To start, I should mention, Matt and I have been dating 3.5 (billion) years as of today. Yep, 3.5 years ago, he invited me to his cousin’s wedding and the night before the wedding had the epiphany that he had no idea how to introduce me. I had just driven up from KC, we had hung out.. twice (the second time is a story for another time), and he was suddenly bamboozled by the fact that I was going to meet the entire extended family. I could tell it was hitting him hard.. he was getting a little pale, but eventually he mustered out the “so.. should I introduce you as Ashley, my date, or Ashley, my girlfriend?”
I cannot understate the sheer beauty of the moment.. the date or the girlfriend?
All laughing aside, words have never been his thing, and this was a big moment for him. Matt, my Matt, was the perpetual bachelor, and he wanted ME to be his girlfriend?! Yes, yes, a million times yes. Now that I have had time to think about it, I think he was into the whole KC ➡️ Omaha distance thing. I was low threat. LITTLE DID HE KNOW 😉
People often ask us how this beautiful love story got started: an Omaha boy, trained in the trades, obsessed with working out, with a mean(ish) dog, and then me, the KC girl that would NEVER leave the city, had one more year of law school left with her sweet and loyal sidekick puppy-dog by her side… and was most definitely NOT obsessed with working out; and let me just say, it’s QUITE the story. Hold onto your butts- it’s about to get exciting.
But first, how many of you have heard of Country Stampede?! It’s a 3-day long country music festival in Manhattan, Kansas. As a Jayhawk, this is most definitely enemy’s territory, but what can I say? Manhappenin’ throws a hell of a party. 🤷🏻♀️ Most festival attendees camp out in the park that the festival is hosted. Stampede attracts a certain kind of crowd. There is minimal showering, potentially no teeth brushing.. or teeth. There are often mud fights, and at least one person vomits an hour for the entire 72 hours of the festival. The crowd is rowdy, but in all the best ways. Boys wear shorty shorts, and America themed everything; girls are clad in daisy dukes (I have underwear longer than some of these “shorts”), bikini tops on, but boobs most definitely barely hanging in those tiny, tiny cups. (I swear, the bikini tops are always 10 sizes too small). And the cowboy boots. Everyone is in cowboy boots. It’s truly a sight for sore eyes.
I know it sounds like I’m judging, but I swear I am not. I miss that crowd more than anything. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of hang. Those are my people!
My mom and I go every year (besides this year- thanks COVID) and it’s always a girls weekend to “pre-celebrate” my birthday. My best friend (Logan) and her mom join us too. It’s a whole EVENT. While we have all certainly adjusted to High Five Friday and Slap Ass Saturday… the first year we went… it was just my mom and I, and we most definitely sat in the mud and cried. This was not our proudest moment, but I’ve promised to be honest with you. We’ve toughened up a LOT and slap all the asses now. But, under no given circumstances, do we camp. And we NEVER will.
HOWEVER; we do/did get there early every day, mid-June, to sweat our imaginary ball-sacks off, for HOURS before the first show starts. It’s actually my friend Logan’s fault. She insists on the best seats in the wide open field, every. single. year. (Logan, you know I love you). So it’s all part of the tradition, if you haven’t sweat your brains out and dehydrated twice before nightfall, you’re not stampeding right.
So.. after the first year/mud-sitting/crying fiasco, mom and I got smart. We learned to bring chairs. Of course, we forgot to bring them with us every year, so they ended up being NEW chairs every year, but whatever… chalk it up to another stampede tradition.
Thanks to Logan, we would get there nice and early and have our 4 chairs lined up in a little row, optimal viewage (I’m making this a word) to the main stage, the catwalk, and both screens. Logan was on it. It may have been early, but she put in the work.
SO BACK TO MATT, the reason for this post (sort of). 😉
It’s mid-afternoon, I’ve already dehydrated once, I’ve watched the drunk people throw each other into mud pits, I’ve seen the hourly vomiter… I’m rubbing my once cold Aquafina on my forehead, pretending like I don’t hate everything (including Logan for getting us there so GD early!), and this guy catches my eye.
First, he catches my eye because despite the fact we’ve been set up for HOURS, sweating it out for Old Dominion, he and his crew roll up, walking between two rows of chairs, and set up all 6 of their chairs, smack in the middle of everyone. Not even TRYING to follow the crowd lines. But they were hot (like visually attractive, not just sweaty… everyone was sweaty), so no one really cared.
I couldn’t stop staring at Matt, but I promise you.. it’s not for the reason you think. Matt (my precious, angel Matt) was apparently intoxicated (which had nothing to do with his attraction to me in the slightest BTW). He was chatting with his friend, Nate the Great, and I have never seen anyone so engaged in a conversation in my life. His facial expressions were priceless, you could tell he was 900% invested in the story. Seriously, the best kind of audience. (I often wonder what happened to this listener when I am reminding him for the 15th time where his keys are 🤣). But anyways, I was enthralled. My prior boyfriend’s inability to use his ears at all may have played into it, but my god, I was captivated. For hours.
Admiring from afar, but most definitely not making a move. UNTIL he and his tribe of dipshits (sorry Batman, Nate the Great, Clingy Girlfriend, and Man Piece (yes, these are the names I gave them)) decided to use the exact moment that Old Dominion broke onto the stage (ya know- the headliner) to stand up and have a photo op. Like multiple photos.
In true Ashley-fashion, my cool was lost. Undoubtedly choice words, such as, HEY YOU THERE, FUCKERS IN FRONT. SIT THE FUCK DOWN. NOW. were uttered.
And Matt swears that was the moment he was hooked. So he spent the entire night flirting with my MOM. Before the night ended, he asked me for a dance. After the verbal assault I unleashed on him, it was the least I could do… right? And the rest is history. ❤️
So my question for you is this: if you aren’t screaming at them to sit the fuck down, are you even really in love? I’ve never been more sure of something or someone in my life. I am so grateful that I get to be Ashley, the girlfriend. I’ll never stop being thankful for that “Ashley” mouth of mine, getting me into the right amount of trouble. 3.5 years later, and he still sits on command… sometimes. 😉😘