Courting Linda (part 1 of 2)

It was at a church youth group party that I first saw Linda. I didn’t require a second look  to decide she was lovely, a girl I’d like to spend time with.  Even today, some 48 years later, I recall feeling inexplicably attracted to her.  But, she was with another guy and he was at her side continuously. I heard someone say they were “going steady,” as we referred to it then. Reluctantly, I dismissed the memory from my mind.

On a cool, dark night several years later, my friend Alvin and I were sitting on  bales of hay at the rear of a flat deck truck.  It was another event sponsored by the same youth group.  Although I didn’t attend the church or belong to the group, I knew they were  pretty accepting people and I had suggested to Alvin it could be fun.

Very close to us were two lively, fun loving gals, Linda and her close friend Jenny.  Attractive and congenial, they laughed easily. I again found Linda’s animated face, dancing eyes and lighthearted manner appealing. Her boyfriend of two years ago wasn’t there so I wondered if that relationship had ended. My interest was definitely and significantly rekindled.
For the next two weeks I mulled over the idea of calling to ask her out. I had no way of learning if she was still seeing the other guy. Finally I decided to take the risk of finding out, possibly the hard way. With great anticipation and even greater trepidation, I deposited a quarter into the pay phone at the corner of Clearbrook Road and the Fraser Highway. I didn’t want my parents to hear me being turned down.
A weight lifted off my young shoulders when she agreed to go to an Abbotsford Panthers basketball game with me. I had switched to Abby High for my last year of school and enjoyed the drama of basketball.  In their black uniforms, the players were impressive visually.  The cheerleaders had dazzling good looks and knew how to work the willing crowd.  A student at Aldergrove Secondary, Linda is still somewhat amused at my lack of creativity on our first few dates.  It didn’t immediately occur to me she might not be enamoured by the idea of watching basketball players she did not know.  At school the following week a friend said to me, “she’s a doll.  Where did you find her?”  I decided I would not introduce him to her.
She was the girl of my dreams and I was smitten, but I certainly

Art & Linda During the Dating Years
Art & Linda During the Dating Years

was not yet thinking in terms of a life partner.  The idea of marriage wasn’t even on the distant horizon.  I did understand though that if I became serious about a relationship with a girl from a Mennonite home, there almost certainly would be a significant obstacle.
In the Mennonite faith and culture in which Linda and I had both grown up, the church and the faith were central.  They determined values, morals, ethics, and many aspects of lifestyle.  I was quite aware that most Mennonite parents at that time fervently hoped their children would follow in their footsteps in regard to the faith.  Like my parents, Linda’s parents were founding members of the church she was attending.  It was the church on which I had turned my back. When I began seeing Linda,  I didn’t need to be reminded that my lack of interest in the church or the faith would become a deeply troubling concern for her parents.
We were young though, and I wasn’t yet giving this matter serious consideration.  If it troubled Linda, she didn’t talk about it. Our focus was on enjoying the relationship and having a good time together.


Gas was relatively inexpensive then and we often explored backroads, looking for interesting , little known hiking trails.  Sometimes we took food and cooked meals in the outdoors. Rollerskating in Lynden and visits to Shakey’s Pizza Parlour became part of our routine. Sometimes we read a book together and this is where I became acquainted with Great Expectations and Gone With the Wind.


In winter we skated on outdoor ponds.  One night we went to an ice skating party at Lysak’s Pond on the border of Canada and the U.S.  We arrived late and were amazed to find the pond dark, deserted and silent.  We had the entire expanse of the pond to ourselves, skating hand in hand.  Suddenly, an ominous roar rumbled through the ice, as though it was about to fracture. Terrified, we made a speedy exit. We now understood why everyone had left early.
Still in school, I was living in the basement of my parents home.  In summer I worked with Dad operating a bulldozer and doing whatever was needed in his business.

Dad and I shared vehicles and when he saw I was dating a very

1957 Ford Fairlane
1957 Ford Fairlane

nice girl from a solid family, he bought a pretty red and white ‘57 Ford Fairlane hardtop.  He wanted to encourage our relationship.

Courting Linda (part 2 of 2)

In time, Linda felt we should begin talking about marriage, but I wasn’t mature enough to be ready. In part, the challenge for me was that I didn’t have a clear or accurate understanding of either love or marriage. Observing my parents should have been a lesson as to the nature of a committed relationship based on faithfulness, integrity and love. For them it was “steady as she goes.” They were too preoccupied with making a living, raising children and maintaining friendships, to focus on a need for glamour.

However, this example was overshadowed by the way love and romance were portrayed on the movie screen. Hollywood “love” was almost invariably characterized by constant, high level passion and glitter. For me this was confusing. I enjoyed being with Linda and we were having great times together. It was wonderful, but it wasn’t like in the movies. Did that mean I wasn’t in love? I didn’t want to make a mistake.

Linda eventually grew weary of my dilly dallying and her ardour cooled. It became a case of “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” When she backed off, I realized I didn’t want to lose her.

It was a speedy and effective lesson in reality therapy and overnight Hollywood’s dazzle lost its capacity to confuse. Before long, our relationship again flourished.

I still needed to deal with the misgivings Linda’s parents had about their daughter marrying a guy who showed little interest in the church scene. Fortunately, they understood that this was what their daughter wanted and when I asked for her hand in marriage, they were gracious.

Only later did it occur to me that I never actually asked Linda to marry me. Since our relationship had resumed its positive tone, I simply assumed she would be delighted to receive a ring. I presented her with an engagement ring Christmas Eve, 1964. My assumption could have proved to be more than just embarrassing. Mom had come to love Linda like a daughter, and if she had refused the ring, Christmas would have lost its sheen for her and the entire family. Fortunately, Linda accepted and Mom didn’t need to cancel Christmas.

We bought our first home two months before the wedding. We were visiting our friends Jake and Helen Klassen who owned five acres on Defehr Road. They said, “the lady just up the road wants to sell her house and five acres. You should buy it.” As yet we had no precise plan for where we would live. We accepted their advice and visited the lady. Widowed and elderly, she was eager to sell. She considered our offer satisfactory and quickly accepted our agreement for sale proposal.

We had little money but Linda was working at the Royal Bank in Abbotsford and the assistant manager agreed quite readily to provide the down payment without collateral. Like me, he had come to understand that she was a woman of sterling character and fully responsible. We visited a furniture store and bought the items needed to furnish our home at a fairly basic level. On possession day we moved the furniture in and felt ready for a future together.

We were married in the Olivet Mennonite Church in Clearbrook

Mr. & Mrs. Art Martens September 18, 1965
Mr. & Mrs. Art Martens
September 18, 1965

on Sept 18th, 1965. Linda was stunningly beautiful in her wedding dress. After the reception she changed to a going away outfit, a deep blue suit with hat and gloves. I experienced great amazement that this lovely young woman was now my wife.

Upon returning to our home in the country after the honeymoon, I picked up Linda and carried her up the few steps to the back door and over the threshold. In the years since that memorable day, I have come to understand that courting Linda was just the first step in an exciting, challenging and rewarding life journey together.

“The Girls” and I Tackle Gate Maintenance

May 1st    “Maintenance on gate to chicken enclosure,” my To Do list instructed me this morning.  It had actually been on the list for 2 days so I decided to make it a priority.  With a screw driver and 4 small screws in hand, I went out to tackle what I was certain would be a quick, easy job.

The girls immediately exhibited their usual keen interest in having

Art & Curious Chickens
Art & Curious Chickens

some role in this project.  I’m sure they didn’t care much what that role would be, but they intended to become involved. Extraordinarily curious creatures, they are easily bored.  It quickly became evident that either I would include them in what I was doing, or they’d take measures to frustrate me. To acquaint me with their desire to assist, and get my attention, they immediately pecked at my legs with their usual woodpecker zeal. What they lacked in velocity they made up for with intensity.

Until this spring, I had credited myself with great cleverness and ingenuity.  By wearing rubber boots, I had avoided the irritation of their constant pecking.  In time though, they had begun to understand that their pecking tactics were having no effect on my mental equilibrium. Like sophisticated computer hackers, they experimented with new, more advanced strategies. By craning their skinny necks higher, they could access human flesh through my pant legs.  As efficiently as a highly trained group of militants, that is where they now aimed their 3 pronged assault.

Distracted by them,  I lost my concentration and dropped the first screw.  They evidently assumed it was something quite delicious and with their usual amazing speed pounced on it.  It was my quick witted response that spared the screw from being swallowed whole by a chicken.  I had only four screws so I didn’t want to lose one.  Also, swallowing a screw probably would not be conducive to fowl health.  Of course, it was much more their scrambling and bumping than my quick witted action that thwarted them.  Even the two identical, virtually joined at the hip, Cleopatras give no ground to each other if there is the prospect of a delicacy.  Everything is deemed to be a delicacy until they discover otherwise.

When I tried once more to get the screw started, the pecking resumed with increased intensity. Miss Lonely Hearts apparently had decided on revenge because I had deprived her of the screw.  I pushed her away with my foot, gently but firmly. She resisted, flapping her wings and squawking.  A power struggle ensued.

With the incessant drumming on my legs and no means to prevent it,  I simply couldn’t focus on getting that first screw started.  Determined to get my little job done, I bent over until I was just about nose to beak with Miss Lonely Hearts.  Alert so I would not be pecked in the face,  I said, “Lady,  you are stretching my sense of humour!  Go away and lay an egg!”

She stared at me, apparently amused.  Realizing I wouldn’t win this little contest without help, I scattered a handful of bird seed on the ground to occupy them.  It’s their favourite but infrequent menu item. Like children scrambling for candies thrown from a float in a parade, they raced to garner their share. I quickly completed the job.

My impatience with them subsided and I was able to think more rationally about how to handle this kind of challenge. I recalled that our neighbour Angelique had observed quite sagely when I was constructing the Hen House, “after all Art, they are only chickens.”  She is a longstanding owner of chickens herself and also a local politician. I respect her experience and knowledge concerning politics and chickens.  Maybe my expectations of the girls are beyond their capability.  After all, in their own way they just wanted to be included in my project.

I returned the tools to the shed. Locking the door, I retreated to the sanctuary of the house with the rare pleasure of knowing that the girls and I had successfully completed the gate maintenance project.