It was late May of 1975.
I had met Isaura about five weeks earlier at San Jose State University where we were both attending. I was completing my bachelor’s degree after having served four years in the Marine Corps, and Isaura was recently transferred from Merced Junior College.
We met on a warm spring day at the chapel on campus. I had been invited to attend a Bible study with some friends, and Isaura was coming to the chapel to spend time in prayer. The rest, as they say, is history.
So shortly after we began dating, we drove to Alameda one weekend where my parents lived so I could introduce her. It was a delightful visit, topped off with my father taking me aside and saying, “Don’t let this one get away!”
A few weeks later we made plans to drive to her family’s home in Dos Palos, located in the California Central Valley, where they had settled after emigrating from Portugal. Feeling really good about how this relationship was coming together, I looked forward to meeting her (large) family. We had the choice of driving in my classic 1966 Volvo P1800, or her 1972 Ford Pinto. Actually, it was no choice at all. After all, I have my pride.
There we were cruising along in the Volvo enjoying the countryside, when the reverie was interrupted by Isaura informing me that her father had never liked any guy she’d brought home. “No problem,” I thought. Then she said, “He’s always wanted me to marry someone who is rich and Portuguese.” Oops! I didn’t qualify on either of those two criteria. The rest of the drive had me praying for God’s wisdom in knowing how to best handle this situation. One thing I determined at that moment: No matter how long it took, I was going to wait until I had her father’s approval.
We arrived at her home in time for dinner which is a major event. Her father and two brothers worked the dairy where they lived. Plus she has three sisters. Isaura is the oldest, so I figured I might have to win over some of the family members. Her mother was most gracious to me. I still like to tell her she’s my favorite mother-in-law. She’ll look at me and say, “I’m your only mother-in-law.” To which I reply, “I know, but you’re still my favorite.”
Her father was another story. He was polite, but that was as far as it went. Later, after dinner, Isaura and I were sitting in the living room. Her mom was in the kitchen preparing the endless meals for a large family. In through the back door barges her father, obviously not happy, muttering something about “vacas.” I knew that was cows in Portuguese, so I asked her what the problem was. She said the cows had escaped from the corral and were scattered all over the field. It was time for the evening milking. I told her to ask her father if I could be of any help (He does not speak English). As he came back down the hall after waking her brothers to come and help, she asked him if I could help. I heard his reply and waited for Isaura to give me the translation. She sat there quietly, saying nothing. Curious, I asked her what he’d said. She replied, “Well, let’s see. It goes something like this: ‘Don’t bother the city boy.’” City boy? I wasn’t going to take that sitting down!
I followed her brothers out to the back porch where we slipped on rubber work boots. I was out the door first, startled by the bright spot lights that illuminated the barnyard area. Knowing the cows were not there, I turned right and headed into the field. It was quite dark, and I hadn’t allowed my eyes to adjust from the lights. I went face first into the dirt. I picked myself up, having learned a valuable lesson. Fields have furrows. I brushed myself off and continued into the field.
I had no idea what I was going to do, but a thought came to mind, either from something I’d heard or read, that if you can get the cow that is furthest from the barn to begin moving back that direction, all the rest of the bovines will fall right in line. So I kept traipsing through the field until I located the last cow. Standing at a respectful distance I looked at this four-legged milk machine and said in my most authoritative Marine voice, “Get back to the barn!’
I felt really stupid. This cow just stood there, chewing her cud, staring at me with mild interest. Not knowing how to proceed, I said, “Lord, I need some help here, please!” Casting aside my dignity, I looked at this cow again, repeating my previous command. I stood there with no other alternatives, when to my complete surprise, Miss Bossy slowly turns around and begins her trek back to the milking barn. I followed at a distance. Sure enough, each cow fell right into line. The cows were milked and everyone was happy.
Well, let me tell you, Isaura’s father couldn’t get over this turn of events. He couldn’t say enough good things about me after this.
A year later we were married.
I still don’t know if cows will naturally fall in line that way. Regardless, God had mercy on this “city boy,” knowing I would need a life-mate like Isaura. He used a cow to allow me to gain favor with my future father-in-law.
And that’s no bull.