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Blooming Where We're Planted

Story ID:353
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Biography
Location:Butte Montana USA
Person:Me n' Pops
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Blooming Where We're Planted

Blooming Where We're Planted
by Kathe Campbell

Did you know that love can happen to two people who don't even know each other? It happened to this bride over five decades ago. It was magic. Our hearts strings zinged wildly, the usual pursing and catching eluding us. 'Twas that certain feeling one gets when abruptly looking into the eyes of a perfectly breathtaking stranger.

At 19, I married the Assistant Registrar of our university after discovering we held more in common than not, the most important being our Christian values. We also discovered that if a relationship was to evolve, it would not only shine bright, but it would fade on occasion. A friend crowed one day that she and her hubby had never had "words." I abruptly replied that I wouldn't give my marriage a snowball's chance in hell without "words." I was right.

After law school, Ken accepted a position with a large insurance company, the sudden and unexpected transfer sending us to Montana. Our families were saddened by our leave of big city culture, but we were an adventurous pair, especially over the prospects of Montana's glorious outdoors and friendly stress-free communities. Our young family declared it their Shangri-la, their place to dwell forever.

We more than dwelled in Montana. We took her to our bosom. In the springtime we treaded lightly upon her, as she was pregnant. Later, we took advantage of her maturity to plea for a few dozen acres of her bounty to own and hold close. She allowed us to carefully stack dead-standing lodge pole pines into three splendid log buildings. It was a sedulous venture while we fashioned western culture into a healthy and protected lodge and hearth.

No sooner had we settled into a lifestyle most folks only dream about, when the ugly "T" word sprang from civilization. A transfer back to Seattle was imminent. Such groaning and moaning from the cheaper seats. Great wails loomed over the dinner table lamenting sports, cheer leading and most of all, friends. We said good-bye to the big corporate job and rolled out the weekend welcome mat for the relatives.

The summertime of our union allowed us time to kick up our heels after a winter of skiing. We toured Montana on bikes, fished great waters, panned gold, and hiked our boots off. And when all had flown the nest, we handpicked and adopted mammoth size donkeys from the wild. Friends and family hastily remarked, "What a funny thing to do. What will you do with them?" "Eat them, of course," we retorted whimsically.

We hauled the whole gang to donkey and mule shows to pole bend and barrel race for starters. Before we knew it our donkey crew had received the highest award possible, The National Hall of Fame. Locally, we were called upon often for live nativity and Palm Sunday programs. Is it any wonder everyone said the Campbells were up to their a__es in a__es? We loved it.

All too soon we matured into the colorful autumn of our dotage. More than ever we discovered ourselves as guests on the land and surrogate parents to injured wildlife. We fed our souls on our mountain in the chill of winter snows and the warmth of spring's rebirth. Ken loathed the "retirement" word, often rebelling against his senior status as he continued to thrive in our business. I dreamed often what that might be like, but then got to thinking, "Dear God, if I had the old buzzard sitting around this place all day, I'd surely end up in the loony bin." I also decided that the best way to get a husband to do something was to suggest that perhaps he's too old?
Even with a few small changes, like the loss of my arm, Ken's prostate cancer, heart by-passes, and assorted surgeries too numerous to broach, we can't imagine a sedentary life. I've now been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and we both have rheumatoid arthritis, turning us into walking drug stores. Ken would rather die than hire anyone to change oil in the outfits, and helps our neighbors often. That is, until a bull elk crashed through his windshield one evening at twilight on I-15. Two brain surgeries and three months later he is nearly good as new in his trendy head shave. The bull didn't fare so well.

At the 70th and 77th long tooth of our dotage, the simple times are the ones we hunger after. Maybe it's that eight or ten hour drive somewhere into the hinterlands of our Montana. Then home again when we both heave a sigh as we open the gate late at night. Maybe it's the melodic heehaw greeting, or the wagging of our pup's tail as he whimpers and turns circles all the way to the house. After long hot showers we meet under the feathers in our big bed to baby talk the kitties and watch the news between our toes. Or maybe catch a late night monologue as we drift off together, usually ahead of the punch line.

The patriarch and matriarch still sit atop our donkeys, snowmobiles, and ATV's, and exercise four crippled feet while mending fence. Energetic and sharp minds accompany lagging old carcasses to church, volunteering, and giving business advice. We're still in the fight enjoying 21 blessed descendants insisting on games of chess, bareback riding, driving lessons, or taking pot shots at those pesky gophers.

It's been quite a half century ride for we two antiques. We're not at all sure where autumn ended and winter began, but whatever is committed to memory is still easily recalled. What fun it is to sit and rock and spit at the stove on a two-dog winter's eve, swapping it all back and forth, our times. Ken disagrees that a good marriage takes a little work, but it does, just like anything worthwhile in life. This old bride has a few theories as well, the best being that age probably doesn't protect us from love, but love just may protect us from age.

Another spring is here and low clouds envelop me in the morning mist as I wander out to feed. "Is that you, my darlin' Ken, wanting to touch my face one last time?" I muse. I talk to him often as the lone keeper of the ranch flame these days. Another great grandbaby, a donkey hoof on the mend, how I've never smelled our mountain so sweet, just things. He wanted me to stay planted here, and I adore it. I'll bloom again soon, maybe not quite as dazzling.