We called him Rug. His real name was Norman. I don't know how he felt about being called Rug or would he have preferred Norm rather than Norman. I just called him Rug. He usually answered right off.
Rug grew up in Maine sharing a rundown old cape with 5 or 6 family members, the obligatory pack of nasty hounds and enough farm critters to cover them when grocery money was hard to come by. Typical generations old Maine family. Land rich, cash poor. White folks subsisting on cleverness and what came their way. Rug learned early Life was not going to admit it owed him anything.
The typical nickname scenario unfolded. Rug found his own nick name in his own unique way. Something about a party somewhere in the woods near an empty farm house, a rug, too much beer and way too many tokes over the line. There was a steep field of tall grass involved also. Seems Rug was located late the next morning rolled up into an old dusty musty nasty rug at the bottom of the hill. Passed out and drooling to beat the band. One tale said they looked for him for better than an hour before they spotted one puke covered Maine Hunting Boot sticking out. Figured he had wandered off into the woods. No one took the time to check for a body inside that rug down the hill. Not even Rug could explain exactly how he ended up there.
With those scary huge eyes and that large face stuck uncomfortably into my space, "Dude, we don't always know where we're going, why we're going, or how we got there."
A chuckle and then a grin fractures a face meant to laugh, "We just sometimes wake up and find ourselves there."
Rug headed off to war during the first Gulf flare up. Stayed in long enough to acquire those non com stripes and realize the World did not drop off some edge just past Rockchester, New Hampstah.
His 2nd hitch up, he put on new civies, some new sneaks, scored a bag of green bud, and enrolled in Trinity College somewhere in Vermont, Mass or Maine. Focusing on what he knew, what he grew up with, Rug had a notion that becoming a well rounded and educated future steward of our wild lands might just satisfy his urge to live off the land. Learned about Foresty, Recreation and Conservation. All that tree huggin stuff a guy needs to know just to understand what's hip in the lumber world today.
Rug met his life mate, Anne with an E, at Trinity. A no bullshit Brit from the comfortable family of a construction engineer. She had what it took to match Rug step for step, shot for shot. Giving as good as she got, Rug couldn't resist her toe to toe personality and those long legs. He fell in love. It seems she did too.
They moved to Springvale, Maine after having their fill of college and Rug built a one room palace on some land his ole man broke off the family land. With no running water and no electricity to run the blender for drinks, they settled in and made a life for themselves.
It was at this point or close that I first met Rug and Anne with an E.
Rug, Part Two
My first encounter with Rug was unsettling for me. He came into my shop with two other mill rat gonna-bes pushing a sad and poorly cared for mountain bike. In that typical Rug fashion, he was loud, crowded my safety zone, and tested me hard to see where I stood. Wanting impossible repairs by the next day, he insisted that I could drop what I was doing, put him at the head of the line, and make it happen. Wouldn't take me long, he was sure of that. Just needed some tweaking. Like a strutting Cock of the walk, Rug knew the World revolved around him.
Since I was positive the World revolved around me, I knew we were not going to hit off. I bit my tongue and turned the professional button on. That button that keeps my interactions with the public from turning ugly.
I put his bike on the stand and began to tick off all the problems that jumped off the bike at me. I turned the pedals, flipped through the gears, pulled on this, pushed that and felt tension there.
"Brake pads are toast. Your cables and housing are nasty and need replacing. The cranks are loose - most likely need a new Bottom Bracket. Both derailleurs are past their prime. Wheels need truing and by the way, have you ever cleaned this thing?"
I looked up at him. His eyes had a twinkle in them and the start of a smile, "So what you're telling me is this is a piece of shit".
"In a nutshell, yeah I guess I am."
"Can you fix it by tomorrow? They boys need someone to chase." I could almost see him puff up when he said that.
From the corner where the Camebaks hung gathering dust, one dark haired buddy he came in with said, "Rug you are so full of shit. I kick your ass on the trails and you know it."
Ten minutes of back and forth chest thumping male one upmanship later, I finally broke the male bonding unfolding on the floor, "So what do you want to do? Leave it and I can have it ridable in a week for around $75. Almost perfect for about $160.
Because of his size or just his alpha dog chutzpah, Rug was used to getting his way. He did not want to hear "next week". And after years of hearing "tomorrow?", I had become numb to any but the most intense intimidation or whining. Rug used both and I had him his bike the next day. Bastard.
The nine years that have elapsed since that first encounter have been interesting. Rug became a very good friend, a friend I could trust. Anne with an E became one too. The up front and honest way they carry themselves made it impossible to not like them. The loyalty they confer on those they see as friends has no strings, no alterior motives. Once a friend, always a friend.
My friendship with Rug and the rest of Team Burn proved I still needed to work on my tendency to make snap judgements. They proved to be more than the Mill Rat townies I thought they were. Sure they managed to piss me off and frustrate me sometimes, but never did I feel our friendship was tied to my cash register.
Rug does not ride as much now. He is curently finishing up a post beam home he and Anne with an E put up with their hands and some help from their friends. He pops in on occaision and makes me laugh. But rarely do we talk about bikes. His visits are that of a friend just keeping in touch.
AN Afterword that really should have been a before word -
A little fiction to make a token effort at disguising the person highlighted. At least that's the plan. How much fiction will depend on how loose with the truth I end up being.
*Post tapped in to the time and rhyme of Manassas, and a generous dollop of Bromberg and The Soggy Bottom Boys