I looked in askance at the Bevis and Butthead T-shirt, a choice of attire that I knew my parents would notice. Not mention but notice. But what can you expect from a boy who would ask you to go ‘coon hunting on a date?
He handed me his sister’s coveralls. She was four years younger than me and all of a size two. I could not have fit one leg into them on my best day. Perhaps the first sparks of infatuation are even more blinding than love. Embarrassed, I pointed out the obvious. He offered me his coveralls and traded up to his dad’s. I, by the grace of God, slid the pair on. They weren’t a bad fit once a foot or so of the legs were rolled into cuffs. There was a height difference between the two of us that soon made me gain a whole new appreciation for porch steps and truck step-sides.
I climbed into the truck, not knowing until later that I had ousted Ace from his seat of honor in the cab. He suffered the indignity of the truck bed for that night at least. We were formally introduced in the back yard, and I suspect that Ace was partial to blonds. Dogs can always sense if you are a dog person, and they can sense respect versus bullshit better than any human I have ever met. If I had known half of what that dog ever forgot about his master, well, who knows where that would have led? There is something about the bond between a boy and his dog that even a seventeen-year-old’s hormones cannot overcome.
It was not the worst date I have ever been on. I have always been a sucker for old pickups and back roads, although the moonlight is hard pressed to work its magic when your companion has a shot gun in one hand. (Would it have been a shot gun? Why were we “hunting” in the dark? That could not have been legal.) We walked and talked. I do not remember what we talked about – dreams, aspirations, teachers we could not stand? After ten years the topics have sunk into a fog. I remember him carrying me over a puddle and kneeling on the ground to re-roll the cuffs of the too long blue coveralls. I remember thinking I would have been completely lost had I been by myself. When I remember, I forget a hundred things I learned in nights that followed, and I can see with perfect clarity why he became my first love.