The Thirty-Five Year Adventure

Greetings, Salutations and Hi There to all of my dear fans, friends, fiends, foes and relatives,

In the humid summer heat of a Wisconsin summer in early July, 1979, a newly-turned-eighteen year old young man was chatting up a sixteen year old young lady while waiting for her friend to return, who never did. It was at the United Pentecostal Church campgrounds in Shawano. This was the first camp of the year, Family Camp and people from all over the state came to Shawano to have old-fashioned camp meeting. None of the girls I had met there seemed very interested in what I had to say. Most of them, including the one I had met initially, this girl’s friend, wanted to talk about themselves and, as often teenage girls are wont to be, were self-absorbed. This one was different; she liked to listen to me, though. During one of the noon breaks as I sat under the shade a tree writing poetry she brought me out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk. She was nice and refreshing; er, the sandwich and glass of milk were so nice and refreshing. Later, she brought me to the tent where her mom and she were staying and I got to meet her mom.

A letter writing campaign began over the weeks between Family Camp and Youth Camp and by this time we both could tell that this was something more than a casual friendship. At Youth Camp we pretty much monopolized each other’s time, sometimes to the aggravation and chagrin of our friends and the worry of our church leaders who thought we might be going too fast. “After all,” one of them told her, “He isn’t really very good-looking and you would have to look at him for the rest of your life.” I was advised that I needed to take some time and think about this, after all, what did I really know about her and her spirit and upbringing? What did she know about his up-and-down and in-and-out church life? Was I aware that she sometimes got a rebellious spirit on her? On and on the questions came. “You know, Herbie, you’re both very young.”

But, when dealing with young people, you can only push so hard and question so much until they are either going to listen to you and take your advice or are going to do the opposite. I know many very nice young people that would sit down and accept your advice and slow things down, but these two, especially me, were not those kind. She was, in fact, basically a nice girl and I was corrupting her. It was pretty obvious I was a bad influence. Well, I really was, but that’s a different topic.

So, we would call long distance, back in those days before cell phones. Using my parents’ phone which had an extra-long cord that reached into my room and by calling after 11 PM and/or on weekends when the rates were cheaper, twenty cents a minute, I still managed to get their phone turned off by running up a four hundred dollar bill. But the time seemed to go by so fast. Then I would have to go down to the pay phone and plug in quarters as the time ticked on. “Your time is about to end, please insert another fifty cents to continue this call.” Standing outside in the rain after midnight was not a big deal, though.

Then we started visiting each other. She would ride the Greyhound for eighteen or more hours (I don’t remember the exact time, but a modern trip from Rockford to Green Bay is 20 hours. Buses didn’t have Wi-Fi back then because it had not been created yet. A computer back then that would do what a basic smart phone does now would have taken up a couple of office blocks, if it were capable of being programmed for the tasks. Pac-Man had just come out and was in a sit-down console the size of a large coffee table.) to come visit. The 200 mile drive to see her was supposed to take about three and a half hours but I could make it in less than three a lot of times, depending on the Smokies and County Mounties, of course.

Eventually we were told that we were going to have to wait. That we couldn’t get married unless we took the classes and waited. Well, we had a better idea. I hitchhiked the 200 miles, picked her up and we left. We were going to hitchhike as far south as possible and as soon as she turned eighteen, we would get married on our own.

I had made an attempt to chronicle the adventures in the poem I am attaching at the end of this entry. I wrote it fifteen years ago on our twentieth anniversary. I had printed it for Margaret on special paper and she still has her copy in a special notebook she made at the time.

So, anyway, we hitched from South Beloit, Illinois all the way to Crofton, Kentucky where we were picked up by a Pentecostal preacher, Bro. Hardy and befriended by his daughter, Nancy. Apparently there had been several hitchhikers murdered in the area and he took the chance on picking us up just in case. He called both of our pastors long distance and spoke with them at length and it was decided that we should be married as soon as possible. With that promise he paid the fare on Greyhound and sent us home. A responsible and noble thing to do.

The promise wasn’t kept, however. We kept getting the runaround on when we could get married and where and how and by whom, until we just couldn’t stand it anymore. All of this time her sister could have provided the permission and signed off for us to get the marriage license, but she didn’t want to until toward the end of May when she found out (this is paraphrasing and boiling the whole business down to a nutshell) that if she didn’t sign it we were going to be living in sin and it wouldn’t be worth the fight to try to stop us. So, we were promised that we could be married in her church on Saturday, June 7th, 1980, but just before that was supposed to happen (some invitations had already been sent out) it was decided that we needed to do two things, one, we promise to take the ten weeks of marriage classes and second, we apologize for our bad example in front of the whole church. Well, we felt like we were being wronged since we had already made plans and had expectations and none of these stipulations had been mentioned before now.

Thus it was that, on Thursday morning, June 5th, 1980 we took two of my best buddies, Carter and Mike, for witnesses and walked down to the Shawano County Court House. On the way down Main Street I stopped our little procession and ran into the dime store and got a ring, with matching necklace, for all of $1.65. We stood nervous and giddy before Judge Thomas Grover, who sternly impressed upon us the seriousness of what we were doing. And with Mike next to me and Carter next to Margaret (He will, of course, be forever known as the maid-of-honor at our wedding) and neither of families and no other friends present, we exchanged vows and were married. Carter went off back to work and Mike accompanied us on the mile and a half walk out to the McDonald’s, where Margaret had a Big Mac and I had a Quarter Pounder and we shared some fries and a large Coca-Cola. I don’t remember what Mike had, if anything, but when we left, Mike took the soda cup, turned it upside down, shouted “Mazel Tov!” and smashed it with his foot.

After which Margaret and I hitched a lift into town, to our apartment above the Outfitter store on Main Street, where we began our new adventure. Has it always been perfect and wonderful and awesome? Well, the poor girl did get me as her adventure prize, but you know, most adventures I ever read about, fictional or non-fictional, never went perfectly smooth and exactly how the protagonist thought it would go. That’s what makes it an adventure and the story is still, after all these years, being written.

Here for you further reading pleasure is my first attempt at a long story poem, written fifteen years ago:

The Never Ending History Of Love Part I

Breathless. Panting in that lobby. Still free!
The two teenage children stood holding hands.
Legless drunken slaver thought they were treed,
But they escaped, not giving up their plan
To run away and be married. Their plan.
Thumbs in the air, homemade bag at their side.
They do not care. To freedom they will ride.

Secondhand smoke may have some ill effects.
They think it is possible to be true
As they feel the dizzying effects
Enclosed in a car of True Hawaiian Blue.
But when offered it’s politely refused.
Thumbs in the air, homemade bag at their side.
They do not care. To freedom they will ride.

Slowly freezing to death in Joliet.
Always and again kindness of strangers.
“You can’t stay in this lobby longer yet!”
“They can stay with me!” said the kind stranger.
Gave up her bed. Saving them from danger.
Thumbs in the air, homemade bag at their side.
They do not care. To freedom they will ride.

On Indiana corn it starts to rain.
Soaking wet they ask to use the garage
(The garage being drier than the grain)
And when hubby got home, asked them to lodge
In the living room, not in the garage.
Thumbs in the air, homemade bag at their side.
They do not care. To freedom they will ride.

Kentucky, and again in danger of
Their lives. Hitchhikers here are being killed.
But they only know that they are in love.
Midnight! But the lone van’s divinely willed.
A preacher picks them up and they’re not killed.
Thumbs in the air, homemade bag at their side.
They do not care. To freedom they will ride.

Crofton, Kentucky, where they met Nancy.
Her dad not too preachy, but a preacher.
Bonding instant friendship, tho’ not fancy.
Her dad a good, wise man, a good teacher.
He pays Greyhound. Honest helpful preacher.
Even Greyhound is still the open road.
It’s on the road they will lighten their load.

So back they go to those who oppose them.
Preacher blessed them. Said they belonged married.
He told all that he thought that God chose them.
“Go back and be wed and do not tarry.”
His words, to them, authority carry.
Even Greyhound is still the open road.
It’s on the road they will lighten their load.

Some months later, without a grudge,
They rebelled, and, trusting in their love
Ran to the courthouse and sought out the judge,
So, with witnesses, and by God above,
Were wed, and pledged their everlasting love.
Their lifelong ride now really just begun.
Both on and off the road. Will it be fun?
Oshkosh. The Pioneer Marina Inn.
One of the greatest places on the road.
A very plush restaurant to sit in,
Fifteen bucks for a burger kind of goads.
“My wife is sick”, he said. They hit the road.
And so along the road to home they walked.
Sometimes the roadside chats were their best talks.

You know, the truth is that they wanted it.
They decided never to let it go.
Thru’ betrayals, lies, and throwing fits,
Instead of weakening, it gave them grit.
And so along the road to home they walk.
Sometimes the roadside chats are their best talks.

They think on twenty years that have gone by.
The story includes some breaking of hearts.
They weep when mentioning Evans Army
Community Hospital for a start.
But with great joy tell of musical heart!
And with joy they can tell of four who’ve come
And filled their lives. No room for tedium!

So have twenty years and four kids slowed them?
Could their love now even measure to half
As much as those two children way back when?
They look at you, then each other, then laugh!
“When you’ve been where we’ve been, you too will laugh.”
They’ve both grown up in ways no one could know,
And hand in hand on their little walks go.

Yes, they still hold hands and make google eyes
And talk in secret codes no one else knows.
And they cannot understand your surprise
That they are shocked how fast twenty years go.
As time flies by their love just grows and grows.
Thumbs may not be in the air anymore,
But they’ll hold hands on that celestial shore.

And so this never ending saga runs.
The more they grow the more they become teens.
They cannot explain it to anyone;
If you’ve been there then you know what it means.
Some years are fat and some are awful lean.
“Thumbs up!” On the road of life they will say.
And it’s still being homemade ev’ry day.


2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. What Is A Treasure That’s Been Lost? – The Haps With Herb
  2. Kentucky on the Blogging A – Z Challenge – The Haps With Herb

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