“Hello, the camp!” called a deep voice from the already darkened woods. “Hello, yourself!” Peter called back as he stirred the campfire. “Come-on in!” “Rider coming in,” answered the man’s voice, as horse and rider emerged from the sea of darkness into the light like a babe from baptismal waters.
“Just in time. I’m fixing dinner. There’s food and water over there for your horse. Get him settled and come join me.” The rider unsaddled his horse and, holding out his hand as he approached the fire, said, “I’m Bob.” “Peter,” said the cowboy, offering his own hand. “Have a seat. Like something to drink?” “Coffee sure smells good. Wouldn’t happen to have any whiskey on you, would you? Sure could use a real drink.” Peter reached into his large saddle bag and pulled out a silver shaker and a glass. “Just happen to have a Tangeray martini. That do ya?” “Double.” Peter shook and poured the martini and handed the glass to Bob. “Cheers,” Bob said, and took a long pull on the drink.
“What are you cooking for dinner?” “What do you love?” “Well-done steak, mashed potatoes and corn-on-the-cob.” “You’re in luck; that’s just what I’m cooking.” “Hot-damn!” “Careful.”
After dinner, they settled back to talk. Bob lit-up his ninth cigarette for the evening. He drew the smoke deep into his lungs and began talking as he exhaled, mildly surprised that he didn’t cough. “Funny thing, Peter. I’m sitting here with you, and it seems to be the most natural thing in the world. Thing is, I can’t remember where I’ve been or where I’m going.” “That bother you?” Bob laughed, releasing a cloud of smoke, “No, not really. Life’s an adventure. It’s the ‘not remembering’ that bothers me. That, and finding you out here with drink, dinner, everything just perfect. Strange. What are you doing here?” “Waiting for you…”
“Hello, the camp! Rider coming in!” called a voice from the darkness. “You’re welcome! Come-on in!” Peter called back. “And I’m waiting for him.” The new rider rode into the campfire light. Bob recognized him immediately and rose to his feet. “Food and water for your horse over there. Come join us when you’re done,” said Peter. “Th…Thank you, that’s very kind of you,” said the rider and turned to care for his horse.
“Jimmy? That you?” questioned Bob. Jimmy turned. “Well, Bob Mitchum! Wha…what brings you out here?” They shook hands, then embraced. “Someone told me…jus…just this morning, you were dead!” “Holy Jesus!” said Bob. “Careful,” said Peter. “I think I am!” “Then…I…I must be, too,” said Jimmy. “Peter, this is my friend, Jimmy Stewart. Jimmy, this is Peter.” The two shook hands. “Pleased to meet ya,” said Jimmy. “You have a last name?” “Most call me St. Peter, but here, I just like ‘Peter’. Let’s get you taken care of, then we can get some rest. We’ll get up early. I like riding into the morning light.”
Awhile back, Babs and I wrote to Christopher Mitchum, sharing our sorrow over the passin’ thru of his dad. “Rider Coming In” is his beautiful response.
Long before “Sugarfoot”, when I was a delivery boy in downtown L.A. during Christmas school breaks, I’d pray for rain. With the collar of my battered raincoat pulled up, my slouch hat pulled low, I’d walk down Broadway, stealing glances of my tough guy image reflected in store windows. I was Bob Mitchum on a caper, emerging out of the past, disappearing into the fog, meeting my fate head on with a wry smile and my best friend, John Roscoe, in my pocket. If a man don’t go his own way he’s nothin.’To me, Bob was more of a humanist, a philosopher with deep Irish humor, than an actor. He seemed to say in each role, “Nothing matters all that much. And most things don’t matter at all!” The consummate pro, he placed himself at the service of his co-workers and the story. He knew the picture was the star. Always has been. His style was practically invisible and practically universal. How moving and happy to watch him get better and better, year after year, learning and working. He is one of our best actors and human beings. An Irish poem by W. B. Yeats reminds me of Bob: “Only that which does not teach, which does not cry out, which does not persuade, which does not condescend, which does not explain—is irresistible.” Bob is irresistible. Here’s lookin’ at ya, Bob. I never met a Mitchum I didn’t like… Adios!