The Kissing Gate

When I was a teenager, we lived on a little farm just outside of Spokane, where my Dad practiced being a gentleman farmer while keeping his day job as a reporter for The Spokane Chronicle. He bought a beat up old tractor and drove it around the fields, plowing just to plow. With that tractor, he built a fairly large vegetable garden outside the back yard. To get to the garden, he built an old fashioned stile. Three steps up to a landing, three steps down to the peas, beets, carrots, beans, corn, tomatoes, lettuce. We had everything you would want for vegetables. It was a heady scent, to sit on the stile at night in the moonlight.

It was to the stile that I would take my date. First we had dinner with my family, then we went hand-in-hand to the stile (I thought everyone had a stile to the garden!), and we would sit on the top step and talk, maybe kiss, smell the tomatoes, until, invariably, the back screen door would whine open, and Dad’s voice would interrupt, only 15 feet away through the Locust trees, “You kids doing anything out there?” It wasn’t really a question. It was more interpreted by my dates as, “You kids are NOT doing anything out there!” And my date would surreptitiously slip away from me a couple inches – not even close enough for kissing.

I had three young suitors go through the dating ritual with me – one became an attorney and politician here in Spokane; one became a missionary and preacher; and I married the third, had two sons, and after seven years we parted.

There was Magic in the garden stile. It was safe and there was a special aura around it – as if little fairies would float up from the garden itself. My sister also “dated” at the garden stile. I’m fairly certain we were the last virgins in Spokane County and it’s probably because of the stile.

Or maybe it was my Dad. It’s kind of hard to fool around when your Dad keeps appearing on the back porch.


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