The Florida cowboy pilot (who also fixes legs)

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By BN Heard

Special to the Pioneer

A week or so ago, I had a wonderful experience with a fellow who had been reading some of my stories online. He sent me an email noting how much he enjoyed my stories about rural Florida, specifically the Florida Panhandle and Vernon, Florida, which I have written much about.

He was simply writing to say thanks for defending folks out in the rural areas who are a lot better off than people think they are. Country folks usually keep their mouths shut about such things, because they know if they start bragging about it, crowds, strip malls and people who don’t appreciate homemade orange marmalade will start moving into the area. Then… “Poof” – It’s all over.

It’s not unusual for me to get emails about my writing. I enjoy hearing from folks who enjoy reading my take on life. However, it’s not every day that you get an email from a cowboy, astronaut, pilot, actor or hit man.

This fellow who wrote to me has been all of those things. Well, I should clarify and say that he is an actor and has played multiple bad guy or hit man roles and even was the astronaut who piloted the shuttle trying to destroy the “Tree of Souls” in the movie, Avatar.

If you haven’t seen Avatar, it’s a pretty well-known science fiction movie made back in 2009. It had some strange blue looking folks in it and it took place on a moon called “Pandora” in the Alpha Centauri star system. It was a good movie and was nominated for many Academy Awards, and won three of them.

This fellow looks like a cowboy, he sent me a picture of his reading some of my stories – that was nifty!

Turns out he really is a cowboy – a Florida cowboy. After we exchanged emails, we decided to talk on the phone for a while, an hour later, we were good buddies. It turns out the reason he was so interested in my standing up for the rural simple living folks was that he considers himself one of them, growing up in a small out of the way town in Florida.

He knows a lot about the Florida cowboys or Florida “Crackers” or “Cracker Cowboys.” After looking into this some it seems that I like everyone else thought cowboys were “Made in Texas.” They are not. Or they were not… It seems the original cowboys were born under the palm trees down in the heart of Florida.

My new buddy was even in the cowboy hat business before he left for Hollywood to act like a bad guy (he seems to be cast in bad guy roles a lot).

We talked for an hour about family, faith and values. It was a fun conversation and we shared a lot of the same feelings on why we are where we are and what we are supposed to be doing. He also understood my love for the rural parts of Florida and good folks who live there. He grew up in a similar place, joined the Coast Guard, came home, did a little schooling, made cowboy hats, worked as a personal trainer and finally got into acting. It was interesting…

He even noted that he paid for lessons in order to talk differently. That was a nice way of saying that he used to sound like me… (In my opinion.)

After an hour, he asked me, “How are your legs doing?” At this point I was scared. I thought he either had some sort of science fiction superpowers or that God had sent him. I quickly figured out he had been reading one of my stories about how my legs had been hurting.

I told him the truth – my legs were still giving me a lot of problems. Then he asked me an odd question, “Do you wear cowboy boots?” I told him that I did not. He said that I might want to try a pair and see if it helped my legs. This was interesting.

He even went on to say that first I should go down to the drugstore and get a pair of those inserts that go in your shoes and see if that helped. After we got off the phone, I went to the drugstore and purchased some of those arch supporting cushiony inserts.

Yes, I immediately felt some relief. All of my pains have not gone away, but they are definitely getting better. You see, his stint as a personal trainer had taught him these little things. A little thing that he shared with me that made my life better.

You just never know when a Florida Cowboy Pilot Bad Guy Actor will show up and save the day. Makes you want to scratch your head doesn’t it? He’s been on that NCIS show also… Scratch it again. Also, don’t tell me there aren’t any good guys in Hollywood, because I know one.

You can look him up, he’s a fine fellow, his name is James Pitt and he’s from Williston, Florida.


BN Heard grew up in the newspaper business in Alabama serving as the janitor, lawn boy, and part time sports writer.  

He has owned a weekly newspaper, batting cages, and mail order toy business.  He has worked in the NASA world for more than 25 years and taught mathematics at the college level for about 20.