The summer after high school graduation Debi, Donna, and I climbed into Debi’s blue Ford Pinto and cruised over to the next town of Johnston. Why? New guys, of course, not the same old, same old Urbandale guys.
Debi was petite, Donna a little taller, and I was a giraffe. We made an odd trio in more ways than one. They called me goody-two shoes, Donna was on the prowl, and Debi was a party girl!
The Johnston boys showed us where to party – at The Cliffs outside of town. The Cliffs are now underwater because the Saylorville Dam swallowed them up. But back in the 70’s, they were party central for under-aged kids who wanted to sit by a rushing river in the dark and drink. We met lots of Johnston boys, some tall, some round, some college-bound, some pretty but dumb as a stick. We didn’t discriminate – if they liked to drink, laugh and maybe kiss, we were all in.
Debi was the dare devil. When it was time to ride the spillway on an inner tube, the same spillway where a kid had gotten sucked under and drowned, Debi was the first to say yes. I stayed on the sidelines in my cute little swimsuit and made excuses for why I wouldn’t try it. It was dark. Everyone had been drinking. It seemed like a recipe for disaster. I was on my way to Iowa State, not a great swimmer, and smart enough to say no.
When I wasn’t working in the cornfields or checking groceries at the Super Value store, I was in my shorts and halter top showing off my summer tan and getting my flirt on with whoever was interested. Debi would pick me up after work, and we’d head over to the mini-golf course, our go-to meet-up spot with the guys.
Bud, the wrestler, and Rich, the basketball player, are the two guys stuck in my mind from that summer.
Bud was a pretty boy, with a ripped upper body and not much upstairs. He sang, “Listen, do you want to know a Secret” to me when he got drunk, and since I was a huge Beatles fan, I was hooked. He was adorable until the night the six of us (Debi, Donna, and two other guys) went out for my first legal drink right after Debi and I turned 18 that same week in June. Iowa had just lowered the drinking age, so we went to a random neighborhood bar. Bud ordered me my first sloe gin fizz, and then he picked a fight with a middle-aged man who didn’t like the way Bud, “the young punk,” had looked at him. Bud and the drunk man took it outside, where Bud beat the old guy’s face until it was bleeding and we girls screamed at him to stop. After that, I didn’t think much of Ed or going into neighborhood bars.
Rich was a year ahead of me at ISU, and he would later stand below my third floor dorm window and throw rocks at it because, after all, we had no cell phones. He took me to my first college basketball game. At six foot, six (and an afro ‘do to boot), he should’ve been on the court.
“Why aren’t you out there?” I asked.
“Not good enough,” he said.
Rich was comfortable with who he was and what he could do. He enjoyed intra-mural b-ball, and that was good enough. His size 15 feet only had red tennis shoes to wear (he didn’t’ know about Nordstrom’s back then). He took me to his hometown of Miami on spring break with a bunch of his friends (uh oh, swimsuits in March!). I dieted for weeks eating butterscotch candies while I studied. I drank scotch and waters that winter, only 65 calories! In Florida, his mother served us Key lime pie, and I found a cockroach — a big sucker — in one of the bedroom drawers. That’s what I got for snooping. When he came to visit me on my Nebraska farm after college, he walked in with the mail one day and said, “Mail for the bugs!”
The junk mail said Boxholder on it. He knew about the boxelder problem in the farmhouse, sneaky little hard-shelled insects that were in the couch cushions and that crawled under the bathroom door to say good morning.
I don’t know what happened to Bud. I heard Rich became a crooked policeman. I hadn’t liked him selling pot out of his trunk when we were in college. I guess in many ways I really was a goody two shoes.
Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
If I would’ve married the wrestler, we would’ve had a few kids with average intelligence but exceptional beauty. Bud would continue to confront weaker men, causing them to sue us. I would finally have to take the kids and leave him. We would get a divorce and both remarry better matches.
If I would’ve married Rich, we would’ve had fun on our meager policeman and teacher salaries by watching lots of basketball on TV. Rich would’ve gotten busted on drug dealing charges, and I would’ve had to support the three extra-tall children by tutoring on the side while their dad was in the pokey.