Friday, March 4, 2011


I lived in South Austin for many years. Each and every day I saw the human fixture on the corner of S.1st and Ben White (Hwy 71) which most people deemed simply as "Ben White". He "parked" his shopping carts full of treasures in the parking lot of the Chucky Cheese across the street. When he wasn't sleeping on the bus stop bench he was reading. Yes, reading.
People had all kinds of rumors about his story:
"He is a genius and chooses to be homeless",
"He is a crazy Veteran",
"He changes his location based on the Sun",
"He only eats Honeybuns from 7-Eleven".

Whatever his story was or might have been, he seemed to impact my life. It wasn't that he was "homeless" really but rather "houseless". He definitely had a home.

I snapped a few pictures of him (which I unfortunately lost with the loss of my old sketchbook) which I used as reference for sketches, a painting, and a few digital mixed media works.

2007, The Ghigh

Well, as the story goes...
He disappeared one day. (It was just after I too had disappeared from Austin.) Locals set up a memorial on "his" bus stop bench, brought flowers and candles, and mourned the passing of Mr. Ben White. Shortly after, a story surfaced that claimed Ben White was in fact still alive and he had been adopted by a family in Wimberly and was living on a beautiful ranch.

Image courtesy of the

I believe that the story of his moving to Wimberly is true. Just as I  believe that the books he read on the corner of 71 & S.1st were tales of Minimalist Happiness, Enlightenment, How to Survive without Consumerism, The Simple Life, or something along those topics...


db1648 said...

Thank you so much for posting this story. I was working with homeless people as a social worker when I lived off of Hwy 71. I saw this man often and occasionally bought him water, snacks and clean socks at the corner 7-11. I do not think I ever knew that your painting was also of him. He was not one of my clients but I always wished that one of the times I gave him my card, he would make it in to see me and let me help him. I now see why he never did, the universe had a different plan for him. My help would never have been able to amount to the kind of serenity and happiness I am sure he is living on that farm in Wimberly. Sometimes I love discovering the way life works out and knowing the surprises that you never could anticipate but that manage to occur against all odds. You just made my evening. Thank you, everything is gonna be alright.

valbrown said...

I love that this man is a memory of yours too. It truly is amazing the way life "works out".