Sonja Rose Klein is a native Texan and graduate of The University of Texas. Retired, she lives up a canyon in west Texas, where she gardens, writes, and raises sheep and goats. She is active in the nearby communities of Barksdale and Campwood and has won awards for her poetry, essays and short stories. Sonja is an adventure traveler, having visited remote places around the world. She prefers the solitary journeys and knows her way around a shotgun. This excerpt is from her latest book Ambushed in America.
I’m an older woman. The oldest man I’ve ever been to bed with was 65. Viagra made it possible. I didn’t know it at the time, and if I had known, I would have been turned off.
After that experience, I gave up on sex, determined to live without it, but fate was kind to me one day as I was dumping the garbage I hauled from the ranch. As a steward of the land I forbid a dump on my property. Many ranchers simply dig a pit, dump their garbage, burn it when it becomes full, and repeat the cycle over and over again. Not me. I pay a monthly fee to deposit my garbage in a trailer in the nearest town of Barksdale.
I also take my cans, magazines, bottles, and plastic to the recycle center 60 miles away in Uvalde. My vegetable scraps are placed in a barrel to provide compost for my garden, and my meat scraps are placed in one of the hog traps I keep baited. My garbage is minimal.
On that day I was retrieving a single white plastic bag from the back of my pickup when a voice called to me from the local cafe across the highway.
“What are you doing Sonja Klein?”
It was Billy, an acquaintance of more than a decade.
“What do you think I’m doing, Billy? I’m dumping my garbage.”
I was also on the way to give a talk about writing to the middle school students at the small consolidated school a few blocks away.
Billy looked good. I got in the truck and rolled the window down.
He approached the truck. “You curled your hair.” “Do you like it?”
“You look good too.”
“I had some health problems, almost died. I’ve quit drinking.” “Have you been dancing lately, Billy?”
“Call me. Let’s go dancing.”
Billy is a good dancer. I know that because I have danced with him on a few occasions since our first meeting years ago beside the road. His truck had broken down, and I gave him a ride. When he introduced himself I realized who he was, the son of friends from church. There was a spark between us, but I never fueled the fire though I must admit I thought about it over the years when we ran into each other.
The story is classic. Several weeks later we met at a local benefit. We danced and the rest is history. For once in my life the timing was right. We were both single, had no excess baggage, and the spark became a bonfire – a bonfire that raced through our little community like a raging inferno.
Billy is 14 years younger. After some initial anxiety Billy and I decided the hell with the age
difference. If it didn’t matter to us, why would it matter to anyone else? We were wrong. The relationship was okay with all the men. Not so with the women. Most of them knew my age.
To them I was the older woman seducing one of their young. My reputation was ruined.
It bothered me, but not that much.
We talked about it. I told Billy, “If you were an older man with a much younger woman, it would be okay.”
He agreed. I mentioned several couples in the canyon lands where the woman was much older. The community had accepted them. I asked Billy, “Why not us?”
“Because you are the wealthy woman writer and I’m from here. They either think I’m in it for your money or you are a dirty old woman.”
“None of that is true.” “We both know that.”
“They think I’ve stolen one of their own, and they’re trying to protect you.”
“Sonja, I’m 56, been married three times. I think I know what I’m doing.”
“I’m over 70 and sure as shit think I know how I feel.” “Just don’t die on me.”
“I’ll try not to.”
“I don’t want to get married.”
“Billy, I’ll never marry again, tried four times. Marriage doesn’t work for me.”
“Doesn’t work for me either.”
We spend the weekends together, get along great, and the raging fire of gossip is extinguished. Time takes care of most everything, or as Billy quotes his Granny, “It all comes out in the wash.”
I guess I now fit the definition of a cougar. What a silly term. I’m not that fond of cats.