s rubbing on your backbone. I don’t know what to say. If you got a loaf of bread, you can make it or a can of beans.

I did go in another dumpster, found a chainsaw, so I get this old chainsaw out and oil it up and get it running. It run pretty good. There an ol boy had barbecue stand and he always had to have firewood to run that smoker. So I took it down there and sold him that chainsaw for $17.50 and a plate lunch. So a week or so went by and he told me he didn’t like that chainsaw. So I took chainsaw and went and sold it for $40 and went and give him his $20 back and made $20 on the deal and then bought another plate lunch, rib plate lunch. There was ribs and pinto beans and potato salad. It was real good. Real good.

[Outro Music]

Host:  This is season two, a weekly podcast, narrative histories about the experience of hunger and resilience and of understanding. I’m Michael Nye. Thank you so much for listening and following this podcast. On my website, michaelnye.org/podcast. You’ll find portraits and transcripts. We are grateful for Pepper Lewis’ voice, his presence and his honesty. May something in his story stay with you. Every person, every place is a map to somewhere else.