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MARRYING MONEY / Julene Bair HALFWAY BETWEEN OUR FARM and town, on county Highway 15, the Crestón place was a study in regal flatness. The fields, ten thousand acres of the most productive wheat ground, were planted in rows as straight as the land was flat. There were no weeds as far as the eye could see, not even in the road ditches, which the Crestons farmed right up to the edge. Whenever we drove past the house, we would slow down just to gape and wonder. Steep-roofed and gabled, red-bricked and huge as a church, and with a miniature brick dog house to match, the mansion sat far back from the road on a twentyacre lawn of mowed buffalo grass. At precise intervals along the drive, soUtary evergreens accentuated the pale expanse. There were never any thistles wedged in their lower branches or in those of the cedar windbreak, behind which battaUons of plows, sweeps, discs, harrows, rods and driUs waited at loyal attention. Beyond the house, in two sUver Quonsets the size of airplane hangars, lurked the biggest and shiniest combines and tractors. In their Swiss efficiency and their wealth, the Crestons set the standard in the county, spoiling everything for everybody. They were impossible to keep up with. I suppose I've always laid a little too much at the Crestons' feet, blaming them for more than their share of my misery as a teenager, but then I had the misfortune of being in high school with the Crestón kids. There were two boys and a girl in the branch of the famUy that lived in the mansion. They were middling smart, but not particularly attractive. The boys and their cousins, whose brick house on the south edge of town was big and new, but not nearly as palatial, were short and wore glasses. It dawned on me only graduaUy, as we went from grade school to junior high, then on into high school, that these ordinary boys were actually aristocracy. Their money made them shine with a patina of good haircuts, madras shirts, shiny loafers without socks, white denim jeans, and cars. Brent, in my class, drove a gold Dodge Charger. His cousins, Larry and Kirk, drove matching black GTO's. The boys, although they weren't outstanding athletes, dated cheerleaders. Their girlfriends bestowed authenticity on them, and vice versa. Oh, those black cheer-leading sweaters with the white56 · The Missouri Review and-gold megaphones! Those short, black skirts, their pleats Uned with gold! They were the stamp of glamour, showcasing real hips, real breasts. The couples had the radiance of movie stars. The rest of us four hundred high schoolers became sateUites, orbiting around the Crestons and their attendant couples—sons and daughters of bankers, lawyers and implement dealers. In the summer, the Crestón boys got their fathers to hire their friends, and they drove giant four-wheel-drive tractors together. Those lumbering tractors roUed over the perfectly flat wheat ground as regaUy as yachts in Connecticut harbors. LiUan drove one too, baffling me. As the eldest, she had stature in her family. She was the Crestón who enthralled me the most. A senior when I was a sophomore, she was celestial anyway, but being a Crestón put her at the absolute center of the galaxy. She wasn't pretty. She was robust, with a stately chest and erect carriage, a square chin, and short, tawny hair. She dated the quarterback, a boy who made aU-state and whose talent is still reminisced over today. They were homecoming queen and king. She drove a Corvette. Sometimes, at night, I dreamed I was invited to parties at the Crestón mansion. Td never been inside it, but in my dreams, it contained fireplaces and lots of gleaming wood—real hardwood floors, not the fake wood grain linoleum we'd had in the farmhouse, and a wide stairway with banisters. The Uving room had a vaulted ceiUng, like the Lutheran church, and the windows, though clear, were leaded, the glass sparkUng. LUian's room was the locus, the radiant inner chamber fitting a queen, not a princess. I don't remember...


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