Throughout the next several days, I saw barges on the Mississippi, a large confederate cemetery and about three nights too many of Miss America pageants. I was also called Clint several times. If you’ve ever attended a pageant, not as a parent or participant, you probably understand how utterly hair-pulling, eye-scratching, ear-plugging and frustrating that a pageant can be. You see, I’m very competitive. As a toddler I cried when I didn’t win the race at my birthday party, and some things never change.
So when the judges decided who got to win… I was pretty upset. But then again, I know nothing. I was already in a glum and very exhausted mood the next day when we loaded up the car and headed out from Davenport. But something was coming my way that would make this trip completely worse and completely better all at the same time.
On the way to Davenport, it was a fairly crowded car. Now we were going back, and you can probably foresee the problem we encountered. This time, we had Leah with us. She had been in Davenport all week. Leah, who had just competed in Miss Iowa. Let me explain to you a little bit about what all a pageant girl packs for a week at a state competition.
Miss Iowa contestant packing list: breakfast clothes, morning appearance clothes, lunch clothes, baseball game clothes, dinner clothes, celery, heels, dresses, gowns, swimsuit, more heels, makeup, hairspray, carrots, workout clothes, rehearsal clothes, heels, celery, dresses, pants, shirts, jumpsuits, pajamas, carrots, makeup and heels. And underwear… and butt glue… oh and heels. I only know that because I spent three days listening to people talk about it.
So we had to load all of this extra stuff into the car, which meant that Leah could barely squeeze into the middle seat right next to me. This would have been okay for the three hour trip but don’t forget, there was one more family member that we had to pick up… Olive Grace Bunkers. My arch-nemesis. Whenever this trip was completed in all of its absurdity and hilarity, I knew I would have to share it with you.
We were getting close to Newton, where the kennel was, and I was happy. The pageant was over and soon I’d be back on my way to Texas. “I’m just not, sure how we’re gonna do this with Olive.” I mean, Iowa isn’t bad AT ALL, but nothing is quite like the Lone Star State. “I think we should set her in the front seat.” Wait, what?!
I couldn’t help myself from busting out laughing. Leah chuckled nervously. Apparently it wasn’t a joke. Surely this was at least partially humorous? We were at the kennel. And something that I never thought, in my wildest dreams would happen, happened.
And there I was in the second row, middle seat of a Buick SUV with Leah on my lap. My legs were pushed together and crammed up against the middle console and my arm rubbing with Leah’s dad’s arm, that’s uncomfortable. And the dog was riding shotgun, and she didn’t even call it. The smell of dog pasted to my nose and worse than that, dog hair in my mouth. How did I get here? I asked myself this constantly as we drove off down Interstate 80, on my way for the greatest adventure of all.
Dog claws dug into my knee as Olive tried to climb into the back seat. “BACK OLIVE BACK!” My legs were asleep but I could still feel the claws. “Olive sit still baby,” then “Ugh Olive,” and then, “GET BACK OLIVE.” Everyone was talking to the dog. Then she was crawling into the driver’s seat. “Now Olive, I need you to sit still over in your seat. I know you’re excited to be home.” Then the dog turned, looked at me, and smirked. ON MY JOURNALISTIC HONOR THE DOG SMIRKED! She hated me.
There is a dog riding shotgun and I’m sharing half a seat with ANOTHER HUMAN. Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this picture?! There would be plenty of room for this dog to sit in the floorboard while someone held her and I could have been comfortable. All of my thoughts went unvoiced.
There was dog hair everywhere. I spit and spat to get several hairs off my tongue. Olive tried climbing back at us. Ow! That’s my knee. Hair was floating in the air like snow flurries in Santa Claus’s backyard. “Can’t you stay up there Olive? You’re getting hair everywhere!” You bet your boots she is. At this point I believe I had more of her hair than my own. “She’s just nervous, and she sheds like crazy when she’s nervous.”
If being nervous leads to shedding, then I would have been dadgum bald by the time I got out of this car. I reached up to my head and ran my hand through my hair. I looked at my hand and it was covered in loose hair. Dog hair. Just when I thought I would surely choke in what was the doggy equivalent of the Dust Bowl, we stopped at a rest area so we could all stretch our legs. Well I think it’s because Olive needed to stretch hers.
I went inside and grabbed a bag of peanut M&M’s and a bottle of A&W and headed back outside with Leah. As we rounded the corner I saw Olive standing as still as stone with a little boy walking toward her. Oh no… The plump boy was about 10-years-old with short red hair and glasses. He took another step slowly, holding out his hand. This was not good. Olive stood still. The boy was about three steps away. He squatted down in front of her, still holding out his hand. “Uh oh,” I said to Leah. “What is the ma…”
Loud, aggressive barking blurted out and I saw Olive lunge toward the boy whose face turned to sheer terror as he toppled over backward, and all chaos ensued.