Transitions: Railroad Randy

Railroad Randy

Date: Oct. 23

Time: 1:57 p.m.

Location: Hennepin Avenue and 22nd Street

Railroad Randy fires off a staccato six-shooter laugh that’s corralled and abandoned by midday traffic galloping past. He tucks a pair of rented western videos into his pocket and tugs his widebrim hat over his ears.

“In case you don’t know, I kind of get into westerns,” he says in a dramatic drawl. He laughs again. Bang bang, bang bang.

Randy rode the rails for years, photographing trains. Then he lived in Deadwood, where he panned for the color and fished with his hands. That was ’80 through ’83 on the wrong side of the century that bore riches for similarly costumed men.

These days he lays claim to a small apartment in south Minneapolis. His copper pan collects dust as he prospects for alleyway scrap.

He tells a story of the old days and adds a cowboy lip curl to a face cragged, bloodburst and wild with beard. He finishes and laughs, bang bang, and for a brief moment his features turn smooth as a windswept prairie and his avuncular eyes glint with something that might be gold.

Then he mounts his blue mountain bike, plops down on the cracked foam saddle, and rides off into the grey afternoon.