Destiny had brought together two people from towns 1,600 miles apart – one from Los Banos the other from Gracemont, Okla. They were assigned by chance to the same college singing group in Claremore, Oklahoma. But destiny would play an even more improbable role in their courtship.
I’m picking up the story of Hilda Machado, a Los Banos native, and Terry Brown, of Gracemont, from a previous column ( “It must have been fate that brought Hilda and Terry together,” Feb. 6). I wrote that it must been fate that connected these two in 1978 at the Hank Thompson School of Country Music in Claremore.
For Terry, as soon as he had spotted Hilda on campus, it was love at first sight. For Hilda, Terry was just another nice guy, though she knew he had a gift for composing country music, especially when she heard his song “Nobody Wants to Be a Cowboy Anymore.”
Her lack of interest didn’t deter Terry. He asked Hilda out to see a movie, quickly adding, “This isn’t a date, just a movie.” She said something like, “Alright. Why not.” After seeing “Halloween” in the Claremore movie theater, Terry drove Hilda home; they shook hands and said good night.
Meanwhile, Hilda was making a name for herself in Oklahoma, not as a singer but as a professional trick roper, in a place made famous by one of America’s best trick ropers, Will Rogers.
Hilda was recruited by Gov. George Nigh to travel throughout the state promoting Oklahoma as a tourist destination. For one of her performances in Tulsa, Hilda’s ride canceled at the last minute. When Terry found out, he walked up to her with the keys to his Mercury Marquis and said, “Here, take my car.”
Hilda was impressed that someone she knew only in passing trusted her with his deluxe sedan. When she returned, Hilda gave Terry back his keys, shook his hand and said thank you.
About a year later, both Terry and Hilda had absorbed all they needed from the Hank Thompson School of Country Music. Terry stayed in Claremore, where he continued singing with his group, while Hilda headed to the big city of Tulsa, where she was offered a key role in a summer stock production of “Oklahoma.” As far as both knew, they would probably never see each other again.
But one day there was a thunderstorm in Oklahoma, even more ferocious than the typically fierce Oklahoma storm. It was raining hard, thunder was booming and lightning was crackling. Terry remembered that Hilda had once told him she became frightened during storms.
At 1 p.m., Terry decided to get into his car in Claremore and drive 35 miles to Tulsa, and then drive around some more until he found her. He had no address and no phone number (there were no cell phones in 1979), but somehow, he felt, he’d find her.
For nine hours he zigged and zagged up and down Tulsa streets. Around 10 p.m., driving down a random street, he felt his foot move to the brake pedal, and his head turned to the left to a particular house. He parked his car, walked up to the house and knocked on the door.
Inside was Hilda. She looked out the peep hole and saw Terry standing there, soaking wet. “How did you find me?” Hilda asked. “I don’t know,” replied Terry, “I just did.”
This is the point in the story where – had it been fiction – the two would have embraced and lived happily ever after.
Turns out, as impressed as Hilda was with Terry finding her, she just politely let him spend the night on the couch and wished him well the next day.
Fast forward several months. Hilda has returned to Los Banos, while Terry stayed in Tulsa. He was still, however, undaunted. Just before Christmas, Terry drove to Visalia to visit a relative. Then he drove up to Los Banos, where Hilda’s family welcomed him. He brought with him a song he wrote for Hilda about Los Banos, entitled “A Little Town North of L.A.”
Hilda finally began to sense maybe she was destined to be with Terry. After some intense praying, she eventually said to Terry, “Is there something you wanted to ask me?” He quickly proposed and Hilda accepted. They were engaged on Valentine’s Day and married two months later, on April 12, 1980, in St. Joseph’s Church in Los Banos.
And now comes the point in the story where I can write, “And (then) they (finally) lived (together) happily ever after.”
John Spevak is a resident of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.