The following Saturday, after a morning spent digging a pit, building a large fire, and preparing the meat for cooking, Allen picked up Trish in his red Chevy Luv pickup and they headed out into the farmland surrounding the campus. Borrowing a tractor and wagon from a farmer Allen knew, they drove to the barn and filled the wagon with bales of straw (Allen, of course, had to explain the difference between hay and straw to the curious but ignorant suburbanite).
Trish was impressed with Allen’s arrangements and connections – she certainly didn’t know people who would loan her wagons and tractors! She didn’t actually know anyone off-campus at all. Allen liked that Trish perched on the fender above the back tire of the tractor and rode along with him across the fields. Later, the two enjoyed chatting and working side-by-side shucking the corn, preparing the potatoes to be baked, and getting things set up for the evening.
The dinner, held in a rustic Rotary Club building, had a picnic atmosphere, and was casual and fun, though Trish created an awkward moment by asking, out of an abundance of curiosity and such a complete lack of knowledge that she didn’t know not to ask, why the beef they were eating was said to come from a “steer.” How was a steer different from a cow or a bull? The answer . . . that a steer is a castrated bull . . . was not a conversation these young men wanted to have with a bunch of girls.
Following the meal, the guys had some games planned. You will clearly recognize this first game as having come from a guy’s imagination. Each couple competed against the other couples. The guy would take an end of a piece of licorice in his mouth, and his date would take the other end in her mouth. The winner of the race would be the first couple to entirely eat their licorice. No use of hands was allowed. Obviously, this would involve some very close lip to lip activity. Sheesh – guys and the games they come up with!
Did I mention this was a Christian college?
Now, Allen and Trish still didn’t know one another very well. One thing that Trish had yet to learn was how very competitive Allen could be. He would play this game to win.
The starter yelled, “GO!” and Trish and Allen started chewing. Allen, in his competitive zeal, went a little too far too fast . . . and accidentally chomped down on Trish’s lower lip! Rather badly. There was blood. Lots of blood.
They headed into the restroom for tissues to staunch the bleeding. It required many tissues. Eventually they were able to rejoin the group . . . just in time for the second round of the game! Because they’d achieved the fastest time in their heat, they had qualified for the second round, which involved . . . Twinkies.
They did NOT win the second round. To this day, Allen insists that Trish went backwards when the starter yelled, “GO!”
The rest of the evening was thankfully uneventful. After the games came the hayride (which was really a strawride, of course). Since Allen drove the tractor, Trish sat up there with him again. He really appreciated that, though Trish wasn’t trying to send a message by it – after all, who wants to be the only single in a wagon full of couples?
Allen was responsible for some of the cleanup afterwards, which Trish helped with. Then, after a long, full day, they drove back to campus, and their first date came to an end.
Both Allen and Trish were busy the following day. Allen was competing in a 100 mile bike race, while Trish was traveling to present a concert with the handbell choir. Monday, though, he called her, and they ended up going for a walk around “the loop” – the road which made a big circle around the campus. Walking and talking became a regular evening event.
Trish had a fat lip for a week. Over and over again, when her friends would question her about what had caused the injury, she’d have to start out by asking if they knew a guy named Allen Sowers . . . which they rarely did, since she and Allen ran in such separate circles . . . and then she would explain what had happened.
It was a Christian college . . . did I mention that? Trish had to marry Allen now. Her reputation was pretty much shot.
Just kidding! In reality, Allen and Trish continued going for evening walks together, and talking. Lots of talking. They became best friends.
Allen managed to continue to surprise her, planning the most interesting and unusual dates. Visiting a local auction. Spending the evening hanging out with people he’d befriended who lived on farms around the college. Sitting in the truck watching electrical storms over the lake.
Eventually, Allen told Trish, “You know I’m planning to marry you, don’t you?”
And, of course, she already knew that.
If you were to ask Allen, today, what most attracted him to Trish, he would tell you that she had such a great attitude, and handled problems and unexpected difficulties with grace and humor.
And Trish would tell you that she recognized, very early on, that life with Allen would never, ever be boring!