Cowboy boots from roadside western warehouse somewhere in East Texas
When I got to college in Oregon, I quickly became smitten with a super hunky bad-boy type. He wore a black leather jacket, biker boots, drank whiskey from a flask (at the school cafeteria!), and, of course, rode a motorcycle. He lived on the edge, and I had a feeling my ability to pickle organic garden-grown beets wouldn’t get me too far with the likes of him.
I had a pretty good idea of what bad-boy types were into. My father, while an evangelical preacher (another story for another shoe), owned at least one Harley Davidson at all times while I was growing up. I often rode on the back, and I purchased a Honda 550 with my own money when I was in high school. While that might sound badass, my actual riding experience amounted to crashing the bike into my neighbors’ garage door and vowing to never get on the “death trap” again.
After months of careful “cafeteria strategy,” I developed a flirty banter with Motorcycle Guy. One afternoon, after flashing my best come-hither smile, I was invited to join him for lunch. I found myself telling an invented tale about riding my motorcycle through a quiet mountain road one evening. The plot thickened when I somehow found myself stranded on a deserted road without gas. I saw a glimmer in his eyes, so I went on about the way I pushed the bike for miles… He seemed mesmerized, so of course my imaginary self then abandoned the bike and hiked to the nearest road. I eventually hitched a ride home from a group of hunters hauling a dead deer back from a kill. A broad smile showed his pearly teeth as I told him about the bloodstain that could still be seen on my leather jacket from brushing up against the deer’s hide…
The story had gotten a bit out of control, but I couldn’t stop now. He leaned in and quietly asked me on a date—to go shooting with him. Now, aside from a hunter’s safety course I took to impress my high school boyfriend, I’d never actually spent much time with guns. But I thought it was better not to mention this insignificant detail. I had a date with Motorcycle Guy! And it was going to be like something out of a James Dean movie.
That first date was smooth sailing. He picked me up because I’d told him my bike was still in Vermont, as was my allegedly bloodstained leather jacket. And, while I claimed I’d shot rifles before, cough, cough, I’d never shot a handgun… So could he show me?
By the fourth date, the lies became exhausting. I couldn’t remember if I had hitched or hiked all the way home (and had it been raining?), or if that stain was on the arm or the shoulder? Even worse, I started to fall in love with the guy. I knew if the relationship was going anywhere, I had to come clean. He didn’t even know me—worse, he was infatuated with someone who didn’t exist! That night, he asked if I wanted to give his bike a spin on my own. I told him I was tired and wondered how long it would be until he found out I couldn’t even start the darn thing.
The following weekend, he asked me to join him for a beer. Instead of wedging my feet into my biker boots, I dusted off my black and white cowboy boots. I sat on the edge of the bed and remembered my mom’s tales of my Uncle Si, an old west cowboy who wouldn’t tell a lie, no matter what the circumstances. She’d told me about the cowboy code of integrity and how she wished more people lived by that code. I feared the boots were going to disintegrate off my deceitful feet right then and there.
I took a few steps in my big girl boots and decided to tell Motorcycle Guy the truth. That night as we gazed at each other in the dimly lit dive bar, I let the real story flow. He laughed—this had to be a silly prank I was playing to be cute… right? His face soured when he realized that I had been a liar—and a pretty good one at that.
I braced the heels of my cowboy boots into the bike stirrups, knowing it would be the last time I’d grab his abdomen under his leather jacket. I subsequently spent the next two years avoiding him in the cafeteria. A few years later, I heard he’d found a sweet girl, one who didn’t ride imaginary motorcycles and who turned out to be an avid gardener… I couldn’t help but wonder if he actually might have liked me, just the way I was?
Well, I’ll never know, but I learned the hard way that the truth is always better than a lie. And pretending to know how to ride a motorcycle is something best left to rich, middle-aged men with heated handle bars and ridiculously large stereo systems. Not honest gals in cowboy boots.