JOHNSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - How does a country girl from southern Illinois end up with a rock star from the east coast?
Anyone who knows Marilyn and Bruce Hering has probably asked that question. Their courtship and subsequent marriage involved a near death experience, a pair of boots and role playing.
"My mother was a good shot," remarks Marilyn Hering.
With that heritage it's no surprise that Marilyn has no problem sighting down a target and nailing it. That and the fact that her husband Bruce coached shooting teams at Southeastern Illinois Community College until he retired at the end of April.
The pair met by chance at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale many winters ago when Marilyn was looking for a ride. This is where the boots come in.
Marilyn remembers, "They introduced me to this long haired guy from New Jersey."
"It was snowing outside," Bruce says.
"He told me he had to leave to pick up a roommate and that I should stay put. I said no, I have to go do homework," Marilyn says with a laugh.
Bruce left but when Marilyn went to leave, her boots were missing.
"I saw the boots and I knew what it was like outside," recalls Bruce.
Unbeknownst to Marilyn, Bruce had taken her boots when he left. She was stuck, so Bruce wasn't surprised when he returned.
"She was still there," he says.
The rest, as they say, is history. Literally. In the early days of their marriage the two spent weekends at rendezvous. In their tack room you'll find the handmade clothes and other items they used to live like folks did in the mid-1800s.
"We were both so involved in that," says Bruce, "and I think that was a good thing for us."
They were together constantly in work and in fun until Bruce took that job at SIC. For 33 years he taught kids how to manage game preserves and shooting range complexes. Along the way he developed shooting teams that competed and placed nationally.
"We went up against Texas A&M, the University of Missouri, the University of Georgia," recalls Bruce, "and we did alright."
But this wasn't Bruce's plan. In fact, far from it.
In high school the New Jersey born kid was a front man for the rock and roll band Fish and Chips. Their sound, their name, their look, was all decidedly British. It was, after all, the mid-1960s and the British invasion was well underway.
Opening for bands like The Kinks and The Rascals, Bruce was sure his life was headed on a musical trajectory. Until a sinus hemorrhage caused that plan to crash and burn. This is where the near death experience comes in.
"I woke up and there was blood everywhere," recalls Bruce., "It scared the devil out of me.
It also scared the music out of him. Doctors warned it could happen again so Bruce decided to put down the clarinet, the saxophone and every other instrument and find a new path.
But you know what they say, when god turns off the music, he turns on things like SIU, snow, boots, Marilyn, role playing and a pretty sweet parcel of land nestled in Johnson County where the two live today.
The little corner of 50 acres is part of the 1,500 acres Marilyn's step dad bought when he moved to Johnson County years ago. He paid $50 an acre back then and built the horse stalls off the house.
"You can come out of the tack room and right into the barn so when the weather is bad you never have to go outside. It's marvelous," says Marilyn.
Their pond is stocked with bluegill and bass. Twenty-seven cats, all fixed, roam the property and when Bruce and Marilyn close their eyes, memories fall like spring rain across the rolling acres.
The twists and turns of fate brought the Jersey boy and the farm girl together, but it's their commonalities that have kept them going strong for 44 years.