They met at a frat party at Iowa State during their sophomore year. He was an Aggie. She was a Zeta. He had a manly hooked nose. She had one cute dimple. After the mixer, he called and asked her on a date. He showed up in a sport coat. She borrowed a dress.
He kept asking her out. She kept saying yes. He was a good kisser. They lived the Greek life of parties and events.
That summer she went to California to sell books door to door. He stayed in Iowa to help on the farm. He sent her roses on her birthday. She carried one with her while knocking on doors, peddling dictionaries.
They came back together in the fall. She was more worldly. She had seen Big Sur, Yosemite, and San Francisco.
He invited her to the Aggies’ gangster party (in those days, gangsters were from Prohibition times, like Al Capone). She bought a blue satin and lace vintage 40’s dress at a thrift store and a toy machine gun at a toy store. He wore a dark suit and spats. They made a cute couple. She tried to get him to go to second base in his frat room. He was too straight-laced for that.
One weekend, he invited her to his farm in Dennison County. He showed her the house, the barn, and all the cows. She didn’t like cows or the way they looked at her. He took her by the hand and led her to a stream. She sat on a flat rock. He stayed standing.
“All this could be yours,”’ he said with a sweeping gesture.
What? She wasn’t ready. Would she ever be ready to be a farm wife? She didn’t even bake!
She didn’t say anything — didn’t know what to say. They rode back to Ames making small talk, but she knew she had blown it for him. He had been looking to see if she was ready to sign on to a future farm life. He’d seen the fear in her face — the fear of that life, the fear of staying in her home state, the fear of never getting to have the adventures she craved.
It wasn’t that she had the “risk” gene. She didn’t like rollercoasters or bungee jumping, waterskiing or high diving. The adventure she craved was a different life in a different place. She didn’t want to bake pies and raise farm hands and do 4-H, not that there was anything wrong with any of that, just not for her. She was looking bigger, beyond Ames, beyond Iowa, beyond the girls who got engaged their senior year because they felt they’d better hurry up and choose before it was too late. She was only twenty, and her life lay before her.
Jim didn’t call her again. She was sad for a week and then realized it never would have worked anyway. His life was planned out, since the day he was born a male into a farm family. Her life was a bunch of possibilities, and she wasn’t ready, or in love enough, to give them all away.
When she left the Zeta house to go student teach in South America, she left her blue satin and lace 40’s dress and toy machine gun behind, so that her sisters could go to Gangster parties, too. She left all the potential husbands behind and went to Spain that summer to finish her dual degree. Her teaching jobs took her to Nebraska, Iowa, and San Diego County. She found a husband at a late age and had a family.
She gave up tornadoes for earthquakes, snow for rain, and green grass for golden hills.
She goes back to Iowa every now and then to attend the state fair and to visit her relatives. Whenever she sees a herd of cattle, she thinks of her farmer boyfriend and what could have been.
Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
If City Girl would’ve married Farmer Boy they would’ve had a large family of farm hands. She would’ve learned that farmers do not let animals in their houses, so her dream of a lap dog would go out the window. She would instead get a Border Collie and name her Mimi, whom she would train for the Iowa State Fair Frisbee-catching competition. Mimi would win blue ribbons for three consecutive years. Their two sons would eventually sell the farm to a large corporation and move to California, where she would visit her grandchildren. After her husband passed away, she would move there, remembering her book-selling days.