The story of how Keith purchased the HD is the first real story he ever told me, while we were still only talking by phone. I lay on my bed in my brand new, first ever apartment. It was in a beautiful and green edge of the city; it was horribly overpriced but I was proud to be able to afford it.
Keith was stuck on his tank in the desert in CA; someone ahead of him in the line had run over a mine (not a real one, of course) and so the entire convoy had stopped. Consequently, he had a lot of time to talk with me and as my husband's love language is Chevrolet, it's not surprising that this is the story he told me.
He had made an appointment to go up and see a man about a truck. It was time, he had decided, to get a new truck and not just any truck, the truck he would keep for the rest of his life. He approached this undertaking with the same attention to detail and bullheaded determination that he lends to any of his projects and had called the dealership at least a week in advance to let them know he was coming and what vehicle he was interested in.
The day arrived and he headed off. However, when he got to the dealership the truck wouldn't start. Salesmen scurried around, looking for cables, for other trucks to show him. He asked if they knew of another Chevy dealership in town.
They of course, said no. He went across the road to the Dodge dealership and just for the hell of it, asked them. It turned out that there was another Chevy dealership and just across town.
As soon as he got there, he saw her. He knew it right away, that was his truck. She was up on a platform, huge and black and had everything he was looking for; a moon roof, leather seats, a diesel engine, just to name a few accessories. Ominously, there appeared to be a couple wandering close to his truck, he parked quickly and strode over to them.
"This is my truck," he declared, leaning against the door with arms crossed. "The salesman is off doing paperwork."
To me, as he was telling the story, he confessed in his soft mid-American accent, "I lied to them straight up, Hon. But I couldn't let them get my truck...")
The first time I drove the thing, I was terrified.
"You look good driving my truck," he drawled lazily, watching me. "I could get used to this."
We made it there and back again and Keith encouraged me to drive it all the way into the garage.
"No, no!" I cried out in terror. "I can't; if I wreck or even just dent this truck...""
You'll be fine," he said soothingly. "You just listen to me, I'll tell you exactly what to do."
He did; he was very good at giving directions and I didn't even bother to check my mirrors. I simply listened to each instruction he gave, and lo and behold, I found the truck safely parked in the narrow space between the work truck and the right hand wall.
"Careful opening that door," he cautioned. "You don't want to hit the Ranger."
With great caution, I cracked the door and attempted to squeeze through the gap, my purse and heels clutched up. I was still struggling with this by the time he had come around to my side of the truck.
"Ya little cutie!" simply burst out of him, in a great rush of tenderness and he strode over, opened the door wide and lifted me out into his arms. With one hand he closed the door and with the other carried me, purse and shoes out into the clear space by the tailgate and set me carefully down, still chuckling.
When we went to Indiana on block leave, I drove the truck a great deal. Mainly because the combination of block leave with high school friends led to one long, beer party that simply moved from house to house and I was always the designated driver.
The roads in southern Indiana are twisty and narrow, the land beautiful and reminiscent of upstate New York, only the houses and farms so well kept and orderly, evidence of the strong German heritage there. Beautiful roads, but not conducive to stress free driving, especially with such a large and cherished vehicle.
At one point I was carefully navigating the route to Bubba's house...yes, he is called Bubba. I need say no more about this; everything that you can infer from his name is true...but I digress; on the way to his house I was driving extremely slowly and there was a scooter behind me that was looking more and more fed up with me.
"We are about to be passed by a scooter," said Dirkle, from the back seat in a dry voice. (Yes, Dirkle. Yes, exactly like that.)
"Honey," Keith said, his voice a little amused. "You can go faster than twenty five miles an hour on this road."
"Stay sober and you can drive, it's that simple," I shot back at him, which made him laugh aloud, his eyes crinkled. He said nothing more; he knew he was got.
Also, we frequently would get into arguments stemming from my not instantaneously responding to his instructions.
"This is not your tank and I am not your driver!" I have snapped at him on many an occasion.
His uncle still owns the family farm, the fourth generation to do so. The original homestead was burned down by native Americans and rebuilt by his great great grandfather who had come over from German to find a new life.
By now only the barn stands, though the fields were covered in the rippling green of corn rows; rented out to the neighbors. High up on one of the hills is the family deer camp, which Keith helped build and we spent some long and lazy hours up there with his uncle, looking over the orchard and gardens, the open fire pit and the sunny front porch.
Coming back, I was turning off the driveway onto the main road, looking both ways, and cautious as usual. Keith was on the phone. I spotted a car in the distance and decided I had more than enough time to pull out. However, under the pressure of making it in time, I turned the truck too sharply to the right.
Keith barked something out to me, but it didn't register that he was talking to me and so I didn't listen; the back wheels of the truck jolted down into the ditch and back up again with a sickening lurch and Keith swore, shut off the cell phone.
"I told you to pull straight out!" he cried. "You could have bent the axle! You can't just turn like that, this truck is way too long!"
"I didn't realize you were talking to me!" I cried, "You were on the phone."
"Honey," he said with heavily, "I'm always on the radio; I can multitask."
"Well, I can't!" I protested. We drove along in silence for a little while; I was focused on the road, my anxiety level miserably high.
"You little kitten, you're all nervous now, aren't you?" relented Keith with gentle amusement.
"Yes!" I burst out, resentful and angry. "If I dent this thing, or cause any kind of damage at all, you would never forgive me!"
"Ah Hon!" he drawled, contrite. "I love this truck, Sweetie, but it's just a pickup; I can always get a new one. I can't ever replace you."
I looked over at him in awe. Later that night we ate dinner at his uncle's tidy and prosperous ranch in town. We sat out on the covered porch, the men drank highballs and we watched the twilight come settling over the back gardens.
Keith told the story of pulling out of the driveway and looked over at me. "And then what did I say?" he prompted me, his eyes twinkling.
I considered him; he had a cocktail in one hand, his booted feet firmly planted on the flagstones, his whole posture lazy and content.
"You said it was just a pickup," I repeated, still in wonder at this statement.
A stunned silence fell over the little group, a significant look passed between our two hosts. I'm sure they were not too surprised to learn of our marriage a few weeks later.
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