It was during this time that Trena left for a 3-day visit to one of the mission’s remote tribes, the Secoya village of San Pablo. She would be visiting an American couple working with translation. About the same time, my dad asked me if I wanted to go on an excursion to a different tribe. The purpose for our trip was to inspect a recently hacked out (with machete) airstrip. My dad would determine if the strip was suitable for landing and subsequent frequent airlifts into and out of that village.
The Waoranis tribal people lived in the Quiwado village. They were once referred to as the Aucas because of their reputation of being head-hunters. In fact, these were the natives who martyred five American missionaries in the late 50’s. In 1965, a Wycliffe missionary came home on furlough in Baltimore and spoke to the church congregation about missions. My dad, a Baltimore County police officer at the time became interested. The missionary, George gardner, gave my dad a book called, “Jungle Pilot,” a story about Nate Saint, one of the murdered missionaries who was also a jungle pilot.
Our trip would involve an overnight in a nearby village and then an early morning start towards the Quiwado village. It was during this first night away from Trena when I realized I could not get her image out of my mind. I did not even I want to. As I lay on my mat on the dirt floor inside a mud hut, waiting to find some sleep, I attempted to sort through my feelings about her.
What was it about this girl? She’s really got me now. Was I in love? It had been a long time since I’d had a relationship with a girl that was meaningful.
The next morning, my dad and I, along with two native guides began our hike through the jungle on our way to the Quiwado village. Having recently completed Phase I of SF training, I hiked with ease, staying with the lead guide, step-by-step. After all, there was no 100 lb. ruck on my back this time; no M-16 or M60 to haul around either. I wore hiking shoes, a long-sleeved T-shirt, blue jeans and was armed with a small hunting rifle.
I felt like I was flying through the jungle but the only living creatures that were flying were quite beautiful to behold. Both varieties of the large Macaw parrots flew in small flocks above us on more than one occasion. I was enthralled by the Blue and Gold as well as the bright red birds.
I was able to enjoy the surroundings more than my dad since the lead guide and I had to stop frequently to wait for him and the rear guide helping him. The ground was wet and slippery with mud in some spots, dry in others. Long vines drooped from the tall trees. Water dripped from the leaves after a short cloud burst of rain. The hike through the Amazon jungle, which included a large river crossing on a balsa wood raft that the guides hacked out in 30 minutes, took four hours. By then, I was used to the sounds of the insects constant chirping and buzzing.
As we approached the village, we were greeted by the native women who brought us a bowl of Chicha. My dad warned about this drink ahead of time but he also told me to just drink it and don’t think about it. Chicha consisted of “chewed” bananas that were spit back into a community boiling pot over an open fire that helped ferment the warm brew. I took a gulp. I thought about something else.
The villagers bathed in the nearby river, the men and then the women, separated. The water was cool and refreshing. Our first night at the village consisted of bathing, communications, eating dinner and sleeping on the hard floor made of sticks. With no electricity, this all began with the sinking of the sun below the jungle canopy. It was my second night away from Trena, and I still couldn’t get her out of my head. I did not sleep well.
We had breakfast the next morning prepared by the villagers and then we began the task of inspecting the airstrip from one end to the other and everything in-between. Dad made the call to Danny Rose and told him it looked good and we would wait for him to pick us up.
While waiting, I pre-occupied myself by taking photos of the local villagers, and made friends with many of the children. The day wore on until we all heard the distant buzz of the Helio propeller ripping through the sky with its distinct sound. Many of the villagers ran onto the airstrip to watch the plane land but were quickly chased away by the chief and my dad and re-directed to a vantage point off of the strip.
I snapped a picture as the plane touched down and as it sped past us, the villagers rushed out onto the strip after the plane as if a group of college students would rush the basketball court after a last-second victory. The aircraft taxied to a stop and Danny was quickly surrounded by a lot of village people. He was the first pilot to ever land on Quiwado strip. Danny got out of the plane and started shaking hands with everyone as if he was a president. Then, he and my dad broke away and began walking the airstrip together discussing all of the technical intricacies.
After two days away from Limoncocha and a memorable hike through the jungle topped off with Chicha, Danny, my dad, and I boarded the plane and safely took off, leaving the waving villagers behind. My thought turned to other matters.
Realizing that my time in Ecuador would only last another 10 days, I had to think of ways to expedite my strategic plan of winning Trena over. I had no idea how she felt about me, but it was time to find out.
I made it a point to visit her after dinner that first evening back. Trying to keep my cool and playing hard to get, I made the excuse that I wanted to read the up-to-date Newsweek magazines she had laying around the table in her little dwelling. With a nice comfortable hammock strung up next to the stack, I thought of this as a good place to start. I wanted to stay abreast of the situation in El Salvador, especially since I could very well end up there within a year. I also wanted to read the sad story about one of my friends, Chet Bitterman, who had been kidnapped and then had been executed by the M-19, the same guerilla faction that had nearly blown me up four years earlier.
Grabbing the Newsweek from Trena’s table, I made my way to the local handmade hammock. I then settled in and buried my face in the magazine, flipping pages, and trying to carry on a conversation as she was completing her dishwashing.
Okay Lord, if she’s the one, something has to happen. Then I pondered a way to make a move without making a fool of myself. Various scenarios began to run through my mind.
Bam! Suddenly, the impact of a rubber ball against the magazine in my hand slapped like a gunshot. Stunned at first, I reacted with lightning quick reflexes, spinning to take cover. Then I realized that not only had Trena thrown a ball at me, but she was moving quickly to retrieve it. Nothing doing, I thought. I rolled out of the hammock quickly, and scrambled in the direction the ball had rolled. Prevention of another attack was on my mind as both of us reached for the ball instantaneously.
“Ah-hah!” I grunted while grabbing the ball.
“Not fast enough, slow poke!” Trena laughed back as she viciously began prying it out of my tight grip. Before I knew the full gist of what was happening, I realized that we were involved in a semi-wrestling match. Within moments our arms were twisted together trying to get the ball out of the others hand.
Trena struggled to turn, trying to pull away, but I was no match. As she spun, with one final thrust, I reached out, caught her hand, drew it back towards me and we suddenly found ourselves face-to-face within inches from each other. I caught my best glimpse yet of her gorgeous green eyes. They were only about three inches away. We both momentarily froze.
I couldn’t help but to stare deeply into her entrancing eyes that had me so mesmerized. I did not want to move an inch. Then, slowly, without any apparent decision or plan, we simultaneously inched closer towards each other until our lips softly touched and stayed together for about four seconds. We released our tight grip on each other’s hands but kept them together as we moved towards each other again, this time for a longer lasting kiss. I must admit that I did feel a riveting surge sweep over my whole body. Why not? I was in the midst of enjoying a lasting kiss with the knockout girl that had captivated me, both with her beauty and with her friendship. I wanted our first kiss to be one to remember a lifetime!
Seven months after our first kiss, October of 1981, we were married in a small church in Salem, Virginia nestled within the colorful autumn leaves, which was typical of the Shenandoah Valley. A cool, brisk wind was blowing that night, the night never to forget.
She was absolutely stunning when she came down the aisle in her wedding dress, escorted by her father. The ceremony was a daze, but I distinctly remember staring into Trena’s beautiful green eyes as they were transfixed on mine. She had the look of love and admiration and as we stood hand-in-hand on the altar, I felt with heart-felt sincerity that I would love her until the day I die.
I’ve been looking too hard, I’ve waiting too long
Sometimes I don’t know what I will find
I only know it’s a matter of time
When you love someone
When you love someone
I’ve been waiting for a girl like you
To come into my life
I’ve been waiting for a girl like you
A love that will survive
I’ve been waiting for someone new
To make me feel alive
Yeah, waiting for a girl like you
To come into my life-Foreigner