Early Marriage Tactical Error #2
(Louisville, Illinois circa 1985)
I had landed a job teaching and coaching at the Jr. High School of North Clay Unit 25 immediately upon my graduation from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. I taught seventh and eighth grade American history and coached baseball and basketball. My teaching job paid about $12,000 each and every year and coaching drove my annual salary up to $14,000. Even in 1985 that was not a lot of money. Melissa and I had already decided she would stay home with our infant son Zec so I was the proverbial bread winner and was clearly a few slices short of a loaf. When summer came around, I was clearly in the market for a summer job and quickly found one at the Epworth Campground just out of town. My job was an interesting one. When kids were not in camp, I was to mow and do general maintenance and when camp was in session, I played my guitar, sang and taught classes. But most of that summer I went to work with no shirt, a pair of overalls and a Toronto Blue Jay’s baseball cap and returned home each evening a sweaty, sunburned mess.
On my first day, camp President Phil Poe asked if I knew how to operate a tractor and mower. I told him I was raised in Southern Illinois and we both laughed. What I neglected to tell him was that I was raised at 403 North Line Street in DuQuoin and had never been on a tractor in my life. When I arrived alone at the shed, I climbed aboard the mower and looked fervently for the key to turn the ignition and the accelerator. Finally, I walked back into town and found a guy who showed me how to operate the tractor and mower (after making me feel like an idiot for 45 minutes). All in all it was a fair trade. Later in the summer, a waterline broke underground and Phil asked if I knew how to dig it up and fix it. I again told him I was raised in Southern Illinois and we both laughed (that one also resulted in a walk into town).
Since we only had one car (a 1969 Pontiac LeMans someone had given us), Melissa and Zec drove me to work each morning, brought me lunch at noon and picked me up at the end of each day. During one particularly hot stretch of weather, the camp was abandoned except for me, the tractor and the mower. I remember the morning being hotter than six kinds of smoke and all I could think about was the Coca-Cola poured over ice that Melissa would soon bring me. I was counting the minutes. When I saw that powder blue muscle car rolling up the dust I was crazy excited. Melissa got out of the car and had everything on a tray for me. I spotted a sandwich, some chips and a cookie (blah, blah, blah) and then…there it was! Perched majestically towering over the tray was my glass bottle of Coca-Cola. I raced the tractor over to the car imagining I was Charles Ingal’s from Little House on the Prairie getting ready to have a big meal after chopping wood to keep his family warm or having saved our milk cow’s newborn calf.
Melissa looked so happy to present her picnic plate to me and I thanked her profusely…almost. Right when I was about to shower her with thanks, I noticed there was no…ice. She had not brought ice. There is no way words could possibly describe my disappointment. What was intended to be a gracious “thank you sweetheart” came out a terse “where is the ice?” Melissa summarily put the tray behind the back tire and floored the accelerator leaving the lunch tray underneath roughly six inches of dust. Only the neck of the lukewarm Coke bottle was visible to the naked eye. I watched the dust roll until the car was out of sight in utter disbelief of what had just happened.
This event I call early marriage tactical error number two.
-Shane L. Bishop is the Senior Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois and the author of “Exactly As I Remember It” and “Re:member.”