The short answer: His name is Rusty, he lives in Arizona, and he is in my opinion, one of the hardest working cowboys that you will ever meet. He speaks his mind, even if it ruffles a few feathers. His words always come from the heart, and with a welcome dose of old-world truth for anyone confuzzled by modern life.
Got a minute? The long answer’s even better.
So you ask me: Great, but why’s this Rusty on the Bolder Beans label?
And I answer that I actually set out to put a photo of my grandfather on the label. Papa was born in 1914—we think. Maybe it was 1915. Nobody really kept records back then. Papa was a cowboy, a hard working oil field grunt, and eventually a tough old steel man. Even working in the steel mill, his friends always called him “Cowboy.”
Papa was a man of few words—when he spoke, even as a kid, you knew you should listen. He could fix anything. Bailing wire, duct tape, and a little backwoods ingenuity was all he needed. Papa also happened to be a great cook. His vittles were the stuff of legend for our whole family and anyone who happened in on one of our backyard gatherings. And that is where I learned a little something about how good food could make folks smile.
Right about now you ask: So why ain’t there a picture of Papa on your beans?
And I answer that I did tell you this was the long version, didn’t I?
It’s actually pretty simple. During his life, Papa never really posed for pictures. From cow pastures, to oil fields, to steel mills, I reckon Papa never felt particularly spritzed up for a photo shoot.
“Spritzed up” may not be exactly how Rusty would call it, either. Some photographer came to visit his Arizona ranch once upon a time and took a shine to Rusty’s tough, authentic, old-school looks. When my graphic designer spotted these photos of Rusty, I immediately thought of Papa. We bought rights to one photo.
Now we had a star for our labels.
Then what happened?
Several years later, we ran an ad in the magazine American Cowboy. Turns out Rusty was a subscriber. (Well, of course he would be a subscriber!) He called me up and said he’d spotted his own face right there on these beans of ours, “bigger than a June bug on a spring leaf.” Yep, that’s how he told it. Not unlike you, he was a little curious how this came to be. I shared the story about my grandfather and I think Rusty was pleased to be associated with a salt-of-the-earth character of that sort.
I now speak with Rusty every couple of months.
He continues to give me great advice that sounds a lot like Papa. I am honored to have Rusty’s likeness on our flagship product, but am even more thrilled to hear his wisdom on a regular basis. He is just the cowboy that we needed.
Thank you Rusty, for bringing some slow, sensible cowboy wisdom back to the too-fast world of today.
P.S. Thank you to all the people who have loved our flagship Bolder Beans. We’ve now expanded our product line and this has allowed us to add more faces to our labels. You’ll be downright pleased to know that we located a photo of Papa and added him to our new pickled garlic.
The Legacy of Rusty – Admiration and Memories
In early January of 2016, I received the unexpected call that Rusty had passed away. I had just spoken to him in early December, and he sounded happy and in good spirits. We talked about publishing his Cowboy Poetry and our respective family holiday plans.
And then he was gone.
Our friendship started with an awkward phone call, grew with a smile, and quickly gave rise to a wonderful collection of shared memories. I now realize the best thing about all those memories… was making them!
I literally see Rusty’s face everyday at work. As the labels pass quickly through the high speed label machine, I often smile, knowing that this tough old cowboy made our world a better place. I am honored to have known him. But more importantly, I am honored to know that he called me his friend.