I typically would not fly across the country to meet up with a man, but this was not any man, this was my destiny. It was now halfway through the longest summer of my life but our need to be physically together could not be squelched by daily emails, phone calls and letters. He invited me to Cheyenne, Wyoming for a visit and I jumped at the chance.
Wyoming has twice the amount of cows as people. Having been branded as a “California Girl”, I tried not to hypocritically judge Parke, being from Wyoming. But I had no idea what to expect. Comments directed at Cheyenne were good, blasé and negative, but mostly negative. The good comments were “Oh, we’ve been to Wyoming. Aren’t the Tetons gorgeous?” (Nine hours away from Cheyenne) Negative comments were directed at the wind, the prairie or the cowboy mentality. But most people said the same blasé thing about Cheyenne “Oh, I’ve driven through there”, which makes sense since it is located at the crossing of two major interstates: 1-80 and 1-25.
Learning the German language seemed less intimidating than fitting into Cheyenne’s western lifestyle. Thinking of this cow-town reminded me of (previously suppressed) bad memories from my BYU Equitation class. At BYU, students have to take three physical education classes. I immensely enjoyed my jogging, ballroom dancing and ice skating classes so I decided to enroll in an additional Horseback Riding PE class since I come from a long line of equestrians and rodeo queens. However, after a semester of training, I still can’t ride a horse to save my life. In my class of eight girls, I was only one who wasn’t from a ranch. While they effortlessly maneuvered their horses through obstacle courses and over jumps, my horse just looked at me and snorted. While the cowgirls trotted with finesse, I got bucked off and landed in the mud. Again, my horse snorted at me.
I was wary of chickens and cows stink.
And children? Will Parke expect me to raise our children on a ranch somewhere? A nightmare flashed before my eyes of giving birth to our 3 children (Wild Bill, Wyatt, and Bonnie-Mae) squatting in some prairie with wild chickens and prairie dogs as my birth attendants.
Parke didn’t strike me as a cowboy; he dressed more like a surfer and didn’t listen to country music.
I may not like cows, but I do like cowboys. When Kenny Chesney sang “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”, he could very well have been talking about me. I dated a cowboy once with positive results so I was anxious to see Parke in his element to decipher if he could be my bronco-bustin’ buckaroo, or at least my urban cowboy.
When thinking back on Travis, the word dreamy comes to mind. Yes, I said “dreamy”; I know this isn't the 50's, but it just fits. He was a true bona fide cowboy. Growing up in Northern California, I was surrounded by many wannabe cowboys. These were boys who wore tight wranglers, boots and cowboy hats. They may have driven a huge truck with George Straight blasting, but they had never ridden, let alone, seen a horse in their life. Travis was different. He actually competed in rodeos and owned his own horses.
Travis was popular because he was flirty and funny. He had slick black hair, nice white teeth and was “like, totally cute”. He didn’t strike me as very intelligent, but when has that mattered to a 7th grader?
Travis used to let me wear his parka which was doused in his cologne every morning. We were "going out" which translated to writing love notes (folded in special ways), hanging out at recess, occasional phone calls and wearing of the boy’s parka. When a girl wore a boy's parka it was a stamp of possession, a public display of marking his territory. Truly, it was a sacrifice for the boy. While the girl was toasty warm with her initial coat and the boy's parka, the boy is left freezing with exposure. Travis had two coats that I would wear. One was an Oakland Raiders parka and the other was an acid-wash, tattered jean jacket.
We were in the thick of late 1980’s fashion. I wore my hair as high as I possibly could on my head. The higher and thicker the hair stood on your head, the more marketable you were to the opposite sex. It was a powerful pheromone. Complimenting the bangs was my “Sun-In” died and kinky-permed locks. Oh yes, I was the hottest thing since pegged pants.
Travis and I first kissed as a request. John had asked out Tiffani. Tiffani said she would only give her answer if Travis and I kissed. (Gasp!) There was a crowd of people watching but this was my chance! He flashed me a smile which said “I’m game, you?” I nodded. Travis had to perform well so that he could claim bragging rights among the guys afterwards. Once our lips met I almost forgot about the crowd watching and whistling. That kiss produced a buzz starting at my lips and ending at my toes. So kissing is fun after all! Travis’ kiss was nothing like the insulting helicopter kiss, although the techniques were pretty similar. This taught me that the majority of enjoyment from a kiss comes from the feelings behind a kiss, not the technique. I’m sure there were high-fives thrown after we were finished. I turned around, embarrassed. Tiffani said yes.
Travis and I kissed a couple more delightful times before I was dumped for some other girl with higher hair (or Travis was dumped for a boy with a warmer parka- I can’t remember).
I was stoked at the prospect of seeing Parke’s cute hiney in some tight Wranglers.
When pulling up to the Fischer home, I noticed a teenage girl riding a horse, herding cattle into a fenced area adjoining their property. A young man drove up on a John Deer tractor. “Howdy” he said, as he tipped his hat. As I walked up the long driveway to their sprawling ranch house, I had to jump to avoid a tumbleweed as it rolled by. I chuckled inside as his Dad answered the door wearing spurs and a bolo tie. Wow. Welcome to the wild, wild, west!
OK, that didn’t happen.
That is what I had envisioned, and secretly hoped, his Cheyenne home would be like but I could not be more wrong.
Parke’s dad was a friendly, stylish, distinguished lawyer who also owned a large department store in town. Parke’s sassy mother worked for the senate. They occupied a lovely home in an upper class neighborhood. There were flowers overflowing from large ceramic pots and Spanish music playing from the CD player. Although I was hoping for a stitch of western flair, there was none. I realized I was more of a country girl than Parke was a country boy! Thank goodness--Wild Bill, Wyatt and Bonnie Mae would be born in hospital bed.
The Fischer’s were warm and inviting and over the span of a couple of days I was akin to some of their family traditions like Blat, the game where you put a Hostess pie in the street and wait for a car to run over it. Once a car does, everyone has to run in the street and eat a piece. Also, Snap Dragons, which is where after lighting brandy and prunes on fire, you have to grab a flaming prune from the flambé and pop it into your mouth. Then there was the game of Fuzzy Nuts. I’ll let your imagination run wild. The Fishers made their own fun. Obviously. The Fishers were also entertainers. Dinner at their house was a cultural and culinary experience. Parke’s mom bragged that “you take the first bite with your eyes”, and I did. Her meals were art on modern plates. We toasted in German with gorgeous stemware.
I didn’t just spend time in Parke’s kitchen though.
It’s electrifying being in your guy’s bedroom. Things that bother mothers, like odor and mess, don’t bother a girlfriend, in fact, its endearing. Bad habits are adorable at first. Maybe I was love-blind but Parke simply didn’t have any bad habits. He had Collective Soul and Toad the Wet Sprocket music posters on his wall and pictures of me and him. Along one wall was a full-sized high school locker. It was my turn to see Parke in his element and I was soaking it up.
One morning I was lounging in his room while he was in shower. Lying in his soft bed and breathing in Parke’s lingering faint aroma was heavenly. Alone, I took the opportunity to hide love notes for him to find later. All of a sudden he kicked open the door wearing nothing but a towel around his waist.
Was he getting me back for the bathing suit temptation?
His chest was defined and his abdomen rippled with muscles. I took the first bite with my eyes. I had never looked at pornography or been interested in naked male bodies but at that moment I had never been so jealous of a towel. I wanted to reach and out and touch someone. What attracted me even more than his physique was his confidence. He walked around the room like he was in a locker room with his buddies. It’s strange to me how men are comfortable being socially naked. Parke had nothing to hide though. He was absolutely beautiful. With a smirk, he condescendingly twirled his finger implying that I turn around while he changed. I buried my head in his fragrant sheets. Keeping with my mildly rebellious streak, I lifted my eyes just to get a peek.
WHAT!? This was going to be my husband! I just wanted to check out the goods before purchasing.
I caught sight of his full naked body from his back.
Wow, that’s going to be mine????? Who am I?
I didn’t tell Parke that I peeked at his naked bum until much later in our relationship. He laughed so hard, he cried. He admitted that he pulled that stunt to embarrass me.
One early morning, at 5 am, I was awakened by the bedroom door opening. Parke picked me up from bed in his arms and carried me to his car. I was curious and embarrassed. I am far from the woman in the Lunesta commercial who wakes up in a crisp, made bed, wearing a silky slip, with perfectly tousled hair and minty breath. No, my hair is always an unpredictable disaster and my mascara is smudged under my eyes. I stole a quick glance in the car mirror as Parke was securing something in back. Decent, not horrible, I licked my thumbs and wiped the mascara from under my eyes and slammed the mirror shut just as he opened his car door.
“Where are we going?” I wondered out loud.
“You’ll see” he said, as he flashed me a smile.
Parke lived about 5 minutes from the prairie. The real prairie. His Ford Explorer four-wheeled to a designated spot overlooking the expanse of the prairie. We got out of his car and sat on the tail gate, facing east. He wrapped us in a blanket and broke out biscuits and orange juice. The dark sky was starting to lighten and within an hour we were bathed in yellow, pink light. Parke wanted to show me a Cheyenne sunrise. The sky was bigger than I had ever seen it. The streaks of color enhanced the gorgeous rolling hills and tumbleweed. It is a backdrop that I will never forget. The moment was perfect. I decided to tell him that I wanted to be with him…forever, because I did.
“Parke, I can’t see myself with any other man. I want to be with you, always. We are meant to be together.” It wasn’t rehearsed, it flowed naturally. I spoke from the heart.
He didn’t say anything for a long time. I gulped. Then he looked down and pointed his index finger on the floor as he spoke to accentuate every word. He spoke softly and paused between each word.
“I Love You So Much.”
The entire time I knew Parke, I had never seen him nervous. But when he looked up at me with pools in his vulnerable eyes, my heart melted and I brought him into me. We connected in a long, dizzying kiss. We were finally able to share our feelings, unrestricted.
“I love you too!” I professed. It was undeniable.