The Old Broke Rancher on the "Best Years of His Life"

Old Broke Rancher Masthead
The Old Broke Rancher "Best Years"

Illustration by Rob Rath

When I was a child, people always told me to savor it because these are the best years of your life. Again and again, hideous old relatives would stoop over, push their ponderously swollen grown-up heads into my childhood airspace, and assure me that this was the best it was ever going to get.

I could have come home streaked with mud and tears, dragging my broken limbs behind me, maybe even a couple of visible tire prints running the length of my body, and someone many years my senior would get a dreamy look in their eye and say, "Savor it, boy. These are the best years of your life."

Mine being a pessimistic temperament, I eventually came to believe it, by which I mean I steeled myself for worse to come. 

After getting creamed by some troglodyte bully, or screamed at by a neanderthalic football coach, I'd force myself to imagine with horror how awful adulthood would have to be, to be worse than this.

For the most part, they were right. 

I don't know about you, but I think that adulthood, to borrow a young person's phrase, kind of sucked. I was unfortunate in my selection of bosses, in that most of them weren't as privileged as me when it came to their natural supply of intelligence and common sense. Likewise, many of my coworkers were afflicted with what I can only describe as sickly, malformed work ethics, at least when compared to my robust scrupulousness. It has been my curse to be so blessed.

But even if the adults who lined up to gleefully tell me that my adult life would be one of toil and frustration were right, did they really have to tell me so often?

Happy old people

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same, because history repeats itself within the narrow confines of my life. Only now, everyone can't stop pointing out that I'm in the autumn of my years

The thing which I have feared all my life has happened; I'm old now.

The politest of you are probably speaking directly into your magazines now, saying "no, no, Gary, you're as fresh as an English primrose! You, old? That's like saying the Pope has body odor, or that Red Lobster can't make a good cheese biscuit! It's just empirically untrue!"

Well, I thank you very much, dear reader, but I'm afraid it's true - I really am old. Old enough to remember long-vanished worlds that might be more recent than, say, the Triassic, but no less extinct. 

But here's the kicker, the thing I really didn't expect at all:

Being old, turns out, is the best time of my life so far, and I can only assume that the older I get, the better life will be.  

Here are just a few reasons why being old isn't so bad after all.

For one thing, everyone leaves you alone, which is nice. You see, when I was young, I was so over-the-top good-looking that the opposite sex pretty much never left me alone. The better-looking I got, the more I came to envy the Elephant Man because he got to wear a bag over his head.

Then, just about the time that I got married for the last time, I discovered that the overcharged handsomeness that had so vexed me for decades disappeared with an almost audible bubble-popping noise.  

The other side of losing my looks is that there are fewer cowboys who want to fight me. I don't know whether they found my dashing and strikingly prepossessing good looks threatening or alluring or if they were just mad at the fact their wives and girlfriends were waving 'toodiloo' at me from across the bar, but I got tired of fending them off, too.

The first best thing about being old is that everyone leaves you alone. 

But that's not all - there are other advantages too.  

For instance, people are a lot more likely to approach your acts of modest shoplifting with Christian charity if you're old. "What, this Dewalt hedge trimmer? Oh, I've had it for years," you can say while you take one out of the box right there in the store. "At least I think I have... say, where am I? Are you my nephew? Did you say you want to buy my hedge trimmer?"

"Ok there, old timer," they say, "everything's going to be alright," and then they usher me out of the store with all the gentle tenderness of a Florence Nightingale, or at least a Florence Henderson.

happy old people

Likewise, weaponized narcolepsy can prove a useful tool in cases of boredom and social awkwardness. Almost anytime my wife or sons say something like "we have to talk," I have merely to collapse into my soup or crumble in a heap on the floor of a living room, begin snoring gently, and my family will leave me alone, often for the rest of the day, the issue forgotten or deferred until next time. 

When things get really dire I can always clutch my chest and goggle my eyes. This can be especially useful if you happen to be on an extended family hike that you want to end sooner rather than later.

Heck, even the bad parts of getting old have their upsides. Like the fact that having a bad memory means having no bad memories. Or here's another unexpected benefit - not being able to sleep at night means more free time for tossing and turning or contemplating the mortality which is approaching, nay, bearing down on you. Do your loved ones keep asking you to fix things around the house even though you assure them that you'll get around to it every three or four months? Just deploy a mixture of feigned memory lapse and, if possible, earnest ineptitude, and they'll eventually learn not to ask you in the first place. 

In every way, simply, it allows you to manage people's expectations of you. And thank goodness for that, because I was getting pretty worn out from having to be so capable and charming all the time. 

And that's when it hit me-- all of those old folks were lying to me when I was a tender, impressionable child. They were having an absolute ball being septua- and octogenarians. When they pinched my cheek and said "these are the best years of your life," they were, in actuality not deluded as to childhood's inferiority in the face of old age's towering superiority at all. No, they were hiding the truth. Older is better.

If kids were allowed to know that upfront, it would result in general bedlam. Toddler's would toss their strollers over for walkers. Young boys would grab their dad's electric razors and give themselves artificial bald spots like medieval abbots. Young ladies would dye their hair blue (I've been informed this may already be occurring) and start collecting Precious Moments figurines.  

As a result, whole industries would fail in the absence of the young money, as it were, that is their lifeblood; the pre-distressed jeans industry, the kombucha industry, and, yes, even the once-monolithic selfie-stick industry would all be brought right to the brink of utter collapse.

Better, then, to keep quiet and, in the end, perpetuate the same myth that once oppressed me. 

When I see my kids come home from school beaten down, miserable, bent with the weight of childhood's many vexations, I now relish the opportunity to plant a patronizingly nostalgic look on my face, smile, and say, "these are the best years of your lives, kids. Savor it."

Sometimes I feel bad for lying. But I console myself by imagining their bliss once they're as old as me.

Happy old people

Leave a Comment Here

Dan Nelsen (not verified) , Thu, 09/29/2022 - 10:32
I was not feeling that this getting old was much fun. After reading this I have a different perspective???
Ron Stokes (not verified) , Thu, 09/29/2022 - 16:27
Wear a cowboy hat!
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