The Stranger Who Changed My Life: A Short Love Story

In this true short love story, a party girl meets her match as she passes through Montana with a traveling show.

by Joni Rodgers | from Reader's Digest Magazine

Joni and GaryThe sun came up, and we emerged from Four B’s to discover a warm chinook blowing in. Already the eaves were weeping, icicles thinning on trees and telephone wires. This is what Montana does in midwinter: clears off and gets bitter cold, and then suddenly it’s as warm and exhilarating as Easter morning. Don’t believe it for a minute, you tell yourself as the streets turn into trout streams, but the sheer pleasure of the feeling makes a fool of you. You forget your scarf and mittens on a hook behind the door. You know it’s still winter, but that’s just what you know; the chinook is what you believe in.

The bear held my hand inside his coat pocket as we walked in silence back to the parking lot to meet my company’s bus. Before he kissed me, he asked me if I was ready. Ready for what I have no idea, but ready is how I felt. I was stricken with readiness. Humbled by it.

“I hope you have a wonderful life,” I told him.

“You too,” he replied before nodding stiffly and walking away.

The bus lumbered through the slush and labored over the mountains to a fading Highline town where we were booked to play a quaintly shabby old opera house. The guy at the box office immediately pegged me as a party girl who’d been up all night and invited me to go to the bar next door for a hair of the dog before the show, but I could not for the life of me remember why that used to sound like fun.

Later that evening, as I did my shtick out on the foot-lit stage, I heard the bear’s distinctive baritone laughter from somewhere in the audience. After the show, he was waiting for me by the door. I didn’t bother asking him how he’d gotten there. He didn’t bother asking me where I wanted to go.

I can’t endorse the idea of love at first sight, but maybe there are moments when God or fate or some cosmic sense of humor rolls its eyes at two stammering human hearts and says, “Oh, for crying out loud.” I married the bear a few months later in a meadow above his tiny cabin in the Bridger Mountains. We weren’t exempted from any of the hard work a long marriage demands, but for better or worse, in sickness and in health, that moment of unguarded, chinook-blown folly has somehow lasted 30 years.

We laugh. We read. I do dishes; he bakes bread. Every morning, we work through the daily crossword puzzle. Our daughter, Jerusha, and son, Malachi Blackstone (named after his great-grandfather and an island in Chesapeake Bay) tell us we are agonizingly dull.

We listen to their 20-something diatribes and smile.

Joni Rodgers is the author of the bestselling memoir Bald in the Land of Big Hair.

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  • Your Comments

    • Bon Mili Timung Rongpharpi

      i love mah bubuxho alot n i stl do..
      bubuxho is a name givn to him by me his real name is mindar kro .. i care him alot n gve him all mah love n does everythng to make him happy

      but suddnly one day a gal rang up mah cellphne n told me dt she is mndar galfrnd den i was totally shck couldn’t do a thng mah heart srtd beatng fast..thn i dirctly messge mindar and ask him was she his girlfrnd thn he said yes..whch brk mah heart n i was totally brokn becoz i had love him wit all mah heart bt all i can do was nothng but i just let him go becoz he was happy wit her.. I LOVE YOU BUBUXHO and i will always do ★♥♥♥

    • maria pitbull jen big l

      i dont want to put my family anymore problems than what we already have

    • maria pitbull jen big l

      i just had to tell my story true story thats all period couse no one will listen and belive me even help me its how it is not how u want it to be

    • maria pitbull jen big l

      hi this is a true love story i meet brian deegan founder of metal mulisha throught a good friend named the late jeremy lusk my name is maria its a long story so i make it short when jeremy lusk died my nickname became pitbull that was jeremys lusk nickname it passed it on to me it is what it is not always what u want but its for the better anyway i feel in love with brian deegan i did meet him talked to him some it just happend me falling in love with him i new i coudint tell him this in person because of who he was what he did all that plus he was married and i dont brake marreges up not that way so thought about it and finaly went to his website brian deegan metal mulisha website told him i new his best frien jeremy lusk and about me and other things just wanted him to know how iam couse i am honest dont lie thought nothing bad could happen to me couse i just told the truth that i have never told no one until i went to brian website i didint think nothing of it so before i new it i was arrested handcuffs they even took my comp away old one my dauhter was handcuffed to they scared everyone even my dog took me to jail i was in jail for 6 months gout out but now court made me take meds, have to see my parol officer, take therapy classes among other classes even go to court i turned 52 in jail my nerves , emotions physical is not the same i have been throught alot i could have died my now but becuse i have responsabilytys like been a mother i cant go so i deal with it its hard i cry alot stil confuded were did i go wrong what did i do wrong. i have problems now emotional and paranoid not to mention close afobic were i never had it before this happend even low self estem somtimes i wish i was with my mother in heaven but i cant. told my brother in chile about the case he told me this americans are stuped paranoid and dont know how to communicate i think its true. all this would have never happend if brian deegan would have comunicated with me but no i went to jail for falllling in love with him and i thiought he was my best friend at least i know the truth now hes not my best friend and i no longer in love with him i cant go to his website nothing with him couse i can end up in jail again even this i can go to jail again i came hear this website couse i cant go to his website i must tell my true love story so others can know be carful out there specialy falling in love with famouse pople what can happen now toorrow i have to go to court again who knows what will happen its spooky to me couse i never know if they will put u back in jail or come to your home and take u to jail my nerves are so bad i am not the person i use to be dont even have as much as energy like i use to this is my true love story all because i was in love with him and i thought he was my best friend i know he will never read this couse its not in his websites so he cant see it but at least i said what i had to say couse i have no one to tell who would listen to me and my ex well hes just my ex

    • Travis Woodhouse

      Great story and very well written.

    • j.k. lerroty

      It’s a wonderful story .

    • rehana

      super offer but i need door delivery