Greg didn’t have anything in particular planned for the weekend. Saturday, he thought about driving out to the check station, just to see what was going on. However,  the electrical storm hadn’t changed the weather, at all – it was still unseasonably warm, and just a little overcast – so he was pretty sure the duck hunting remained poor. In the end, he stayed home both Saturday and Sunday, mostly reading and wishing that Thanksgiving (and Vic) would hurry up and arrive.

   Chuck worked Monday and Tuesday, and they caught up on some miscellaneous paperwork. The weather was still mostly fair, although the clouds were increasing Tuesday, and overnight temperatures were beginning to cool appreciably. The radio weatherman was talking about an approaching cold front that could thicken the clouds later in the week. There would likely be some rain, and possibly some snow showers, by Friday.

   Tuesday afternoon, Chuck announced that he didn’t plan to come in the rest of the week. He had some annual leave to use up, and he thought Alice might need some help with Thanksgiving preparations.

   “Come to town as early as you like Thursday,” Chuck advised. “We’ll probably start munching by noon, with full-scale dinner soon after. Vic says she wants to come back out here with you over Friday night, which I suspect will be fine with you. Why don’t you bring your toothbrush with you when you come in? You can crash on the couch Thursday night, and save yourself one round trip on our god-awful road.”

   Greg was glad to agree.


   Wednesday, Greg called the photo shop in town. “Bobby, this is Greg Cleveland, from out at the wildlife refuge.”

   “Sure, Greg. How are you doing?”

   “I’m okay. Say, you know Vic and Mandy Anderson, right?”

   “I do. As a matter of fact, I think you may have mentioned Vic’s name a few dozen times.”

   Greg laughed. “Yes, I probably have. Anyway, Vic is getting Mandy a locket for her birthday. It’s one of those that opens so you can put photos in it. She wants to put pictures of her and Mandy in. I have some prints of them, but nothing that I think will be quite small enough. If you have the negatives, you can print smaller pictures, can’t you?”

   “Sure, I can print just about any size you like.”

   “If I was to bring the negatives and the locket in on Friday morning, could you print something up by Saturday afternoon?”

   “Sure. That shouldn’t be any problem. Bring them in, any time.”


   Vic’s weekend was as uneventful as Greg’s. She studied for tests, visited with her dorm mates, and generally itched for Wednesday afternoon to arrive. Pocatello weather was much like in the Magic Valley – warmer than usual (35 to near 50 degrees), with just a few scattered showers. By Wednesday afternoon, it was evident that the weather was changing. A little snow accumulation was predicted for Thanksgiving, but it was still mostly clear and fairly warm for the drive home. Vic was with the family by 6 o’clock, for a happy homecoming.

    Later that evening, the house was quiet. Chuck and Mandy had both gone to bed. Alice and Vic were alone in the living room, sitting close side by side on the sofa.

   “It’s nice to be home, Mom,” said Vic, a little sleepily.

   “It’s nice to have you here, and to have you to myself for a bit. I miss you a lot. Letters and occasional telephone calls don’t really satisfy, do they?”

   ‘No. It’s hard to share very much, that way.”

   They sat quietly for a few moments. “You plan to spend one night at the refuge with Greg?”

   “I really look forward to it. I miss our talks on his front steps. That’s one of the harder parts of being away from here. Of course, the steps might be a little chilly this weekend. We may have to move indoors.”

   “When I say spending the night, I have assumed for a while that you were actually doing that – sleeping together, I mean.”

   Vic glanced at her mother, who was looking at her. “Yes, we have been, whenever we can. Does that bother you?”

    Alice smiled. “Only as a mother, worrying about her daughter. You’re young, but you and Greg are both intelligent, and I’m sure you’re being as safe as you can. From what I can see, it’s been good for both of you. You seem very close – in a good, mature way.”

   “Thanks, Mom. I’ve wished I could talk to you about it – it’s been so lovely – but I couldn’t guess how you would react. Every generation seems to feel so differently about such things.”

   Alice chuckled. “That’s true. In our generation – mine and your dad’s – there were clear rules – or so it seemed, until you really started to analyze them. For example, we were taught that sex was horrible, horrible if you had it before you were married. If you waited, it was suddenly wonderful. And your first sex on your wedding night was like a fairytale come true. All you had to do was be sure you were a virgin when you got to the wedding altar.

   “The reality in our college crowd – even in our stodgy generation! – there were probably very few virgins on their wedding nights – either men or women. Did it make a difference in the marriages? Well, except for some speeded-up hitching because of unexpected pregnancies, I don’t think so. Of course, I don’t know how the individual wedding nights were. After that, whether the marriages were good or bad – whether they lasted or didn’t – I think depended on how they chose to live the rest of their lives. The sex before marriage wasn’t necessarily irrelevant, but it probably had little to do with the long term.”

   Vic was no longer sleepy. “And you and Daddy…”

   “Oh, we were both very much virgins on our wedding night. We had a relatively low-key courtship – movies, hamburgers, a moderate amount of kissing and cuddling – and I don’t think either of us felt any need to go farther. I know I didn’t, and Chuck never gave any signs that made me think he felt differently. I think some of our friends would have called us straight-laced, but that implies some rigidness and following of rules, and it wasn’t like that. We just assumed we would get married, and then have sex.

   “Our wedding night…” Alice chuckled at the thought. “Our first venture into sex was not a fairy tale. It was maybe more a comedy of errors! Neither of us had any idea what we were doing, and it showed. But it was fun, and sexy, and like nothing either of us had felt before. We liked it enough to try it again, and again, and again… And twenty-one years and two lovely daughters later, it is still very good.”

   Vic clapped her hands. “That’s a good story, Mom. It seems just right. Can I tell you about Greg and me? I’d like to.”

   “I’d like that very much.”

   “Well, it built up over several weeks. After our kissing and cuddling, both of us had been feeling some stirrings that went beyond. One time, I asked him if we were going to actually make love some time. He said if we were going to be together for 100 years and have children, it seemed inevitable. I asked if he meant when we got married, and he kind of surprised me with my own saying – maybe, maybe not! He said that it might be then, but it might be sooner if we both really felt we were ready.

   “A couple weeks later, I told him I was ready. He agreed. We actually made a date!  When the day arrived, we found a place where we could stay as long as we liked, without being disturbed. Greg confessed he didn’t have a clue as to how to start. I added my confession. Then, we just started to touch one another. I took some initiative, and very soon caused a considerable  reaction from him. After that happened – he told me later – he didn’t feel any immediate pressures, so he just devoted himself to exploring me. It was lovely for quite a while just to let him wander wherever he wanted, but then I started to realize that certain places he was touching were more sensitive than others. I started directing his activities, and soon I had a reaction that must have been as strong as his had been. It was amazing! We went to sleep in each other’s arms, and didn’t wake until morning.”

   Alice found she had almost been holding her breath. “What a lovely first time, for both of you.”

   “But, Mom, that’s only half the story.”

   “What do you mean?”

   “Well, when we woke the next morning, I couldn’t remember a certain thing happening. I asked Greg, and he confirmed that – technically – we were both still virgins. We had fallen asleep without…”

   “Oh, dear!” exclaimed Alice. “So, I assume you took care of that little technicality?”

   “We did, but not right away. We decided to get dressed, go to breakfast, and then spend a normal day before… well, before completing the mission, as the astronauts might say. That’s what we did, but we were both so crazy eager by the time we got back in bed that afternoon that we thought Part Two might be over pretty quickly. It wasn’t, and when we did finish, it was as strong and exciting for both of us as it had been the night before.”

   They were both lost in their own thoughts for a few moments, then Alice thanked Vic for sharing. “It’s such a wonderful beginning. I don’t know how you could have asked for any better. No matter what the future holds, you will never forget – or regret – it.”

   “Thanks, Mom.” She paused. “Do you think Daddy knows, or suspects?”

   “I haven’t said anything, and I won’t. You shouldn’t, either. He loves you, he’s getting fonder and fonder of Greg, and he’s commented a number of times about how good you two are, together. Let’s just let it play out at its own speed.

   “Speaking of people knowing, I assume that your sister knows all about this?”

   Vic gave a little laugh. “There’s not much my best friend doesn’t know. She idolizes Greg, so she’s very happy for both of us.”


   The temperature dropped into the 20s Wednesday night, and Thanksgiving dawned overcast, with a few light snow flurries. Greg thought he had heard waterfowl in the night, so decided to take a quick trip out on the refuge before heading for town. At the first ponds, it was evident that there were many more mallards than there had been  earlier in the week. It still didn’t look to him like a major influx, but the cold front was apparently strong enough to get them moving south, anyway. Duck hunters might be pretty happy by the end of the week.

   He drove back to headquarters, cleaned up a little bit more, made sure everything was locked up and secure, and headed for town. Vic heard his car approaching, and hurried out to greet him before the family could react. The quick hug and kiss weren’t what either really wanted or needed, but were the best they could do under the circumstances. Both had higher hopes for later in the week.

   Greg got embraces from both Alice and Mandy, and a firm handshake from Chuck. They chatted and ate, and ate and chatted, and that was all before the main meal was ready. An 18-pound turkey with dressing, gravy, and cranberry sauce was the main attraction, with several salads on the side, followed by pumpkin and mince pies. After dinner and two hours of dozing in front of the TV (a Dean Martin special with Milton Berle and Xavier Cugat, and an hour of Cole Porter music hosted by Robert Goulet), all declared themselves officially ready for bed. Alice started to get bedding for the couch, but Greg had brought his sleeping bag, which he retrieved from the car. Lights around the house gradually were turned off, and all became quiet.

   Greg was just settling down when he felt the zipper of his sleeping bag being tugged. “Vic, as much as I would like you in here with me, I don’t think we’d both fit. Also, we might cause a scandal.”

   “Don’t be silly, Greg. I’m not getting in with you. I just want to check something.” She unzipped the bag a little farther, and let her hand wander around inside. “My goodness, you do own a pair of pajamas.”

   “Yes, I do. I prefer not to wear them, but thought they would be more appropriate for polite society than my usual night attire.”

   She let her hand wander a little more, then zipped up the bag. “Well, tomorrow night it’s back to the usual, right?”

   “Whatever you say.”

   She bent down, so she could kiss him solidly. “See you in the morning. Sleep as well as you can, without me in there with you.”


   The sun was shining Friday morning, but the temperature had fallen to near 20 degrees overnight, and later in the day only warmed up to around 40. After a big breakfast (that none of them needed!), Alice gave them enough food to last several weeks. Greg stowed it, his sleeping bag, and some of Vic’s things in the back seat of the car. Chuck offered Greg several newspapers that he had finished reading, and Greg loaded them in the car, also. They promised to return by 5 o’clock or so on Saturday, so Vic would have plenty of time to get ready to go back to school on Sunday.

   Their first stop was the jewelers. “Vic and Greg together!” exclaimed Jeannie, as they arrived. “I had heard rumors, but…”

   “Ha ha ha, very funny,” Vic responded. “Hi, Jeannie. Long time, no see.” They shared a quick hug. “How are you doing?”

   “Oh, I’m good. The store is good. I see your mom every now and then, and Greg brings me regular reports on your doings. How is that all going?”

   “I like school, but I miss being with my family – and with him.” She squeezed Greg’s hand. “But it’s been very interesting.”

   Jeannie got down to business. “I have your charm bracelet, Greg, and I was able to get a North Dakota charm. As I suspected, it’s just a little rectangle with ‘N. D.’ on it, but you can tell what it is supposed to represent.”

   She showed it to Vic, who approved. “Greg says you might want to get something for Mandy, too?”

   “Yes. I saw something at a store in Pocatello that I think she would really like. I didn’t buy it, because I suspected you would have something similar.” She described the locket she wanted.

   “Sure, we have a couple like that.” She led Vic over to another case, and showed her two nice lockets, very similar to what she had seen in Pocatello. Vic selected one.

   “I like this one, Greg, and I’m sure that Mandy will, too. Do you think Bobby can make prints small enough?”

   “He says he can. Let’s go find out.” Greg paid for both purchases, and thanked Jeannie for her help. From the jeweler, they went to the camera shop. Bobby Cuso greeted Greg more or less automatically, then realized someone else was there.

   “Vic Anderson! I haven’t seen you in forever! How are you doing?”

   “Hi, Bobby. I’m fine. I’m just home from school for the holiday.”

   “That’s right. Greg told me you were going to ISU. How is that working out?”

   “I think pretty well. I do miss being here with my family.”

   “Yeah, I can imagine. I’ve hardly been out of this town my whole life. So, Greg told me over the phone what you wanted to do. You got Mandy a locket for her birthday?”

    Vic showed him the locket. “Yes,  and I want to put photos of her and me in it. Greg took some pictures of us, but the images are a little too large for the locket.”

   “Here are the prints, Bobby,” said Greg, “and I have the negatives. You said it was possible for you to make some smaller prints. Am I right?”

   Bobby looked at the prints. “Sure, no problem. It doesn’t take very long, but the prints take a while to dry. I’ll do several sizes, and you could pick them up tomorrow. Will that work?”

   Vic looked at Greg. “How late are you open tomorrow, Bobby?”

  “Five o’clock – same every day, but Sunday.”

   “Sure, that’ll be great,” said Vic. “See you then.”

   “I take it you’ve known Bobby quite a while,” Greg said, as they left the store.

   “Sure. In a little community like this, everybody knows everybody after a few years. Bobby graduated the same time as Jeannie, and I knew him fairly well in school. His dad had the store forever; Bobby took over full-time last year.

   “Now,” said Vic, as they got back to Greg’s car, “I would like to stop somewhere along the way, and complete the kiss we started yesterday. However, my feet are freezing, even with the heater on, so I suggest we complete our urgent business in a nice warm house at the refuge. Let’s get there without further delay.”

   “I wondered if maybe you’d want to stop and get hamburgers, and maybe milk shakes.”

   Vic looked at him. “Sure, we can put them in the back with the turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry sauce, two kinds of salad, and two kinds of pies.”

   They didn’t stop.


   The house was chilly, but much warmer than the car, and Vic soon had the furnace going. Greg brought all the food in, although – considering the outside temperature - there was no need to  hurry to get it refrigerated. They freshened up a little, then collapsed on the couch to finish their Thanksgiving kiss. It took a while, but eventually was deemed satisfactory by both.

   Vic had brought her overnight bag out to the living room. She now produced a book from it. “Oh, look, I brought ‘Strong Poison’ with me. I haven’t had much time to for pleasure reading at school, but I thought this might be a nice quiet period – without much happening - when I could settle down to a good book.”

   “I can see why you might think that.”

   “Well, it’s kind of inspirational, too, because the story is so much like our own. Lord Peter has been infatuated with Harriet since the first time he saw her, but she just isn’t interested in him. He pursues her relentlessly – you may say, almost obnoxiously, he is so open about it. It’s taking her a long time to warm up.”

   “The similarities are certainly there. Of course, you weren’t being tried for murder, for poisoning your lover, like Harriet was.”

   “No, but I mean that – otherwise – it’s pretty similar.”

   “I suppose. So, do you want to read your book, eat lunch, talk about something, or…”

   “I’m not really hungry, yet. Let’s talk. How about bird watching?”

   “Bird watching. How did I get interested? Well, as I said in my letter, the short answer is that I don’t know. That’s really true. I didn’t know any bird watchers when I was little, and nobody told me about bird watching. I just started doing it – at first, mostly from looking at pictures in books. I assume it was from encyclopedias, because I knew the names of birds from all over the world – not just in this country - and could identify them in their pictures. I’ve found notebooks from when I was only ten years old, with lists of the birds I was seeing. Most of the lists weren’t very long because I was seldom out of my neighborhood, except on summer vacations, and even those took place pretty close to home in California, somewhere.  The names of all the different birds I’ve seen in my whole life don’t take up much space.”

   “Would you like to see all those birds in person that you’ve seen in books?”

   “I don’t know. I’d like to see a lot more American birds, while at the same time seeing a lot more of America. The foreign ones? I don’t know. So far, I feel a little timid about world travel – going places where I don’t know the language or the customs, maybe needing to go with a group or get a guide to show me the birds. Maybe if I did some of it, I’d get to like it. What kind of travel would you like to do?”

   She thought a moment. “I’ve been interested is some of the foreign places that I’ve read about, or heard about. But no, I haven’t really longed to travel abroad. Like you, I’d like to see a lot more of the United States – considering that my whole experience so far has been limited to North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho. Specifically, I’d like to see at least one ocean. I’d like to see a forest of giant redwood trees. I’d like to visit the kind of desert that has those giant cactuses – what are they called, saguaros? – that grow 20 feet high. And… oh, I know. I’d like to see the famous fall color in New England.”

   “That’s a good list, and certainly one we could do. I’ve seen the ocean and the redwoods, and intend to show them to you just as soon as I can. I’d love to see saguaros – and we could combine that with a trip to the ‘Wah-choo-kas’ to see the rare Mexican birds. And, yes, I’d love to join the leaf peepers in New England.”

   “Leaf peepers?”

   “Don’t you know that term? That’s what they call all the people who flock to the New England states to see the brilliant fall colors in the forests there. I’ve seen pictures in magazines like ‘National Geographic,’ and the trees look amazing. There are so many colors of leaves, and the colors are so bright.”

   “Well, now we have a start for our married life ‘to do’ list. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun. So, back to bird watching. That’s the whole story: you just started on your own, and like to do it?”

   “Pretty much, I guess. The only other thing I can think to say about it is that I’m not really an avid bird watcher. I mean, I don’t have to see new birds all the time. I’ve read stories about people who will drop everything, and fly across the country to see one rare bird they’ve never seen before. I like to see new birds – like the several I’ve added to my list since I’ve been here – but I just kind of like to find them in the course of doing things – working, or going on trips, or whatever. I just like birds.”


   They sat quietly for a few moments. “Okay,” she said, “Next subject: church. You got my letter about my Pentecostal experience?”

   “I did. It sounds like you got the full treatment on your very first visit. Pretty exciting, huh?”

   “It was exciting. I think in my letter I used the word ‘scary,’ too. As I’ve thought more about it the past couple of days, I’ve been a little worried. I mean, it all seemed very orderly and in control, even if it was noisy. But then I asked myself if God really talks to us through other people, like that. If he does, it’s amazing. But if he doesn’t, then what was going on? Trickery? Deception? Carnival act? I think I’ve just ended up pretty confused, and I’m not sure now that I want to learn any more about it.”

   “My reactions have been pretty much the same as yours. I read the descriptions of such a meeting in the New Testament, and what I saw really followed the script closely. But the Baptist don’t think that those same words have any modern meaning, at all! Is there a right or wrong to it? And I got to thinking about my use of the word ‘script.’ If it is just a church service designed to get us all emotional, then a good ‘director’ – the pastor – could have actors ready to play the parts of tongue speaker and interpreter. That’s pretty cynical, but… Who knows?

  “I think all we can do – with any of these church services – is see how the people live outside of church, and decide if anything we see or experience feels good to us, or bad to us.”

   “I guess, but I think I’m finding it all a little confusing, and also a little discouraging.”


    Greg stirred. “Changing the subject, it’s going to be getting dark, soon, but it looks like there might be enough sun and clouds to have a pretty nice sunset. Do you want to take a quick drive out on the refuge? It’s pretty cold, but we can take a blanket. We could hear the ducks quacking, and maybe some coyotes serenading.”

   “I think I would like to. I’m kind of talked out for the moment, and I’m not quite hungry enough to eat anything. Let’s do it.”

   The temperature was already in the 20s, but there wasn’t much wind, and it was a lovely evening. They drove out beyond their ‘parking spot,’ and saw a lot of mallards on the next couple of ponds. They turned back to the west when the sun was just disappearing behind a band of thin clouds. As they stopped at their usual place, the clouds on the horizon had turned a very satisfactory mix of reds, oranges, and purples. It lasted only a few minutes, then darkness followed quickly. They wrapped a blanket tightly around themselves, and rolled down the window on the pond side. They could still see the shapes of ducks on the water, and could hear their low ‘gabbling’ as they did some last minute feeding and began to settle for the night. No coyotes howled for them, but on the way back to headquarters, they saw several jack rabbits, and had a brief glimpse of what was probably the tail end of a coyote, heading off into the sagebrush. Back at the house, they spent a little time enjoying one another’s company under the blanket. It was cold enough that they soon decided that any such activities could be better carried on indoors.

  After a big dinner of Thanksgiving leftovers, they settled back on the couch, with a blanket over them.

   “Okay,” asked Vic, “Are we ready to start into career counselling?”

   “Career counselling. That’s a good way to put it. I guess we are.”

   “Do we need to follow your letter, and first have a conversation about how much you like my face and my legs, or can we just jump to the end? I think you were going to ask me some momentous things, but I fell asleep.”

   “We don’t have any commitments, now. We could take a little time – or a lot of time – for me to explore – both intellectually and physically – your many attributes.”

   “We could, but how about this? Later this evening, when there are no other distractions , I could let you explore to your heart’s content.”

   Greg seemed to pause to think. “Okay, that sounds all right. So, picking up as you were falling asleep, I had repeated my thoughts that wildlife refuges might not be the long-term choice for us. I then started talking about some of the new things in the wind – wildernesses, programs for rare birds, wild rivers – and suggested that they might be more interesting. More importantly, getting them started will undoubtedly prove complicated and controversial, requiring biological skills but also social and political expertise. That’s where the two of us together might find a real niche, good for us but also important to have done right.

  ”Did you have any particular thoughts up to that point?”

  She collected her thoughts. “Well, as we have discussed on other occasions, I’ve been pretty sure that our future was not going to include living on wildlife refuges for long. I think it’s been a good life for my family – with the pluses far outweighing the minuses – but we’re different people, and the times are different, too.

   “I think about my mom. She didn’t have the freedom and choices that I have. I don’t know that she ever dreamed about getting a degree in wildlife management or forestry. She could have got the degree, but there wouldn’t have been any jobs  - or many jobs - for her. Among the ‘girl choices’ at that time - homemaking, teaching, nursing, secretarial – she chose secretarial, with emphasis on accounting. I don’t think she ever wanted a job as an accountant, but it was a good major if she needed a steady job sometime in the future. She and Daddy already knew where they were headed, and that was fine with her.

   “As has become obvious recently, the bad side of this was that the time came when Mom needed to become more involved with the outside world, and it took a while for Daddy to see that. I’m ahead of Mom on knowing what I want. I want to be a wife and a mother – and I’ll be great at both! – but I want some real outside challenges, too. What I’ve been learning about race problems and civil rights and the Viet Nam war really excites me, and I want to be involved in doing something about those things. I don’t know exactly what, but I know you and I could accomplish some meaningful things – and have a lot of fun and satisfaction doing them together. It sounds like some of the biology and conservation things you mention – wilderness, rare birds, wild rivers – could be equally as interesting and important.

  “So, how do we do it?”

  “Aye, there’s the rub, as Shakespeare had Hamlet say. I have absolutely no experience in that kind of work. I’m very interested, and I think I could do a very good job, but I’m a guy just barely out of college with a degree in wildlife management. So, even though I’m smarter than the average bear, the Park Service and Forest Service don’t know that. They have hundreds of people with experience in that kind of work. If jobs came available, there’s no question the agencies would look first to their own people. I wouldn’t even make their list of applicants to review.

   “On the other hand, I think I’m pretty unique within Fish and Wildlife Service in being interested in wilderness, rare birds, and such. Mac knows something about that and, even though I’m a new, entry level employee, he feels good enough about my abilities that he would leave this refuge in my charge for a while. It seems like if he knew I was interested, and he needed somebody on relatively short notice, I might have a good chance. He might even help me take some training courses in that kind of work while I was still at a refuge.”

   “I agree you are smarter than the average bear, Yogi, and that you would be a good candidate for a job of that sort. So, what do we do? Where would a job like that be located, probably?”

   “As far as where I job might be, if it was with Fish and Wildlife – and I was depending on Mac to help me get it - it would probably be in Portland. I’ve never been there, but it’s supposed to be a pretty nice, medium-sized city. What do we do, right now? I guess we just keep thinking and talking and waiting. Do you think we’re on the right track?”

   She got up off the sofa. “Yes, I do. I have a lot of questions, but I like the general direction you’re thinking. Excuse me a moment, okay?”

   She left the room. When she returned, she was wearing her silky pajamas. “I know we have a lot to talk about, but would you mind awfully if we went to bed a little early? I’m feeling just a little tired.”

   “I wouldn’t mind a bit.”

   When he joined her again a few minutes later, she was sitting on the edge of the bed. “I have something to tell you before we retire for the night. Mom knows that we’ve been sleeping together, and making love.”

   He sat down beside her. “I guess I’m not really surprised. What else would two randy kids be doing when they were alone together? But how did she find out, for sure?”

   “She asked, and I told her.”

   “Well.” He was at a loss for words for a moment. “Well, that would certainly be one way. So, how did she take it?”

    “Surprisingly well, I thought. She told me about her’s and Daddy’s courtship and first time, then I told her about ours. I gave her a pretty full account…. Well, you know – not every little detail, but a pretty good mother-daughter conversation. She seemed to think we were doing pretty well.”

   “Well, I certainly agree with her on that. But what now? Am I banned from your bed, or anything?

   “Not by her, or me. She suggests we don’t tell Daddy, if he doesn’t already know – something about letting sleeping dogs lie.”

   “Probably good strategy. So, if right now I was to crawl into bed, next to you in your silky pajamas…”

   “I think I could promise us a pretty nice night.”  


   Vic was still sleeping soundly when Greg got out of bed. He did his morning routine, made a cup of coffee, got a slice of turkey from the frig, and headed into the living room. When the phone rang , he answered it without thinking.

   “Hi, Greg. It’s Alice.”

   “Hi. I was just on my way to the couch with a cup of coffee and a slice of turkey meat. I think we’ll have Thanksgiving dinner for both breakfast and lunch, today. There’s still plenty, thank you!

   “Last I checked, your daughter was fast asleep. I think the time with nothing special to do has been good for her. School doesn’t seem that hard while you’re there, but I remember those first couple of years were just hectic. You were always in class, or in the dorm, with the same people and away from what you would normally be doing with your family. You didn’t have a chance to just breathe.”

   “Well, it’s good that she can just sleep as long as she needs to. How are things there?”

   “Good. We didn’t come directly out here yesterday. Vic wanted to get Mandy a birthday present, so we visited with Jeannie for a while at the jeweler’s, and then stopped at the camera shop. When we finally got out here, we just sat and talked all afternoon. We haven’t been able to do that for a while.

   “Just before dark, we drove out on the refuge. It was pretty chilly, so we didn’t stay long, but we saw a lovely sunset before we retreated back to the house.”

   “That sounds like a nice, restful day.”

   “It was. It’ll probably be the same, today. We have another couple of things we haven’t had a chance to discuss. We’ll need to be back in town before 5:00, to pick up Mandy’s present, so you’ll see us fairly early this evening.

   “Oh wait, here’s your sleepy-eyed daughter. I’ll put her on the phone.”

   Vic talked, while Greg started to look through the newspapers Chuck had given him. The first story that caught his eye ruined his mood. When Vic finished talking to her mother, and sat down beside him, she immediately sensed a problem.

   “Greg, what’s wrong?”

   He held out the paper to her. “I made the mistake of looking at the news.” The story was about Viet Nam. The previous week, 240 servicemen had been killed and 470 wounded. It was described as “the costliest week of the war,”  with three times as many casualties as any other week, so far. Part of the increase was due to one big fire fight, in which an estimated 2,260 Viet Cong were killed. During the Korean War, it was reported, a weekly average of 209 Americans were killed, highlighting how bad things had become in Viet Nam.

   The story concluded with the grim statistics that, since 1961, 1,335 Americans were dead in Viet Nam, and another  6,131 had been wounded.

   “Oh, Greg!”

   “We can’t ever escape, can we? I keep saying I won’t worry about it – that we’ll just live our lives – but how can I not worry about it when I read things like this?”

   She just sat very still beside him.

   “I’m kind of a mess, aren’t I – at least, on this particular subject?”

   She moved his hand over onto her thigh. “Would it help at all, if you suddenly realized I am still in my silky pajamas, with the legs you admire so much in full view and touchably close, and with me just dying for a ‘good morning’ kiss?”

   He turned toward her. “It might. Let me check it out.” He did. It took a while. “I believe,” he said, finally, “that my perspective and my mood have both changed markedly.”

   “Well, that’s good. My mood is in pretty good shape, also.”

   They stayed in mood-improvement mode for a few more minutes. ‘Okay,” said Greg, “No more Viet Nam, today. I told your mother we would probably have Thanksgiving dinner for both breakfast and lunch. Is that okay with you?”

   “That’s fine. Have you checked what the weather is doing?”

   “No. Looking out the window, I have seen a few snow flurries, but I don’t think the snow is sticking. I suspect the outside temperature is a toasty 20 degrees, or so. I’ll check the weather station, after a bit.”

   “Okay, let’s eat turkey.” She gave him a sidelong glance. “You don’t mind if I stay in my silky pajamas, with my lovely long legs in full view, until after breakfast, do you?”

   He didn’t think he needed to answer.


   After their brunch, Greg cleared up the kitchen, Vic got dressed, and they again settled on the couch.

   “So, Vic, what would you think about getting married as soon as your school got out next spring?”

   There was silence for a moment. “Wow! When you get back into a conversation, you really get back into a conversation! I wasn’t expecting that.”

   “I’m ready to talk about it, if you are?”

   “Okay. Is that practical – I mean, getting married as soon as May?”

   “I think so. Your folks will still be here, because Mandy will just be graduating. We’ll have several months of getting to know one another, before we have to think about how we handle school and work next fall. We might even get in a honeymoon trip while your dad is still in charge of the refuge.”

   “Okay, but what about next fall? Do I just go back to college, and we live apart?”

   “Isn’t that how it would be if we didn’t get married? I’m assuming I’ll be here through the summer – and through the winter, if we want me to be. If not, maybe the other refuge job will become available. Either way, you’ll have a home – and a husband – to come home to whenever you can. In between, we’ll work out some ways to get together like we have, this year. I won’t like the being apart any more than I like it now, but I’m hoping you’ll stay in school through the next year.”

   She stayed quiet for another few minutes. “How does this work for Mandy, if she decides to stay and be my roommate at Pocatello next fall?”

   “I consider Mandy part of our family. If she’s here and your parents are elsewhere, I think her home is with us as long as she wants and needs it. This house will be ours if I’m manager, and it’s plenty big enough, we know, and she already has her own room. If it was the other refuge, that has a big house, too. She’s your sister, but she’ll be my sister, too, and you know I love her.”

   She cuddled a little closer to him. “I know you love her. She certainly loves you. Do you think you could survive living with two Anderson women?”

   He just laughed.

   “So, Greg. Seriously, are we ready to be married?”

   “Don’t we tell each other regularly that we have been pretty much married for some time? I’m thinking that any surprises that come from living together full-time are more likely to be good surprises, than bad. I say yes, we are ready.”

   “Then I say yes, too. I’m ready to be Mrs. Cleveland, for real.”

   They paused for quite a while to celebrate their “engagement.” Later, he said, “There is another related issue I think we should talk about. You had mentioned  - in one of your letters, I think – that it was too bad that my parents would be getting a ready-made daughter-in-law at our wedding, without ever having met you. I think maybe we can fix that situation.”

   “How would we do that?”

   “Well, I had planned to visit them sometime this winter. You’ll be out of school the week before Christmas, and the week after Christmas. You also have the semester break the first week of February. If we alerted your folks to our wedding plans right away – so a trip with me wouldn’t come as a surprise to them – we could go together during one of those three weeks. We’d only have a day – maybe two – with them, but then you’d at least recognize one another at the wedding.”

   “That sounds a little scary.”

   “For me, too, and probably for them, but you’ll get a chance to see that they aren’t quite ogres, and they’ll see that I have excellent taste in daughters-in-law for them.”

   She hesitated. “Okay, but you and I need to talk about this quite a bit more before we actually do it.”

   “Agreed. I guess we should start to town pretty soon, if we’re going to get to the camera shop, and also have time to tell your folks the plans.”

   She stared at him. “Tell them this evening? I thought we’d have a little planning time.”

   “Well, I guess if we want to plan for February, we have time, but if it’s one of the Christmas weeks, we probably won’t be seeing them again before then. You know that your Christmas break is only three weeks away?”

   “I guess I knew, but not consciously for this purpose. Let me think about it until we get to town. Maybe we could find out if they have any particular holiday plans before we spring our news on them?”

   “Sure, that sounds logical. We can strategize as we drive in.”


   Not long after that, they headed for town. There were a few snowflakes in the air, and it was still about 20 degrees, but the snow wasn’t sticking and the pavement was dry. They went directly to the camera shop, where Bobby had several sizes of prints for them. One size was a perfect fit.

   “Thanks, Bobby,” Vic said. “These are great. What do we owe you?”

   “Nothing. All it cost was a little of my time. Tell Mandy it’s my part of her birthday present.”

   “Okay. Thanks, again.”

   Greg didn’t think they had resolved any strategy in the car, but Vic called everybody together as soon as she and Greg got in the house. “Greg and I have decided that we’d like to get married right after the close of my school term, in May.”

   Mandy’s response was instant elation. Alice had a contented smile. Chuck seemed to be a little at sea. Alice asked the obvious question. “Do you think you’ll be really ready then?”

   “Oh, we’ve been really ready personally for quite some time. Practically, toward the end of May seems very logical. I’ll be out of school for the summer. You and Daddy will still be here, because Mandy will just be graduating. That will be ideal for having all my family together in a familiar place. Having Daddy still the official refuge manager may mean that Greg and I could sneak a quick honeymoon in, before settling down to other things.”

   “You still intend to go back to college in the fall?”

   “Oh, that’s a given. Part of our overall thinking is that I’ll finish college with a degree that will complement what Greg knows, so we can maybe find work to do together. That means we’ll still be living apart through much of the school year. That hasn’t been ideal, by any means, but we’re making it work. And when I can come home, it’ll mean that I have a home – and a husband - to come home to.

   “It also works for you, Mandy, if you want it to. I would love to have you as my roommate at ISU. If you decide to stay, then your home is with us as long as you want or need it.”

   “But don’t you guys need some married alone time, without sisters confusing things?”

   “ You know that Greg loves you almost as much as I do, and you’re a definite part of our family from the first day. There’s no disagreement on that.”

   Chuck had been quiet through the exchange. Now, he spoke. “From everybody’s reactions, it seems that I’m the only one who didn’t realize that, not only had the train left the station, it’s already a long way down the tracks. Well, I love my daughter, I like Greg a lot, and it sounds like the two of you are really taking this seriously. Therefore, happy spring wedding!”

   Vic rushed to hug her father. “Thank you, Daddy. Your support means a lot.”

   They traded congratulatory talk for a few moments, then Greg intervened. “Thanks a lot for everybody supporting us. It is really important to me.

   “One reason we wanted to break this news to you now is because of my family. As Vic very rightly pointed out to me, it would be nice if she got to meet my folks – and maybe my sister and brother – before they become the recipients of a new daughter-in-law and new sister-in-law at our wedding. I’ve been planning to go home sometime this winter. We’re thinking now that Vic should go with me, so that at the very least she and my family know what each other looks like when we all get together in May or June.

   “If we’re going to do that, there are three logical times when Vic is out of school – the week before Christmas, the week after Christmas, and her spring break, which is the first week in February. Do any of those seem better or worse for any reason?”

   Alice was quick to respond. “We’ve always tried to be together the week before Christmas, so we can get the house decorated, all the food cooked, and just have some good family fun time. I’d say don’t plan that week.”

   Greg glanced at Vic, who nodded yes. “Okay, first possibility is out. How about the others?”

   “I was wondering about going to North Dakota the week between Christmas and New Year’s,” offered Chuck. From the reactions of all three Anderson women, it was clear that this was an entirely new idea for them. “Well, I just started wondering about it. The Norwegians do the holidays right, and it’s been a lot of years since we were with them at that time of year. I was just thinking it would be fun.

  “However, it’s a two day drive, and at a time of year when driving anywhere is not always an easy task. I suppose we could figure out a bus or train, but that might take almost as long – and also be open to the same travel difficulties. Anyway, it was just an idea.”

   “Have you thought about flying?” asked Greg.

   “Flying? I never have.”

   “No, I never have, either, but I guess – if you have logical places to fly from and to – it’s the quickest way to get anywhere. With our limited free time, I thought I might check it out for Vic and me. I have no idea how much it costs.

   “Where would you fly to? Fargo?”

   Chuck laughed. “If North Dakota has any kind of airline service, I guess it would be at Fargo. That’s where we want to go, but I don’t know where we’d fly from.”

   “Yeah, it seems unlikely you’d get a direct flight from anywhere around here. You might get a flight from Twin Falls or Pocatello to Denver, and then get a second plane to Fargo. Maybe if you got down to Salt Lake, you could get a direct flight. Anyway, I’m just speculating at this point.”

   Alice intervened. “It seems pretty unlikely this year, don’t you think, Chuck?. I mean, there’s not much time.”

   “Oh, I know. I don’t think I’m serious for this year, but maybe in the spring? Like Greg, I’m just speculating.”

   Now, Vic intervened. “So, let’s say the week after Christmas for us. The weather could be pretty tricky about that time, but we could at least start planning for that, Greg?”

   “Sure, I’ll call my folks, and get things started.”

   The meeting broke up, and Vic pulled Greg aside. “Amuse Mandy for a few minutes, while I prepare her present,” she whispered. Greg did, and soon they were happily talking about the upcoming wedding.

   “I am happy,” declared Mandy. “I’m happy that it’s going to be sooner, rather than later. You guys are obviously ready.” She paused. “Would you really want a spare sister-in-law hanging around your house, just when you and Vic are really getting to know one another?”

   He touched her arm. “Mandy, if it fits in with your plans, I would be more than pleased. You’re Vic’s best friend, and you’re getting to be pretty close to my second best.”

   Vic came back before anything else could be said. She sat down with them on the couch. “Mandy, my darling sister, I’m really sorry that I can’t be here on your actual birthday, but I wanted to be sure you had my present ahead of time.”

   She handed her sister a little box, and waited for her to open it. Mandy’s smile, when she opened it and saw the locket, couldn’t have been sweeter. “I love it! You knew I would.”

   “I was pretty sure, but Greg and Jeannie helped me get the right one. You can open the heart.”

   Mandy did, and saw the photos of her and Vic. “Feel free to replace mine when you find someone more interesting to pair up with,” said Vic.

   Mandy hugged her sister. “Maybe someday, but this is just right for now. Thank you, Sis.”

   She hugged Greg, then went off to show the locket to her parents. “I better think about getting on my way,” said Greg, but he didn’t start to move.

   She cuddled a little closer to him. “I would rather you didn’t.”

   “I would rather I didn’t, also, but I think Life demands other of us.”

   “Oh, pooh, to Life! It always seems to be interfering. Well, if that’s how it must be, what are we doing for the next three weeks?

   “You are going back to school. I am going back to a lonely wildlife refuge to await your return to me. I will contact my folks to see what plans we can make for a trip to California, and I will get back in here for Mandy’s birthday. Other than that… “

   “Yes, other than that. I will write you a letter or two, and you can do the same for me.”

   “Agreed. Your ride for tomorrow is all arranged?”

   “I assume so. I’ll call Nancy, and hear the latest. It looks like we will have a cold, but dry drive back to Pocatello.”

   “Same transportation for Christmas vacation?”

   “I guess. I’ll let you know if anything is different.”

   They made a few more excuses for prolonging his stay, but eventually they settled for an embrace and a long, long kiss, and he was on his way back out the god-awful road.



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