I needed money to go on an upcoming mission trip to Romania, and when my parents weren’t able to help, I decided to use what I had at hand – and what I had the most of were my pets. As a country girl, my pets aren’t limited to kittens and puppies. I have goats, geese, ducks, chickens, rabbits, and even a couple of miniature ponies, all of which are used to people, well behaved, and friendly. I came up with the idea of a traveling petting zoo, which turned out to be a big hit at birthday parties and local events like fairs and rodeos.
I raised the money to go on the mission trip, all right, but at the time I had no idea what else I’d stirred up.
I got ready to take the petting zoo to the rodeo that day the same as I always did – good jeans, boots, and a nice blouse. It’s important to look nice and have a professional setup when you run a business, and with this business, I had to be comfortable too. Before I left, I braided my dark hair into two long pigtails, with a red ribbon braided in. I put on my cowgirl hat and headed out to the rodeo.
When I got there with all my animals and unloaded them into their pens, my friend Rebecca came up. She was with her boyfriend, who had brought his friend, D. J. I’d never met D. J. before, so I was polite, and then I got back to work.
I didn’t have time to be interested in guys when I had work to do, and I was still hoping that a certain one would change his mind about me and come to my eighteenth birthday party in a few months. I really liked this guy, and most of the time it seemed like he was interested in me, but he hadn’t asked me out, either. I hoped that with a little more time he would let me know how he felt about me a little more clearly.
Once I took a break and went to sit beside Rebecca and her group. I talked a little to D. J., too, but I wasn’t really paying attention, and I didn’t think he was either.
After the rodeo, I packed up all my animals and came home, and that was the end of that, I thought.
But it turned out, it was only the beginning. A couple days later Rebecca called and said, “Do you remember D. J.?”
I thought back. I remembered him. He was cute, had good manners, and seemed like a nice guy. “Yeah, why?” I asked.
“He keeps asking me for your number. He says, hey, you know the girl with the braids? And I know he means you.” Rebecca giggled. “So, should I give him your number?”
D. J. was nice, and I was flattered, but I didn’t want to date him. And I really didn’t want to lead him on when I was waiting for somebody else to wake up and be interested in me. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone. “No, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said, and then we talked about other things.
The next time we talked, Rebecca said D. J. still wanted my number. And the next, and the next. I couldn’t believe that a guy I’d only met once and hadn’t even flirted with was being this persistent. “Why is he so hung up on me?” I asked once.
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s the braids.”
Months later, I invited the guy I was really interested in to my eighteenth birthday party. He didn’t come.
I was disappointed for a few days, and then I wondered. Why did I spend almost six months waiting on a guy who was only interested in me when it was convenient for him? There were things I didn’t like about him, after all, like the way he seemed to change into another person around his friends, and he seemed a little arrogant sometimes. Maybe even a lot of the time. My mom had told me he wasn’t worth my time, and maybe she was right after all.
A few weeks later, I heard from Rebecca again. “Guess who still wants your phone number?” she said.
“Oh, all right,” I said. “I guess it couldn’t hurt to talk to him.”
The next week D. J. called. I didn’t think we talked about very much, but he was really easy to talk to. After we hung up, I was surprised to see that I’d spent over an hour on the phone with him. We kept talking after that, and we never ran out of things to talk about. I found out a lot about him, and his family, and his church, and gradually I realized how much brighter my day was when I heard from him, how much happier I was around him than I ever was when I was waiting on the one I thought I wanted.
D. J. introduced me to his family, took me on dates, helped with my petting zoo, came to family parties and hung out with my friends. No matter who we were around, he was always the same person. No attitude, no arrogance, just – himself. And then I realized I loved him.
It was six months from when we met that I let him ask me out, and six months from our first date that he asked me to marry him. Of course I said yes. Once I found out what real love was, how could I let him go?