In mid-September, after May graduation, my parents loaded the big-blue-bomb station wagon with me and all my possessions that would fit.  Thus began the three-hour, back-road trip to Lexington and the University of Kentucky.
On arrival, I was quickly initiated into the annual social scene outside the freshman dorms, where upper-class wolves inspected the new flock of freshmen girls.  Walking that gauntlet and smelling the gingko trees that lined the path to Paterson Hall are memories that easily come to mind.  I’m not sure which was worse – the ogling eyes and whistles or the rotting gingko fruit.
Setting off to college in search of a husband wasn’t my goal, but it wasn’t something to turn down, if the opportunity presented itself.  Over the following weeks, I found upper classmen guy-watching to be as entertaining as the ritual outside Paterson; but, girls aren’t as obvious.
It wasn’t long before I met John Wells, a junior in architecture.  He wasn’t too bad on the eyes, dressed nicely (at least then), and carried on a decent conversation, all prerequisites for marriage.  Several years later, while discussing our first meeting, we discovered each of us had entertained a similar thought, “Um-m-m, wonder what it would be like to marry her/him?” 
Love at first sight?  Maybe.
Our first semester was rocky.  Even though our paths crossed frequently, we couldn’t get together.  I think it was because of his rules about dating: 
Rule 1: Never call before Thursday night for a date that weekend.  Rule 2:  If a girl turns you down once, she doesn’t get a second chance.
He tells me these rules actually worked.  His record was three steadies at three high schools in Lexington.  To his surprise, he’d met his match and his rules were shattered; because, I generally had dates 1-2 weeks in advance and, because of his tardiness, I turned him down many times.
By semester’s end we’d managed one, unremarkable date; but in the second semester, he got his act together.  In the meantime, I’d discovered the field wasn’t all that attractive or compatible; so, we soon started planning our future together, including marriage our senior year.
Graduation led to a four-year tour in the Air Force for John, which made me an Air Force wife.  During our two years in Massachusetts, daughter Cynthia was born.  A month after her birth, courtesy of the USAF, we packed up and went to Seoul, Republic of South Korea. 
In a time when many military officers were assigned to Vietnam, we were thrilled to get Korea, and also to get permission for dependents to accompany.  Traveling across country with a four week old baby, to have our car shipped from Seattle, Washington, was a rude awakening.  We didn’t know one could travel hundreds of miles across the plains, not seeing buildings or human beings. 
Arriving in Korea, cultural shock came fast, as we exited the plane, the most obvious being there were no abc’s on the signs, only weird, straight-line symbols. 
We settled in quickly.  Military people must know how to relocate and make friends immediately.  They must; tours aren’t very long.  We learned that officers were expected to hire a house maid/baby-sitter and a yard boy, which left me nothing to do. 
Not being fond of monotony, I sought a job and found one teaching Algebra II and science at a Presbyterian mission school, the Seoul Foreign School.  Missionary children attended, but other students were welcome, if they could speak English and could afford the fee, which was reasonable.  This created a diverse student body.
One student was the son of a German military attaché stationed at the German Embassy in Seoul.  Fortunately for me, the student’s chauffeur-driven Mercedes traveled past the Army post where we lived.  The school’s principal, feeling sorry for my early morning travel by Korean taxi across Seoul, arranged for the chauffer-driven Mercedes to detour to my front door, so that I might travel to school in style each morning.  That’s when I discovered that Germany makes automobiles and the United States makes cars. 
Unfortunately, each afternoon, I walked nearly a half mile from the school to hail a Korean taxi for the ride home.  Describing the sights, sounds, and experiences of riding a Korean taxi across Seoul is another story and I couldn’t do it justice, especially the odors.  Think of a M.A.S.H. lifestyle.
One January morning, as we passed through Seoul, my student Norburt and I chatted as usual.  Near the market area, travel slowed to a crawl, because people and cars crowded the streets.  Among the pedestrians were soldiers carrying machine guns.  I asked Norburt, “Wonder what they’re doing?” 
Norburt shrugged his shoulders and spoke to the driver in German.  I added, “Maybe the North Koreans came over the border last night.”  The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is fewer than fifty miles north of Seoul.  Having a diplomat license tag has its privileges; so, while all the cars around us were stopped, ours sped threw the check-points. 
Upon arrival at school, I learned that my guess had been spot-on.  A commando force of North Korean soldiers had infiltrated Seoul, in an effort to assassinate the South Korean president.  All except one had been killed and Korean military personnel were scouring the city to find him.  It’s known in Korea as the Blue House incident. Within days, the U.S. Navy vessel Pueblo was seized by North Korea, in international waters.
In a matter of days, our routine life shattered.  Military dependents were put on alert, told to keep suitcases packed, and to be ready for immediate evacuation.  Each day I struggled with my desire to stay home, waiting for the signal to evacuate with my daughter, versus my responsibility to teach at Seoul Foreign School.  Should the signal come for evacuation while at school, I would be on the opposite side of Seoul. Korean telephones were unreliable; word of evacuation might not reach me.  Military officials would take my daughter and I’d have to meet her at a rendezvous point.
It was then I learned that in war, life must go on, at least some semblance of it.  School didn’t stop, my husband had duty and the people of Seoul went about their daily lives.  There were risks to be taken and choices to be made.  Daily assessments were made, risks calculated, and actions determined.  Weeks turned into months and the intensity in the city subsided.  Unfortunately, for the Pueblo crew, the ordeal was just beginning. 
The school year ended.  That summer my Cynthia and I returned home, leaving my soon-to-be discharged husband and a sad maid/babysitter at Kimpo Air Force Base.  I was pregnant with our son and we didn’t want him to be born outside the USA.  He might run for president some day.
After our four-year military tour ended, John reentered architecture by attending Clemson University in South Carolina, which led to employment in there.  We’ve been here for more than 40 years, most of it in Aiken, with recent times in Anderson and Columbia. Those years have brought us many things: bouts with life threatening illnesses, overlapped by financial disaster, plus typical problems with children.  I can honestly say, though, there’s no one but John that I’d rather have had on the journey.
Now to answer that question, “Um-m-m, wonder what it would be like to marry her/him?”  Have you ever seen two rams butting heads over territory?  That comes close to describing the experience.  John is an opinionated, strong-willed only child and I’m an opinionated, strong-willed almost only child.  Sparks were bound to fly! 
I heard someone ask a bride of fifty years, at the couple’s golden anniversary celebration, if she’d ever considered divorce. Rather quickly she replied, “Divorce? Never.  Murder?  Every day!”  John and I are almost at the 50 year mark and I agree with the lady, but maybe not every day.
Patterson Hall, University of Kentucky, Lexington
John, Cynthia and Jerri enjoy spring in South Korea.
Ms. Sim, happy housekeeper.
Back in the day, seeking ways to entertain themselves and others, military wives put on shows.  Here, Jerri is shown on the right, doing a song and dance routine.
Jerri Hornbuckle and John Wells started at Patterson Hall, made an intermediate stop in Korea and settled in South Carolina
USS Pueblo, branded a spy ship by North Korea
My husband and I spent a couple of wonderful weeks in Costa Rica, viewing beautiful scenery and enjoying the wildlife.  What a joy to wake up to a Howler monkey in the morning or watch a sea turtle lay her eggs on the beach at night.  I wasn't very adventurous as a student, but if anyone had told me I would ride a zip line in the rain forest, I would have called them crazy; but, it was wonderful.  Now I am looking for an African trip and hope to add more adventure to our lives.
Pat Billker Koebel hoping she doesn't take a swim.
Pat Billker Koebel's Grown-Up Slip 'n Slide
Tales and Photos Supplied by '60 Classmates
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Jerri Hornbuckle Wells
Pat Billker Koebel

Vol. 50, No. 1         FERN CREEK, KENTUCKY - Location of Friendliest School in the County        October 3, 2010