Hunched over a table at a Jack in the Box, Kevin Woods doesn't look much like a cowboy. No hat, no belt buckle, no boots, not a horse in sight. Here, tucked between a cluster of warehouses and a bustling urban highway, is about as far from the open range as a Texan can be. With his plain red T-shirt lightly dusted with sheetrock, and his calloused hands entwined in front of him, he looks like the home-repair contractor that he is. But it's a cowboy's blood that runs through Woods. This is a man who's broken wild mustangs and wrestled half-ton steers to submission in soft dirt, who can rope a calf and shoe a horse, who's as comfortable in the saddle as behind the wheel of a truck.
Woods was born into farm life in Stamps, Arkansas, a hollowed-out agricultural town a few miles north of the Louisiana border. He left as fast as he could, fleeing for Toledo, Ohio at 14. He took with him his fondness for horses and livestock, but his passion lay fallow for several years as he clawed for survival. He slept on the streets and rummaged through garbage cans for scraps before he fell in with a gang, started dealing drugs and pulled himself out of homelessness.
"I was one of the drug dealers you didn't want to meet on the streets," he says. "I'm the one Momma warned you about. You know, like I said, I was taught in the school of hard knocks."