New Bride—New “Hamster”

Wedding Rings w HamsterMarried August 17, 1974, and then just one week later, we packed our wedding gifts and luggage into my old blue and white Ford van and headed north for Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, where I was attending Canadian Bible College.  When we reached the U.S./Canadian border, I pulled into the parking lot and took out my driver’s license as my lovely new bride searched for hers. Back then, you only needed a picture ID to cross the Canadian border.

Looking at the road map as my new bride continued to search for her purse, I heard a GASP coming from the back of the van followed by, “Oh NO! I think I left my purse at home!” “Home” was Wheeling, West Virginia, on the complete other side of the country where her purse was most likely safely sitting….with her driver’s license neatly tucked in a slot inside her wallet at the bottom of the purse!!”

So, there we sat, a thousand miles away from her purse and ID and two hundred feet from the small border office on the North Dakota/Canadian border.  We didn’t have the money to stay in a hotel to wait for the driver’s license to be mailed to us; plus, we were in a time crunch to get to the school, so my now distressed new bride and I joined hands and prayed, “Father, in the name of Jesus, can you somehow get Barby across the border without a photo ID?” As we were getting out of the van, I decided to take in a small photo album of our wedding to at least help prove we were married.

We went in the small office and approached the desk. After a brief greeting, I laid out my driver’s license and then when my wife didn’t lay out her driver’s license, I sheepishly said, “Uh… we kind of have a problem—we just discovered my wife left her ID way back on the other side of the U.S. in West Virginia….but these are pictures from our wedding—we just got married!” I said with a proud grin.  Opening the album, I showed him the basic wedding spread of photos, and soon we were joined by another guard and the secretary looking at the pictures with my new bride and me.

Showing them a picture of the pretty bridesmaids, I pointed out my cousin Jo, who, due to the rising humid summer heat in the small church, fainted and knocked over the microphone stand on the way down.  It made such a loud BOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM sound that bounced around the walls of the church, it caused some folks to cover their ears.  In an effort to help, cousin Jeri rushes to Jo’s side, and with the microphone still on beside her, Jeri leans over Jo, who was now slowly coming to, and in an effort to make her feel better, Jeri quietly whispered as her voice broadcast around the church, “IT’S OK, IT’S OK—NOBODY NOTICED A THING!”  The border guards chuckled, realizing that everyone noticed everything, making it a wedding most would not soon forget!

Then I showed them a picture of me in the getaway van for our honeymoon sitting behind the wheel with a weird look on my face.  My friends had jacked my van up and put it on blocks just off the ground so my tires were spinning as I was going nowhere fast!  We were all laughing about the stories as the guards chimed in with some of their own wedding stories.  By that time, it seemed like we were all nearly family; they must have believed we were who we said we were and didn’t need an official ID card to prove it as they wished us well in our new married life together while we walked out the border office door.

As we drove through the U.S. border onto the Canadian side, I looked over at my new bride who was sitting in the passenger seat smiling. “Wow! Praise the Lord!”  He had answered our prayer, and down the road we drove–making it in good time for us to get settled in our new apartment and start school!

Months later, at the end of the school year, my still new bride and I were now headed back to the States in the same old Ford van.  Sitting in the Ontario line of traffic to cross through the Canadian border back into the United States, I was thinking about our move back to the States after having lived in Canada for a year when I noticed a border guard pointing his finger at me and then waving me over to where he was standing.

With a not-so-friendly look, he pointed at a row of ten garages and waving me forward, said flatly, “Park your van in garage number six.” As I pulled into the garage, the large garage door rattled and fell shut behind us with a loud THUD.  Looking worried at each other and feeling kind of trapped, we weren’t really sure what was going on!

Two armed guards approached our van and politely but with authority asked us to step out of the van.  It turned out we had been randomly selected to be searched before crossing back into the States.  Since we didn’t have any guns, bombs, or drugs in the van, this would normally not be a big deal, but what I did have buried in the middle of the van in order to keep out of sight was an undocumented pet ferret.

The ferret had been a wedding present from my best man, Norm; it was an albino, all white, pink-eyed ferret that we called Goofus, a fitting name since he seemed really goofy to us—but a lot of fun!  One time with some friends, I put him high up on an empty fireplace mantel to see how he might try to get down.  He wobbled along on his short stubby legs to one end and looked over the edge—“Nope!” He decided that was too far of a drop to the ground for him!  Wobbling to the other end of the mantel, he looked over that edge and seemed to draw the same conclusion.  Then, he did what I least expected—he turned around and started backing his little furry white rear-end over the side of the mantle.  He must have figured if he couldn’t see where he was going to hit the ground—he’d be okay. I caught him when he dropped, and we all had a good laugh.

Now, at the border crossing, Goofus was a problem because I didn’t have any papers from the States to prove that he had been born and raised in captivity and that I had not taken him from the wild.  This meant the border guards would likely seize and keep him. “Lord,” I prayed, “I really like Goofus; can you please get us through this, so I can take Goofus back with us? In Jesus’ name, Amen.”  The big burly guard had me open the sliding door at the side of my van.  The first thing he saw was my guitar case lying on top of the pile. “Please remove your guitar case, hold it at arm’s length, and open it slowly.” Feeling slightly intimidated, I followed his instructions exactly as given.

At the same time, the short border guard started rummaging through our stuff when I hear him loudly shout, “What’s this??!!” He pulled up the cage from its hiding place to get a better view; hearing the shout, the big guard leaned into the van to see what his partner had found. Focused on the exposed cage, both guards saw our furry white Goofus staring back at them with his little pink beady eyes. The short guard said to the big guard, “What is it?” to which the big guard replied, “I think it’s a hamster.”

Now a hamster is usually about five-inches long from head to stubby tail, and a ferret is about twenty-inches long and four times the size. I was so dumbfounded by their confusion that the first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Wow, you really know your animals!!” To that, the big guard grew a large, self-satisfied smile, and I smiled right back at him because I knew it was “OK” to take a hamster across the border!

As we crossed the border into New York, I was reflecting on our two border predicaments—both going in and coming out of Canada and prayed, “Father, thank you so much for rescuing us both times at the border—for getting my new bride across the border with no ID, and this time, for turning my ferret into a hamster! (wink….wink) A-men!!”

 If you then, imperfect as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him!     –Matthew 7:11 (Weymouth New Testament)

Copyright © 2014 by William D. (Nick) Nichols

One Comment

  • Sue says:

    Nice story Nicky-well done. What ever happened to the ferret? Do you keep in touch with Norm?

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