Author's note: In my last two posts I set the stage for the beginning of a series of stories I wrote back in the early days of the Rusty Goat. With the following story, I divulge exactly how this character we affectionately call the 'Rusty Goat' got his name. I like to call it 'Classic Rusty Goat.' Enjoy!
I watched as the U-haul drove down the dirt road, turned onto the highway and disappeared out of sight. The truck carried my wife of seven years, her utterly worthless twenty-eight-year-old son who had never left home until now, and most everything I had ever owned. I sighed a sigh of relief...she was finally gone. Hell, it had taken me twice as long to get rid of her than it did to get her five years ago. I paused and took an assessment of my mental and emotional state...nope, nothing...I was just fine for the first time in a very long time. I turned my head toward the heavens and pointed a finger to the sky and said in a loud voice,
"Alright..I can't pick 'em! You pick the next one!"
I stayed busy the next couple of months...ridding the house of all traces of the woman and her son, learning to cook, do laundry and such. I learned useful things such as...a dryer has a lint filter, a roast doesn't cook in thirty minutes, hamburger helper tastes better if you follow the instructions. I planted a vegetable garden, tended to the flower beds, and washed the curtains which seemed to be somewhat shorter afterward.
I patiently waited for God to send me a woman all the while. When a knock finally came on the door, I scampered eagerly to open it only to discover the ugliest old woman I had ever laid eyes on. I said a silent, quick prayer that she wasn't the one God had picked for me, and let out a sigh of relief when she handed me a package from the post office. "Wouldn't fit in your mailbox. I had to bring it all the way up here," she snarled in her deep baritone voice. I closed the door and it hit me that she had been my only visitor in two months...I was beginning to get lonely.
The nights were long, the silence was deafening. I began to feel myself slipping into a depression. I had never intended to be alone at this age. I would look in the mirror...the wrinkles, the receding hairline...just a lonely fifty-something-year-old man way past his prime that, I was quite sure...no woman would want. My attitude toward life sucked...and I didn't like it. I wasn't a quitter, I told myself and made a decision that life must go on...and wasn't nobody going to change my life but me. I decided that I was going to be happy even if it meant being alone the rest of my life.
I found myself sneaking out onto the patio after dark, turning on a George Strait CD, and dancing all by myself. If I got the urge to dance in the daylight, I'd just dance by myself in the kitchen. I began to get the urge to dance with someone other than myself...the thought of venturing out terrified me. I bought wrinkle cream and Rogaine down at the Walmart...dyed my hair...started digging out my good dancing clothes from the back of the closet. I reckoned that it wouldn't hurt if I went out and did a little window shopping while I was waiting on God to find me a woman.
It happened one Saturday afternoon. I made up my mind that I would run up to the city that night, walk into the bar, and try to get up the courage to ask some woman to dance. Maybe there would be a few really old ladies there, I reasoned. I stared in the mirror and felt the fear in my heart...damn! I'm just an old man, a foolish old goat...who the hell am I fooling. I walked to the closet and reached up to the top shelf and found it...a black hat that hadn't been worn in many years. It had been given to me by an old friend years ago. He had told me it was given to him as a Christmas present and that it never fit him just right. Then he told me a story.
He said he had just wandered through the first half of his life searching for his identity...just never seemed to know exactly who he was or what he was supposed to be. Then one day he stopped outside a western store and stared at the cowboy hats displayed in the window...he stared at them for a long time, then went inside and bought one. He told me that the moment he put that hat on his head he knew who he was supposed to be. It gave him the confidence he had been seeking all his life. I thought about all the years I had known this old cowboy and couldn't ever remember seeing him without his big cowboy hat. I felt a tear in the corner of my eye as I brushed the dust off the old black hat with my hand.
I stood before the mirror again, the hat in my hand.
'Ok,' I thought, 'Maybe the old goat in the mirror can't pull himself together enough to get back out there...he's so, so rusty at this.'
I placed the hat on my head, adjusted it ever so slightly pulling it down low on my brow.
'Now,' I thought to myself, 'where's that little grin that use to get the girls' attention way back in high school?'
There it was...spreading across my face as I felt the excitement flow through my body.
I spoke out loud, "Hell, you ain't nothing but an old Rusty Goat...I think we can do this!"
I turned on my heel and made my way towards the door...and the ol' Rusty Goat headed out in search of his first big adventure!