Lon and I were unconventional individuals, to say the least, and as a couple we were a team to reckon with. We had long since decided that we were destined to be best friends, and our chemistry was a once in a lifetime find for us both. We’d lived together for five years, both a little afraid to make the next move, since we had both failed at marriage before. Finally, when the mundane things like health insurance and life insurance benefits began to intrude on our altruistic declaration that we didn’t need papers to be married, we began to talk seriously about the financial aspects and the need to secure a future for my children and the one we’d had together. True to our sixties roots, we had avoided what we both saw as “establishment controls” and believed strongly that we had made our commitments from the heart and didn’t need government approval for that. Still, the realities of the eighties were knocking on our consciences and logic dictated that we grow up. We’d talk about it and both agree that we really should just go to the “justice of the peace” one of these days, as Lon said, “and make you an honest woman.” We just never seemed to quite get around to doing it.
One Saturday, Lon called me from work, and when I answered the phone, he said, “Hey, I think we should get married, what do you say?” I laughed, I thought he was kidding around. I played along with the joke, and said, “SURE! Why not?” His voice on the phone got very serious. He said, “I mean it. Will you marry me? I been tryin’ to get up the nerve to ask for a week, but I keep backin’ out. Just say yes or no.” I said, “YES!” He said, “WHEW! I just knew you were gonna tell me how marryin’ would mess up what we have. How about two weeks from today, is that enough time?” I have no idea what prompted me to agree to that, but I did. Two weeks to plan a wedding?
Lon was a cop. Before that, we had been truck drivers and drove as a team. Our friends were a mix of truck drivers, cops, musicians and bikers. Oh, and two State Senators, all three local county commissioners, and two ministers - a fairly interesting mixture of people, to say the least. My family were Arkansas mountain people, carpenters, and welders. His were Phoenix golf pros and engineers. The planning of this wedding was an exercise in balancing. Trying to please everyone and doing so within my fairly limited budget became a colossal headache. Finally, one of my friends told me, “Just do whatever makes you happy and whatever YOU will enjoy. If the guests like it, too, great. If they don’t, oh well. You can’t please this whole group. It isn’t possible.” I decided she was right.
This was truly a redneck wedding. We did the ceremony in our own back yard in the rose garden before about 40 of our friends and family, which included the bulk of Lon’s country band, for which he was the lead singer. Despite the flippant way we had arrived at this wedding day and the light-hearted way we had both approached it, when we spoke our vows, written especially for us by our favorite minister, I looked into Lon’s eyes and saw a tears falling. This was a big bulky country man, tough as a boot. He was opening the last little bit of his heart to me. Like a flash, it hit me. This was no game. We were pledging ourselves to one another before God, and we both meant every word we were saying. The awe almost overwhelmed me. This was my soul mate. The one person on the earth who could know me absolutely, totally, and whom I could trust completely. By the time we had both finished repeating our vows, there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd, least of all ours.
After the ceremony was complete and some gifts were opened, Lon and the band played for the guests who danced on the deck and patio. He even donned his “wireless rig”, a microphone without wires, so that he could dance with me while singing. One of those songs was Vince Gill, “Look At Us”, dedicated to me and sung in his deep voice next to my ear as he danced with me held up close. I remember thinking that perfection was definitely worth waiting for. We roasted a pig, tapped a keg, and the last of the guests left at about 2am. It was a great day, capped by a long ride on a friend’s Harley, me tucked spoon style against his back, riding the curves of a beautiful mountain road. By the time we got to the hotel, it was nearly daylight. We slept, ate a late breakfast, and rode back to our home, both having to go to work on Monday. The first time I signed “Mrs”, on a registration form at the hotel, I felt like I had lived thirty-five years and had just now realized where I belonged. They say practice makes perfect, and that the best things are worth waiting for. They are RIGHT!
A year later, our anniversary was approaching. The friend who had loaned us his Harley had sold it to us later. As we got ready to go for a short road trip, about two weeks before our anniversary, Lon mentioned that the “guys” were wondering if we were going to recreate the wedding party again to celebrate. We talked about it all day and decided it would be the perfect commemoration. Again, we sent out the invitations, roasted the pig, tapped the keg, and had a great time with several bands, all friends of ours, taking turns in jam session fashion. Again, I danced with my ear close to Lon’s cheek so that I could not only hear but feel his deep voice as he sang 'my' song, “Look At Us”. At 2am, Lon and I took the bike and rode about fifty miles to the same little hotel in the mountains. This time, we stayed three days, enjoying the hummingbirds and the peace of the lodge. It was such a great weekend that we decided to make it a tradition.
For the next fifteen years, we held the annual K-Bar-C Country Music Jam and Pig Roast to commemorate our wedding day. It grew every year, and the last year, the guest book was signed by 132 people. We left every year at 2am, and rode that same mountain road to that same little hotel/lodge. It became a ritual.
I have never known two people more in tune with one another or meant to be together. Lon has been gone now for a while, but I still have the Jam and Pig Roast every year. Now, his sons are the cooks and one of them is the lead singer. He looks a lot like his Dad and sounds just like him. I am always thankful for the sixteen years we had together. But on that special weekend, I say an extra little prayer of thanks. Some people search for a lifetime to find what we stumbled into together. I will always celebrate that.