Why we need the Old Goats

They call themselves the Old Goats. They meet about once or twice a week at a local coffee shop downtown. I’d say their average age is about 70. They tend to wear poplin jackets and golf pants, and most of them wear driving caps, the sort you buy for your grandpa. One of them sneaks in a tiny dog under his jacket, a Yorkie with amazing patience and a tendency to take bites out of her companion’s donuts.

They sit at the window end and take out their neat little grandpa-type datebooks.

“So, says one, Thursdays you’ve all got Meals on Wheels?” he will say, and all will nod.

“Then I’ve got the library on Wednesday, all day.”

They figure out a day or two they all have free that week and one takes out a list.

“We need to finish that painting job at the shelter. We promised it by next week.”

They all nod, take a sip of coffee, and write it down.

Then someone has to go to a commission meeting on that day, and they all erase their previous marks.

This goes on for some time, and their books fill up on every page with meetings, projects, potlucks. One of them wants them all to fight a proposed building next to the Old Church. It will sit about four feet away, and will have a large neon sign on it. They all nod. They all write something down.

They decide they’re going to a baseball game together, and they’re going to take their little brothers or reading partners or that guy they see sometimes at the nursing home. They decide next time they’re not just going to sit and drink coffee but help one of them stuff envelopes for the March of Dimes. They decide, again and again, to do something in this downtown neighborhood and elsewhere that needs to be done. They decide they’re going to get involved here at Portland State and take classes.

This takes about an hour and a half and a couple of gallons of coffee. By this time the dog is obviously reeling from the sugar shock and all of the men have to take turns in the bathroom down the hall.

“Are we up for landscaping?” one will ask when they all assemble again.”Where?”

“The veterans’ cemetery.”

Out come the books and pencils again.

So half an hour later, when they’re all satisfied that every hour of every day is filled to the gills with things to do, they make their excuses and go. They linger for a while, exchanging names of doctors and showing pictures of grandkids. Then they’re off to their respective apartment, condos and families.

I spot one, the one with the Yorkie at the grocery store. He’s buying a cartload of bread, and jar upon jar of peanut butter. He’s obviously been hiding that dog so long he’s become an expert at sneaking her into every possible venue. I’ll bet she even goes to church with him, and she probably has a little rhinestone collar for the opera. This time, though, her tail is sticking out under his jacket.”More food for the shelter?” the clerk asks him as he checks him through.”Just a little,” replies the Yorkie smuggler. “Just for today.”

And the tail wags.