ABINGDON, Va. — It started as your typical American love story.
She was a pretty girl who loved art.
And he found her picture — and paintings — on a MySpace website page.
“MySpace was the big social media thing. It was before Facebook,” said Kyle Buckland, 35. “And it was really easy to present your art on a MySpace page.”
Jennifer Counts had her own page, showing her jewelry, paintings and sculptures.
Kyle Buckland also had a MySpace page to show off his paintings — and an interest in meeting someone single.
The year was 2007.
“I ended up reaching out to her, and that was how we got together,” Kyle said. “And it was just one of those things where we started hanging out one day. And then we never stopped hanging out.”
Talk about smooth.
“We felt like we knew each other for a long time,” said Jenny Counts Buckland, 35.
“It felt like old souls,” Kyle quickly added. “It felt like we had kind of been through another lifetime together. And then we just connected.”
‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’
Rewind all this before the MySpace story.
And we’ll get back to the real beginning: Kyle was a seventh-grade rock star in 1997, fronting an amateur band called Sarium at E.B. Stanley Middle School in Abingdon.
And Jenny? Well, she was in the audience and loved how Kyle belted out “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.
“I thought he was cute, but I was a shy girl,” Jenny said. “I would never even attempt to talk to hardly anybody.”
Jenny grew up in the Watauga community of Washington County, Virginia.
Kyle lived only about three or four miles away at Buckhaven. There, young Kyle spent his weekends on South Holston Lake, using a tiny outboard on a jon boat.
“That’s what we did for fun,” he said. “We were the last generation to still go outside and play.”
Jenny liked the lake, too. She had gone swimming down at Buckhaven lots of times.
In eighth grade, the pair had a chorus class together. “But it was so big. There were so many people in there,” Jenny said.
Still, she noticed young Kyle Buckland.
“In middle school, I thought he was attractive,” Jenny said. “But, through high school, I don’t really even remember seeing him. He wasn’t really on my mind.”
The pair graduated Abingdon High School in 2002.
“We were just friends in middle school,” Kyle said. “I knew her. I knew of her. I knew her name. I knew who she was, but we just never really hung out.”
Ever the philosopher, Kyle wonders why the two never really saw each other in high school.
“There was some kind of mysterious force that kept us from associating,” Kyle said. “In high school, we didn’t have any classes together —”
“— We didn’t really know each other,” Jenny interjected.
“We ran around with different crowds,” Kyle said. “We knew each other in middle school, but then we kind of went our separate ways in high school and didn’t get back together until 2007.”
Kyle comically admits that he was, indeed, trolling the internet, looking for single women in the Abingdon area with an interest in the arts.
A longtime and prolific painter, Kyle briefly attended art school at Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, Virginia.
Jenny, in turn, spent years taking various courses at Virginia Highlands Community College in Abingdon. She has also been interested in art since attending Watauga Elementary School, drawing cartoon characters. “And I made jewelry at a young age, too,” she said. “I was in middle school, and I was selling jewelry. I was making hemp jewelry and selling it to my friends.”
For two years, Kyle worked as a scenic artist at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon. “But, at the end of the day, the last thing I wanted to do was pick up a paintbrush,” he said. “So I really wasn’t making much of my own art. It was draining my creativity.”
Jenny worked at a string of restaurants — from waiting tables at the Damascus Old Mill to the now-closed Ruby Tuesday of Bristol, Virginia.
Today, Kyle ponders what might have happened: What if they had started dating when they first knew of one another in middle school?
“Had we started dating earlier, would we have ended up being the couple that we became? And I don’t think so,” Kyle said. “You go through a lot of changes during those times. So I don’t know if it would have jived if we had stayed together through that, because we each other dated other people during that time.”
Kyle had actually been married prior to making that MySpace connection to Jenny in 2007. He had gotten hitched to a high-school girlfriend. And all looked promising: They bought a fixer-upper house in Abingdon, and they aspired to be happy. But that starter marriage ended in only a few months — before it ever really got started.
Jenny had dated a couple of boyfriends, she said.
Then along came Kyle.
The pair went on early dates to the old Hardware Company Restaurant of Abingdon.
And they loved to talk about art.
“For a long time, I sat around talking to myself about art, because I didn’t have anybody to listen to me,” Kyle said with a laugh. “And then, when I found Jen, I thought, ‘You’re actually interested in art?’”
Dates turned out to be long talks. And, within a few months, Jenny moved in to Kyle’s fixer-upper house and helped him make it a home.
He proposed marriage in 2009.
They got married on Sept. 23, 2010, at the home of a marriage official but later said more vows the following day atop Whitetop Mountain on Sept. 24 — at a point where Washington County meets Smyth and Grayson counties.
Live for art
Today, they say, they live for their art.
“One of the main things that we realized when we got together was that we both had that drive to want to run our own business and to sell our art,” Kyle said. “Seeing that in her, I thought, here’s someone who basically has the same goals and dreams that I have.’”
For a couple of years, they served as studio artists at the William King Museum of Art in Abingdon.
Now, Jenny is an occasional vendor at the Abingdon Farmers Market, offering her paintings and jewelry. Kyle shows up to help but sells many of his landscape paintings — and other works — to high-end galleries.
Born in 1983, Jenny is less than a month older than Kyle.
“We’re both perfectionists, which is not a good thing,” Jenny said with a smile.
Both are also Capricorns.
“Mysterious, at times,” Kyle said. “Hard to read.”
Yet they do fit, like paint to a brush and a brush to a canvas.
And that goes for every day, they say — not just on Feb. 14.
“Valentine’s Day, it’s a celebration of love, obviously,” Kyle said. “And then there’s that romantic love when you see somebody, and you know you can’t define it, but you just know it. And that’s what it was with Jen, because we connected on so many different levels.”