The above photo shows Bente when she was 15. This memoir is about the ominous looking hound shown eyeing the photographer.
In 1954, I was a Marine Security Guard with the American Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was my lucky day when I met Bente Katja Pedersen. This beautiful Danish girl was a bit leery of Americans but, with the suave manner of a brand-new Marine corporal, I convinced her to start dating.
She was 18 then and so was I. After a time she wanted me to meet her aunt and uncle, who lived in a summer house up on the northern coast of the island of which Copenhagen is resident. Their house sat on the edge of a cliff that overlooked the North Sea. It had a rickety stair that went down to the beach.
I rented a small scooter on a pleasant summer day, and we started the trip of approximately 20 miles up to the summer house. On the way we stopped at a kro (country inns that are common in Denmark). We sat in the shade of huge old beech trees and ate fresh strawberries with cream.
On the narrow country road passing the kro, a load of hay had fallen from a hayrack pulled by a team of horses. We watched the farmer pitching the hay back up on the rack while using the Danish equivalent of swearing. We laughed, and enjoyed the strawberries and cream, a summer staple in Denmark.
On arrival at the aunt and uncle's home, the introductions were made while Bente's dog eyed me suspiciously. Fortunately for me, Bente's aunt and uncle understood some English; the dog did not.
That was probably why he did not trust this foreigner being too close with his mistress. That hound kept me in sight the whole two days we stayed there. He growled once in a while to let me know he was on watch. He was a large Doberman, so you can bet I kept my eye on him, too.
After a full day of getting acquainted and being shown around the area, we ate dinner and got to know each other even better. Afterward we had coffee in the late evening and then it was time for bed. Aunt and uncle had me sleep in a very tiny bedroom and Bente was given the couch in the front room. This was the proper arrangement for a young, unmarried couple.
My little room had a large open window that viewed out over the North Sea. The summer night was warm and fragrant, and in the distance I could watch a lighthouse as its beam made 360-degree sweeps. I could see the lights of passing ships. Window screens are not used in Denmark, so the view was sharp and clear.
Then Bente appeared at my window. After aunt and uncle were asleep she went outside and then climbed up and sat on the sill while I sat on the bed, and we talked. There was no hanky-panky that night so don't get your hopes up. We must have talked until one or two in the morning. This little moment in our relationship — which now spans more than 46 years — is one that we speak of often. There are others but this one is special.
It came time to leave for Copenhagen. That hound must have seen that his chances were fading for some action that would demonstrate his displeasure of this foreign interloper. While Bente and I were sitting on the scooter, engine running, aunt and uncle getting in their last hugs, the Doberman saw his chance.
He came around to the other side and fastened his canines on my leg. A sharp rebuke got him away but I'm positive that I saw him smile. Didn't hurt that much but he had just lost the possibility of gaining an American friend.
Bente and I were married in the Copenhagen Town Hall in September 1955.
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The author: Thomas Mix joined the Marine Corps in Sept. 1952 as a 16 year old. Served mostly with Marine Aviation. Vietnam in 1965 with H&MS-16, again in 1966-67 with HMM-165. Marine Security Guard with the American Embassy, Copenhagen, 1954-55. Married a wonderful Danish girl then; still happily married. Commissioned as a Warrant Officer 1962, retired with the rank of Captain, October 1972.
Click HERE to eyeball pix of the author at war