by Bruce A. Smith
I didn’t see their arrival when the three Colorado cowboys entered the Steamboat Springs aprés-ski bar.
Nor did I hear my friend whisper, “Who let those damn cowboys in?”
But the cowboys heard it and the lead-of-the-three walked up behind me and put a large hand on my shoulder. With a firm grip, he pulled me around and out of my chair. As I swung, straightened my knees and stood up.
“Are you the guy bad-mouthin’ cowboys?” he asked.
“No, buddy. I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I replied.
“You didn’t say something about ‘damn cowboys’ when I walked in here?”
“Nah. I didn’t hear anybody say nothin’ about cowboys.”
The blank, naive look on my face convinced him I was telling the truth.
Then. the cowboy lowered his head and put his chin whisker-close to mine and said, “Whoever did ain’t got no right to be talking about cowboys that way, and I’m gonna see to it that they don’t.”
Then tapping me on the chest with the back of his knuckles, he smiled and said, “I wanna fight so bad my teeth are chattering.”
I smiled back, and put my hand on his shoulder. “You must want to fight pretty bad,” I said, chuckling.
He continued grinning for a moment, but then quickly lost his smile. Squeezing his mouth tight, he said, “Shoot, I can’t fight you, you’re a nice guy.”
Yes, I’m a nice guy. I’m a former altar boy, peace-nik, force-for-love-and-righteousness-in-the-world type of nice guy. I’ve been a Boy Scout, environmental activist, and a healer-in-many-a-hospital. I’ve helped raise a lot of other men’s children. Several of my step-daughters told me I’m the role model for the kind of guy they’d like to spend the rest of their lives with.
But when I left the mother of those children, she and several of her daughters exploded with a rage I didn’t know possible by the human species.
When I ended my relationship with my next partner – on the day we were to leave New York and relocate to Santa Fe – I spoke for her as she stammered, trying to express a white-hot rage.
“I’m not a very nice guy, am I?”
“You certainly are not, BUSTER!”
Later, I learned at work that several of my female colleagues had refused to directly work with me because my large physical size and “masculine-presence” triggers flashbacks of sexual abuse in their childhood.
Further, the boss who relayed that information to me also announced that my arrogance “terrifies” her, and I didn’t even know I was arrogant.
For a nice guy, I’m triggering a lot more havoc than I anticipated. I wonder how much trouble that cowboy has caused in his life?
More than mine? Less? Is his simply more blatant, and mine more random, hidden by a New Age-Nice Guy sanctimony?
© 2011 Bruce A. Smith
By the way folks, have you heard about another kind of “nice guys,” the nineteen fellows named Phil Campbell who desecended upon the town of Phil Campbell, Alabama recently to help repair the place after it got blown to smithereens by the tornados last month? I’d love to post the story here, as I’ve just read about it on the online version of the New York Times. I absolutely loved the piece. But, of course, I’d be tangled up in a lot of copyright issues and reprint costs, so here’s the link: