There was a slight silence after the question was voiced. In answer he knocked back the molten colored liquid in his shot glass, leaned to the side and pulled out his Walther PPK. The only sound was the metal hitting wood as he laid it on the table. He then looked at the three of us, Ken the hippy, Trin and I, as we sat around a 150-year old ornate, mahogany dining room table in his hacienda, high up in the mountains of Panama.
Perhaps nothing else needs to be said, because whatever idea this gesture conjures up in your head would not be entirely far-fetched when it comes to Roger Pentecost.
We all smiled and took a sip of our brandy as we enjoyed Roger’s stories. This evening, in lieu of his usual cowboy shirt and hat, he has put on a long sleeved knitted shirt that makes him look many years younger, and betrays his slender, six foot five inch frame.
He went on to give the account of his encounter with the mob when he was still running a few businesses up in Canada some years ago. The mob wanted to buy his garbage collection business, for reasons that can easily be deduced, and they thought they could coerce him to sell at a low price. But this cowboy is no pushover. He has his means, and let’s just say he got a fair price.
Dinner had finished hours ago but the company was great and conversation was fascinating. Roger and Ken have both, in their own journeys, traveled the world and are very knowledgeable about history. They discussed the rise and fall of nations and wars and who played a role in them, while Trin and I mostly listened, in fascination.
He was in the same school as Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart, met Willie Nelson, was friends with Roger Moore, flew planes despite being green color blind, sailed across continents, guided hunting groups, played rugby as team captain, ran marathons, and shot down a grizzly using a .270 rifle. The bear’s skull measured 27 inches, a world record that he held for almost ten years during the 1980s. Now at 73, he still competes in barrel racing and pole bending, winning against men 30 years his junior.
In the small town of Boquete where he has lived for the last 11 years building condominiums, he has made many friends, yet there are a few who dislike him. In particular, there is a lady with whom he’s had a few arguments. She runs the local animal rescue volunteer group and she did not appreciate Roger’s offer of donating a few thousand dollars worth of bullets that can be used to put down dogs.
His point is that the group spends $36 to put a dog down while a bullet costs only seven cents. He would rather see the extra $35.83 spent on the welfare of a homeless or hungry child.
He is cowboy, heart, soul and mind, but beyond his tough exterior he has a heart of gold and has helped a number of less fortunate people rise above their current situation and learn to be successful.
To Roger Pentecost, death is no stranger. His father died when he was young. During his late teens, his older brother died, leaving him to take a much larger role on the farm. His oldest son died unexpectedly. More recently, the passing of Margret, his wife of over 50 years, had plunged him into a gray period of mourning and solitude. Some weeks later, his personal chef and close friend also passed away.
We came to the hacienda in response to an ad that Roger placed in the WorkAway website. He was looking for somebody to cook meals for him, exercise the horses with him, and do some minor home maintenance. It had been about a year since his wife died, and he had just thrown what he calls a “coming out” party with his friends.
It’s a reference to “coming out of mourning”, although the double entendre doesn’t bother him the least. He once sent out an email to many of his friends that said, “I have met the love of my life. He is tall, dark and muscular, with a good family history… and he has four legs.” He had just bought another horse that he named Payday.
He speaks fondly of his late wife. “She was an amazing woman, and an excellent horse rider. She was my best friend and my best cowboy.” By his account and those of his friends that we’ve met, theirs had been a marriage of seemingly endless bliss. They were so in tune with each other, travelling around the world, camping in the woods or staying in luxury hotels, and riding horses.
One day, while Roger was in Paris for a couple of weeks to visit his daughter, I spoke with the cleaning lady who has been working for Roger for a few years. Among her chores was to pick flowers from the garden and arrange them in vases all over the house. I told her that perhaps while Roger was away, she didn’t need to do the flower arrangements because he wasn’t here to enjoy them and that it would give the plants a break. Her response left me in awe. She said that Roger specifically asked her to continue doing the flower arrangements even while he was away, because the flowers were for Margret.
He says that he is happiest when he is riding a horse. “I would rather die falling off a horse than having tubes stuck all over me,” he once said while were riding through the woods. We had come upon a clearing and the trail opened up into a beautiful meadow with trees lining the edge, and beyond, a view of the mountains. The gentle wind and the horses feeding on the grass were the only sound. It was his favorite spot.
“I’m not afraid of death. It’s a journey that many have taken, and none of them have come back to complain,” he said with a glint of humor in his eye, “I just wish that I still had more time.”
That last statement was uttered, not with a sense of regret for not having experienced many things in life, but rather with the knowledge of someone who has lived life to the fullest and still has the thirst for it.
After a while he turned his horse around and signaled to us that it was time to head back. We slowly rode down the trail and he started singing a tune. He put his horse to a trot and then in the next moment he kicked up to a full gallop, his horse seemingly becoming one with him as man and beast blazed through the trail. And the rest of us struggled to keep up with him.