Leerie Tagney worked the offramp from northbound I-25 in Monument, where he says he makes about $25 an hour panhandling.
"These are beautiful, generous people," he said. "I don't want to wear it out." He totes a water jug, jacket, snacks and several hats. He likes to look presentable. He prides himself on being a gentleman. He knows the demographics of his client base. "This area leads to upper-middleclass housing and a generally Christian community. I have teenagers give me $20 bills."
He regards it as an investment in a maladjusted misfit who thinks big. "I consider what they give me sacred money. It's in a trust for my betterment, it's not mad money," he said. "I gave up booze 23 years ago. I don't use drugs, I'm not about to start at 71. I like to have a cup of tea and have something at McDonald's and socialize a little bit. I bought a $500 crystal ball on layaway."
His name is on the business cards for tarot card and horoscope readings he does for $10 at the Mercury Cafe in Denver. But it isn't until he starts talking about the octagonal 5-foot clock he's spent four years building with wood and 1,308 upholstery nails that his Mr. Wizard side rears.
"There will be a Buddha in the middle, surrounded by the 12 animals of the Chinese calendar," he said. "I have all the radially codes of the planets, starting with Pluto, in simple and complex form." The clock, which he thinks should fetch $10,000 at auction, will be functional. "It will tell time," he said.