Kesley Colbert

Mom way smarter than arrow boy

Red and white are not my favorite colors. And that personal preference, in some kind of off-handed, backwards, subliminal way, may have a direct connection to Valentine’s Day. I have never been on friendly terms with the little half-dressed chubby guy who comes out every February waving his bow and arrows around.

Our problem can be traced back to Millicent Blackburn’s front porch over on Magnolia Avenue. We were in junior high. I’m thinking the year was 1960. I walked her home on a Valentine Sunday night after church. Millicent kissed me right on the mouth. Before I could recover, she kissed me again.

I floated to my house thinking it was true love for sure, and checking to see if I had any arrows sticking out of my heart. Life was good. Like it was supposed to be! I had found the one! This was going to last a lifetime. We were going to grow old together.

My last thought before I went to sleep was, “I’ve got to buy her a box of chocolates!”

I sprinted to school the next day. Millicent wasn’t in our first period English class. I musta been a better kisser than I thought! But I got a bit worried when she also didn’t make it to science class. Pam Collins told me at lunch that Millicent had moved back to Memphis….

I went home heartbroken, lost, lonely, adrift, confused, befuddled and wondering if this was the way your teenage years were supposed to be.

I was crying my heart out to Mother at the kitchen table when Dad happened by, “Son, it sounds more like indigestion than love to me. You didn’t happen to eat any of Mrs. Tallmadge’s sausage casserole at the church social Sunday?”

Mom was consoling me with the “plenty more fish in the sea” story and was assuring me that God had “just the right girl” picked out for me and I “just need to be patient” when Dad happened back by, “Son, I believe the Bible tells us over in Ecclesiastes that life is all vanity unless you find a rich girl to marry.    

“Find yourself a girl whose father owns a bank or a hardware store. Make sure he is old and sick and owns four hundred acres of good bottomland. And it will help if you pick out his favorite daughter!”

Daddy might have been “funning me” just a bit. Mom grew up 14 miles out of Lawrenceburg, on a dirt road along Sugar Creek. My future grandparents and a houseful of “gonna be” aunts and uncles were living large and loving each other dearly. But there was not a poorer family in the whole county! If Dad was serious, he sure didn’t take his own advice!

But I understood his meaning. It took me four Valentine Days later to find Mary Hadley Hayden. She looked great. She liked baseball. She would listen to country music if you insisted. And her daddy, in fact, owned a bank. And a sawmill! And he had hundreds of acres, most of it along the Tennessee River.

Life, love, and Ecclesiastes were finally working out for me.

Until Millicent Blackburn came back to spend the summer with her grandmother….

Somehow, someway (To this day I still blame it on the little guy with the bow and arrows) “Porchgate” became the topic of our teenage world. Talk about a mountain out of a molehill! But Mary Hadley moved on faster than “Maybelline” in her Coupe Deville. Millicent went back to Memphis.

I didn’t get the bank, sawmill or one acre on the river. And I was too old to cry on Mom’s shoulder. But you can bet your last dollar I was seeing a little red….

My college years were spent at the University of the South, an all-boys school located on a high mountain in the Cumberland Plateau. Girls were scarcer than hens’ teeth. Arrow boy couldn’t even find this place!

But once a year, at Valentine’s, the valley girls from Winchester, Huntland, Estill Springs and Decherd would crawl out of the woodwork and gather up around the university’s Thompson Student Union. I would shine myself up and walk over there.

I walked because I didn’t have a car. And, as I’m sure you have figured out by now, my Father didn’t own a bank.

Not one girl noticed me. Ever! I walked into the student union like the “Invisible Man!” Every girl was out by the small parking lot checking out who was driving up in a Jaguar, Porsche, Aston Martin….

You know that “thing” about finding a girl that was blessed by a rich and prosperous family and marrying her as quick as you could—I have come to realize that gate swings both ways….