Newlywed Love (#80)

July 28-31, 1970

Nate and I were learning that taking on a pet was a bigger commitment than we thought… especially a dog. We were both keen on keeping commitments in general, and part of that was doing the work connected to them. Tossing that to someone else made it their commitment, and that’s what we’d done to Mom and Dad with sweet Baron.

But we tabled those thoughts to tend to more urgent matters: selling the Mustang, finding an economical vehicle, studying hard, and running Nate’s paper route. This job, which began with such promise, had morphed into a disaster. Though Nate had faithfully made his deliveries, never missing a day, he hadn’t made a nickel.

Courier officeAt the end of the first week, his boss told him something he had probably purposely withheld: payment would come only as his customers paid him. At the office he showed Nate how to hand-write the bills on a payment envelope and band them to the papers once a week.

The problem was, virtually none of his customers actually paid. He had to walk up to each house, usually at dinner time when people were home, and plead for the money. It didn’t take long to learn that once a product had been received, a buyer was reluctant to pay for it.

This felt even worse than failing to sell pots and pans. After all, the people on his paper route had already agreed to buy the product. Worst of all, Nate had had to pay up front for all the newspapers, purchasing each bundle before going on his route. He also had to pay for the required rubber bands, and these expenses had up-ended our meager budget.

DollarsOne evening after delivering papers every day for almost 4 weeks, he returned empty from another bill-collecting trip. His frustration had reached the boiling point, and he erupted. “I’m basically giving the gift of a  free Courier subscription to each one of my customers – every week!” He stomped back and forth in his own protest march while venting his anger. “And then they slam doors in my face when I ask them to pay what they owe!”

“Well,” I said, trying to be positive, “you’ve collected $70 so far. At least that’s something.”

“But that went toward paying for papers and rubber bands!” he said. “And my boss is mad, because we’re still in the hole with him.” Nate was right, of course. It was a big mess.

In one last effort to lift his spirits I said, “Well, we may be poor, but at least we’re happy.”

Even as I said it, we both knew it was only half true. But there was one genuinely hopeful development – the Mustang. People were responding to our ad, several had come to see it, and two seemed almost ready to buy. “Maybe we can get a bidding war going over our polluted little car,” I said, hoping Nate would laugh at such an absurdity.

But he didn’t even smile.

“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

Newlywed Love (#76)

July 10-11, 1970

As Nate got acquainted with his rural paper route, his start-to-finish time became more efficient. The weekend, however, was another story. For starters, his boss told him to plan on more time at the office to “put the Sunday papers together.”

Apparently the many extra sections had to be collated by the carrier, which took a while. That’s when Nate said, “Want to come with me? It might be fun. And you could see how everything works with my new job.”

Without even thinking, I said yes. Had I taken a moment, I would’ve remembered how quickly I get car sick from starts, stops, twists, and turns.

BundlesThe bundled papers were due to hit the deck around 1:00 AM. Nate and I decided not to go to bed at all Saturday night but to have a late dinner with Cathy and John, after which we’d go straight to the newspaper office.

Other carriers arrived shortly after we did, and we watched to see what they would do.

There were no tables on which to lay out the newspaper sections, so the guys began collating on the back seats of their cars — far from convenient.

CollatingThe weather was nice, so Nate and I spread our papers out on the hood of his VW.

When we began a photo session and some collating fun (along with shooting rubber bands), the other drivers looked askance at us – but we didn’t care. With 4 hands working instead of 2, we knew we’d be the first car out of the lot.


ReadingNate had his route memorized, so once we got into open country, he put some pep into his rapid zig-zagging. I admired the way he tossed the papers into each mailbox, not missing a one. But it wasn’t long before I was feeling queasy.

“Look out the window,” he said, but nighttime in the country doesn’t leave much to see.

I climbed into the back seat to lie down and close my eyes, but with his down-shifting, up-shifting, and many sharp stops, I had to fight rolling to the floor. Hanging my head out the window didn’t help either, and the route seemed to be taking forever. When I told him I might feel better if I drove, he quickly let me take the wheel.

MailboxesBut our pace slowed radically after that, with me needing verbal directions to each mailbox – all of which were hidden in inky darkness. “This isn’t working,” he said. “Are you feeling any better?”

“I’m a wreck,” I said. “You’ll just have to take me home.”

“But we’re nowhere near home,” he said, picking up speed. “From this point on, though, we’re more than half way. So think of it as heading toward home.”

By the time we finally pulled in behind our building, I was ready for a barf-bag. Nate apologized repeatedly, but all I wanted was to go prone and (with any luck) go unconscious. It was 5:00 AM.

Never again…

“Get wisdom. Develop good judgment.” (Proverbs 4:5)

Newlywed Love (#74)

July 3-5, 1970

After our landlord’s definitive word that Baron could no longer stay with us, we considered moving. Linda, one of my old carpool buddies, had a dog and it was fine with the landlord where she and Ron lived. There was an extra fee for “Rip,” but at least he was legal.

Country Fair apartments.Our lease would run out August 1st, and though we had been planning to stay there another year, I began campaigning to make the move. The Country Fair apartments had something we didn’t: air conditioning. And it didn’t hurt that there was an outdoor swimming pool, too, since the weather was hot and muggy. Both Nate and I loved to swim, and I knew we’d have lots of fun in the pool, as well as being able to spend more time with Linda and Ron.

But Nate didn’t buy my logic. “What about wintertime? And the fireplace we love so much here – not to mention the huge effort and expense of moving.” I hadn’t thought of those, and by now our 3 rooms were full of heavy furniture… three stories up.

“But what about Baron?” I said.

Nate reminded me that my parents had offered to take him — with joy. “And,” he said, “whenever they visit here or we visit there, we’ll get to see him.” But I wasn’t convinced.

Nate continued. “Only one year from now, we’ll be done with law school and moving away from Champaign. We could choose a dog-friendly apartment then and get him back.”

Law booksHe was right. I was so busy with school work I couldn’t imagine finding time to pack and move… or even swim. And Nate was considering a couple of law courses during the second session of summer school. They would be on double-time overload and very difficult, but without a job, he needed to get something accomplished with his summer. Moving would be hard to pile on top of that.

So, while holding Baron on my lap, I dialed my folks. After Mom heard about the landlord she said, “Why don’t the two of you and Baron come this way for the 4th of July weekend. We’re going to celebrate in Michigan, so drive straight there. Baron will love playing on the beach again, and… we’ll be delighted to take him home with us.”

When I hung up, it was all set, though both Nate and I felt queasy. We told ourselves it would only be temporary, which seemed to help – at least a little.

Baron gets awayThe holiday weekend in Michigan was a mix of good and bad weather, happy and sad conversation, and a very tearful farewell to our puppy. When we arrived back in Champaign, our spirits were sagging, and we almost didn’t want to go in… because some of the happy life in our little home had been left in Michigan.

“Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.” (Ecclesiastes 7:3)