This picture of my bride holding one of our latest grandsons was taken June of 2018. We had all of the kids and grand kid’s home for a week. Kamron and Samantha where on their way to Alabama from Hawaii; Kam has been accepted to flight school and they would be at Fort Rucker for the next few years. Kole and Paula came up for a week and we had a great time with everyone home for a while.
It doesn’t do justice to the journey I have enjoyed with my bride but its a beautiful picture to me as it shows a beautiful woman holding her grandson and emanates the love, kindness and softness that a woman would feel towards her loved ones.
As young man I figured that getting married was in the cards for me. It is a natural desire for most folks and as I was raised in a big family, having a family some day made sense.
I dated quite a bit and a couple of times thought that maybe I had found missus right. For some reason or another it never worked out but the first time I met my bride-to-be I knew that I had met someone special and if I was fool enough to let her go then I was the original fool.
She was 16 and finishing her Junior year in High School and I was 20 and a little more than half way through a 3 year hitch with the Marines. Yes she was very young but she was all woman and what I felt for her went beyond youthful passion. There was a feeling I had with her from the very first that I had never felt with or for anyone else. Yes I would have to say that there is a difference in loving someone and being in love with someone.
My cousin who was married to my future wife’s brother got us writing. Joy, my bride teased me years later that she was just another lucky girl to join my roster or poster board of girls. I don’t recall the exact number but there were at least a dozen or more pictures of the girls that I was writing to, on the inside of my locker. They had to come down when we had inspection as they weren’t Marine issued but would be re-posted immediately after. Some were actually cousins and one was my sister. I was careful not to share my pictures with my fellow Marines as punching one out for making a derogatory remark about my sister or bride to be was always a possibility. Not that Marines don’t punch each other out on a regular basis for little or no reason, it’s usually best to avoid such things. Who wants to be in a fox hole or a listening post with someone that has just insulted your sister.
I was home on leave for a few days, we had been writing for a while and I tracked her down at her High School. She was late for class and I was walking down stairs to confirm that I had the correct classroom and she was walking upstairs and we made eye contact. We knew who each other was but never said a word. After checking at the office that I had the correct room I went back up stairs and pulled her out of class; not something that you could do today but it was 1971, things have changed a bunch since then.
We visited for a few minutes and I made arraignments to take her home from school. The drive home was when I knew that there was something going on here that I had never felt before.
When I got back to Camp Pendelton I wrote her a letter and it got lost in the mail. I wish I would have saved the letter because I needed the evidence later that that was exactly what happened. I never heard from her for a few months and about the time my letter returned from a tour of duty around the lower US including every state that started with the letter ‘I’, I received a cute card from my future bride simply stating that ‘If you don’t have anything to say, just write and say so’.
Like I said, I should have kept the letter as evidence. We picked up our writing again.
Our initial meeting was in April of 1971 and it was towards the end of June or first of July that my awol letter came back to me and I received her card. Later that summer, Labor Day weekend to be exact I made a cannon- ball run home with a couple of friends. We were somewhere between Barstow California and Las Vegas Nevada in the late evening when the lights went out on the car. We couldn’t resolve the problem and slept on the side of the road stretched out on the desert gravel until daylight enough to boogie on down the road. We hauled ass and made it home before the sunset. We were UA, unauthorized absence so we had to get back to Camp Margarita without being caught, being in formation for roll call Tuesday morning was a must. We weren’t too concerned, after all what were they going to do to us, send us to Vietnam. We were Marine grunts, in the last stages of preparation and training before heading to Vietnam. First Marine Division replacements for the DMZ. That’s an interesting word, replacements for what, other Marines of course. Why do they need replaced. Well son is like this, some are dead or wounded, some have finished 13 months on the ‘Dead Marine Zone’ and are headed home. Oh you thought that DMZ was the De Militarization Zone.
As a minor note that particular part of this story will be included in my next book; I think you’ll like the way it fits.
I was out of time so I didn’t make it to Idaho Falls where my bride lived but had a good conversation with her on the phone.
About a month later I received a phone call from my mom, my dad had had an appendicitis attack and I was needed to come home and help with the harvest. Our company CO who’s name I can’t remember was a cool guy and had me on a plane headed home asap. I dove into farming like I had left only yesterday and worked like a dog day and night getting things ready for harvest and then into the harvest. Spuds being an Idaho spud farmers livelihood, harvesting them properly was crucial. All the teaching dad had spent on me growing up paid off. The spuds came out in good order. It was 4 weeks before I lifted my head up from my work and headed to Idaho Falls for our first date. If I knew something extraordinary was up before then, I knew I was in trouble big time on that first date. The kind of trouble only a woman can bring but the best kind of trouble you’ll ever have.
We went to a double feature movie Downtown Idaho Falls, an old movie Theater on Broadway the name of which I can’t remember; neither can my bride for that matter. We can remember the movies though, one was ‘Dirty Dingus Magee’ with Frank Sinatra. Yeah it was a western and he did a pretty decent job in it. It was a comedy and fun. The other was ‘The Hired Hand’ with Peter Fonda and Warren Oats. It was a good movie as well. It wasn’t your typical ‘John Wayne ‘ movie but had a ting of reality to it, not a happy ending but one you might expect.
I know, you’re surprised I even remember the movies, it was the company I was keeping that makes me remember the movies. We were off and running like a wildfire. We saw each other as much as we could the rest of the time I was home. She would ride the bus to Rupert on a Friday night and I would take her home Sunday evening and then race back to the farm Monday morning. I asked her to marry me after about the second weekend and she said yes. Although she claims I asked her dad and not her for her hand in marriage. Either way we decided to get hitched after she graduated and I was discharged so it would be the next summer. We were on our way one night that fall to Jackpot Nevada to find a preacher but bailed on the idea figuring it would be best to wait.
When I got back to Camp Pendelton, Goat Shit Hill and Camp Margarita our orders to Vietnam had been finalized. Not the best news for a teenage bride but they were cast in stone.
My folks along with my sister and Grandpa and Grandma Spaulding were coming to San Jose to visit my dad’s sister so Joy jumped in with them and we were able to spend Thanksgiving together. As a side note I remember on the flight from LA to San Jose that I had my 44 magnum Ruger in my carry on bag; like I said, things have changed a bunch since the fall of 1971. We parted company there thinking that that would be it until the next summer but about 10 days later when my Battalion was at San Bernardino getting our flights squared away for Vietnam we were put on hold for another 5 days. The terminal cleared out of Marines as several hundred went UA for the next few days. I was in Idaho Falls within the next 24 hours.
It seemed like we were being tortured with the on and off stuff but we wouldn’t have had it any other way. When I left that time I barely made it to San Bernardino in time to catch my flight. They had been calling my name for a few minutes and my buddies were covering for me but they couldn’t hold out much longer.
Camp Hansen in Okinawa was the staging ground for just about everyone going to and from Vietnam; I was put to work there instead of continuing on to Vietnam. I wanted to refuse the assignment and request going on but a good Marine doesn’t question orders and always follows his last order first. I had volunteered to join the Marines, volunteering for anything after that wasn’t Marine Corps policy; following orders was. Although there were times when you were ‘volunteered’.
The end of July 1972 I received orders to head home, it was a month short of my 3 year obligation but Uncle Sam was offering early outs as we were leaving Vietnam asap and Marines without a fight can be a lot of trouble. I landed at an Air Force base near Sacramento California, I believe it was Travis and caught the bus to Treasure Island where I was discharged. We were married September 6th 1972.
Life has been busy for us since then and after college, a Bachelors degree in Animal Science, a career in Agriculture as a Ranch Manager, then a change of careers into aviation, 6 kids, 23 grand kids and one hell of an adventure in between, I’m still crazy in love with her.
We are not the couple that would tell you we have never had a harsh word between us, or a sleepless night trying to resolve issues brought on us by the woes of the world and trying to raise our children with a good work ethic and morals. Aside from all that life can throw at you we are both strong willed people and sparks can fly in more ways than one, but at the end of the day she is still by best friend as well as my wife and lover.
For years I joked around that before we got married I didn’t know she had a temper on her like a wild stallion and it took me 4 years to get a rope on her and get her choked down enough so I could handle her. She would tell you that that is not true at all, it only took me 2 years. Whatever the truth is I wouldn’t change a thing about her, red headed temper and all, she’s a keeper.
Looking back though, as just a pair of kids, who would have known that we would endure so much and grow together as we have. No one can warn you about the broken bones, broken promises, broken dreams, cancer, heart disease, or any of a hundred other challenges that you will face.
But you do face them and stand by each other no matter what comes your way.