Dick Cheney vs. the SpaghettiOs

Decked out in a ten-gallon hat and form-fitting Wranglers, Cheney grunted a few questions to me about which mini-fridge was the best on the market.

It was the summer of 1989, and I was biding my time before leaving Billings, Montana, for the renowned academic powerhouse Marquette University in Milwaukee. I was socking away minimum wages for my collegiate experience at Best Sporting Goods, quietly whiling away my afternoons selling rifles, lawn furniture, fly rods, and Weber grills. At best, I was an average salesman, but I spent half my time on the phone arranging to find a guy of legal age to buy me and my boys cases of Schmidt's beer.

Billings isn’t a celebrity hotbed, and whatever sightings there were reached mythic proportions that carried weight for years on end. One thing Billings _does_ have to offer, though, is tax-free shopping. And nobody appreciates avoiding sales tax quite like a Wyoming Republican.

The savings were so good that even an old hunter like Dick Cheney, recently installed as secretary of defense, dropped in to purchase a few items for his daughter’s dorm room. I’m assuming it was Mary, but I can’t say for sure, as it was also my first brush with a woman of the lesbian persuasion. Truth be told, it’s probably for the better, because at the age of 18 my only experience with women who prefer women was VHS pornography, and I’m not sure I would’ve been able to keep my composure and complete the transaction in the timely and orderly fashion befitting a former military…er, a guy who digs the armed forces.

Decked out in a ten-gallon hat and form-fitting Wranglers, Cheney grunted a few questions to me about which mini-fridge was the best on the market. I, of course, was wearing the short-sleeved shirt and tie combination that would later come to be known as “the Sipowicz.” He eventually decided on a brown one, maybe two feet tall, perhaps a Kenmore—basically, the same type in which you kept your SpaghettiOs and Diet Coke cold during your undergraduate years.

Cheney bought a few other items, and then I wheeled his purchases on a red handcart out to his car. He opened the swing door; I bent down, lifted the mini-fridge, and slid it into the area opened by the folded-down seats. He shook my hand, said “Thanks” with a nod, climbed into his truck, and headed off into the sunset.

I’ve since considered the “what if...” possibilities. Realistically, all I could have accomplished is accidentally “dropping” the mini-fridge and causing a few broken toes. But broken toes would never keep Dick Cheney down.

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