Probity was not a term that you would have associated with me in years past. In all truth, many associates would snicker hearing the term applied to me. But each autumn, I’d turn serious and carefully consider my options for finding warmth and security for the coming winter. Please no grasshopper/ant comparisons!

Yesterday I was out driving, and that old feeling hit me; autumn was arriving. I had to start nesting for the winter. But, of course, I’m older, I’m not roaming, and I have a stable lifestyle. I’m a real card-carrying member of the bourgeoisie. I have a home, family, and regular lifestyle.

But there was a time when I’d stop roaming at the onset of fall, begin looking for a stable job, place the guitar in the corner of the room, and trim my hair neatly. Presentable at last I’d be a candidate for young executive trainee of the month…well, OK, that’s going a bit too far. However, I think you get the picture. Well-spoken, neat, presentable in good company, I might eventually drift into view of some young lady who saw me as a “project.”  

I never cleaned up enough to hide my rambling, folk music playing, neer do well nature. I just swept it under the rug. Most observant women saw this and either stayed clear or enjoyed my company on an occasional basis without forming a relationship. 

Men and women who delude themselves that they can change others who are determined not to change are a danger to themselves and the poor idiots they attempt to change. Someone is bound to get hurt. 

So, one autumn, a young lady named Paula decided that I had “potential.” Of course, I did have potential, just not the sort that Paula saw in me.

Through February, we were an item. But you know the old saying that most people can behave for six months, but then the truth starts coming out? I didn’t bother to conceal what I was; anyone who practiced guitar for four hours a day and was constantly itching to be back on the road is not a good candidate for settling at the local mill for a lifetime. But Paula had an adamantine determination that I would change, and she would be the catalyst of that change. Towards the end of February, the fights started. Then her father took me to the local bar for a heart-to-heart on how there were good opportunities at the mill. Her brothers made veiled threats. Then she tried to pawn my guitar -because I wouldn’t need it anymore. I salvaged my guitar and hid it with a friend. But things continued to escalate.

I came home one night to find my pack in the garbage, another item I would not need anymore. So the next day, while she was at work, I grabbed my few things and stuffed them in the pack, fetched my guitar, and hitched out of town in the middle of a snowstorm. I didn’t stop until I reached Portland.

A mutual friend found me one night a year later in a coffeehouse. I had just finished a set when they waved to me from their table. I grabbed a coffee and sat down to catch up. Paula had been heartbroken when I left. But with a few weeks, she decided to accept Sonny’s overtures of affection, and he became her new project. Sonny alternated between looking trapped and pleased. Finally, it looked like he’d settle in fine for Paula.

My friend laughed and mentioned that Sonny was like a fly trapped in a spider’s web. I disagreed Sonny and Paula had a deal. Either actively or passively, they were spinning in each others orbit. Each got something out of the relationship. It wasn’t something I wanted, but that’s the ups and downs of love: sooner or later, you will find someone who gives you what you want ( but maybe not what you need).

I wandered back to the tiny stage and began my second set with the tune “Stagger Lee and the Devil” the very last verse of the version I sang was why I selected it to start the set. Staggolee has been hung and has gone to hell. Here is the deal he makes with the devil:

Well, Stack says to the devil

Devil, let’s have some fun

You stab me with your pitchfork

And I’ll shoot you with my gun

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