I met Barbara at the Delta Dip in Dumas, Arkansas, home of the Ding Dong Daddy. I didn't make that last part up, it's just what they say down there in the Delta. I was finishing up my student teaching in Dumas, and I had just gotten my hamburger, and was heading back to my car. A guy I knew from Arkansas A&M called me over. He was talking to a carload of girls. When I walked over, looked in the car, I saw a couple of nice looking girls. But in the back seat, far side, I saw her. I almost dropped my hamburger. There, before my eyes, sat the most beautiful one eyed girl I had ever seen. Her hair style covered one eye up, but a little later I saw the other one too, and it was every bit as beautiful as the first one. This was it. This was the girl I wanted to marry.
But I had this problem. Every time I met a girl I really liked, I just froze up. Couldn't think of a single sensible thing to say. In college, when I found a girl I really liked, I called her up and said something like, "You wouldn't want to go out with me, would you?" Then if she hesitated, even for a second, I threw in the clincher. "I don't blame you, I wouldn't either if I were you. Bye."
Well, you can see my situation here, looking at this girl I wanted to marry. But this girl was so bubbly, outgoing, and friendly, she would just not allow me to freeze up. Before long, I had a date with her for Saturday night.
Following her directions, I headed for Watson Saturday night. I had misgivings. It was a well known fact at A&M, 25 miles away, that a young man just did not venture into Watson, alone, after dark. Watson had 3 or 4 really bad young dudes, they loved to fight, and they were good at it. Stories were told of one average looking guy who had mastered the art of getting in three running steps and throwing the first punch in a one – punch fight, usually against much larger guys.
I slunk down in the seat as I drove down Main street. Well, actually, THE street. It was dark, but not nearly dark enough. Watson was like an old western town. In fact, at least one old western movie was made there. I couldn't help but remember all the men I had seen die in the dust of just such a street, in the movies. Well, I made it through town, breathing easier now, and headed for her house, out a winding gravel road three miles out through the cotton fields.
When I arrived, Barbara invited me in. I thought the whole family must be there, but no. I just barely scratched the surface of the Dunnahoe clan that night. Her little sisters, two squirmy little girls, whispered and laughed to each other about how tall I was, how big my hands were, and would you just look at those feet! Her brother, about my age, was there with his wife and baby. The brother, JD, shook my hand and all, but the look in his eye was anything but friendly. It wasn't until years later, I began to piece it all together from his stories about his "three running steps" technique, that I began to realize. JD was actually the one I had heard stories about at A&M. Little did I know, the real danger was not on the streets of Watson, but here, in this house, looking at me hard. But his Mama and Daddy were there, and things went well that night.
We got to date a few times, then student teaching was over and I was off to my new teaching job at St. Paul, Arkansas.
I went to see Barbara every weekend I could, which meant when I was invited. But she was busy finishing up her senior year, St. Paul was a long way off, and I didn't get to see her as much as I wanted to that semester.
At the end of the school year, Barbara was headed off to A&M to start college. I knew Barbara would be making a big splash there that summer, pretty girls like her always do. I decided to go to Oklahoma, work on a pipeline, make a little money. I knew Barbara still had ties to some guy in the Air force, and was not ready to put all her eggs in one basket yet. But we parted on good terms, each having no hold on the other.
About mid summer, I stuck my gloved hand into a block and tackle on the pipeline job, and the last inch of my thumb just stayed with the glove. I went over and told the foreman, who had caused my accident in the first place, that I had lost a thumb. He cussed me out really good, for messing up his safety record. My Oklahoma adventure was over, and I was headed back to Arkansas. Driving home, I had no idea how losing that thumb was about to affect the remainder of my life.
I drove down to see Barbara, in summer school at A&M. As I expected, she was making a big splash. Pretty, personable new girls tend to do that. Well, she was dating a football star, the son of a football coach, who was making his own splash, and she still had ties to the Air Force dude, but she seemed, in talking with me, to be leaving the door open for us just a little bit, and I suddenly decided I had best go back to school the second summer term, pick up some chemistry. I signed up and went back to Wing a few days to collect my stuff. I wrote Barbara. Told her I met her football jock, and he seemed to me to think he was pretty wonderful. Well, she wrote back and turned my words right against me. She told me she had become convinced he was wonderful too, and another thing or two along that same line of thought.
That hit me, and hit me hard. Here I was, already paid my tuition money, and I was getting the royal shaft.
After thinking it over a couple of days, a couple of my hardest days ever, I decided to go to school anyway, as hard as that would be. I never liked to just throw away money.
My old pals tried to cheer me up. Didn't work. My buddy Sam, a one legged guy, offered to fight him for me since I was thumb incapacitated. I was kinda hard to cheer up, seeing her all cozied up with him every day.
Barbara and I both worked in the cafeteria. One day while we were working, Barbara asked me if I would take her to church that night. I thought awhile, maybe a second, and told her I didn't see why not. I saved my celebrating until I got back to the dorm. Things were looking up! I was in a really good mood, right up until I saw them, right out in front of my dorm, hugging and such. I think he brought her over there to put on a show for me.
Well, that didn't help my mood much, and I was pretty cool to her at church. When I pulled up in front of her dorm, the jock was waiting. He came storming up. I knew I wasn't in good fighting trim, thumb cut off and all. Actually, I have never been a good fighter, thumb or no thumb. Well, I shouldn't have worried. He did all the fighting, with his words, all aimed right at her, right there in front of me. Barbara very nicely listened to everything he had to say, just ranted himself out, ending up with, “You either leave with me, right now, or it's over!” She just looked at him, and very nicely said, “It's already over.” "Well, then, I want my picture back," he said. It was a nice, framed 8x10 and, bad as she hated to, I'm sure, she agreed to give it up.
They say the meek shall inherit the earth. Well, that night I began inheriting the part of it I most wanted, Barbara. I was a little uneasy, as she very nicely went through the process of cutting off the other hopefuls, one at a time. By the time I had learned a little chemistry, and I was ready to head to St. Paul and my new coaching job, we were engaged. I always made sure, when I saw the jock coming through the lunch line, that I had her hugged up as she spooned food on his plate. He always got mad, red as a beet, but he never said anything.
We got married on December 26 of that year, and we headed off to New Orleans. Well, I couldn't understand those Cajun's directions, and we never found New Orleans. But somehow, it just didn't seem to matter at the time.