Barbara liked me. I knew. There were too many telltale signs.
Like the time in Miss Kent’s arithmetic class when she walked past all the other boys to ask me for a pencil.
And the time she looked at me during reading group. It could have been the cloakroom she was sneaking a peak at, but I preferred to believe she wouldn’t crane her neck that much just for a bunch of winter coats.
I wasn’t used to such attention. I led the sixth grade in pimples and my ears stuck out like baseball mitts.
My best friend Bill had already been to the movies with a girl. Never mind that his dad drove. A first date is a first date.
I was determined not to fall any further behind, so I asked Barbara out.
My shyness quotient was even higher than my pimple count. My mother ended up telephoning her mother.
The word came down just as Sgt. Friday cuffed the bad guy on “Dragnet.” Barbara and I were on for Saturday afternoon to watch “The Alamo.”
I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to say, so I prepared some talking points.
The history book said Santa Anna’s troops were so numerous and so brightly clad that they looked like brigades of red ants.
I also read that one of the few survivors was Mrs. Dickinson, the wife of a young Texas officer.
Not trusting my memory, “I wrote “Red Ants” and “Mrs. Dickinson” in fountain pen on my arm.
My palms dripped sweat. I worried that Barbara wouldn’t like the movie. I worried that the ink would run.
As it turned out, I was nervous over nothing. Talking to her was easy. We agreed that Miss Kent should be put in a home and that the cloakroom smelled like sewer pipe.
The Mexican army was beginning its siege when I put my arm around her shoulder.
“They look just like a bunch of red ants,” I stammered.
“Yes, now that you mention it.”
“See Mrs. Dickinson there? Well, don’t worry. I happen to know she’s going to make it.”
“Thanks for telling me.”
The Alamo fell and a tearful Mrs. Dickinson was led from the mission.
“I had a good time,” Barbara said as we walked to her house.
Suddenly, she stopped and kissed me on the cheek. I babbled incoherently for the rest of the day.
First dates will do that to a person.
The telephone rings. It’s Mom. Barbara Price is dead. Cancer.
I remembered the Saturday afternoon Davey Crockett breathed his last, and how a cute little blonde-headed girl was in the seat next to me, and how my arm went to sleep around her shoulder, and how wonderful it felt.
Editor’s Notes: Garret Mathews, a new AFL “regular” tells us: I’m retired from writing the metro column for the Evansville, Ind., Courier & Press. In a 39-year career, I penned more than 6,500 pieces on every subject from moonshiners to murderers. You can read some of my work by going to www.pluggerpublishing.com and clicking on the Favorites icon. For information on other projects, click on Coming Together and FolksAreTalking on the Plugger site.” Also, go to www.columnists-stillaround.com, and, for even MORE great articles from Garret, click here! Email Garret at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’d love to hear from you!