H O M E















Blushing Bride   
The heat lightning flashed and the gravel sprayed as the happy
couple said I do. A recollection of my favorite wedding
.  By Bill Vaughn

Ah, the June bride, bristling with white pleats and blushing with joy as the band plays “Nothing Compares to You” or “Just the Way You Are.” Whether the ceremony takes place in a Catholic church, a Jewish temple or an orchard lit with candles, the choice of June as the best month for weddings is rooted in the pagan cattle cultures of Europe. These barbarians believed that June is the best month to mate because March or April—the beginning of the warm season following the stresses of winter—is the best time to get born, for humans and cows alike.

So it seemed fitting that my most memorable wedding, besides that of my own, took place on one of Montana’s oldest cattle ranches, a dramatic sweep of mountains and plains and valleys lush with grass and incandescent with the startling green of new wheat. The ranch is a rarity—a sizable spread that’s still owned and operated by the fourth-generation heirs of its founder, a true pioneer who stole the land from the Indians. One of these heirs was the bride, who had opted to move to the city with her groom, a young businessman.

It seemed at first like a good match. They were both pretty and college-educated and the products of successful and interesting families. As my wife, Kitty, and I drove down a gravel road from a high plateau into a creek bottom and toward the biggest of the five houses on the ranch the temperature was pushing above 100 degrees. What had been a seamless June sky began filling with clouds the colors of bruises.

Heat lightning flashed in the heavens as the ceremony was performed on the lawn, officiated by a justice of the peace who’d been driven out in a limousine hired by the groom. The vows were simple and civil, not at all religious. In no time at all the crowd of ranchers, and families and friends of the betrothed, were free to turn eagerly toward the real object of the day: getting drunk. Because people had to wait for the great hunks of beef to be barbecued, and because the scorched air had dried everyone out, and because the ranching community wanted to celebrate the end of branding and the driving of the herds to their high summer pastures, this goal was soon accomplished. As the band played country-western standards two-hundred people suddenly began lurching around as if they’d been the objects of some perverse mass hypnosis.

Soon a sodden man built like a farm implement was carried and dragged to a stock truck by his daughters, their arms around his waist. This exodus was followed by others, husbands staggering away with wives, brothers helping sisters. As people drove off, deep rumbles of thunder ran across the sky, which had turned the kind of green that sometimes precedes a tornado. 

A woman from another ranch, a crazy alcoholic who hadn’t been invited to the wedding, suddenly sped up to the house in a battered pickup and skidded to a stop. Baked into a mound of putrid gore on the hood was a dead skunk. “You know what I’m saying!” she shouted at the crowd. People who had backed away at her arrival now edged forward to jeer.

“You know what you are!” she shouted back before throwing herself behind the wheel and speeding off in a spray of gravel, which would become the common special effect for the emotionally charged dramas that would enliven this long day’s descent into night.

A raucous catfight broke out and was quickly extinguished when one woman overheard another describing her as “horse-faced.”

In the sexually heated atmosphere that most weddings manufacture, some people eyed other people like coyotes who’d just come across an unguarded lamb. More than one grope and full-tongued kiss would be exchanged between people who were married but not to each other. I found my own father in one of these tawdry embraces. He was sheepish, but not ashamed. And the groom gave Kitty a French kiss that left her wide-eyed.

A family arrived who’d been disgraced by their arrests and jail sentences for growing enormous amounts of marijuana in Quonset huts on their ranch. Although the marijuana farmers had been invited to the wedding, prominent citizens that they were and one of the oldest families in this wealthy Republican county, no one had expected them to show their faces. And so they became the object of quiet and not-so-quiet evaluations of their moral armature. Harsh words were exchanged. Later, the patriarch of this clan took the groom aside and told him about several places in the county where he claimed his sons had bedded the bride. Groom confronted bride under a Japanese lantern. There were tears and curses and more spraying gravel as headlights on farm roads pierced the moonless night, which was now pushing down like a murderer with a pillow.

As night turned into dawn the big house and the grounds around it finally grew quiet. A young farmhand woke up to find himself in a pool of urine. He’d passed out behind a barn in a place where men who had gone to relieve themselves hadn’t seen him curled up in the fetal position in the tall grass.

Despite its bumpy launch the marriage forged on this mid-summer’s eve lasted for awhile, longer than most people figured it would. And adhering to the schedule devised by Neolithic cow herders thousands of years ago, a child would be born like clockwork from this union the following spring. She’s now a gorgeous teenager with shining green eyes that have already seen just about everything.

A woman from another ranch, a crazy alcoholic who hadn’t been invited to the wedding, suddenly sped up to the house in a battered pickup and skidded to a stop. Baked into a mound of putrid gore on the hood was a dead skunk. “You know what I’m saying!” she shouted at the crowd. People who had backed away at her arrival now edged forward to jeer.

“You know what you are!” she shouted back before throwing herself behind the wheel and speeding off in a spray of gravel, which would become the common special effect for the emotionally charged dramas that would enliven this long day’s descent into night.

A raucous catfight broke out and was quickly extinguished when one woman overheard another describing her as “horse-faced.”

In the sexually heated atmosphere that most weddings manufacture, some people eyed other people like coyotes who’d just come across an unguarded lamb. More than one grope and full-tongued kiss would be exchanged between people who were married but not to each other. I found my own father in one of these tawdry embraces. He was sheepish, but not ashamed. And the groom gave Kitty a French kiss that left her wide-eyed.

A family arrived who’d been disgraced by their arrests and jail sentences for growing enormous amounts of marijuana in Quonset huts on their ranch. Although the marijuana farmers had been invited to the wedding, prominent citizens that they were and one of the oldest families in this wealthy Republican county, no one had expected them to show their faces. And so they became the object of quiet and not-so-quiet evaluations of their moral armature. Harsh words were exchanged. Later, the patriarch of this clan took the groom aside and told him about several places in the county where he claimed his sons had bedded the bride. Groom confronted bride under a Japanese lantern. There were tears and curses and more spraying gravel as headlights on farm roads pierced the moonless night, which was now pushing down like a murderer with a pillow.

As night turned into dawn the big house and the grounds around it finally grew quiet. A young farmhand woke up to find himself in a pool of urine. He’d passed out behind a barn in a place where men who had gone to relieve themselves hadn’t seen him curled up in the fetal position in the tall grass.

Despite its bumpy launch the marriage forged on this mid-summer’s eve lasted for awhile, longer than most people figured it would. And adhering to the schedule devised by Neolithic cow herders thousands of years ago, a child would be born like clockwork from this union the following spring. She’s now a gorgeous teenager with shining green eyes that have already seen just about everything.


COPYRIGHT © 2009 BY BILL VAUGHN