Who knew Steve’s pick up line, “I’ve got a horse…” would be the catalyst leading to a relationship that has lasted nearly 37 years? It was early October in 1980 when Steve used that line on me at a wedding dance in Snyder. I sat across from him at a table full of alumni from a college in Curtis, NE. We were all sharing our stories about instructors, dorms and night life. During the conversation Steve learned I had a love for horses. He must have thought it was his chance to make a move when he commented, “I have a horse that can turn on a dime!”
Throughout the course of the evening, whenever Steve had the chance he would go back to telling me about his horse named Duffy and his family’s farm north of Snyder. I admit I enjoyed looking into Steve’s blue eyes as he talked and before I knew it the dance was over. I couldn’t remember Steve’s name so when he stood up I looked at the back of his belt and saw “STEVE” imprinted on it. I had a first name and, yes, I was looking at his belt.
The following morning I drove to Omaha to visit my aunt. Aunt Kathy was my mom’s only sister and a favorite aunt of mine from childhood. Aunt Kathy was known to bring my siblings and I gifts for birthdays and Christmas’s and she was a fun adult to be around. I sat down on a stool at her counter and told her all about a guy named Steve I had met the night before. She was the first person to hear about this guy with a great horse.
|This is one of my favorite pictures of my family with my Aunt Kathy in it.|
On Monday morning, two days after I met Steve, I was unlocking the vet clinic door where I worked. As I jiggled the key in the lock I heard the phone ringing and I rushed to get inside to answer what I thought was a large animal call for our veterinarian. It was Steve. He wanted to know if I would like to ride his horse sometime. I laughed and said yes. We made plans for me to drive to the farm that Saturday.
I guess Steve couldn’t wait for Saturday to arrive. He stopped in at the vet clinic on Thursday afternoon to see me. I needed to meet our vet on a nearby farm to treat a horse so Steve offered to take me. What a gentleman!
Saturday arrived and I headed out to Steve’s farm. When I arrived Steve met me at my car and we walked over to the horse pen. We caught the horse, saddled him up and off I went. I had plenty of space to ride. As I rode through the nearby fields I noticed how well kept their farm was. When I rode back up to the barn Steve was waiting and asked about riding along. Before I could say anything he was up in the saddle sitting behind me. We began our riding tour of the farm until the rest of his family had left for Saturday night mass. I don’t think he was ready to have me meet the family yet!
That first date kindled the spark that had been lit at the wedding dance. We continued to date, talk about our common interests and then plan for a wedding.
As we searched for a place we could live Steve’s uncle approached him and asked if we would consider living on the farm where Steve’s grandfather had raised a family of thirteen children. The uncle, Roman Ruskamp, had retired, moved to town and married late in life. Steve took me to the farm located about eleven miles from his own family’s farm. It was a bit rustic after having two bachelors living in the house for twenty years. Steve saw beyond the broken fences, weeds and run down house. His enthusiasm was contagious and I supported the decision to not only live on the farm but also buy the 40 acres the house and barns were on.
|This aerial photo was taken in 1991. We had added some new
cattle pens and lived right in the middle of all the activity. The
highway shows up as dirt because it was worked on that year.
|This aerial photo was taken in 2007. We built a house in 1996
to the west end of the feedlot when our old house was beyond
repair. Another dream for Steve was to have a fish pond and
that is located to the right of the house.
The excitement about having our own farm dimmed when we learned my Uncle Melvin, was diagnosed with cancer. We made several visits to see him in the hospital in Omaha. On one late night visit the conversation was about our wedding. Steve wanted the wedding in Snyder since they had farm chores to work around. Uncle Melvin was very persuasive in telling Steve the wedding should be in the bride’s hometown. On our way home Steve apologized to me for his lack of understanding and the wedding was moved from Snyder to Resurrection Catholic Church in Grand Island.
|Uncle Melvin is the first one in the back row. He is standing next to my
dad. This is my dad’s family with Grandpa and Grandma seated in the middle.
Another tragedy hit us when Steve’s brother, Ed, died suddenly in a car accident. Ed was Steve’s partner with the feedlot they built up. It was surreal for me to be sharing this grief with Steve and his family. I felt a little out of place since I wasn’t really a part of the family yet. As I lay in a sleeping bag the night before the funeral Steve’s mom came over to me, touched my shoulder and said, “I’m so glad you are here.” I was family.
|Steve’s family. Front row: Julie, Teri, Barb, Louise, Marguerite
Back row: Steve, Jerry, Francis, Bernardine, Ed, Joe, Rosie
We said goodbye to Ed in July. We said goodbye to my Uncle Melvin in August.
In early September we took Steve’s horse and a 3 year-old filly I bought over the summer to the Labor Day Parade in Omaha. We had joined the Dodge Saddle Club and one of the first events we attended was the parade. I was a little apprehensive about taking a young horse to a parade but I had been reassured the older horses would keep my horse in line. Our third traumatic experience before the wedding was about to unfold.
The horses were saddled and excited. We were in downtown Omaha with lots of people and unfamiliar sounds all around us. Our saddle club mounted up and started walking towards the parade route. While we waited for the parade to start, a high school band decided to warm up. I could feel my horse trembling inside as I kept a flag folded tight around the pole in my right hand. Suddenly she reared up and I felt the both of us go over backwards as she fell on the right side of my hip. In my mind all I could think about was getting my feet out of the stirrups and letting go of the flag. As she stood up I looked at my right hand and saw one of my fingers bleeding and then I tried to stand up. Pain immediately shot down my back, hip and legs. Steve jumped down to my side with a look of fear on his face. Someone called a rescue squad and soon we were whisked away to the hospital.
|I did not ride my mare in anymore parades and I did not
sell her. She did produce some nice foals like this one!
While Steve and I waited for the x-rays we talked about what we might be facing. My hip could be broken. I could feel pain so that was a good sign. My leg could be broken. We had a wedding in three weeks. What would we do? Was this a sign? If it was a sign, what did it mean?
The doctor returned with good news. Nothing was broken. I was going to need crutches for awhile for the bruising that had occurred. We could handle that. If there was a sign, it was that someone special was watching out for us and we could go ahead with the wedding. I was fitted for some crutches and sent home to heal and get ready for the wedding.
|Cheers! September 26, 1981|
From, “I’ve got a horse,” to saying, “I do,” Steve has kept his commitment to love me and honor me all the days of my life. We’ve shared 13,140 days together as husband and wife. Those 13,140 days have been filled with more blessings than burdens. I can only hope God blesses us with thousands more days together that start with Steve’s daily greeting, “Goooooood Morning Joanie!”
|The gift of faith has helped us weather the storms of married life.
The Holy Spirit is truly the glue that keeps us together.
|Two became one leading to a family of seven and now a family of fifteen!|
“Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. ” Psalm 128:1-4