The man walking into the crowded Starbucks this morning looked out of place. He’d tucked his mud-spattered Ford pickup neatly in between a BMW and a Lexus, strode casually to the front door…and held it open for three different women.

“After you, ma’am….ma’am…ma’am…” I found myself wondering if he was for real.

He wore workaday cowboy boots, not the fancy kind with stitches and metal trim, but the well-worn kind you usually see home, home on the range. His plain black cowboy hat flashed a greasy sweatband when he took it off, and he was clad in unfashionably dark jeans, flannel shirt and a mended jacket.

Now, Portland is a friendly, casual (HIGHLY casual) place, so this guy didn’t stand out as much as he would have in, say, Boston. But he’d chosen one of the very few Portland coffeeshops where yuppies outnumber hippies. It’s smack dab in the middle of the high-tech corridor with its options-rich nerds, dangling security IDs and Audi TTs. As far as I know, the nearest ranch is about two hours away.*

There were at least 20 people in line for the cash register, and they were mostly ordering multiple cups of coffee for the office in flawless Starbuck. Starbuck is a language that every coffee-savvy person in Portland seems to speak but me: Triple-venti-chai-whip-whatevers, iced half-caf double-tall nonfat no-whip mocha with no room, etc.

I always order a “grande mocha,” not because I particularly like it but because my Starbuck doesn’t stretch to a small plain coffee with lots and lots of cream and a dab of sugar. Today I got the usual, paid for it, then lingered to hear the cowboy’s order.

“Mornin,’ ma’am. Big cup of coffee, please.”

I swear, the entire place stopped for a moment, and people just looked at him. Then the lady behind the cash register smiled and said “Certainly!” and one of the barristas poured real, plain old coffee into a take-out cup. She snapped on a lid and handed it to the cowboy. “That’ll be $2, please,” said the cash register lady, and he gave her two ones and a smile.

“So that’s how it’s done,” I mused, as the cowboy strode back to his pickup.

*Folk at work, who do stuff like ride horses in competition, tell me this isn’t true, that working ranchplaces are actually much closer than I imagine. And that the wranglers who work them do occasionally stop in at the Starbucks. “Because you know,” said Shelby helpfully, “cowboys drink coffee, too.”