IT WAS LOVE
The Iowa winter of ‘61-‘62 was filled with big snows and blizzards. In February of ’62, I started dating Maxine Horness. She had been trying to catch my eye for months, but I had been oblivious of her. We kissed on our first date and agreed to “go steady” on our second date. As they say “life as I knew it was over.” That was the beginning of 43 years of love and togetherness. But, first we had to overcome the blizzards.
The winter was unusually bad with bitter cold, deep snow, blizzards, and blocked roads. The older generation often compared it to the epic winter of 1936. We both lived in the country. I lived on a big farm a mile from town. Maxine lived on an acreage in the far northwest corner of the school district. The Horness home was the last in the school district. The neighbor kids went to Story City to school. We were farm kids, and we knew how to get along and get around in the winter.
The snowy roads didn’t bother us. One day, in advanced trigonometry class, I asked Maxine if I could take her home after the Tuesday night basketball game. She played forward on the basketball team. She played real girls basketball, 6 on 6, not this 5 on 5 imitation basketball girls play these days. 6 on 6 is a game of beauty, finesse, and grace. It can only be played by girls. Guys cannot play this game. In gym class, the boys were forced to play 6 on 6 against the girls. A clumsier group of guys you have never seen. The girls giggled at us, well, actually they laughed, as they outscored us something awful. But I digress, Maxine said yes. She introduced me to her parents at the ballgame and afterward I took her home. I asked her for a date for the Valentine’s Dance on Saturday night at the local Farm Bureau building. She smiled, said yes, and we kissed.
It began snowing during the day of the dance. It was blowing but not bad. I didn’t own a car, but dad let me use his car for the date. At home, the snow didn’t look that bad. I started out and drove the 11 miles to Maxine’s house. The roads weren’t good, but I didn’t get stuck or go in the ditch; yet.
I arrived at Maxine’s house. Her mother asked me to sit down at the kitchen table and said that Maxine would be down in a moment. She said, “I’m glad to meet the boy that could get Maxine to be ready on time.” I didn’t realize it at the time but that was a warning. I would learn Maxine kept track of time with a calendar. I used a stopwatch. Eventually she trained me to be patient.
As we left for the dance, the car slide off the corner of her driveway and I couldn’t get up the incline onto the road. Maxine’s dad got the neighbor’s tractor and pulled the car onto the road. We said we’d be ok and took off for the dance. Maxine’s acreage was in a sheltered area in the timber near the Skunk River. As we climbed the hill and onto the flat open fields of Story County, the snow storm was a different story.
The wind was creating snow drifts across both lanes of the gravel road. As she sat next to me, we snuggled together. These were the days before seat belts and bucket seats. We started down the gravel road to the blacktop; not too bad but not great. We turned east on the Milford blacktop, and the road conditions got better. We thought we had it made. We were wrong. As we turned south on the Roland blacktop, the drifts got bigger and some were clear across the road. I took the middle of the road, not too many others out that night, and plowed the snow drifts with dad’s 1959 Plymouth. Some of them were bumper deep but that old Plymouth pounded through them. We got to the dance ok with no second thoughts. We were almost 18 years old. We didn’t understand we weren’t invincible.
We had a good time at the dance. We danced the night away to our favorite rock and roll tunes. We stared into each others eyes. She laid her head on my shoulder as we swayed back and forth to the sound of Ray Charles singing “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” We held each other tight. There was electricity between us. We both knew this first date was something special, and it was, it lasted 43 years until death do us part.
As the dance ended the chaperones announced the country roads were becoming impassible and recommended farm kids should find a place to stay in town. I lived a mile from town on Highway 30. It was a major road and well plowed. It wasn’t usually a problem for me to get home. All the basketball girls that lived in the country had homes in town where they could stay to be sure they could get to games on Tuesday and Friday nights. Maxine’s in-town home was with the Taylor girls so I took her to their place. Many of the basketball girls were there to spend the night. Mrs. Taylor said the boys couldn’t stay.
I headed home, plowed a few snow drifts along the way but nothing major, or so I thought. The snow was deep in the driveway with a big drift by the yard light. I stomped on the gas pedal and plowed through it and then drove though smaller drifts to the machine shed. I got the door open and put dad’s car in the shop.
I climbed into bed with sweet dreams of my first date with Maxine. The next morning I was deep asleep, still in those sweet dreams, when the bedroom door bound open. My father hollered, “Where in the hell did you have my car last night?” “Just to the dance and home. Maxine stayed in town. Why?” I replied. In his “you’re in trouble voice” he said, “Because the whole front end of the car is buried in snow and it froze to the radiator.” “Well I plowed a few drifts” I replied. I pulled the covers over my head as out of the room he stomped. This was only the beginning of the encounters Maxine and I had with snow storms that winter.
A break in the winter snows came. I had saved money from my 4-H projects to by a car. I had been asking to buy a car. Dad and I set out to buy me a car. Perhaps the sight of his car after the Valentines dance had given him incentive. Dad decided it would be a Plymouth as he was partial to Chrysler products and low prices. Dad did the dealing because he trusted no one when it came to financial decisions. I about went nuts over his wrangling on the price. Dad spent an hour haggling over the cost of installing a radio in the car. The salesman wanted $25 to install a radio in the car. Dad said the car should come with a radio. The salesman offered to split the difference and do it for $12.50. Dad said no. I had the money, just pay him the $12.50 and buy the car. Dad finally got the salesman to agree, and I was relieved. I forked over the $850 dollars for a 1958 four door white Plymouth. I had wheels and independence. I was now broke, but I had a car, and Maxine and I were going steady. I was floating on a cloud. Soon reality would demonstrate this was not heaven…….it was Iowa.
Shortly after I got the car we got another big snow storm. I bought some tire chains to get around with on ice and snow (tire chains were common, studded snow tires had not been invented). I had used them and the Plymouth could get through a lot of snow with chairs on the rear tires. I had to get to Maxine’s house so we could go on dates. Snows were often and big during March of 1962. One day the snow was really heavy and school was dismissed at noon. Maxine had not been in school because the snow was so bad the busses didn’t run that morning. I had driven to school that day instead of riding the school bus. I saw an opportunity to see Maxine. I stopped at the gas station in town. They weren’t busy so I put the Plymouth up on the hoist and put the tire chains on.
Down came the hoist and off I went to see Maxine. Maxine’s family didn’t have a phone in their home so it would be a surprise when I showed up.
It was 11 miles to Maxine’s, but I knew the roads from my house to her house. I had plenty of warm clothes and a scoop shovel with me. I headed out of town. The roads were in terrible shape. It was snowing, the wind was blowing and the drifts were almost too big to plow through. With the tire chains, I didn’t have much difficulty plowing through them. The whiteouts were a problem with visibility but I got lucky and never ended up in the ditch. I turned west on a gravel road.
Things didn’t look good, but the snow plow had been down the road. The snow plow had opened a path one lane wide in the middle of the road. The drifts were higher than the car. The blowing snow billowed over the tall snow drifts and swirled about the car.
It was like driving through a tunnel in the fog. At least the snow drifts were so high I didn’t have to worry about going in the ditch.
Unfazed by the blizzard I started down the road. After a few hundred yards of driving in the tunnel of blowing whirling snow, I came into an open area. Through the blowing snow I could see the snow plow. I thought, “I got it made, I’ll follow the snow plow for another mile and I’ll be able to turn north and make it to Maxine’s.” Only one lane was open. I knew the snow plow was not going fast so I proceeded slowly. My tire chains were digging into the snow and gravel on the road. I was confident but I could see very large drifts up ahead. When I got close to the snow plow, a road grader with V blade, I stopped to wait for him to proceed. The driver saw me and got out of the road grader and walked back to the car.
I rolled down the window. The driver leaned down, looked at me, and said, “Kid what are you doing out here.” I said, “I’m going to see my girlfriend.” Slowly he shook his head back and forth and gave me ‘the look” older men gave kids. Then he said, “Kid you ain’t going anywhere. My grader is stuck. Turn around and go back while you still can.” Again he shook his head and gave me “the look”. So, in dismay, I did what he told me. I turned around, but I kept looking in the rear view mirror. I was hoping to see that grader moving again. It didn’t happen. I plowed through the tunnel of blowing swirling snow, got back to town, and then another mile to the farm. Dad had plowed the snow out of the driveway, and I parked my car by the house. I didn’t get to see Maxine, and now it was time to do chores. Bummer with a capital B. Dad asked me where I’d been so I told him the story. Just like the snow plow driver he just shook his head.
Two days later we had school again. The busses were able to run so I got to see Maxine again. She smiled when I told her of my adventure to see her. She told me I should have tried the north route. “Oh tell me more,” I replied. She said roads from the north don’t drift much. I took her home after school, and she showed me the north route. The north route was from Story City. I could get to Story City using Highway 30 and Highway 69. They were major highways and plowed more often than the rural roads. From Story City, it was about 4 miles to Maxine’s. The roads followed the Skunk River and were sheltered by trees. The snow didn’t drift deeply on those roads. So it was south from Story City about a mile, turn left and cross the river, turn right at the H tree, and a couple of miles more to her place.
It continued to snow that March and we missed more school. In February and March, we missed so many days of school that graduation was delayed for a week. When we didn’t have school I always got to Maxine’s house. The rest of that winter we were never separated by a snow storm. Yep, it was love. For two teenagers in love, the north route became our favorite. There weren’t many houses on that tree sheltered route. At night, the snow on the moon lit trees provide a feeling of serenity and beauty. The snow sparkled in the bright moon light. Rabbits and deer wondered about. We would often stop along that road and for hours just sit and admire the beauty of an Iowa winter. Our love for each other grew stronger. In June we were engaged and three years later we married. For the next 40 years, working together and loving each other, we overcame more blizzards and road bumps of life. God called Maxine home in June of 2005. When we meet in the next life, it will still be love.