This was not your run-of-the-mill wedding, for openers. The groom's mother and grandmother reluctantly had hosted a small reception, for which one of the witnesses had baked a devil's food cake. This was not easy for him because earlier in his life he had wrestled a runaway power lawnmower to the ground and had stopped its blade with his bare hands. The wedding was in June, as all proper weddings must be, and the best man wore Bermuda shorts and the second witness wore a nice blue suit with white silk socks. The matron of honor was the mush-fingered cake-baker's belle du jour.

The ceremony was held in the living room of a justice of the peace with whom the groom had played countless games of poker dice in the Arcade Building cigar shop across the street from City Hall, and the bride's parents and siblings had not even been notified of the event. They were angry for years.

It was a Saturday evening, and the time had to be around 8 o'clock, because "Gunsmoke" was on the television and the judge's wife refused to turn it off, even during the most touching part of the ceremony, which was where the justice collected his five bucks and his wife filled out the marriage cerftificate.

The young couple had already decided to split -- to go to Phoenix, the land of opportunity, it seemed. They arranged for one of those you-drive-it cars -- it turned out to be a fully equipped 1954 Cadillac -- and were given five days to deliver it from St. Louis to Tucson. Close enough.

And by driving straight through, the newlyweds figured they could spend a couple of nights in a motel in Zaragoza, a hamlet near Juarez, in Mexico. The motel room had a huge shower (although you closed your mouth while washing your face, for obvious reasons), a big enough for two. And when the beer was ordered from the cantina across the courtyard (it was Dos XXs), the waitress brought them over two at a time, on a tray, instead of the four or six preferred on such a luminous weekend. She also brought hard cheese sandwiches with a layer of jalapenos. The fruit of passion.

It was a fine weekend. But it must be understood that when the couple decided to go west, they had decided also to take everything they owned, which wasn't much, but which included a .45 Colt, a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum, a 30-30 Winchester and a turn-of-the-century .38 American Bulldog, which once upon a time had retailed, as the original Saturday Night Special, at about $3.95.

Upon reentering the Unites States, the Caddie was thoroughly searched by the Border Patrol, or Customs, or whatever, and after wading through all the crinoline and Jockey shorts they came across the tools, as they are called on the streets here today, and promptly called the El Paso police, who showed up in a convoy of flashing red lights, took the couple downtown, locked them up and began a record search to see if any of the guns had been stolen. (The Colt had been, but not by the groom, but by his daddy, years earlier, and it was cold.)

After several hours penned up, the couple began to think about inventing what only in later years was to be called a conjugal visit. But the captain summoned them and announced that all the trash was clean, and that the newlyweds were free to go -- providing they could prove they were really married.

"The Mann Act, you know," he explained. In those days that meant something.

So the groom dug through the aluminum footlocker in the trunk of the car, and came up with the marriage license, and brought it in for the captain to inspect.

"This reads fine," the captain said. "But who is this Howard Carr listed as the bride?"

"He was the best man," the groom said. And the captain smiled and let both of them go. From that day the couple never watched 'Gunsmoke" again.