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The Barn

A Love Story

By Rick Henry Christopher Published 3 years ago Updated 2 years ago 10 min read
The Barn
Photo by Brandon Mowinkel on Unsplash

It's 1953, and a dozen teenage kids ranging in age from 13 to 17 are sitting inside the old, rust-red, barn. The barn is lined with five California pepper trees that cover the southside of the roof. It is located on a cotton farm in Bakersfield, California.

It's an almost intolerably hot August morning. The 12 kids are waiting for the hiring contractor to arrive to give them their work assignments.

There was only one girl in the bunch, Isabel Rios. She was 16 years old and always had a serious look on her face – she rarely smiled. She stood 5-foot-1 and had long, shiny, black hair. Despite her serious demeanor, she was a beautiful girl, looking like a young Elizabeth Taylor – glamourous, yet natural.

Isabel seemed out of place in this barn full of rugged boys. She looked around and thought to herself, "All these boys are ugly and smelly.”

Then walked in Henry Guerrero: 17 years old, thin, pretty-boy with his black, slicked-back hair. Isabel noticed him right away but didn't stare. She pretended to be preoccupied with her fingernails. Henry sat down on the bench next to Isabel. She acted like she didn’t notice him, though in reality her heart was racing.

Henry looked at Isabel and asked, "Are you sad?"

"Why?" Isabel answered in a bothered tone.

"I don't know," he answered. "You look like you're sad."

"No," Isabel answered. "I'm tired of waiting. I want to get to work."

Henry took the opportunity to say, "You're too pretty to be working out in the fields."

"Ah, looks aren't anything," Isabel quipped. "Earning a paycheck is what will put food on the table."

"Well, you're still very pretty," Henry acknowledged.

"Whatever," Isabel said nonchalantly, but the compliment actually comforted her.

Finally, the contractor, Mr. Rodriquez, arrived with the work assignments. Isabel was given the job of weighing the bags. She was not happy with this assignment and approached Mr. Rodriguez. "Uncle Joe,” said Isabel, “I don't want special treatment just because I'm your niece. I want to pick cotton."

"Isabel,” Mr. Rodriguez answered, "I'm not giving you special treatment. I want the boys to work the field.”

"Well, I'm getting a bag, and I'm picking cotton," said Isabel.

"Isabel!" Mr. Rodriguez exclaimed.

"No, Uncle," interrupted Isabel. "You can't stop me. I'm going."

Mr. Rodriguez yelled out to Isabel, "But sweetie! I just don't want you to cut your hands."

In a determined tone Isabel responded, "I'm not going to cut my hands. That's why I have gloves."

"Okay," Mr. Rodriguez gave up. "I'll have one of the boys weigh the cotton."

In her stern voice Isabel said, "Let Robert Mahoney weigh the cotton. I want to work with Henry Guerrero."

Mr. Rodriguez walked Isabel to the field where Robert and Henry were working. Henry said to Isabel, "Well, my day just got a whole lot better. I get to work with the pretty girl."

Isabel responded, "Oh, come on! Get to work."

Isabel removed a folded wire hanger from her pocket. She then shaped it into a circle and attached it to the opening of her 10-foot-long sack.

"Not only are you pretty, but you're smart too," Henry commented.

"This makes it easier to get the cotton in," Isabel said. "I can fill my bag faster than any of you boys. Then, I can go for a second bag and make twice the money."

It was at that moment Henry knew he was in love. He just knew that she had to be in his life. "I like your idea," Henry said.

"I'll bring you a coat hanger tomorrow," Isabel replied. As the two of them picked the cotton, Isabel moved way ahead of Henry.

At the end of the day, the kids collected their pay. They each received $2.25, except Isabel, who was paid $4.50.

Afterwards, the kids waited at the bus stop to return home. While waiting for the bus, Henry leaned toward Isabel and gave her a delicate little kiss on her right cheek. Isabel responded in a pushy manner, "Wait, I'm putting my wallet into my purse." This made Henry smile. He liked the fact that she completely ignored the kiss. "So, what do you plan on buying with all your money?" Henry asked.

Isabel said, "I'm getting a pink purse with matching shoes from Weill's.”

The next morning everyone returned to the field to pick cotton. Isabel pulled two folded wire hangers out of her pocket and handed one to Henry and said, "Here you go. Now you can also make more money.”

By the end of the day, Isabel and Henry had each picked two bags. But the total weight of Isabel's bags was more than Henry's. She picked 225 pounds compared to his 190 pounds.

Henry asked, "How do you do it? I'm bigger than you, and yet you manage a heavier sack."

Isabel, answered, "It's technique, not strength. You wear the sack strap closer to the edge of your shoulder, while I wear it closer to my neck. That gives me more leverage and more strength, but mostly more leverage.”

Henry stood there smiling as Isabel confidently explained her cotton-picking methods. He was enamored with this petite young lady.

"Isabel," he said, "You are really a smart lady."

"Yes, I know," Isabel answered in a sarcastic manner.

Henry chuckled.

It was Saturday, the night of the Bakersfield High School Summer dance. Isabel was going with her cousin, Matthew, who was her dance partner.

She was wearing a pearl pink, knee-length chiffon dress that had intricate, lace details on the bodice. She accessorized the dress with her cherry-blossom pink clutch purse and matching pumps. She wore gold and pink barrettes to keep her hair in place.

Matthew arrived at Isabel's house, and they walked to the school. At 5:00 PM, the lights were dimmed, and the music started with the rousing "Hound Dog" by Big Mama Thornton. The kids packed the floor and went crazy. Isabel grabbed Matthew's hand, and ran towards the dance floor.

The music continued for a while and Isabel and Matthew kept dancing.

The disc jockey took a break while the high school principal made a few announcements.

As Isabel and Matthew were listening to the principal, she noticed Henry Guerrero at the other end of the room. Isabel nudged Matthew and asked, "See that guy standing near Patti Lancer?"

"Yeah," Matthew replied. "I saw him driving up in a new Chevy Bel-Air convertible."

"Oh, really," Isabel said. "Well, he kissed me on the cheek. But I didn't think much about it."

The disc jockey returned and shouted, “It’s time for the big dance contest. The lights were dimmed again, and the speakers blasted Tommy Dorsey's, "Well, Git It.” There were several couples doing the jitterbug. By the end of the song Isabel and Matthew had survived the first cut and were dancing in the second round.

Round two started with the bugle sounds of The Andrews Sisters', "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." The crowd came to life dancing on the sidelines. In less than a minute the judges eliminated more couples. Isabel and Matthew were still in the contest.

Isabel and Matthew skillfully danced the Lindy Hop. They kept perfect time with each other. Matthew lifted Isabel off the ground and swung her to each side of his hips while Isabel handled the movements like a nimble gymnast.

Now they were down to three couples. Matthew signaled Isabel to do a triple twirl. He gracefully took her hand and twirled her around as her delicate pink chiffon dress lifted slightly and flowed with the motion.

With two minutes left there were now just two couples. Isabel and Matthew seamlessly transitioned from the Lindy Hop to the Bunny Hop. This was the clincher, and Matthew and Isabel won.

After the contest, Isabel noticed Henry watching her. He appeared somewhat sad.

"Excuse me," Isabel said as she walked away from Matthew toward Henry.

"Hi, Henry," Isabel said in a congenial voice. "I wasn't expecting to see you here."

"Oh, yes," my brother, Francis, studies here," Henry responded, "Nice purse and shoes."

"Thank you," Isabel smiled.

"Congratulations on the dance contest," Henry gestured with a polite smile and a nod. "You and your boyfriend..."

Isabel cut in right away, "No, no! He's my cousin, Matthew. We're best friends. His mom is like my second mother."

"Oh, what a relief," Henry said as he brushed his forehead with the back of his hand. "I got really bummed out when I saw you dancing with such a good-looking, muscular guy."

When they were leaving Isabel said to Henry, "Let’s go dancing sometime. I like to boogie and slow dance." Henry was caught off guard by Isabel's invitation, yet also intrigued. "Yes, that would be fun,” he replied.

Over the next year and a half Henry and Isabel went on several dates. On one particular date Isabel took Henry to the ice cream shop she worked at when she was 13.

"I love ice cream," Isabel told Henry. "It's my favorite thing."

"I love ice cream, too," Henry replied. "But not as much as I love you."

"Really," Isabel replied shyly.

"Yes, Isabel. I want to be with you all the time," Henry said.

"That's good," Isabel confessed, kind of whispering. "I'm afraid to be alone. I get scared at night if someone isn't there."

"You don't have to worry, Isabel," Henry stated. "I will always keep you safe and secure."

"Oh, that's good," Isabel responded, in a very endearing tone. "Hold my hand; I need to feel safe right now."

Henry took her small, thin hand and gazed deeply into her dark brown eyes. He gently said, "I will never stop loving you, Isabel. You'll always be safe with me."

Months later, Isabel and Henry were in his Chevy Bel-Air. They were going for a drive when on the radio Georgia Gibbs' song, "Dance with Me, Henry," started playing. Isabel quickly called out, "I love this song!" She started singing the words, directing them toward Henry.

Then she noticed, while she was laughing and singing, that Henry had driven to the cotton farm where they met almost two years ago.

"What are we doing here?" Isabel asked Henry.

Henry explained, "Well, you know this is where we first met, and I was feeling a little sentimental and thought it might be nice to stroll down memory lane.”

Isabel had this slight Mona Lisa smile on her face and gently said, "Oh, that is so nice."

Henry parked the car on the side of the road. The two got out of the car and walked down the trail toward the barn.

Henry said, "Let's go into the barn, just for old time's sake."

Isabel just looked at him and followed him into the barn. She was overwhelmed at what she saw. It was decorated with pink roses, and a purple chair was positioned at the end of a long red carpet.

He took her hand and walked her down the red carpet to the chair where she sat. Henry knelt down in front of her, still holding her hand, and said, "Isabel, from the first day I saw you in this barn I knew that I wanted to be with you forever. You are the most beautiful and interesting person I have ever known in my life. I cannot live without you. Isabel, I am here today, with permission from your father, to ask you for your hand in marriage. Will you marry me, Isabel Rios?"

Isabel sat there for a minute and cleared her throat. "Well, Henry," she said humorously, "you didn't have to spend all this money. I would have said ‘yes,’ even if we were sitting in your car in front of my house."

With her answer Henry took his fiancée in his arms and kissed her.

The following is a link to my story "The Silver Spoon" which follows Isabel Rios' life at age eight. The Silver Spoon - Click Here

Thank you for reading my stories!


About the Creator

Rick Henry Christopher

Writing is a distraction to fulfill my need for intellectual stimulus, emotional release, and soothing the bruises of the day.

The shattered pieces of life will not discourage me.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (2)

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  • Babs Iverson2 years ago

    Ditto what Cathy Holmes said. Swwet & lovely story!👏💖💕

  • Cathy holmes2 years ago

    Beautiful and heartwarming story. Well done.

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