Wolfe’s Woofer: The World’s Greatest Memory

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

“This is Farmington, New Mexico,” the bus driver said. “All passengers disembark while we take a forty-five-minute stop for lunch.”
Thirty-one years ago I was traveling as cheaply as possible from Florida to California and my only options were hitchhiking or the bus. An old Indian wrapped in a Navajo blanket sat in the shade of the bus station porch with a tin begging cup. The restaurant manager at the bus stop stuck his head out the door.
“Hey, Big Chief,” he called. “Your lunch is ready. I’ll bring it out in a minute.”
“Thanks, Rodney,” the Indian said.
After I ate lunch I asked the restaurant manager, “What’s the story with the Indian? Is he really a chief?”
“Nobody really knows,” the manager said, “But I do know this. He probably has the greatest memory of any man who ever lived. He is absolutely remarkable.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You can ask him anything that has ever happened to him and he remembers it perfectly. He lives off of the tips people leave him.”
When I went out to the porch I decided to test him.
“Hey, Chief, what did you have for lunch October 3rd, 1985?” I asked.
“Soup,” he said, without hesitation. “Campbell’s Chicken Soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.”
“What did you have for breakfast that morning?”
The bus driver called us to board the bus. I dropped a dollar in his cup and laughed about the way the old Indian was scamming people. There was no way to prove if he was making it up so, obviously, he just answered whatever popped into his mind.
I rented a car last week while we were in the U.S. and Sherry and I drove from Houston, Texas to Las Vegas. As we drove through Farmington, New Mexico I saw the same old Indian sitting in the shade of the new bus station. I had to stop and show Sherry how he hustled people.
I walked up to him, raised my right hand and gave the common Indian greeting of, “How, Big Chief.”
He said, “Scrambled, with toast on the side.”

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