She had joined a Christian Dance Ministry group called Shechinah at Illinois State University when her luck at that large university fell short. She moved home to live off of mom and dad and attend a community college. She continued to rise in dance ministry leadership roles all the while commuting 1 hour to practice several times a week.
The fall of 1993 was a frustrating one. The young Girl worked in the athletic department of the community college handing clean towels to the sweaty and crude athletes who worked out and practiced there. She was annoyed by boys who had horrible language and no self-restraint with their comments and actions toward the few ladies who were around the athletic department (many of us cheerleaders and basketball dance team members). The Girl longed for a soul mate. One who would whisk her away from self-centered athletes, who committed himself to the God she loved and who would adore and love her like none had done before. A man who was not only handsome but kind, gentle, respectful and who would always put God above her but would always make sure she was just behind the creator on his list of that which he adored.
After one of the dance rehearsals The Girl let out a long rant to her co-leader, and good friend, Anna about the male athletes and about her dreams and desires. Several weeks later Anna mentioned that she knew a young man who seemed to reflect all of the qualities this Girl had on her list. Kind, romantic, sweet, funny, smart, God loving and an all around good friend. The more Anna talked the more The Girl liked. The Girl BEGGED Anna for a name and Anna would only reveal his name was "The Cowboy." By the way, did I mention the Girl was REALLY into country music and line dancing at that time? The Girl begged Anna for a sleep over so She might "accidentally bump into" this fellow. Anna made her wait a few months until The Girl had received her associates degree and move into Anna's dorm.
The Girl began to love this Cowboy before ever meeting him. Anna promised to set up a meeting after The Girl transfered back to the University in January. The wait was long but with Anna's stories it was manageable. She had lots to dream about on her commute back home.
In January of 1994, The Girl moved into Anna's dorm, Walker Hall (RIP: Walker has been torn down and a HUGE Athletic center is being built on top of where it and it's sister dorm Dunn-Barton once stood. Oh, the irony.) The top two floors of Walker was the International house. This is where The Girl would reside with a student from China. The bottom two floors were Honors House, where The Cowboy resided. It was co-ed with girls on one side of a floor and boys on the other side. The floors flip flopped so that boys would be on the left on the 1st floor, on the right on 2nd floor, the left on 3rd and the right on 4th. For ISU it was a SMALL dorm! The Cowboy lived one floor below The Girl.
Anna waited for The Girl to settle in. One day, bundled for cold, the two friends headed out of The Girl's room on their way to some dance related errands. A boy, a very cute one, was writing on the whiteboard attached to the room right across from The Girl's door. The Girl tried not to notice how handsome this boy was, barely making eye contact, after all She was not giving any other boy a chance until she had met The Cowboy. She said a friendly "oh, hi" and the girls went on their way. In the stairwell The Girl asked Anna, "When are you going to finally introduce me to The Cowboy?" Anna replied "I just did!" The Girl smacked her friend (kind of hard) and shouted "OH MY GOODNESS ANNA!!! Why didn't you tell me so I could have flirted or something?!?!?!? What did you say his name was??"
And so it began.
The Cowboy would join in on group meals in the dining room. The Girl became shy waiting for The Cowboy to make his moves. He was everything Anna had said he was and CUTE, CUTE, CUTE! So gentlemanly compared to the stinky barbarians at the community college towel exchange window. The Girl was twitterpated, completely twitterpated.
Anna told The Girl that The Cowboy had until Friday to ask The Girl out. If that time passed and The Girl had not been asked out by The Cowboy, Anna would arrange a date. The week passed. The Girl and The Cowboy waved, smiled and occasionally spoke, but no dates were offered.
Mid-evening had come on the set deadline. The Cowboy had not offered a date. The Girl called Anna and begged her to go find The Cowboy and tell her that The Girl was up in her room putting posters up on the wall but really didn't have any friends and that perhaps if he would like, he could go say "hi." Anna took off. The Girl hung posters slowly with shaking hands with her door cracked open. An eternity seemed to pass. No knocks. No "hi there's."
Just as The Girl was about to run out of posters to place, The Cowboy poked his head in the door and said "Hi, I thought I might come say "hi." The Girl was terribly nervous but invited him in. They began to talk. They began to realize that they had a TON in common.
Then the phone rang:
Anna: "Sorry, but I have looked everywhere he normally hangs. He's not in the quad watching X-Files, he's not in the common lobby with the Lobby Rats playing Risk, he's not in his room, I can't find him. Sorry.."
The Girl: "Oh! Well, that's too bad but I think that detail has changed." (Remember The Cowboy is IN the room, listening!!!)
Anna: "What . . . ? What detail? What are you talking about? I can't find Dan so perhaps I can locate him and arrange something tomorrow."
The Girl: "Umm, well. You see, I'm not sure we will need that because it's taken care of...... ummm, I already have that item."
Anna: "I'm talking about Dan. YOU KNOW!!!! ...... COWBOY DAN!! The guy you sent me to look for. I'm not talking to you about the upcoming event for the dance group. What are you talking about?"
The Girl: (quickly and quietly) "He's here" (THEN she gasped, covered her mouth and looked up as she realized The Cowboy is looking at her with a cute inquisitive look)
Anna: "OH!" "OH! OH! That's what you were saying!!!!"
The Girl: "I'll talk to you tomorrow!!" (Grinning a very guilty, bashful grin at The Cowboy. Feeling the heat rise in her face as surely she had to have been turning red.)
Then God did a very strange thing. He made The Girl super hungry....with the L.O.U.D.E.S.T. stomach rumbling ever heard. The Girl announced that she really wanted to talk longer but REALLY NEEDED to go eat. She stated she had a car and that The Cowboy was certainly welcome to join her. So off to a 24 hour Denny's Restaurant they went.
The couple made chit chat along the way, ordered their food and after the waitress left, The Girl figured she needed to fess up and admit that he was nearly set up.
She opened her mouth with a sort of studder, stammer, hessitant beginning and She said with a very big guilty, embarrassed giggle: "I have a confession that I need to make."
Without hesitation, as if The Cowboy were trying to calm The Girl's nerves, making Her feel as if He already knew the whole story, He said: "You used to be a man?"
BWAAH HAAAA HAAAA HAAA HAAA.
After we stopped laughing The Girl told The Cowboy the entire backstory: the athletic guys, Anna and all the things she had said about him, how he had a nickname, how he had been given a blind test to make his move and he almost failed, how she didn't know him in the hallway that day he pretended to be writing on the neighbor's white board (he was actually wandering the hall reading names in effort to locate The Girl's room). That is: she told him everything except for the fact that she really liked him and might have been in love with him before she met him.
The departed late after a long talk at Denny's.
The following day they sat near each other in the cafeteria, all the while being supervised by unknowing friends.
That evening he arrived again, knocked on the door, was invited in and they talked, and talked, and talked. She did not tell him that night that She was in love either, but She knew it. Nearly everything She had imagined and dreamed and placed upon her wish list was there. But She did not tell him. They departed from one another's company in the wee early hours of morning.
The Girl thinks this went on for at least one more day. Ahhhh, the glorious years of youth when staying up late to chat and sleeping in was often the norm.
By that 3rd day the two were inseparable, short of going off to their own classes and sleeping in their own rooms.
Twelve months later, in the the very brisk, cold winter air of December; after several nights of The Girl getting very little sleep from finishing procrastinated projects and studying for finals, The Cowboy asked The Girl if she would marry him under a beautiful, but cold, gazebo in the Quad of ISU.
This was not his first plan, nor his second, time makes the story foggy and perhaps it was not the third choice either. But The Girl was was too tired for romantic strolls in a wooden trail at night in the cold frosty night. For The Girl, who loved The Cowboy very much, this was good enough.... and they now know it would not be the last time their plans would be changed by the other.
The man this young Cowboy grew up to become has written the following:
"Daniel hates this picture and would like to see it depart this earth; but more due to the sports teams he is advertising than the hat. They are youthful indiscretions he has since loudly and publicly repented."