LOUISE: A Ring and A Ride
Maybe it’s just me but I seldom see a Greyhound bus on the road these days. At least, not the way I used to see them. Once upon a time it was the preferred mode of transportation. I remember riding a bus to see my older sister in Tulsa when I was in junior high school. My parents would see me off at the small Henryetta depot and Jerlene would meet me at the mega bus station in Tulsa.
But my first long trip happened during my college summer of 1964 when I traveled to San Marcos, Texas on a Greyhound bus to work at my uncle’s restaurant. My mother snapped a picture before I boarded, trying not to act worried about her girl. It ended up being a fun summer, meeting lots of young people since San Marcos was a college town. The bus trip itself was an adventure, stopping at all the small towns along the way, sometimes just letting people on or off and other times for rest stops. It was at one of these depots that I encountered my first “pay toilet.” Who knew one would have to pay a dime to enter that private door?
Then came the summer of 1965 when I again waited at the Henryetta bus depot. This time, my parents weren’t there to see me off. Instead, I waited with a dark-haired, blue-eyed young man who not only turned my heart upside down, but also begged me to stay in Oklahoma rather than spend my summer in Texas. I definitely would have preferred staying with him but my job paid for part of my college tuition so there we sat, waiting for the big diesel bus that would take me away. While we waited, Carl walked over and put a nickel in one of those gadget and gumball machines, just to have something to do. He came back and sat down beside me before opening the small container. Out dropped a silver, plastic ring with a pink set on top. We both smiled since we had talked about an engagement but decided to wait on a ring. We had pledged our love to each other, meaning neither of us would date while apart since we planned to be married, but an engagement ring would have to wait.
Suddenly, Carl grabbed my hand and slipped that toy ring onto my finger and said, “This will be your engagement ring until we can get the real thing.” We both laughed at his actions. That ring wasn’t meant to stay on my finger forever. It was simply a fun declaration of his love. Then before we knew it, we heard the air brakes of that long Greyhound bus that would whisk me away from my handsome heartthrob. The goodbye kiss was heartbreaking. The summer seemed endless, even with a couple of quick trips back home. Then finally, another bus brought me home for good. Two months later, Carl placed a real engagement ring on my finger before a bus took him away to Basic Training at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Every time I encounter that familiar diesel smell, I remember my bus trips to San Marcos, Texas. And every time I open my treasured little jewelry box from long ago and see a silver, plastic ring with a pink set on top, I remember a dark-haired, blue-eyed young man who loved me with all of his heart that special summer as well as the following 45 years of summers.
Carl, how I miss you on this 50th anniversary of our engagement!