Meeting Rick

I went on a couple of blind dates while at Texas Tech. One was with a young military man stationed in Lubbock, who took me to the Officer’s Club at the air force base. I felt totally out-of-place. I was totally out-of-place. The drinking age was 18 at that time, but I had never had an alcoholic drink, and I didn’t have one that night. He was young, but I must have looked like a child. I don’t remember what his rank was or anything about him except his unusual first name and that he was very polite and probably very bored with his date that night. My other blind date experience was when I met Rick, my future husband and future father of our children.

Before the semester break at the end of 1968, one of the sixth-floor residents of Wall Hall asked us girls on the floor who was interested in going on a blind date with a guy visiting from Sul Ross, another West Texas college in Alpine, Texas. I don’t think I volunteered for this, but somehow I got drafted. I vividly remember the dress I wore. It was a dress I made while I was in high school – a deep blue long-sleeved velvet dress. The empire waist was trimmed with a white satin ribbon, and the mock turtleneck and long sleeves were trimmed in white lace.

That evening, my date (who was not Rick) and four other people picked me up at the dorm. Our party of six drove to a nightclub on the outskirts of town. The area was dry, so it was BYOB; and, of course, we did. By the time we arrived, the place was already hopping. As we walked in, my date told me that a friend of his named Rick was already there and was saving us a table. The tables were all very small in this fairly small establishment, and they were all taken; so, the guys in our group wasted no time setting up a bunch of old rusty folding metal chairs in a circle around a large well-used 32-gallon galvanized garbage can at the back of the room. It was a less-than-romantic solution to our seating problem. It was, however, an appropriate and very handy arrangement for the drinkers, who could now get wasted and conveniently toss their waste into the waste-can without getting up. This all seemed a bit unsavory to me, but then I met Rick, who actually did have a table (for two). I don’t remember why, but he was apparently there alone and must have sensed my discomfort since he invited me to sit with him at his table for a while.

By the time my group delivered me back to my dorm, all that my blind date barely had time to do was open his car door, hang his head out, throw up, then fall out of the car onto the curb into a puddle of his own vomit. I crawled over him and practically ran to my room. Rick called me the next day and, I believe, offered a thin apology for my blind date. We began dating before the semester break.

When the semester ended, I packed my bags, and Rick drove me to the airport to fly home for the holidays. He picked me up at the airport when I returned to school in January and politely took from me the hard cosmetic train case I was carrying off of the plane. When he did, the case opened accidentally in the middle of the airport terminal, and the entire contents spilled all over the vast hard granite floor:  shampoo, hairspray, deodorant, bobby pins, rollers, soap, lotion, perfume, makeup, and other more personal items. Everything went everywhere, and the mirror inside the case broke. I was very embarrassed, but it wasn’t really Rick’s fault. I should have locked it. He helped me pick everything up while people watched; then we went on our way.

During the spring semester, Rick invited me to attend a Boston Globetrotters game. Since the venue was on campus, I assumed it was a school-sponsored event. This meant students would be allowed to stay out after curfew, which amounted to about an hour after the end of the event. The game probably ended around 10:30 p.m., and Rick immediately brought me back to my dorm. I nonchalantly strolled up to the front doors of the dark and quiet building and discovered I was locked out! Confused and petrified, I had to ring a bell to get someone out of bed to let me in. Consequentially, I had to appear before a student/adult board at a predetermined time to plead my case, which was basically “It wasn’t my fault.” Apparently, the game was not a school-sponsored event like I thought it was, but I heard that other students made the same mistake. My hearing was held in a small room in the basement of the dorm. I felt like I was being led to the dungeon. The members of the board must have sensed that I was genuinely a nervous wreck, and they weren’t too hard on me. My punishment was a week or two of being grounded in the dorm’s cafeteria to study in the evenings. It wasn’t too bad – boring is all.

Rick also took me to a big dance featuring a fairly new band on the scene called The Box Tops,  and I was careful to confirm ahead of time that it was a school-sponsored event. It was fun, and I returned to my dorm on time.

At the end of the school year in the spring of 1969, Rick invited me to accompany him to his sister Ann’s high school graduation in a small West Texas town about an hour’s drive from Lubbock. The graduating class sat in chairs on the stage. I found out at Ann’s graduation how Rick knew the guy I had a blind date with the night I met Rick. There he was, my blind date, sitting on the stage with Ann and the other high school graduates. I recognized his name and his face when he was introduced and walked across the stage to receive his diploma. I violently elbowed Rick, who looked at me and smiled sheepishly. I don’t think he was the only one smiling that day, because apparently the whole class knew Rick and knew about this little practical joke. They were all waiting to see my reaction.

After the end of our school year at Texas Tech, Rick went back home, and I returned to Dallas. My first year in college at Texas Tech was his second year, and he didn’t do well that year. He would not be returning to Texas Tech the following year. That summer, he went to work for Humble Oil where his dad worked. He drove trucks and worked in the field. Later that summer he called to give me the news that he had joined the Army and would report for active duty at the end of the summer. He also told me that he thought it would be a good idea if we started seeing other people. I was devastated.

Later that summer Rick severely injured his hand in an oil field accident and lost two fingers. This changed everything. His parents called me to give me the terrible news and to tell me that Rick wanted to see me. I got to his bedside as quickly as possible. My first time to fly was on Southwest Airlines to Midland-Odessa From Dallas Love Field to see him in the hospital. I think his parents paid for my airfare. I had not been there very long when he began describing his accident in detail to a few friends or family standing around his hospital bed. I nearly fainted and had to lie down in the other hospital bed in his room.

I am totally ignorant of oil industry terminology, but this is how I remember his description of the incident: He was working on a drilling rig platform about 40 feet above the ground. Many times over the years he pointed to drilling rigs along the roads in west Texas like the one he said he was working on. They looked much like the new one pictured below, which I found on the Internet.

1969 Oil drilling unit modern
Rick’s accident in 1969 took place on a drilling rig that looked much like this one.

The drilling rig was pulling pipe from the ground by clamping onto the pipe and lifting it. He was on the elevated platform guiding the pipe. When the clamp closed around the pipe, his gloved left hand got caught between it and the pipe. As the clamp lifted the pipe above the platform, Rick was dragged up off of the platform with it. His index and middle fingers on his left hand were crushed, and his ring finger was also damaged. When the clamp finally released him, he fell back to the 40-foot high platform and the glove on his left hand fell off. He said he could see his glove dangling by tissue connected to his two fingers which were still inside the glove. He grabbed the glove and stuffed it back onto his hand. I don’t know how he managed to climb down the 40-foot ladder to the bottom in his condition, but somehow he did. Someone drove him to the hospital in Midland, which was at least an hour’s drive from the scene of the accident. The surgeon was unable to save his index finger or his middle finger above the first knuckle. He did save his ring finger but modified the tip by angling it from that knuckle toward the thumb slightly, which allowed Rick to use it with his thumb like an index finger.

Later, Rick called me at home to tell me he had received a 4-F classification from the military. Then he proposed to me. My first “real” boyfriend and I were married at my family’s church in Oak Cliff at the end of the summer of 1969, and we used the accident insurance payment he received to help us get started with our new life. I have no recollection of how much the insurance payment was – probably not a lot, but it seemed like a lot to us at the time.

Rick and I had three children together but divorced after over twenty years of marriage. He continued school after we were married and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Texas at Arlington. He passed away in 2016.

I am blessed and eternally grateful for the warm, loving, beautiful, smart, and successful children and grandchildren we had together.


[Read this interesting bit of information about the history of the term 4-F.]