After a month of being turned down, Rusty got the green light on a date with Colleen.
“I picked her up in my junky car that was made from three different cars,” he laughs. “I had lamely asked her if she would like to come watch my band play.”
Colleen didn’t mind the car but was unimpressed with Rusty’s musical stylings.
“We played at Coney Islander with people eating hotdogs, and we were playing off to the side,” Rusty said. “She hated the music. She didn’t like it at all.”
The steamy aroma of beef byproducts and the clunky jams proved to be an intoxicating combination for Colleen. That first date led to many others.
“I remember thinking that he had the most beautiful eyes that I had ever seen and that I had never liked a guy with a beard before,” Colleen smiles. “Then I realized that I liked beards.”
Soon the two were living together, and when Colleen was offered a position in Canada, Rusty jumped at the chance to join her.
“I couldn’t get a job though without a work visa, ” he said.
Unemployed and in love, Rusty spent most of his time plotting his proposal to his long-term girlfriend, but couldn’t quite find the right approach. It wasn’t until he attended his grandmother’s funeral that Rusty decided he no longer wanted to wait. He smuggled a diamond ring onto the plane-something that he would have to explain all too soon to the Mounties.
“I was detained entering Canada, and they asked me if I had any weapons or drugs that they should know about before searching me,” he said. Before they slipped on the rubber gloves, Rusty informed the examiners about the ring, which inflamed an accusatory conversation that lasted for several minutes. Rusty was finally released, but not without being shaken up a bit.
Weeks later, on their third anniversary of dating, Rusty was ready to rid himself of the ring.
“I was horribly dorky and nervous,” he recalls sitting next to his girlfriend, about to ask her the biggest question of his life. “I asked her if she would marry me, and she said, ‘Are you kidding?’ And then she was silent for a full minute. It was the longest sixty seconds of my life.”
It turns out Rusty was not kidding. He slipped the ring onto Colleen’s finger.
The two returned to their hometown of Tulsa and were married a year later at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. Rusty’s band did not perform, nor were any hot dogs served.
Note: This article was originally published November 7, 2010