I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of telling the story about the year Don gave me a fifty gallon gas tank for Valentine’s Day. Whatever made him think that I’d be bowed over by his generosity and slobber kisses all over his face or hug him silly over a gas tank, I don’t know. I am the practical type and I’ve liked my share of practical gifts, but this was just a little bit too practical and, well, too macho male. I’ve never expected anything out of the truck I drove back in those days other than to have it start when I turned the key. I wasn’t into add-ons---flashy or practical---plus we live in an area of 600,000 people and we have gas stations at very predictable intervals. A fifty gallon tank seemed like over-kill to me but Don is a guy and sometimes male logic defies a woman’s ability to answer that burning question: What was he thinking?!
The next winter I found out what he was thinking. My brown Chevy short box and I became the 'gas station' for all the other trucks on the mall where we plowed snow. “Yes, sir, Texaco Woman has arrived to pump your gas!” It makes my teeth chatter, now, just thinking about hopping out of a truck to stand in the cold, winter nights pumping gas. I also carried all the extra oils, windshield wipers and hydraulic fluids, so I was in demand. I was a regular little traveling bomb shell, and not the blonde kind with big boobs. I was really worried someone would side-swipe me and I’d go up in flames. Ca-boom! There goes Jean! No more snow angel drills where we’d all park our snowplows in a circle and lay down in the snow, flurrying our limps. No more snow bunny union either; we girl snow plowers once wrote up a contract designed to keep the guy drivers from peeing on our tires.
Thinking back over the thirty-five years of Valentine’s Days we’ve been a couple, Don has taken the sweet, the sentimental, the traditional, the girl impressing route many times. I’ve gotten Joy perfume, the heart-shaped candy boxes, fancy greeting cards that come with their own boxes, plus an assortment of artwork. Don was at a disadvantage, though, when it came to buying flowers for me because I could buy them wholesale for the first twenty years. Even after I quit the floral business, I didn’t care if I saw another flower for several years afterwards. By the time I did start putting them on my wish list again, the die was cut: Don didn’t buy flower. Old dogs don’t learn new tricks.
Years ago, Don and I took a little neighbor girl to the rodeo with us. It was an event our home town sponsored every year and that year Dale Evans was the featured entertainer. This five year old had the biggest crush on Don and she wasn’t too happy when she found out that I would be going to the rodeo with them. Her mom had the solemn job of trying to explain that I was the girlfriend; Don and I were a package deal. Earlier that year, she also got her cute little nose out of joint when she found out that Don had bought me a bigger heart-shaped box of candy than the one Don and I had bought for him to give to her for Valentine’s Day. Debby is 30-something now and she says she still has that heart-shaped box. All little girls should get a cool Valentine’s Day gift from their first crushes. And all big girls should get one big turkey of a gift---like a fifty gallon gas tank---so she can good-naturedly rub it in for the next hundred years.
Jean Riva ©
Painting: Romeo and Juliet by Sir Frank Dicksee