When Cathy and I were married fifty-six years ago in Fort Lauderdale, Florida I was overwhelmed. I had just completed an internship at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia when we married and was in the first month of training as a general surgeon at Charity Hospital in New Orleans I had met and married the most beautiful woman I had ever known and was amazed she had even consented to an initial date with me. Her family was prominent and well-known in south Florida. They had been pioneer settlers in Fort Lauderdale, and her grandfather and father were builders who had built hotels, office buildings and homes throughout the county. My family was well-known in south Arkansas, primarily because my grandfather and father had provided medical care in the area for the previous sixth years. When our wedding was announced in the newspapers of our respective towns the wedding gifts began pouring in. Because the volume was so high it took Cathy almost a year to respond with a thank you note to everyone who gave. Our apartment in New Orleans was so small, we had to store many of the gifts in each of our parent’s home for several years. All of the gifts were beautiful, thoughtful and useful, and we loved and needed all but one. This particular gift was not on the bride’s wish list, but was given none the less. It became a source a great irritation, but more about this later.
When Cathy and I began dating she had the nicest car she had purchased just before moving to Atlanta. It was a 1964 white Oldsmobile Cutlass with a red interior. She kept it spotless on the outside and clean on the inside, and it was tight and fun to drive. I owned a
1964 Chevy Corvair Monza convertible which was red with a white interior so we were a pretty sporty couple, at least car-wise even before we met!
For our honeymoon trip we chose Cathy’s car because it was a little roomier with more luggage space and had a bit more comfortable ride. I had a month’s vacation from Charity Hospital so we could take our time driving from Fort Lauderdale back to Arkansas for me to introduce my new bride to the Land of Opportunity. She had not been introduced to the majority of my family and none of my friends in El Dorado, and I was anxious for all of them to meet and know my beautiful wife. In addition to our time in El Dorado, we drove into north Arkansas for her to see the beauty of the Ozarks and see my alma mater, The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. We had no idea then that exactly 35 years later we would move there.
After establishing our residence in New Orleans, we lived in 2 locations; an apartment in Kenner in which we lived the first year, and a duplex apartment in Algiers on the west bank of the Mississippi where we lived for the final 3 years. We kept both cars because Cathy had to drive to the 2 different elementary schools in which she taught, and for me it was at least a 15 minute drive one-way to the hospital.
Cathy and I began noticing an irritating rattle in her Cutlass shortly after moving to New Orleans. It was not a constant noise, and we could only hear it when we hit a moderate sized bump in the road. It seemed to be coming from the passenger side, and I checked her right door multiple times and frequently looked under both passenger side fenders. Occasionally when we thought of it, we would ask the local Oldsmobile dealer service department to check the tires and axles for rattles on the right side, but nothing was found. The one constant rattle occurred when we drove onto our driveway in Algiers because there was an irregular bump in the concrete there.
After nearly 2 years of our 4 year stay in New Orleans, we took the car to a service station for an oil change, and they put the car on a rack to drain the oil and check the under surface thoroughly. The technician said to me, “Do you want to leave this cowbell under here?” Thinking he was telling some kind of joke I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “Look here,” and there it was. A cowbell attached tightly by a chain to the drive shaft. Everything suddenly came to light. Prior to our wedding Cathy’s brother, George had said he would watch our car and make certain no pranksters would write on it or pull any tricks on us. Right! He had carefully engineered the attachment of that cowbell so it would not draw too much attention, but would be an inconstant irritation like a tiny rock in your shoe. It worked for almost 2 years! When we called him to tell him we finally found it, he had almost forgotten about it and couldn’t believe we had put up with it for so long. His wedding “gift” had been giving to us far more than any other gift we received, because it was almost daily and showing no signs of deterioration with age when the giver was discovered.Thanks Brother George for your well thought-out gift!
PS: I just now thought about our return gift to George. You may read about it on this blog entitled, “The Visiting Doctor Has A Bad Day”