As he eased his battered pickup though a cloud of blue smoke into a poorly marked space, he felt a deep and painful pang in his wallet.
Tradition held that the whoever arrived late (or last) bought the first round for the Tuesday afternoon gathering at the Alpine Tavern. It was not uncommon for the unlucky late-comer to be handed a rather sizeable bar tab upon arrival. Such was the fate of Farley McVee, who walked through the door eleven minutes late, and he was soon to learn, twenty seven dollars poorer.
“Damn, fellers! Twenty seven dollars? Ain’t but the five of you here? What kind o’ beer you boys drinkin?”
Dexter Green, always the calming voice of reason and compassion, said, “Damn, Farley, you damn-well know the damn rules. You weren’t here on damn time, and you damn well know you buy the first damn round. Alvin suggested that the first round should damn well include a damn burger and some damn fries, and the damn vote was unanimous. We ate, you lost. Pay the damn tab, sit your damn ass down and pay some damn attention. Damn.”
To call Farley ‘thrifty’ would be about on par with calling an Oregon February, ‘a bit moist.’ Local legend held that Farley never threw anything away. By the time he was done with it, it had been ‘re-purposed’ out of existence. What began life as a shovel was, over time, reduced to a feed scoop, to a putty knife, to a screw driver, into its current incarnation as a bent, rusted two prong dinner fork. Farley was currently drawing up plans for it to become the first aluminum tooth pick.
Farley, barely managing not to openly weep, paid the tab, and as a token of apology, tossed a bag of Frito’s on the table. Commenting on how they gave him near lethal gas, Derby grabbed a huge handful. Everyone leaned a little farther back in their chair.
The talk turned to New Year’s resolutions. “It’s simple, boys,” observed Scooter James. “Life’s too complicated. Innernet, outernet, bar codes, computers, automatic transmissions. Velcro. Really? Vel-damn-cro on clothes. What the hell is that? I’m sayin’ when a man’s clothes are too damn complicated to understand, it’s time to rein back on progress and grab on to what got us here.”
Dex weighed in. “Hot-dog-in-Hell ! What the hell are you damn well babbling on about, Scoots? You forget your damn fiber medicine again?”
“I tell you, boys,” observed Scooter, “life is just too complicated. That ol’ pickup of mine gets me around real fine. I don’t need no electric/gas/diesel/ wind-up car. I need to get back to what I understand…simple. Boys, I’m tellin’ you, I understand simple.”
Five men, all thinking the exact same thought, barely managed to suppress smiles. “That’s ‘cause you are simple, Scoots,” rang as a clarion within five brains, but never reached their lips.
Rummaging for his seventh handful of Frito’s, Derby asked, How simple you plannin’ to get, Scoots?”
“I’m serious about this fellers. I’m back to boiling my coffee, splitting my own wood and growin’ my own supper. My grandpa never went to Walmart, never ate a frozen pizza and never watched tv.”
“I figger yer supposed to cook them pizzas first Scooter,” commented Farley, wiping a sticky ribbon of drool off his chin.
“Funny, Fartley, very funny.” Under pressure, Scooter was known to resort to name-calling. Childish, yet surprisingly effective.
“I’m going back boys. Back to a simpler, healthier and more easier time. A time when men were men and womens didn’t wear no man pants. Gonna go back to bein’ Nature's man, and living the good life. Gonna live free-range and organic.”
Up until now, Alvin had been pretty quiet, concentrating more on Derby’s intake of Frito’s and the muted rumblings which had begun. “Scooter, this all sounds fine, but, when you gonna start?
“I started late last spring, fellers. Got up one morning, and discovered I didn’t have no clean drawers. Went commando that day, and ain’t never looked back.”
Later that evening, five men, from five different sources, learned what Scooter had meant my ‘commando’. Late into the night, five lights burned in five front rooms, as five men tried to erase images from their minds, while trying not to think of tractor seats, errant sneezes, and zippers.