Friday hinted at winter finally arriving, with a slow, but steady, flurry of snowfall. On that same day, a local, who goes by Butch, was on the corner of Gay and 11th Streets, bundled up in layers, as he usually is. Butch wasn’t alone, though; he was protected from the cold by his best friend, Mojo, who was huddled closely against him to stay warm.
Butch says that he has had the company of his dog, Mojo, for six months. The two live out of a rusted shopping cart that he uses to carry their worldly belongings. Rain coats, donated cans of dog food, water; he keeps only necessities.
Mojo often rides shotgun as he pushes, under a thick blanket that keeps the bite of the wind out. Strapped to the very front of the cart are two American flags, praising old glory, as well as a neon poster that reads, “HOMELESS: PLEASE HELP WITH ANYTHING. THANK YOU GOD BLESS.”
The stories Butch has after three years of living on the streets tell that homelessness isn’t easy. It is all about the unknown controlling your life. There isn’t a guarantee of food or warmth and handouts are much needed, but not promised.
Butch says that, if he didn’t have the corner of 11th and Gay, where he spends his days asking for assistance, he and Mojo wouldn’t have anything.
“There is no way I could make it without such nice people who come out here to help me,” Butch said. “We would just have nothing….We couldn’t make it. I don’t know what else to say.”
The man is retired from a life of working in the food industry. With bad health, and serious vision problems, including blindness in one eye, he hasn’t been unable to work or provide for himself in recent years.
Also, through a series of unfortunate events, he says his home was condemned, leaving him with no where to turn.
Life was getting repetitive and hard, according to the homeless man. He explained that standing on the corner, begging for help, is emotionally and physically challenging. When things began to get too hard to handle, he said a woman left him with the best form of assistance he had ever received. Mojo.
Butch says that he has confronted a lot of hard problems while living on the street. He has had his few belongings stolen, he has been jumped, he has been a victim of assault and hate, but the hardest was nearly losing Mojo.
A few months back, Mojo’s health took a turn for the worst. Butch says that he didn’t know what to do. The dog couldn’t sit up, he couldn’t eat; things didn’t look good for the young pup.
After much fear and internal debate, Butch took Mojo to a veterinarian clinic. The man sat in anxiety, as he was told his friend might not make it. According to Butch, the veterinarian treated his friend, free of charge, and saved his life.
“I was scared to death, you know?” Butch said. “I just, I just didn’t think he was going to make it. I had just been given him to watch over and protect, and he was on his death bed. He is my buddy and it was scary.”
Butch said he doesn’t like to think about the days spent worrying if Mojo was going to make it, because he can’t imagine a world without his friend in it anymore.
“It would be rough, because this is my third winter out here, and it is lonely,” Butch worried. “He has helped me so much. Home is where the heart is, man. If I didn’t have Mojo anymore, I might as well just go ahead and give up…because, then I really would have nothing.”
Butch says the two work, as a team, to get through the hard times. The streets can be hard, and having someone there can make a difference.
“He has helped me a whole lot,” Butch explained. “I just try to make sure he stays warm, because it can get cold in these tough times. Actually, the hardest part is trying to stay warm. I have Mojo with me to help, and he will come out from under blankets when he knows someone he wants to say ‘hello’ to, but he stays pretty close. He doesn’t try to run off. I think he has everything he needs right here, but I also think he knows how much I need him, too.”
Mojo has been in the public eye since he was a puppy and the community has watched him grow into a young, devoted dog to his master. According to Butch, Mojo actually enjoys going to work in the morning, because of the attention he gets from passersby.
“Mojo really likes coming out here. He has a lot of people that he looks forward to seeing. Really, in a way, they are his friends. He loves being out here, rain or shine. He has come with me since he was little and people have watched him grow up,” Butch said.
Cold weather is usually a sign of impending holiday cheer to many. The wind, which carries the first snow, often falls on adolescent ears with the faint echo of Christmas bells, promising the zooming sleigh of Saint Nicholas.
Christmas only promises shivering bones and visible breath to Butch, because he will be at work.
“I’ll be out here. It is my job. I think people have come to expect me out here, too,” Butch said. “I got sick for a while and I couldn’t make it to my corner, but when I came back out, people were actually worried about me. It was very weird, but nice.”
Even though Christmas will be spent on the street corner, Butch says he isn’t too worried.
“I have Mojo and he has me….and we have help from people driving by,” Butch says. “That is all we need for Christmas.”
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.