Ms. Stephanie Towne, class of 2011, a writer and publications assistant with the Cal Aggie Alumni Association asked me the following three questions for a project she is working on with the working title “UC Davis Love Story.” I was surprised at how much her three simple questions got me to think about events in my life which took place 40 years ago and literally changed my life.
1) How did you and Brooke meet? Was it “love at first sight?”
Fascination at first sight, I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
For the second year running I had been attending UC Davis for six months and then working for the US Forest Service up in the mountains for six months. Back then I could pay for six months school with six months work with overtime. Only downside was that I got pretty lonely out there in the woods, so I was always happy to get back to Davis and my friends at Baggins End. A lady friend of mine, Anne, decided to invite to me dinner as a little homecoming to the Domes. But she knew I had been out in the wilds for a good long while, and she was worried about what might happen. Her solution was to invite a new friend, a very cute free-spirit, named Brooke, who had just moved into the Domes. Brooke joined us for dinner as a sort of a chaperon, unbeknownst to me.
Well, I fell for the chaperon like a ton of bricks. However, I felt a little guilty, because she was just 20 and I was nearly 23. We hesitated a bit. We kept up appearances that evening at dinner. Brooke was certainly on my mind all that night. And as silly as it sounds now, I did have these nagging second thoughts that I might be robbing the cradle. I was conflicted.
The next evening at twilight, I was sitting on a log between Dome 8 and Dome 9 enjoying a campfire. I remember thinking what a nice night it was and that the stars were about to come out. I reflected a bit on the outdoor pleasures of my summer life in the mountains and about my return to UC Davis, when out of the dusky light and into the glow of the wood fire stepped Brooke in a beautiful peasant blouse. She just stood there and smiled at me. Well to paraphrase the Doors – “The time to hesitate (was) through.”
Those of you who were around in the in late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s will know the rest of the lyrics to that song. Those who didn’t…… use your imaginations…… or more likely you’ll Google it.
2) How did your relationship progress after the initial meeting? Did you begin dating immediately, or were you friends for a while?
I guess our kids are old enough to hear this now (26 & 30), but I would say first we became lovers and then we became friends. As for dates, we were both starving students. “Dates” were pretty causal and thrifty affairs such as, walks, bike rides, gardening, picking fruit, and an occasional movie on campus or trip to town for ice cream. Four nights a week Brooke, Anne, myself and my dome-mate, Bill, had a little dinner club. Each of us cooked one night a week for the four of us. Bill was from Mississippi, so once a week we’d have greens, red beans & rice, and fried chicken. Brooke, on the other hand, cooked something new every time. This is when I learned Brooke was a great and adventurous cook.
In June, I graduated and went off to work for the Forest Service again, this time as a backcountry ranger in the Emigrant Wilderness just north of Yosemite. Brooke got a summer job with the Viticulture and Enology Departments at UC Davis. We wrote long letters to each other. (This was in days before email, Face Book and Twitter, etc.) Brooke baked me cookies and mailed them to me, so I’d get them when I got back from each of my ten-day tours of duty. Funny how quickly my co-workers figured this out. They would all gather around me like bears at picnic when I got back to the station in Pinecrest and received my mail.
Once, Brooke even backpacked out to meet me on the trail and brought me fresh grapes. (I have pictures.) When a beautiful woman will walk 15 or 20 miles into the wilderness to feed you fresh grapes, you’ve got to think this is the start of a beautiful and lasting relationship. Either that or “How did I get so damn lucky?”
3) When did you know that you wanted to marry Brooke? How did you propose to her?
Despite all, I was perhaps a reluctant groom. I loved Brooke deeply, but I was uncertain about marriage at 25. Like many young men I thought that might be something for the future, but we had all the time in world.
Brooke graduated in March of 1977. She moved up to Tuolumne County were I was working and found a job supervising a Youth Conservation Corp (YCC) crew. We found a house with some co-workers and moved in together. Later Brooke got a job with the Tuolumne County Ag Commissioner/County Weights and Measures and I got a job with Tuolumne County Planning. We found a place to live for just the two us. Life was good. We were having lots of fun. I thought life would go on like this for a long time to come. Then in December my mom had her first heart attack at age 48. Mom survived, but it was wake up call to me that life was shorter then I thought.
Brooke and I talked it over that spring and decided we’d like to get married in the summer. It was actually more romantic then it sounds. We told our mother’s on Mother’s Day that we planned to be married. We were married July 15, 1978 and have been together ever since. Forty years later we are still happy, still in love, and I’m so glad we married.