I’d like to slip back to 1987. I do that every now and then, especially when I hear certain musical artists. U2, Kylie Minogue, Lou Gramm. I couldn’t tell you with any certainty the release year of most songs, but I do know many from 1987. I don’t remember too much about most of the year, other than I finished my junior year at Iowa Wesleyan, spent the summer in the Black Hills to try to earn money to go to Mexico the following January, and started my senior year in August.
The time in the Black Hills was a magical time. A different world. I was twenty and truly on my own for the first time. I’d applied for a job as a burger flipper outside of a restaurant in Keystone, the tourist trap town at the foot of Mount Rushmore. I met some interesting people, was paid a pittance, but was provided a room and two meals a day if I wanted. I think the whole summer would be an interesting coming of age type of movie. It certainly makes for interesting stories.
I started a week after the college term ended. Keystone is really nothing more than a mile of gift shops and food vendors on the way to Rushmore. The Ruby House Café was the restaurant owned by a tough old man whom nobody liked. I worked in the burger/chicken /ribs place attached to the west side of the café. One side street off the main drag took me back to a series of houses and trailers where the some of the few dozens of actual residents lived. I was put up in an old camp office. Paul, who attended Morehead State in Minnesota, had gotten there first and claimed the only bed. I took the top bunk in a little side room. Clark had the bottom bunk. The dresser had four drawers, one broken. The couch housed spiders and when we were at capacity, one guy slept on the couch.
Normally, I worked a rotating series of days with two off. My supervisor drank every night and teens worked the cash register. Burgers sold for 89 cents, chicken came from the kitchen to warm in the front display case. Across from us was a gift shop that sold Jackalopes. I vowed to buy one before I went home.
Off hours were spent reading or playing tennis across from the camp office. Days off, I visited the local tourist attractions with a pass for free admission to most of them. Paul and I became friends with a family down the street. He’d met the daughter. They offered the use of their tennis rackets whenever we wanted. I remember playing tennis with one guy at one in the morning on several occasions.
Paul, a good-natured, but naïve romantic, couldn’t hit it off with the townie girl and subsequently met another girl, this one from Oregon, fell in love almost from day one and talked about marriage and kids by week’s end. In July, she fell ill to complications with her ovaries. While in hospital, she accepted Paul’s marriage proposal, but the relationships was not to be. After her parents arrived, I think she wised up to her situation and his; I know Paul was heartbroken.
My love life also went through a spin cycle. Clark had a girlfriend who was extremely pretty. Blonde, perky, fun. And she was attracted to me. I kept telling her to just give me a chance. One morning, on one of my days off, when the rest of the guys had left for the day, she did. I was still in bed; she caressed my back and when I turned, she leant down to kiss me.
What happened next? Tune in next week.