Written by: Kathe Campbell©copyright, all rights reserved

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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. A feeling one gets when abruptly looking into the eyes of a perfectly awesome stranger and feeling that certain feeling, right now! The usual pursuing and catching completely eluded us.

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 said 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, but it was a sudden and unexpected transfer that sent us to Montana. Our families were saddened by our departure from city life, but we were an adventurous pair, especially over the prospects of Montana's glorious outdoors and a welcoming, stress-free Butte. 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 poles into three splendid log buildings. It was a sedulous venture until at long last we had worked long and hard enough to keep ourselves, and our home and hearth, protected and healthy.

No sooner had we settled into a lifestyle most folks only dream about, when the ugly "T" word sprang from civilization into our midst. A transfer back to Seattle was imminent. Such groaning and moaning from the cheaper seats we'd never heard. 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 disappointed relatives. The summertime of our union allowed us time to kick up our heels. We continued to downhill ski, 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 where we pole bended and barrel raced just 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 marriage. More than ever we discovered ourselves as guests on the land. We adored our wildlife friends and fed our souls on this mountain in the chill of winter snows and the warmth of spring's rebirth. We also rebelled at being seniors and continued to thrive in our business, for Ken loathed the "retirement" word. I'd often dreamed 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, such as my loss of an arm, Ken's prostate cancer, heart by-passes, and assorted surgeries too numerous to portray, we can't imagine an unproductive life. I've now been diagnosed with spinal stenosis and we both have crippling rheumatoid arthritis, turning us into walking drug stores. Ken would rather die than hire anyone to change oil in the outfits, until a bull elk leaped through his windshield on a recent fall evening. 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 72nd and 79th 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 and 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, watch the local news between our toes, or maybe catch a late night monologue as we drift off together, usually ahead of the punch line.
This patriarch and matriarch still sit atop their donkeys, snowmobiles, and ATV's as well as working and volunteering daily. We're so tickled to still be in the fight and enjoying 18 blessed descendants insisting on games of chess, bareback riding, driving lessons, or taking pot shots at those pesky gophers.
All in all, it's been quite a 53 year ride for we antiques. We're not at all sure where autumn ended and winter began, but whatever is committed to memory is still easily and gratefully recalled. 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. After planting ourselves, we still bloom, just not quite as dazzling.
©2004 Kathe Campbell

©2004 Kathe Campbell
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