It was spring, I was 20, and my mind was on a blue-eyed girl who ran barefoot beneath the trees on the old campus in Athens, Ga., where I went to college.

Even in this mystical state of mind I could hear the drumbeats of protest, the soundtrack of the late '60s.

"Four Dead In Ohio," was a headline before it was a song on the radio. I couldn't have found Kent State on a map, but it was about to affect my love life.

It was an interesting time to be in college in the South, where frat boys had long hair and hippies had money. Those of us caught in the middle wandered between the two, unsure which way the world was going to go.

Almost overnight the coolest guy on campus switched dramatically from Dobie Gillis to Timothy Leary, and the sexiest girls smoked pot.

First date

I followed the blue-eyed girl because her hair smelled like sunshine and she overlooked my unsophisticated, small-town ways. I soon learned she was actively involved in, and cared deeply about, the world I merely occupied.

Across the lush-green lawn we strolled, gathering with others along the way, shouting this and that, until we stood on the steps of the white-columned building where students rushed in and out.

A strange first date, I thought. But, then again, the 20th time you fall in love was bound to have its twists and turns.

Hand-in-hand, we went inside and climbed to a balcony where we stood and saw the crowd had grown into a mob.

The youth of America was outraged. And rightly so. Four college students gunned down by soldiers. Our soldiers.

This wasn't a typical anti-war rally.

The war had come home.

Yelling louder

The blue-eyed girl brushed back my long hair and told me to look; the state troopers were headed our way.

She was right. They lined up, shoulder to shoulder, just outside the administration building, warning us to leave, or else.

That was the moment I learned romance and politics don't mix. My passions subsided when I saw the riot sticks. I told the blue-eyed girl we should leave, but she just yelled louder.

My immediate concern was not the absurdity of war or the students who fell so unnecessarily in Ohio. It was Harry.

How, I wondered, would I explain this to my father, who survived the slaughter as he fought his way across Europe, just so I could drink beer and chase girls in Georgia?

Before they rushed the building, I skipped out the back door and into the rest of my life.

That was 40 years ago. I never saw the blue-eyed girl again.