I was old. Just a washed up, over-the-hill, fifty-year-old guy who had suddenly found himself single. That's right about where we left off on this story last week. It occurs to me frequently that many who land on this page find themselves puzzled by the title 'The Rusty Goat.' Obviously, there are no goats, so why? I'll enlighten you on that with next week's story, but right now I'd like to give you a behind the scenes glance of how I came to write these frivolous stories.
I never saw myself as a writer...still don't really. I showed some promise way back in high school, landing the job as editor of the high school paper. I went on to participate in UIL Journalism events and as luck would have it, wound up at the state finals, capturing second place in news writing and third in feature writing. But after high school I let it all go and never wrote again...until, well, it went like this.
With my ego and self-esteem crushed beyond repair, I set out to find some simile that might pass as a happy life of solitude. That didn't go well and after a few months, I began toying with the notion of getting back out in the real world. Time and time again I struggled to muster up the courage to step out into the world of dating and failed miserably each time. I searched for an answer as to why. Yes, I was old. The wrinkles around my eyes confirmed it every time I looked in the mirror. But I had accepted the fact that if I ever did manage to force myself out of the safety of my home, it would be women my age who had their own wrinkles I'd be focusing my attention on. It was more than that. I had settled into a life of complacency during those seven years of marriage. Not bliss or happiness...complacency. I had been a good, dutiful husband. I was a dedicated father to a child who came to visit every other weekend. I was a farmer of sorts with a pecan orchard and the best herd of goats in west Texas. I had a house bought and paid for and never had to wonder where my next meal was coming from. The upheaval that came with the divorce had shattered my complacency and my competence in myself.
I can recall sitting alone in a darkened house Saturday night after Saturday night, fully aware of the fear that flowed through my body...fear that this was all there ever would be for me. It was the weekends that brought me down. I had my routine throughout the week to pull me through. But I came to dread the weekends, floundering all alone in an empty house, the echoes of silence haunting me. Thoughts of once upon a time screamed in my mind...a once upon a time that gave promise and hope of a 'normal' life that we all dreamed about in our younger years.
The memories that taunted me the most on those horrid Saturday nights were those of a time not so long ago. Before the seven-year marriage...the seven-year nightmare, there was a time when I was not the man I now found myself to be. Pictures flashed through my mind of a man in a black hat beneath the neon lights, some random woman in his arms swaying to the music on a dance floor. Those were the years of adventure. A man in his early forties who could turn the heads of many a thirty-something-year-old woman. Oh, those memories of a man I used to be. Where had he gone?
In a desperate attempt to cling to my sanity on those lonely Saturday nights, I would replay the memories over and over in my mind. I envisioned the night I met Psycho Sherry and smiled...something that I found myself unable to do much anymore. I recalled the times with the married school teacher who forgot to mention she was married. My mind pondered the woman who has inherited an oil company...what was I thinking when I let her get away. Oh yes...I remember. And the bank teller named Jenny. We met on the dance floor and dirty danced one night. It was the following Saturday night that...well, I might have to tell that story later. Oh, the gorgeous little Hispanic girl that I never dreamed I'd ever had a chance with...that ended when I met the preacher's wife. Now the preacher's wife...five stars, buddy! Crazy as a loon, too! And there were so many more.
One Saturday night I sat down with the laptop and a beer. I hadn't written anything in years, yet I had an overwhelming and uncontrollable urge to put those stories on paper. I never had any intention of sharing any of them with a single soul. As my fingers tapped the keyboard into the wee hours of the morning, I found myself smiling, occasionally even laughing out loud. For the next three months, I would spend my Saturday nights retelling these memories to myself, saving each one in a special folder on my computer that no one one would ever stumble across. It was my therapy. Lord knows I needed therapy. As the weeks passed I found myself more and more contemplating taking that first step. But there was still that one stumbling block laying across my path. I was still old, in fact, six months older than when I first began having these crazy ideas of dating.
One Saturday afternoon I printed out all the stories I had written over the past three months. I sat down with a glass of sweet tea and began reading. I would read page after page, shaking my head. This man I read about, this wasn't me...certainly not the man I had become. This man who would step through the door of some country bar on a Saturday night decked out in a black cowboy hat and starched Wranglers was some sort of super-hero. He rescued damsels in distress, scooping them up in his strong arms, holding them tight, their bodies close, swaying to music beneath the neon lights. He would kiss them gently as the last song played and turn and walk out into the night, leaving them yearning for more. He held their hearts in the palm of his hand and though trying so hard no to, broke more hearts than he could count. The man I read about in those pages was a man on a mission...a mission to find the perfect woman. No, this man wasn't me but it was he I had to become if I were to succeed. As midnight came on that Saturday night, I carefully placed the stories in a safe hiding place and sat in the dark in deep thought.
Throughout these many pages of stories I had written stood one main character, one star, one hero. If there was ever to be a sequel to these adventures, I'd have to find someone to play the part. George Strait? Naw, not that spit and polish. Jeff Bridges? Too rough around the edges. And it was at that moment I discovered the answer I had been searching for. If I, Rodney Strange, an over-the-hill fifty-year-old man with zero self-confidence, couldn't do this on my own, I would just have to step up and play the part of the guy in my stories...an over-the-hill wannabe cowboy, and west Texas' most eligIble bachelor. And my mission? To find the perfect woman!