Cambrian: Slice of Life

Happy Valentine’s Day: The celebration of life’s greatest crapshoot

Kathe Tanner
Kathe Tanner

Valentine’s Day celebrates life’s greatest crapshoot: Falling in love.

It’s a game of chance, of happenstance, of coincidence. If he hadn’t and I didn’t then we wouldn’t have...

What brings us together? So many things. A job. A matchmaker or a dating website (same thing, sort of). A look across the crowded room. Passion, of course, because chemistry is crucial. Common dreams and shared interests. Being able to laugh together over something that’s not funny to anybody else (you had to be there). And location, location, location.

I should know. Coincidence plays a big role in our family’s romances.

Take Husband Richard’s parents, for instance. His dad was on a street car when he spotted an enchanting woman and immediately knew that lovely lady was his future wife.

But how? In those days, one didn’t just up and spout a corny, clichéd “haven’t we met before?” pick-up line. One had to be properly introduced then, doncha know.

So, D’Onge Tanner kept riding the same streetcar at the same time every day for weeks until he could wrangle an introduction by someone he knew, who just happened to be sitting beside the future Mrs. Tanner.

How my Mom met my stepdad is the kicker in the land of unintended consequences.

She, my Aunt Kate and I were on a cross-country road trip. Ever on a budget, we planned to camp out most nights in the station wagon. Along the way, we’d accumulated so much …. I’ll be polite, here …. stuff, we’d had to acquire, equip and tow a small luggage trailer we immediately dubbed Squeaky, because he did.

Heading up (and I do mean up) the mountain toward Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the recently added weld between the car and the tow hitch gave way, and Squeaky bouncy-bounced down the highway, spewing luggage, camping gear and other semi-precious possessions all over the roadway.

As we struggled to hastily stuff everything from underwear to lanterns into our already overpacked car-top luggage pods, a car stopped behind us and out strode a handsome cowboy — complete with Stetson, pointy-toed boots, well-worn Levi’s and attitude.

“It looks like y’all could use a hand,” Jack said.

He and Mom got married 10 days later.

I guess speedy coincidence in love must be in the DNA.

Husband Richard and I lived 430 miles and worlds apart. He was a pit boss at Harrah’s Club in Reno. I was a copywriter and journalist living in Cambria, California.

kathe and richard at the beach c.jpg
Cambrian columnist and reporter Kathe Tanner and her husband, Richard, at the beach.

How on earth did we connect?

We met through our Shetland sheepdogs, and only because, as a compulsive researcher, I wanted to know more about the breed of the purebred rescue dogs my sons and I had recently acquired.

Mom and I were on vacation with the boys, her dogs and our Shelties. It was a Winnebagoful, let me tell you.

On our way through Sacramento, I called the American Kennel Club branch, but got a voicemail. It was 110 degrees that day, and I wasn’t about to leave a message and wait by the pay phone for a reply — this was pre-cellphone days, folks.

I tried again in afternoon of our last full day in Reno.

At the end of what had to be the longest voicemail message I’d ever heard, the recorded AKC voice finally said “for further information, call this number.” I called, and lo and behold, the man was home. Eventually, he referred me to the collie club. Ummm... even San Luis Obispo County had a Sheltie club then, but at that point, I was willing to try any port in my stormy search for information.

The collie club guy was home, too — go figure the odds on that!

After some hemming and hawing, he said, “yeah, those dogs Tanner has are Shelties, I think,” and he gave me the phone number.

The woman who answered said Richard Tanner was asleep, because he worked the graveyard shift at Harrah’s.

It felt like another dead end until the woman — Richard’s daughter Linda — urged me to try again the next morning. She said he’d really love to talk about the dogs.

I did.

Richard proposed three days after our first date, and we got married three months later. That was more than four decades ago.

Coincidence? Happenstance?


Happy Valentine’s Day, honey, and to all of you who won in the biggest crapshoot ever, the game of chance we call love and life.

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