As I settled in the seat of the Delta Air plane en route to Texas and the Gulf I read in the newspaper that the one thing I did NOT want to be doing was flying over Easter.
When is Easter? I asked the stewardess. “Tomorrow” she chirped brightly.
Change of plan Aitch, I announced: We’re going to Oklahoma instead of the Gulf. I explained and showed her the newspaper (airport congestion, overbooked flights – us on a cheap Delta pass). Aitch had been dreading going to Apache: “They’ll all know you and I won’t know anyone and I’ll feel left out and . . ”
But now she had to face her fears. As soon as we landed at Dallas-Fort Worth we booked the next flight to Lawton OK, heading back north instead of carrying on south. There was just enough time if we scurried. Aitch decided she’d skip the loo and go once we were airborne. Mistake.
It was a little narrow plane like this, two seats a side, a narrow aisle, no airhostess, no loo. Ooh!
We landed in Lawton after dark and she made it. We set off further north for Apache in a rental car. Apache: My hometown for a year as a Rotary exchange student in 1973. Arriving on the Patterson’s farm outside town we saw a huge (or ‘yuge’) SA flag waving from the flagpole! Jim had borrowed an oversize flag to welcome us!
Jim & Katie Patterson, the loveliest couple in the whole of the USA were just the same as ever!
They welcomed us with open arms in to their beautiful and comfortable ranch house and it was as though we hadn’t been apart for fifteen years (during which time I had received exactly two letters from them. “Well, Peter” said Jim with his crooked grin and twinkling eyes, “We didn’t want to flood you with correspondence”).
Katie took Aitch on a night drive in the pickup looking for owls. Both girls were suitably lubricated plus they took extra stocks of their tipple. They had the windows down and were hooting weird owl calls and hosing themselves. When they returned they were laughing uncontrollably, leaning against each other for support. They had seen a possum snuffling around and Aitch was fascinated – she always LOVED the little night creatures. Katie followed it offroad into the fields, keeping it in the headlights. When it stopped she manouevred so it could best be seen and whispered to Aitch “Shall I kill it?” She was surprised at Aitch’s distraught look of horror. She twigged: “No, no, not the possum! I meant the engine!” They collapsed laughing when they both “saw it” and were still laughing helplessly when they got back home where Jim and I were watching ‘the ballgame’ – Basketball I think; OU I think.
Jim even unwrapped the Caddy convertible from its winter covering weeks earlier than usual and presented her with the keys.
All I got was this old tractor that I had driven for Jim back in ’73 (OK, in fairness, he also gave me the keys to the Chevy Suburban).
Well, our five day trip to Apache stretched to a week. Wherever we went all I got was an elbow in the ribs as the local inhabitants shoved me aside and crowded around Aitch. Every now and then one would mutter over his shoulder at me: “Now you look after this gal, boy! Y’hear?”
After ten days I sat Aitch down and said “Now listen girl, we still have things to do, places to go and people to meet. We can’t stay in Apache forever!” She was having a ball, revelling in the attention and she and Katie were getting on like a house on fire (I suspect on all their jaunts when they would breeze off in the Lincoln saying “Ya’ll stay home and watch the ballgame, y’hear?” that Katie was teaching her how to manage me and telling her how she managed Jim. Aitch obviously soaked up the lessons!). It was Katie who had asked me as a seventeen year old back in 1973: “Peter, who do you think chooses the marriage partner?” Following my confident (wrong) answer she put me straight, telling me how, when Jim arrived for his first day of work at the bank she had turned to her friend and announced “I’m going to marry that man!”).
So it was very reluctantly that Aitch agreed that I could book for the next leg of our extended honeymoon. On to Ohio to see Larry.