In 1969 we discreetly decided to elope. No one needed to know beforehand. (My folks, well my mom, had done her darnedest to break us up. Multiple times). There were a couple glitches we needed to figure out first. One was the dang newspaper in Sioux City. The Journal published all marriage licenses, making it impossible for us to get hitched at the Woodbury County courthouse because half of our home town 60 miles due south subscribed to that daily publication. Everyone would know by 7 am, after one person read our names. (Small town living). Luckily Sioux City bordered 2 other states, Nebraska and South Dakota so we could just get married in either one. But we needed to have 2 witnesses to sign our marriage license after the ceremony. We both had friends in Sioux City but really didn’t want anyone in on our little caper.
A few months prior, John (Hubs to be) was working at the television station KTIV. Most of his coworkers worked the night shift so they were not available. A friend from Rock Valley had just graduated from college and landed his first teaching job in South Sioux City. Since he’d hadn’t gotten paid yet he was planning on living in his car for the first month because he was broke. John rented a larger apartment and offered to share it with Dale, and pay all the bills until his big paychecks started rolling in. Dale paid him back immediately which took about every penny he had just gotten for a month of teaching. Many days after I got out of work and meandered to their apartment to find Dale sitting on the front porch railing, barefoot, wearing cutoffs, strumming his guitar.
We decided Dale was the most logical person to bring into the fold about our diabolical plan to wed under the cloak of secrecy before our parents found out. He said he’d be honored to stand up for us. Nothing fancy, 10 minutes, start to finish. Ok, one down, one to go. But who could we trust to not spill the beans until it was legal? Dale actually came up with a good idea. He knew another rookie teacher who would be happy to sign his John Henry on our legal document for a burger and a beer. Funny how those 2 guys came through as witnesses for our wedding ceremony (which is now working on anniversary number 52).
Hubs was instrumental into the way life turned out for Dale. They were having a beer together one night when John tapped a gal. Insulted she turned around and slugged Dale, thinking it had been him. One flirtatious thing led to another and not too long afterwards Dale and Beth got married.
It was the summer of 1971 and our new baby girl was 8 months old. We dropped Shannon off at my parents house and headed to Minnesota. Hubs and I had discovered a vacation hideaway that we were sharing with 2 other couples for the long weekend. It was Lake Shoakatan, a small lake and not many vacationers. We were joined John’s brother Arly and his new bride, Vicky and Dale and his new bride, Beth. It was kinda weird because I knew the guys much better than either of the girls. John’s brother Jimmy loaned us his boat which proved to be the fodder for jokes for years to come.
First Arly (a Navy man) was in the boat but the rest of us were not. Hubs threw him a rope which Arly promptly let go of and started drifting away. (To his credit, he thought he could just start the motor and back up for us). But Hubs had not put gas in the tank yet, so he slogged out to retrieve his brother and the boat. Then plopped down in the shallow water with his legs wrapped around the bow while he filled the tank, spilling about half of it on his crotch. He yelped like a junior high school girl and sprung outta that water like a Jack-in-the-box, trying in vain to soothe his nether-regions, while the rest of us howled on the shore.
Once we were all safely aboard and seated our goal for the afternoon was for all 3 girls to ‘get up’ on skis. Beth got up immediately. When they swung the boat around to pick her up Dale was full of praise on how well she did. Then he said, “now I’m gonna teach you how to swim.” (Holy shit). Vicky had a bit more trouble getting her long, slim body up but after a couple of tries she did well too. I was up next. It took me several attempts but I was finally sailing through the water-upright. I screamed at John, “don’t turn the boat, don’t turn,” but he eventually ran out of lake and I swung out doing about a hundred, flipping head over heels and lowering the lake by a foot after swallowing half of it.
What a great afternoon. We were all bushed but proud of ourselves. I remember looking at Vic and Beth. Beth was dark and petite, Vicky, an all American Dutch girl, blonde, lithe and leggy. Then there’s me. Brown hair, pouchy tummy from my 8 month old, yet thinking, you know for having a kid, I don’t look too bad. My tummy wasn’t any bigger than either of the newlyweds. So there. (Found out a couple weeks later, both were in their second trimester. My fragile high self esteem promptly deflated). Hubs turned off the motor and tossed the anchor overboard so we could just enjoy the lake and sun. Unfortunately the anchor rope was not tied to the boat. Hubs stood up with this shocked look on his face and immediately dove in the water after the anchor. Haha, another reason for peals of laughter at poor Hubs expense. (We knew we had to replace the anchor before we brought the boat back. An expense we absolutely could not afford but had to be done).
A couple years later Dale and Beth moved to Minnesota and Arly and Vic moved to Montana. Things always gotta keep changing. The weekend get togethers, card parties were a thing of the past. We tried so hard to move to Minnesota and came ever so close in 1980. Hubs applied for the engineering manager’s position at Artic Cat in Thief River Falls. We spent time at Dale and Beth’s before heading further north for the interview. Beth was kind enough to watch our kids for a couple days (by then we had 3, Shannon, Joshua and Adam, plus they had 2, Sarah and Beau). The interview went great and Hubs got the job with all sorts of great perks.
By the time we stopped to pick up our brood, their 2 had full blown cases of chicken pox so we knew what awaited us after we got back to Spencer. They all got the pox during Christmas break, Shannon and Josh much worse that 1 year old Adam. The job however was not to be. The economy was the pits and Artic Cat was on the verge of bankruptcy. They stood by their job offer and moving us but we thought it would be harder job hunting from the near Winnipeg than from Spencer, Iowa, so we turned the job down.
A few years ago we were invited to Dale and Beth’s home again. They were still living on the farm but had recently bought a cabin on Otter Tail Lake, not very far away, so we spent most of our visit at the lake. Pontoon boat rides, eating out and one of the fanciest homemade meals I’ve ever had. Fried walleye. For breakfast. I kid you not. One of the cutest details I remember about the cabin was Beth’s window coverings made out of birch branches.
While we were there we convinced them they needed to come to Michigan because we were 8 hours from Niagara Falls. (Neither had ever been there). A couple years later they drove to our house, rested up for a spell and off we went. We drove on the American side because Dale had never been to Cleveland. He wasn’t that impressed although driving around the city, we went right past the Indian’s baseball stadium at night while they were playing a game which looked kinda cool. They were awestruck (who isn’t) with Niagara and we enjoyed the biggest bucket of Buffalo wings the Anchor Bar offered.
During our lifelong friendships, this is a sample of the good times we shared with these amazing friends of ours. Last week, after opening the cabin for the season Dale was enjoying another sunset over Otter Tail when he suffered a fatal heart attack. From that laughable weekend in 1971 as 3 fairly newlywed couples just trying to figure out marriage and parenthood, three of our 6 are gone. My whole life I’ve heard older people complain that all their friends are dying. I can’t tell you how hard these constant deaths of my friends have hit me lately. Arly, Vicky and Dale. You are loved and missed more than you know…