"You know, those little clamps that you pinch with a pair of pliers...for a lawn mower?"
The chubby guy behind the counter at the farm store stared off absently for a full thirty seconds as he attempted to grasp what I needed.
"Ooooh!" I saw that light bulb glowing dimly above his head, "Like for your fuel line! Yeah, we ain't got none of those. We do have fuel filters, though!"
My head dropped as I turned and headed for the door. I had been everywhere in this podunk town...both places and neither had those clamps I desperately needed to repair my lawn mower.
And so it goes when you live in a small town. Pray your sneaker doesn't have a blowout...not a shoe to be had in our little community since the Walmart closed down. I glanced over at the abandoned building as I drove passed it on the way home, the faded facade still sporting the outline, 'WALMART' above the shuttered doors. On down the road a ways I passed by the Sears Homestore, standing vacant and dark as the Walmart. The Sears folks had simply disappeared into the night a few weeks ago, not bothering to announce their departure. Word around town is they emptied their inventory into a U-Haul truck in the wee hours of the morning and drove away...just like that.
Arriving home, I reached for my laptop and within a minute or so had ordered those little clamps I needed from Amazon. Five clamps for less than five bucks and with my free trial of Amazon Prime, free two-day shipping! I would have easily burned twice that much in gas driving up to the city for those clamps. I chastised myself under my breath for even wasting the gas to drive to the farm store. Amazon had become a way of life for me since the closing of Wally World, and judging from the numerous packages protruding from rural mailboxes up and down my road, I'd say I'm not alone.
UPS has announced plans to hire six thousand workers as they roll out Saturday delivery. The Post Office has quit their whining about losing money. And if you need further proof, Amazon is poised to hire five thousand new workers, work-from-home customer service representatives, to handle their constantly mushrooming business. Meanwhile, Walmart, Sears, JC Pennys, and Payless Shoes are locking up stores faster than a loose woman after a rich man.
The world as we knew it changed as we binged out on Netflix with glazed-over eyes. Actually quite rapidly, I believe. Like overnight! We, unable to pry ourselves away from continuous episodes of 'Supergirl' and 'The 100,' began to discover we just simply didn't want to leave our homes. So, in desperation and a dire need for supplies like shampoo and underwear, we turned to Amazon.com. By the droves!
Here's how I know...I have a few websites here and there. Why? They have from time to time made me some pocket change. In fact, those pesky Google ads that annoy all of you so much paid off my house and my pickup. And I still had enough fun money left over to occasionally chase a few women on Saturday night. But over the past few months, my revenues from Google have dwindled dramatically. I'm talking no more Happy Hour at Sonic!
Google considers themselves the god (little g) of the internet. Trust me, they do. The very thing that made google GOOGLE was their advertising and since their conception, the company has shared a portion of their revenues with webmasters who are willing to place ads on their sites. But I think Google has fallen asleep at the wheel, perhaps like those retailers going under on a daily basis.
I have gotten accustomed to my pocket change...that monthly check from Google, and as those checks became smaller and less frequent, I began searching for something more. During the past few weeks I have redesigned most of my websites, The Rusty Goat included, and incorporated Amazon ads throughout them, trimming down Google's presence. And the result? A two hundred percent increase in revenues! Yes, I admit I am overwhelmed as I wipe tears of happiness from my face.
Not only do I sell my books exclusively on Amazon (pocket change) I am now a die-hard Amazon Associate (more pocket change.) But in spite of the income, I am able to garnish from the company, I am also a true believer in the concept of Amazon. As a frequent Amazon shopper, I save significant money...even more since going Prime. My stuff shows up in the mailbox in two days and I have a world of variety to choose from when I shop. And I can shop while bingeing on 'The Heart of Dixie.'
Here's a rundown of my Amazon purchases this month:
Ariat Western Boots $100.00 (Western Store $169.00)
Imitation Rogaine 3 bottles $18.00 (Walmart 1 bottle $12.00)
Blades and belt for the riding mower $35.00 (Sears 80.00)
Cabin filter for the pickup $7.00 (Auto Zone 15.00)
European virgin human hair toupee for men $105.00...I didn't really buy that! Just seeing if you are paying attention.
I gotta wrap this up. The Smoke Shop in town was out of my Irish Latte Vape Juice. What if Amazon doesn't have that? Cinnamon, cotton candy, watermelon...this may take a while. Hemp flavored...wonder what that tastes like?
What is our world going to look like in five years if all the stores close down? Heck, we'll never know, we will be streaming Amazon movies and shopping online for popcorn...hey, here's something called 'Horny Goat Weed,' Interesting...
See the author's books
I am an author. I have to remind myself of that sometimes. I've kept that part of me a secret to many people for a very long time. In fact, up until two years ago I never attached my name to any of my writings, disguised behind the mask of 'The Rusty Goat.' It was out of necessity at first. Those stories in the very beginning were about real live people, mostly crazy women, who had haphazardly crossed my path, most times only hours before the tales went live on the internet for all to see. So, you can see the need for secrecy.
I feared I'd be discovered, and sometimes I was in spite of my best efforts to remain incognito. Some women just disappeared. One confronted me with a warning.
"You better be glad I don't have my pistol with me!"
And another took vengeance by pinning women against the restroom wall at the bar.
"That guy you're dancing with out there...stay far, far away from him! He'll destroy you!"
There were even rumors she had scribbled her warning on the women's restroom stalls. I dunno. It's not like I could go in and check.
I even got busted by the preacher at church. I had made a bad judgment call by listing my twitter name in the church online directory and well, really who reads that? The preacher! There I sat one Sunday morning amongst a thousand other sinners. The pastor takes his place behind his pulpit and gazes directly at me then lowers his eyes to the notes before him, and with an audible sigh, shakes his head in disgust. The topic for his morning sermon? Why a bar is no place for a Christian. It was during that sermon that I made the decision to dedicate my talents to writing 'something of substance' from that day forward.
I made a difficult decision to take off the mask as I made preparations to release the novel, 'Imperceptible - The Parables of Steele,' a book which I had digilently struggled to create as a work worthy of attaching my name to. It wasn't that particular book that made me uneasy about coming clean with my secret passion of writing. I knew the revelation that I was an author would open up a can of worms about the previous books. 'The Search for the Perfect Woman' could get me in hot water...and it has more than once. I have had local women literally hunt me down after reading that book. The scenerio looks something like this:
"I am not the Rusty Goat. He is a figment of my imagination. I just made him up!" I protest, staring at one woman or another standing before me wearing nothing but a robe.
She smiles, a twinkle in her eye, "I know, I know..." as the robe falls silently to the floor. (Okay, that only happened twice.)
Even with the release of 'Nineteen Seventy Something,' I had to maintain some attempt at anonymity. There is a woman or two...or three who could read this novel and pause mid-sentence.
"Wait a minute...this is me in this book! How dare him!"
Well, I deny everything! I write fiction. I make people up in my head! And chicklet, you were a bit phycho back in the seventies.
Even when I cautiously admitted I indeed wrote books two years ago, I was very selective with who was privy to receive this breaking news. I diligently skimmed through my Facebook friend list, choosing only those whom I felt I could trust. Even then, I only let them in on what I wanted them to know. My own mama only knows about one book...that I know of. Do I really want her reading 'The Search for the Perfect Woman?' And even with many being aware of the books, they have no clue of my weekly blogs. You just have no idea how it is to write these articles with the knowledge that if I make one mis-step, someone I know personally might take it offensively...and personally.
As you'd expect, as time passed, more and more of those close to me have discovered this 'ill kept secret.' A resurgence of discovery has reached epidemic porportions in the past month, thanks to a few personal acquaintences who have become dedicated fans of my work. So, the secret has been unleashed... and I may as well embrace it with open arms.
There are downfalls. It changes friendships. People I know seem to shy away once they discover my secret, maybe from fear that I might kill them off in my next book...I don't know. Perhaps it places me in a different league somewhere in their minds, like 'Why can't you just watch football and drink beer like the rest of us?' There are a few who are convinced that I have another deep, dark secret. That I am only playing the part of a dirt poor washed up over-the-hill wanna be cowboy. I have millions stashed away in some foreign account... they're sure of it. To set the record straight, I make a couple of bucks off of a book. I have to sell five books just to go to Starbucks. But regardless of the consequences, I have to confess.
"My name is Rodney Strange. I..." I pause as sweat forms on my brow, "am an author."
My eyes lock onto one woman in the room staring intently at me.
"We've met somewhere?" she questions.
"Yes," I respond as my heart races, "I believe you're in chapter five..."
Books by author Rodney Strange
You've heard of dry humor? I do dryer humor. I go through dryers faster than I go through women. Yes, dryers...clothes dryers. I am on my third one this year. I know this is not a typical topic for a single man, but I'm not the typical single man. I am a single parent to a teen aged girl. Some of you are nodding in understanding now. One cannot go through a single day without a dryer with a teen aged girl in the house. Unfortunately, I suffered through three days of NDS...'no dryer' syndrome. It wasn't easy. I probably need counseling.
I had a dryer...bought it twenty years ago along with a matching washer. The last three years of its life was touch and go. At the end, it was on life support. Finally out of pity, I pulled the plug. Wasn't really pity per se, it died with a good forty pounds of wet clothes inside it. Before you marvel at the fact that a dryer lasted twenty years, let me explain. It wasn't actually used for twenty years...it left for about ten years. With my ex-wife. It wasn't too long after the ex and the dryer and our child left that the trio stumbled across a fella who had a dryer of his own and that dryer went into storage. I happened to meet a woman who had a dryer as well, so it all worked out...for about seven years. As much as I liked her dryer, I found the woman herself impossible to live with, and as luck would have it when I kicked her to the curb, the dryer went with her.
Finding myself dryer-less and womanless, I called the ex who had left with my first dryer and questioned her about it. Yes, she said, it was in storage. Do I need it, she politely and thoughtfully asked. I replied that I was in desperate need of a dryer, and by the way, that evil woman took the washer as well. As luck would have it, both were in storage just waiting for some needy man like myself to come along. And then she moved in for the kill.
"I'll sell both of them to you for three hundred dollars."
I grew quiet as I lowered the phone from my ear and flipped it off. I could distinctly remember standing in the appliance aisle down at the Sears and Roebuck, writing out a check for over five hundred bucks for the pair some years earlier...and now I was expected to buy them all over again for three hundred bucks! But I needed a washer and dryer.
The old dryer ran like a Lincoln up until the weekend before school started this year, and really could it have picked a worse time? As my daughter headed out the door to spend the weekend with her mom, I stopped her.
"Hey, do you know if your mom has another dryer?"
With a sly smile, she responded, "I'll see what I can do."
Before the sun set that evening I was the proud owner of another used but free dryer. I must admit it took the edge off of my paying for the other one twice. Now, how my ex keeps coming up with all these dryers is a story in itself, and it's really none of my business...or yours. I'll just say this...if a man wants to work his way into a woman's heart, or wherever he was trying to get to...I suggest a bottle of wine and some roses, not an old beat up used dryer. But hey, it got me through a whole three months and I didn't have to buy any wine or flowers.
And so this evening I again stood in the aisle of the Sears and Roebuck, staring at dryers.
"I like this Kenmore." I pointed to a dryer that looked just like all the rest.
"Sure, I can order one for you and it will be here Monday." the pony-tailed, goatee-sporting salesman responded.
'Naw, you don't understand. I need it tonight."
"But this dryer is just for show. I can't sell this one to you."
"You don't understand. I have a teenaged daughter at home."
"Oh..." He stroked his beard as he thought for a minute, "Well, back your pickup up to the door and we'll load this baby up!"
Hey, what's that? The buzzer! My clothes are dry...I'm so excited!
It was eight years ago this month that the Rusty Goat came into being. I swear it was an accident, not premeditated nor a random item on my bucket list that I wished to fulfill. I was just a suddenly single, over the hill west Texas cowboy who had begun to venture out into the world of dating. I had set out to find the perfect woman, something I’d not managed to accomplish in the fifty something years I had been roaming this earth.
Being inexperienced with the dating game, I did the only thing I knew to do. I began searching for the perfect woman in, of all places, a bar. No, I never found her, but night after night I’d come home with a story to tell, not that there was anyone here to listen to it. So, at the suggestion of a friend or two, I began telling my weekly stories on the internet. And as they say, the rest was history.
It started out with a few hundred stopping by the Rusty Goat website every week, then as time passed, a few thousand became a few hundred thousand. I haven’t been keeping track, but I believe around .3.5 million folks stopped by my site last year to see what the fictitious Saturday night dancehall cowboy has been up to.
It’s true. I have held a thousand women or more out there on the dance floor, and I confess I enjoy sharing that with most anyone who will listen. But when the dust settled on the dance floor and the lights went out, I had not found the perfect woman, just lots of stories to tell. I gave it up…the boot scooting and the woman chasing, though not for the reason you would think. I enjoyed my freedom, much like a wild mustang on the open range. I cherished the adventures. I constantly made mental notes inside my little brain as yet another story took shape on another Saturday night. Perhaps I had long given up the idea of actually finding a woman. It was the search for another story that kept me going back.
The Good Lord had allowed me to flitter around all my life, living as I pleased, and I did without so much as a thought about where my life might eventually wind up. But there came a time right there in amongst the dancing that I began to feel a change working its way throughout my body and mind. My online following continued to grow and I began to realize that perhaps there was something more I should be sharing with the world besides my silly stories. Week after week as I typed one tale after another about one crazy woman or another, I felt I was sharing nothing more than empty words, yet I continued onward.
What happened next would take a book to tell in its entirety, but short and simple, stubbornly as I plunged forward, my Creator grew impatient with my reluctance to change my ways. So, He changed them for me.
I set out on a new adventure, walking in sunlight even on the cloudiest of days. I moved the radio dial from the country station to Christian contemporary. I started reading my Bible. I went to church every Sunday. And I prayed. It never occurred to me to pray for myself so I prayed for others who needed God’s attention the most. I didn’t know if my prayers were working or not, I didn’t ask the people I prayed for if they’d noticed a change in their lives…seemed an odd thing to do. Then one night I did something different. I prayed for myself, as selfish as it seemed at the time. And things started happening…good things.
I sit here eight years later and ponder the thought that I’d never imagined myself being where I’m at today. I never thought I’d write a book or four. I never thought I’d ever see a day that I wasn’t in debt, yet today I owe no man on this planet a dime. Well, I did get the electric bill in the mail today, but that’s about the extent of my obligations. I never imagined a time would come when I didn’t have to get out of bed and go to work. I still do, but it’s because I lack good sense. I never thought I’d live a day without stress or worry, but since I gave all that to the Lord, I don’t fret much. Unless I break my e-cigarette right at bedtime and have to suffer until the next day. Come to think of it, I never thought I’d ever give up smoking…or drinking. Never was much of a drinker though. Most of all, I never imagined that a day would come when I’d have the privilege of being a full-time single father. It is perhaps the biggest blessing I’ve received in my entire life. God put the perfect little woman in my life…my daughter. What more could possibly be just around the next bend in the road?
So, what are you waiting on? Say a prayer. Say it for yourself and see what happens in your life!
With author Rodney Strange
*Author's note: I wrote this last year during the 'Bathroom Bill' controversy in Georgia and with my home state of Texas tackling the issue in its current legislative session, I thought it was good for a rerun...enjoy.
I guessed it was probably around midnight as I pushed and shoved my way through the crowd toward the restrooms. The bar was packed beyond capacity, I was certain, filled not with the typical Saturday night wannabe cowboys and lonely women, but with rowdy football fans. Tension was high with a Texas Tech win over the Oklahoma Sooners and scores of fans sporting their teams' logos raised their voices over the blaring music, each determined to outdo the other. Me...I just wanted to pee.
As I approached the restrooms, my mouth fell open as I caught sight of a line of women stretching from the far side of the bar to the door of the women's' room. Women stood squirming in a never ending line waiting their turn. I forcefully pushed my way through the line after several polite attempts to pass failed, the frantic, fairly intoxicated females apparently fearing I would try to cut in. Once I had cleared that obstacle, I was relieved to find a somewhat shorter line leading to the men's' room. After a fifteen minute wait, I finally found myself inside the tiny room where at least thirty people were crowded against each other, impatiently waiting their turn. In the din of agitated voices, my ears caught several shrill, screechy voices above the rest. Women! A dozen or more drunken chicklets had taken their stand inside our restroom, giving up hope of ever making it into the women's' room. It would be a new experience for me, but I needed to pee, having reached my limit of two beers.
Another fifteen minutes later, I found myself face to face with a urinal. With a sigh of relief, I assumed my position. A huge Sooner fan at the urinal beside me squirmed his way back and a cute little blonde suddenly appeared in my peripheral vision, quickly squeezing her little hiney into the urinal, her stare stoically focused on the floor beneath her. I froze. I mean, literally froze.
'I can't do this!' I thought to myself, 'try...you need to pee!'
I glanced over my shoulder as a petite brunette began goading my rear with a half empty beer bottle.
Sweat formed on my forehead. Relax, I told myself. Still nothing.
"Why aren't you peeing?"
It was the blonde beside me, intently staring.
"You're watching me?"
That's about as far as I should go with that story. Restrooms are a sore subject right now and I don't want to get into any trouble. Folks are losing their jobs over restroom talk. It may come to beheadings and crucifixions and I'm really not ready to lose my head over potty talk. I'm just a storyteller and this particular story is the one that comes to mind in light of all the hoopla in recent weeks. But the point I want to make with this tale is...even though this event took place at least five years ago, it is still fresh on my mind. Out of all the times I peed in that particular restroom in that particular bar...it is this memory that comes to mind. I am a full grown man. A smoking hot twenty-something-year-old intoxicated chick dropped her britches and peed not more than twelve inches from me. And I'll never forget it. Perhaps I'm scarred for life.
But we can't talk about that. So, let's go this route. I personally don't believe that collectively we have the kahunas to stand up and protest this current fiasco. I don't think that we in mass unison, will refuse to shop at Target or use Paypal or terminate our business ventures with any of the other businesses who have risked everything for a man's right to pee where he deems appropriate. I believe Springsteen concerts will still sell out and I think millions will still tune in Nashville every week even thought Connie doesn't feel comfortable filming in Tennessee anymore because they're not 'potty friendly.' It saddens me to say this, but America has been steamrolled by dudes in skirts and tights.
Now, bear with me. If I sneak down to the lake and cast a line, knowing I don't have a fishing license, I know what my penalty is if I get caught...a fine. If the city cops ever catch me doing sixty out by the cemetery where the speed limit is fifty, I know the penalty...a fine. There's nothing wrong with fishing or driving sixty miles an hour. It's just that somewhere along the way, the 'powers that be' determined that if they said there was something wrong with it...we should all just go along. We all still go fishing and we still speed, and we know we'll pay the fine if we get caught.
If voicing our opinions about men using women's restrooms is wrong, then fine us! Don't destroy a man's career because he spoke his mind, a right afforded us under the constitution. Pass your damn laws! Make it a crime to speak out! Then punish us under the full extent of the law. Until then...shut up and let us be!
In the meantime, I firmly believe that any person who voices their opinion concerning restrooms, who is harassed, bullied, terminated from employment, and ultimately destroyed...is the subject of discrimination, every bit as much so as those some of you spend so much time fretting over about where they should get to pee. We cannot allow discrimination to be indiscriminate. If we don't stand on this...there will be no stopping point...none! It is absolutely ludicrous for anyone to think that something that has been deemed morally wrong by society since the beginning of civilization as we know it will suddenly be accepted with open arms, no questions asked...just because someone tells us it is now okay. Are we as a society really that freakin' stupid? Lord, I hope not!
Those of you who've followed my stories all these years already know this, but for some of the folks who have recently begun following along, you may not know who I used to be. Well no, I figure you really don't care and no, I never was somebody famous. But up until a couple of years ago, I was the one your husband always wished he could be...secretly, of course. I was a legend around these parts, a Saturday night cowboy who lit up the faces of thousands of single women over the course of several years worth of Saturday nights. I'm not embellishing one bit when I tell you I've held thousands of women in my arms out there on the dance floor. Quite a number of them fell in love with me and I fell in love with them all. That was my problem...I never could bring myself to let go of all those women to love just one. Looking back, I figure it was mainly because out of all those women, I hadn't met the right one. I suppose I'd still be out there searching for the perfect woman at this moment if things hadn't turned out the way they did.
It was the prophet princess who warned me of a change in my life. She was by far prettier than all the women I'd met along the way, and in the course of a conversation one night, I mentioned that I couldn't understand how, out of all the women I'd met, I'd not found one who was a keeper. That's when she took my hand and stared at me with her sky blue eyes and said,
"God has something He needs you to do first."
I spent a full two years wondering and waiting on God to tell me what I needed to do, and in the process I found myself letting go of the life I had been living. I started venturing into the church building on Sunday morning, something I'd not done in all my adult life. I gave up the bar on Saturday night, didn't even have a single beer in the fridge, and I quit smoking. I curtailed my cussing and read my Bible. As time passed, I began to realize I was not the man I used to be...and still, I waited.
And one day the wait was over. The Good Lord gave me my biggest assignment. There never has nor ever will be another of this magnitude...the biggest blessing of my lifetime. It was that day the winds of fate changed me from an ex-Saturday night woman chasing cowboy into a full-time single parent. That same fate brought a fifteen-year-old girl, who had only known her daddy on a part-time basis, into his home to live. And life has not been the same since that day!
I hear these comments all the time, "She's a single mother...I just don't know how she does it!" Well, I have the answer...A) She's a mother and B) She's a woman! I would never make light of any single mother's challenges, but dammit...try doing all this when you're a man! I'll be the first to confess we aren't built for this! No longer can I just nuke a chunk of smoked sausage in the microwave and call it supper. I have to cook! Laundry is no longer two small loads on a Saturday morning...it's two hefty loads every night! Things constantly disappear, like nail clippers and tweezers...and my money. I have to be social, no not at the bar...at volleyball games with all the other moms, married I must add. I fold clothes that I can't identify, scrub mascara out of the sink, and dump unknown items from the bathroom trash. I receive phone calls and texts from teachers and school nurses. I bake brownies and host sleepovers. I wash pots and pans then wash them again because they don't look clean enough...I never used to do that.
But the hardest part of this full-time dad thing is...I do it all alone. There is no one to turn to for advice, to discuss my child's best interests. I find myself afraid sometimes, afraid I will fail her. And this I know...what's hard for me is even harder for her. A girl needs a mom and as hard as I try to be, I can't be a mom.
So I have this great idea and I just may make millions on it. Rent-A-Mom! Without even stressing my brain I can think of at least four other men who are raising their kids alone. I'm sure there are thousands more. I think I will pop an ad on Craigslist and see what turns up. Just fold the laundry, cook some supper, wash the dishes, and braid my little girl's hair...then go home! Unless she's really cute. No, scratch that. But if the Rent-A-Mom works out, I'm going to franchise!