By Henry V. Thiel
Robert Hammond and Ken Mingus met at the Brazos River Bottom Country and Western bar in Midtown on July 26, 1997. As Mingus tells the story, Hammond was standing near the bar with a tuft of auburn chest hair popping out of his shirt collar. It took a while for Mingus to build up the courage to approach Hammond, and when he did, he asked him if he would like to go out to dinner. Hammond replied that he would love to. The BRB remained their preferred date-night location for the next 19 years. They were even there the night it closed. “We had to have one more two-step around the dance floor where we got our start,” states Mingus.
For the next five years, Hammond continued to rent a room from a friend on the northwest side of the city, and Mingus lived in Westbury Square. They spent weekends together since Mingus traveled for work almost every week. One afternoon in June of 2002, Hammond invited Mingus to look at a house that was for sale near his work. The Realtor met them at the property, and after an hour or so of looking around at the house, they decided to put in an offer. It was the only house they looked at, and the only one they could see as being “their” home. Less than a month later, they were settled in to what became a 10-year remodeling project.
Since this was the first time they actually lived together, they started dividing chores. Since Hammond did not enjoy cooking, that task fell to Mingus, who had been cooking since he was seven years old on his family’s dairy farm in Wisconsin. Hammond volunteered to wash the dishes, and he also decided to handle the laundry since he was more of a fashionista than Mingus. Together, they cared for their four-legged children.
Hammond began thinking about getting married when gay marriage became legal in California. When they were invited to visit friends and attend the gay rodeo in Palm Springs, Hammond asked Mingus if there was anything else he wanted to do while they were in California. When Mingus replied he could not think of anything, Hammond asked him to marry him. Without any hesitation, Mingus said yes!
They were married in Palm Desert, California (Riverside County), on May 6, 2014. Ideally, they would have liked to have gotten hitched in Texas (since Hammond was born in Midland), but after being together almost 20 years, they decided not to wait for Texas to come onboard.
On their wedding day, their friends and best men, Mark Coleman and Sean Yarborough, joined them for a limousine ride to the courthouse. Hammond’s cousin Martin Smith, who lives in Cathedral City, California, was their wedding photographer.
Judge Diana Perez was so moved as she solemnized their vows that she got teary-eyed. Mingus and Hammond were so touched that they invited her to dinner the next time she was in Houston.
After the ceremony, they all enjoyed a late lunch at Melvyn’s, followed by a champagne drive through the beautiful desert before ending their wonderful day with cocktails at the Escena Golf Club in Palm Springs.
Once they decided to get married, they needed to decide what they wanted for their rings. Hammond and Mingus have completely different ideas about jewelry, but on this detail they were in perfect agreement: they both wanted a simple, clean-lined gold band.
Over the years, they had each acquired a rather large amount of gold jewelry that they never wore. To make their wedding bands, they decided to melt down their unworn gold. Hammond contributed a special gold bracelet that his father had given him when he was 17 years old, and Mingus added a chain that his previous partner, now deceased, had given him.
With their chains in hand, they went to Shaw’s Jewelers on West Gray at Montrose. They looked at several rings before deciding on a silver ring that they really liked, and asked a very helpful sales lady if Shaw’s could make the same ring out of their gold chains. Two weeks later, they received their rings—along with a few dollars back from their deposit.
“The day of our wedding, we gave the rings to Mark and Sean to hold for us,” states Mingus. “Having them stand up for us meant more to us than they will ever know. Every time we look down at our rings, they are a reminder of how far we have come to be here in this moment. Robert continually says it’s the best bling he has ever worn.”
Henry V. Thiel is a principal with The Epicurean Publicist. He would like to go ring shopping.