Remembering a Northern Michigan cowboy



Don’t ask me to explain the significance of that word, because I can’t.

All I know is that in the years before my friend Brian Beyer died, he told me that he always planned on writing a book so people wouldn’t forget him, and that is what he was going to call it.

He never got around to writing that book, and so I hope that by giving people my take on who he was, his memory will stay among us.

I met Brian when he was a bartender in Petoskey years ago.

His long-winded but hilarious jokes kept me laughing for hours, and his stories from the many bars in which he served as a bouncer brightened my day.

Throughout that time, he gave me advice on dating and warned me when the girl I was pursuing wasn’t “the right one.”

As time went on, we started a tradition of trying out new restaurants together as time allows, going as far north as Harbor Springs.

During that time, he recounted stories about the Flying Dutchman, a bar that was likely before my time.

I learned that he had a love for Cards Against Humanity, farming, cutting wood, and food.

As he showed me around the many facets of his world, I learned that he knew the people at the video store by name as he rented from there regularly, knew the various workers in the local bars because he would come out and watch live entertainment simply to be around people.

His analysis of people walking by was generally spot-on and his pride in his property was obvious.

He proudly showed me his pigs, crops, and lumber area, telling me for hours about the family members that used to live there and what their stories were.

The point is, I guess, that I always got the feeling that he was trying to tell me about everyone in his life because he wanted someone to remember them.

He didn’t want anyone to forget his mother, his friends from ages ago, or the effort he went through to brighten up the bartender’s day in Bay Harbor.

He didn’t want people to forget that he ordered crazy entrée choices on his birthday for everyone or that it was the one day of the year he drank.

Everyone called him “Cowboy,” and I could see why.

He was your stereotypical wanderer, going where he felt like around town and making countless friends along the way.

Somewhere in there, he picked up a newspaper guy who was having a rough time.

As a result, I learned where the best and most affordable places to eat are, to always be careful on a stretch of road called “Slappy’s Grade,” and to always take a little time to just sit and enjoy a plate of French fries and get to know people.

I was taught how to break down my sofa before throwing it in a dumpster, and to always back my truck into a parking space so people wouldn’t peer in the back (even though I didn’t have a truck).

More importantly, I learned that “Turn the Page” is not to be sung at karaoke unless you know what you’re doing, and as it turned out, I didn’t.

My time spent with Brian was short, but it was the true definition of time well spent.

If he was afraid of being forgotten, he can rest easy, because those memories will always be a part of my life and the life of anyone who knew him.

We always talked about buying an island after we made millions of dollars (although we never established how we were going to do that).

We laughed about dreams that were far beyond our grasp and eyed girls that were far out of our league.

But, that said, there was always a spark in his eye that told me that someday, he planned to buy and island, and that gave me hope that my dreams could come true too.

I hope he’s on that island wherever it is, and even though I’m not there to laugh with him, I’ll never be able to make a “green monster” drink quite like he did.

Rest in peace, Cowboy.

A grateful Northern Michigan misses you.