We were at a community reception for donors of the college arts programs. The reception was to be followed by a big summer concert. I was visiting with a friend when my wife, Donna, brought a lady over to meet me.
“This is my husband,” Donna said, pointing to me. “Daris, this is Melva. She wants to meet you.”
I reached out my hand. “Glad to meet you, Melva.”
Melva was about sixty years old. She was a pleasant-looking woman with a big smile. She seemed almost giddy.
She took my hand and shook it. “I’ve got to tell you, I am one of your biggest fans. In fact, probably the only fan bigger than myself is my husband. We both race to get the paper on Thursdays so we can be first to read your story.”
I smiled. “I’m glad to know that someone reads what I write. Sometimes I think my whole audience consists of my wife, my children, and birds who read the papers people use to line the bottoms of their cages.”
Melva laughed. “You’re funny. I do hope you’ll be here for a little while. My husband should be back in about a half-hour. He dropped me off and left to run some errands. He would love to meet you.”
I wasn’t sure how soon we planned to take our seats for the concert, so I looked at Donna. She nodded, so I knew she felt we could wait.
“Sure,” I said to Melva. “We’ll be around for a while.”
Melva went off to keep an eye out for her husband, and Donna and I mingled with other guests. We had been involved in theatre and music for many years, and Donna was on the university committee for the promotion of the arts, so we knew a lot of the people there. We enjoyed visiting, but as the time for the concert grew closer, I became concerned that we would not get very good seats.
Melva kept coming back to check and see if we were still there, and when she saw we were, she would go off again to look for her husband. Finally, just as we were ready to go to the concert hall, Melva came, pulling a man by the hand.
“Merve,” Melva said triumphantly, “guess who this is.”
Merve looked completely out of place at such a formal event. All of the women were wearing dresses, most of the men were wearing suits, and the men not in suits were wearing collared shirts and ties. That is, all except for Merve. He wore a nice flannel shirt, new blue jeans, cowboy boots, a polo tie, and an expression that said he’d rather be almost anywhere else.
“How am I supposed to know?” he asked Melva.
“Think of your favorite things to do every week,” Melva said.
Merve thought a minute. He then looked at me and asked, “Do you work at the feed store?”
I laughed, and Melva said, “No, Merve. Think of the newspaper.”
Suddenly it dawned on him who I was. “Why, you’re Mr. Howard, aren’t you?” I nodded, and he grabbed my hand and shook it heartily. “You don’t look anything like your picture in the paper, but then I’m sure they did that Photoshop stuff to make it look better than real.”
I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I knew no one had Photoshopped it.
“When I read your story about the farm and ranch store,” Merve said, “I laughed so hard I almost broke a rib. In fact, I named one of my horses after you.”
“Really?” I said. “That’s quite an honor. I’d like to see your horse.”
“Sorry,” Merve said. “Can’t do that. He was the stupidest animal I ever owned, and I finally had to sell him.”
I guess my fan club is down one horse