By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Until about a week ago, Katherine “Khaki” Bell might or might not have believed that angels walk the earth. Now she has proof that they do.
Katherine, who lives in the Nokomis area, checked her purse before she entered Atmore’s Walmart around 4 p.m. last Thursday, November 5, to make sure she had enough money to pay for diapers, milk and the ingredients she needed for the spaghetti supper she was planning for her three children, her mother and herself.
Turns out there was no need to check her financial position.
A sales associate friend of Katherine’s introduced her to a mystery man, someone the local woman had never met before, a man who identified himself only as “Cowboy.” Although Khaki wasn’t so sure at first that his intentions were noble, she decided to play along when the man suggested that he follow her around the store, then pay for her groceries.
“He said he had been fortunate in life, so he goes around and helps people with their groceries,” Katherine recalled. “He said he does this from time to time at Walmart, Ramey’s and Piggly Wiggly, and asked if I would like some help with the milk and other stuff I was purchasing. I was hesitant at first because in today’s world, you don’t know who to trust and who not to trust. But I finally said, what the heck.”
Yolanda Banks, office manager for the Piggly Wiggly in Davisville, just across the Florida line, said she and the store’s staff are very familiar with the angel in a cowboy hat.
“He was in here all summer, doing the same thing,” Banks said. “He just randomly asks people if they need help, and he helps them. And when I say he spends money on them, I mean he spends money on them. If they fill up a buggy, he’ll tell them to get another buggy. You just don’t see something like that much these days.”
Katherine said she had placed several items in her shopping cart when she went to buy some ground beef for her supper, and “Cowboy” followed. As she was selecting a package of meat, he began loading things, including a 10-pound bag of potatoes and assorted vegetables, into her cart.
The angelic intervention didn’t end there, though.
“I told him I had to pick up some medications for my mother, and he followed me to the pharmacy,” said Khaki. “He asked me what my kids wanted for Christmas and spent $20 on each one. That’s $60 right there. Then he asked me about Thanksgiving, and I told him that my dad [Larry McCoy] had died just a little while ago, so I hadn’t really thought much about Thanksgiving.”
She said her benefactor told her to pick out a ham or turkey and put it in the cart. As they waited in line at the register, he picked some candy out for each child (Tyler, 6; Lucas, 3; Emily, 2) and added it to the items piled on the counter. Even before the cash register revealed the total to be $365, Katherine was almost in panic mode.
“I wondered what would happen if we got up there and I had to pay for all that stuff,” she said. “But he swiped his card and took care of everything. I had on a mask, but my jaw would drop every few minutes, when he would get something else.”
Katherine said she kept waiting for the bubble to burst, for her benefactor to say or do something to spoil the magic she was experiencing. But that time never came.
“I thanked him a hundred times, I called him ‘Mr. Cowboy,’ I even hugged him,” she said. “He walked with me out to my car and put all the groceries and things in. It filled up the trunk and half the backseat. I sat 5 or 10 minutes in my car before I could process that this had really happened.”
She said she has swept away any doubt about the encounter, taking it at face value that either Divine Intervention played a part in her life, or her luck underwent a drastic change. It’s more likely the first than the second, she said.
“When I woke up this morning, I felt like it had all been a dream,” she said the day after her encounter with the angel. “To me, it’s good when I win a $1 lottery scratch-off, so I don’t think it was luck. I told him he was an angel on earth, and in my mind, he is a real angel. I know he’s real, because I’ve got the receipt to prove it. I think I’m going to frame that receipt.”
She added that the magnitude of the gesture accomplished something else not easily done.
“When I told my mom [Barbara McCoy], she was speechless,” Khaki laughed. “And anybody who knows mama knows that doesn’t happen very often.”