Owen was a junior biology major. He was born and raised in Pauls Valley, just south of Norman. His parents wanted him to attend a local university. Aren’t all parents alike? I thought. They couldn’t afford to send him out-of-state. I mentioned that I was looking for a place to stay, somewhere off campus.
“Hey, I have an idea.” Owen said. “My roommate Cody is joining school a week late. You can stay with me until then.”
I was surprised by Owen’s willingness to share his room with a stranger. What if I was a criminal hiding from the police? On the other hand, Owen was a stranger to me too. I didn’t have any idea about the type of person he was. He seemed genuine and I didn’t perceive any risk in accepting his offer. Here was a chance for me to make a friend in a new town.
Owen owned a grey four-door Renault Dauphin, a French sub-compact car with stick shift. We drove to the Holiday Inn to pick up my belongings.
Owen’s room was standard university stock: two beds along the walls facing each other, tables with portable lamps and small bookcases for each student. An OU banner and a calendar showing sports events hung on Owen’s side of the wall. He even had an OU coffee mug on his desk.
Later that afternoon Owen took me for a ride around town. The campus was surrounded by residential housing. The fraternities and sororities were all grouped together behind the main campus. The Boomer Theater just across the main campus had From Russia with Love on the marquee and a very large paper poster “007 is Back” on the entrance door. Owen said that most students who stayed off campus and did their own cooking. Sometimes they shared a taxi to buy groceries on weekends. JC Penney was the major clothing store that students shopped at.
It was a nice tour of the town, though the long bus ride from Phoenix was taking its toll. I asked Owen to take me back.
Owen left me in his room and said he was going to run an errand. I collapsed on Cody’s bed. When I woke up it had become dark outside. Owen had not returned. I turned on the radio, which was set to a country music station. I wasn’t much of a fan of that kind of music but I didn’t want to do anything to disturb the host. A few minutes later the weatherman reported that there was a chance of snow flurries at night but the next day would be sunny. After an hour or so Owen showed up. He said the Pizza Hut on Lindsay was running a special: $1.19 for all-you-can-eat pizza with iced tea.
While we were having dinner at Pizza Hut Owen mentioned that he had planned to visit his folks in Pauls Valley the next day, to attend his younger sister’s birthday party. He asked me to accompany him. You will see some countryside, he said.
As we were returning to the rooming house a few flurries started to fall. The weatherman was right. On the way back we stopped at the Dairy Queen and picked up hot chocolate.
Owen didn’t have a TV, so instead we talked about family, friends, religion, the politics of the Vietnam War, and reducing the drinking age for students. “If you can go to war at 18 years of age, why can’t you drink beer?” was the rallying cry of the student body. Owen was against America’s involvement in the war. I wasn’t a strong debater and didn’t have an opinion one way or another.
While we talked, Owen sat on his bed strumming “Where have all the Flowers gone?” and “Puff the Magic Dragon” on his guitar. At 1 AM we called it a night.