Vic called Sunday night, just to let them know that she and Nancy got safely to Pocatello. Being able to talk to Greg for a minute was an unexpected bonus.

  “No problems on the road?” Greg asked. “The wind started to blow pretty strongly just after you left, and I guess the drifting is getting bad in some places.”

   “No, we didn’t have any problems. Obviously, they had done a lot of plowing to get the drifts off the highway. The bus driver said there were some icy areas at Raft River, and again near American Falls, but nothing that really bothered him.  So, here we are, back in the dorm, getting ready to go back to classes tomorrow.”

   “What’s the weather like?”

   “I’d guess around 30 degrees for the high. We’re getting a little snow, and the ground is covered, maybe two or three inches deep.”

   “Sounds balmy.”

   “Yes, lovely Pocatello, where the girls wear bikinis all winter. So, you didn’t try to get to the refuge today?”

   “No, your dad suggested I stay over, and we go out together tomorrow morning. Whatever the roads are like, the truck will be better transportation.”

   “Well, be careful. I miss you, already.”

   “I know what you mean.”


   There was no new snow overnight, but the winds blew fiercely all Sunday and into Monday. The report on the radio was that most of the area roads were drifted shut again, and school buses couldn’t navigate many of their routes. Most of the northside schools were closed for the day. The bus that Vic had taken the day before was running, but was about an hour late getting from Twin Falls to Pocatello.

   “I think we’re not going to the refuge today,” Chuck observed.

   “I guess not. I wonder if businesses in town will be open. At some point, I need to talk to a travel agent about our possible trip to California. I also have a little work that Vic and I want to do at the library.”

   “I would think some places are open. Getting around town won’t be too bad. It’s just getting out of town that’s the problem.”

   Mid-morning, Greg decided to go and see what was open. Everything he wanted was in reasonable walking distance, but the wind was still howling and the wind chill was fierce. He put on every warm thing he could find. It was still a pretty miserable walk.

   The travel agent was open, and she was willing to talk about both air and train travel to California. Yes, there were logical ways to make the trip (by either means) at the beginning of February. Bad weather could be an issue at that time of year, of course, but it seldom closed the larger airports. Trains might be delayed by weather or snow, so they were often late (but not usually enough to really mess up plans). California was having a very wet winter, so far. All the North Coast rivers were flooding, and there were many road and train delays going north toward Oregon. There were deep snows in the Sierra, but they weren’t affecting train travel, so far. Of course, who knows what it will be like in a few weeks?

   Greg thanked her for her information, gathered up pertinent timetables, and left to see if the library was open. It was. One of the librarians helped him find the addresses of some of the bigger newspapers. He found that letters to members of Congress could all be sent to either the House office building or the Senate office building.  He didn’t know who they wanted to contact, but he had a feeling that unsolicited “advice” from constituents didn’t get much attention – unless the politician was already interested in the subject. He decided to pick senators and representatives in districts who were most likely to see the letter in one of their local newspapers.

   He made his way back to the Andersons, and found they had waited lunch for him. Mandy brought him a bowl of chicken noodle soup, and a toasted ham and cheese sandwich.

   “Was your trip a success?” Alice asked.

   “Well, I may have frostbite on various portions of my body but, yes, I got what I needed.”

   He explained the plane and train alternatives to them. “Either seems possible in the time we have. The plane takes less time than the train, and probably has less chance of being affected by the weather. It’s pretty straightforward from Pocatello to Oakland via Boise. However, the connections coming back aren’t as good, and we’d probably have to stay over one night in Boise before we could get back to Pocatello. I’ll present both alternatives to Vic, and see what she thinks.”

   “How are you feeling about it?” asked Chuck. “I seem to sense a little hesitation.”

   “I guess I am a little hesitant. I really want to get Vic to California before the wedding, and this is probably the logical time. Well, it’s the only time until school gets out at the end of May. Still, with the winter they’re having in California, it looks like it could be an all-indoor visit. It would be nice to be able to show her around a little bit – the places I grew up. To me, that seems almost as important as meeting the parents.”

   “What would be wrong with waiting until May or June?” Alice asked.

   “Nothing specific, I guess. We haven’t set a wedding date, but we’ve been thinking early in the summer, just so we didn’t confuse your moving plans, whatever they turn out to be. Then, going to meet my parents one week, and having them come to Idaho for the wedding just a few weeks later, seems awkward – like, maybe the trip to California was hardly worth it.”

   “I don’t think you should worry too much about our plans,” Chuck volunteered. “We don’t have anything lined up yet, and it’s just as possible we’ll be moving late in the summer, as it is we’ll have anything going early. If ‘early summer’ turns out to be July for you kids’ wedding – or even later - we’ll all make it work.”

   “Dad’s right,” said Mandy. “I don’t think you should go in February unless you’re both really, really agreed on that as the best time.”

   “Thanks. Well, I think what I have to do is present the information to Vic pretty much without expressing my trepidations, and see what her immediate reaction is. I’m a little confused, right now.”



Tuesday evening, Jan. 4

Hi Vic,

  We didn’t get to the refuge today. It started to snow again and, even though it wasn’t a lot, our high winds were drifting the snow faster than the plows could keep up. Mandy started to school, but they dismissed early. To quote from the afternoon paper: “At Burley, it began snowing about 9 a.m., and for an hour high winds whipped the snow in a ‘real blizzard.’ By noon the wind had gone down some, and crews, who had worked all night, were still trying to keep roads open… Roads throughout Minidoka County were reported open Tuesday morning but were drifting heavily. The highway at Paul was down to one lane, and plows had worked there throughout the night in an attempt to keep the road open.” In other words, we are sort of snowbound for the moment. They mentioned in the paper that Pocatello was getting “quite a bit” of snow, but they didn’t make it sound as bad a situation as we’ve had it.

   I did risk frostbite and hypothermia yesterday to go to the library and travel agent. Surprisingly, both were open, and I was able to get our business done. I got addresses for newspapers to receive your “letter to the editor,” and a list of Congress people to send copies to.

   At the travel bureau, I found out that both air and train are possible at the time we’re talking about going to California. Air is pretty straightforward, and I guess I would opt for that, just because it takes the least time in transit. I’ll give you the details of both.


AIR: Leave Pocatello Saturday at 2:15 pm, fly nonstop to Boise, arriving 3:10. Leave Boise at 3:40, fly to Reno (arriving 5:40). Leave Reno 6:25 pm, arrive Oakland 7:35 pm. The travel agent thinks there is enough leeway in the various connections, that there shouldn’t be any problem even in bad weather.

   We’d have Sunday and most of Monday in Oakland, then leave for Boise at 7:55 pm, arriving in Boise at 10:50 pm. We’d have to stay overnight in Boise, then catch the Pocatello flight at noon, getting to Pocatello about 1 pm on Tuesday. School begins Thursday.


TRAIN: Leave Pocatello 5:10 pm Saturday, to Ogden 8:35. Leave Ogden 9:55 pm, be on the train overnight, arriving in Oakland 2:35 pm on Sunday afternoon. In Oakland, Sunday evening and all of Monday. Leave Oakland 11:38 am Tuesday, arrive Ogden 6:25 pm on Wednesday. Train north to Pocatello, arriving 10:45 pm Wednesday night. School starts Thursday, but it looks like maybe Freshmen don’t actually register until Friday.


   Now, after that neat, factual presentation, I’m going to mess it all up by asking you if you really, really, really think this is the right time to take the trip. I know that, by asking the question that way, I’ve made it impossible for you to give an answer without trying to figure out what I’m not asking – in effect, is there some reason I think it isn’t the right time? I apologize, but I’m in a quandary. I do have some concerns. They aren’t major ones. I want you to meet my parents before our wedding, and an airplane trip now looks good, but… I guess I just need to talk to you a bit more before I make reservations.

   Our weather and road situation seems to be getting better, so we’ll probably try to get to the refuge tomorrow. In any event, I’ll mail this in the morning, and write more about other stuff later.

   I love you, Vic, and I’m sorry to be so wishy-washy about this.  Greg.




Tuesday, Jan. 4

   Vic, this is your meddling little sister, getting involved in your personal affairs. I think you will thank me, but you know how it is with meddling. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out as planned. Trust me, my intentions are pure and good.

   Your boyfriend/fiancé/lover is in a bit of a muddle. He wants to please his lady love, but he doesn’t know how to do it, and is worried he’s going to mess things up. I assume he has written – or will write – to you soon about the California trip. I don’t know what he’s going to say, but I think probably not enough for you to respond as you would both like. Here’s what I know.

   When he got back from the travel agent, we  - me, him, mom, dad - had a little impromptu discussion over lunch. He gave us the facts about the two travel possibilities. He said he thought the airline was the best alternative because it would take a lot less time than the train, and would probably be less influenced by the weather. He said it would “work” – would accomplish the objective of introducing you to his family – but he obviously wasn’t completely sold. What I gathered is that he would like the trip to accomplish more than just a face-to-face with the Clevelands. I’m not exactly sure what, but maybe show you where he went to school, or where he played as a little kid – maybe introduce you to some friends, if there are any left in town. I don’t know what – I’m just imagining what he was thinking from the little he actually said. He’s expecting the weather to be bad – California bad, I mean – lots of rain, and not much good outside time – so it would probably turn out to be just visiting with his parents, brother, and sister inside the house.

   What I think he was getting at is that he’d really like to do the trip right after school gets out at the end of May – make a road trip of it, see the sights, and give you a better look at where and how he grew up. He’s hesitant about this because you and he have talked about getting married  first thing, because you want to (I don’t know why; you’re already doing most of the things people get married so they can do!), but also so as not to interfere with whatever Mom and Dad end up doing. They told him not to worry about that. Their future might not be evident for a while, and whether you got married in June, July, August or September, they would work it out with you.

   So, I’m not giving advice. I’m just imparting information. I love you (both) a lot. Mandy


   Wednesday morning was cloudy, but predicted to be a little warmer than it had been, with any precipitation expected to be rain, rather than snow. According to the morning news, the roads were thawing, and school buses were running a little late, but could do most of their regular routes. School was open, again. Chuck and Greg decided to try getting to the refuge.

   It proved to be an easy trip. The snow drifts were melting quickly, and there had never been much ice on their road. They checked the mail box at the top of the hill, but obviously Mike hadn’t made it this far since the big winds.

   Everything at headquarters looked just as Greg and Vic had left it. They got the heat turned up in the office and the two residences, and settled down to the end of a pretty quiet week. With no mail delivery yet, it didn’t take much time to do the usual weekly paperwork. Greg had the narrative report in rough form, and they began to fill in the final information. Then, they were confronted with the truth of how little there was for one person to do there in mid-winter, let alone two. Both were frustrated, and they were both very aware that it was another month and a half before they could expect much change.

   Greg drove out on the refuge several times, just to break the monotony. His total record of animal sightings stood at two coyotes, until he came upon something unexpected in an area of thick brush and bulrushes near the east end of the refuge.  As he described to Chuck later, there were perhaps a dozen short-eared owls roosting together in the dense vegetation.

   “Is that usual?”

   “I think maybe it is. I’ve never seen anything like it, but I think I’ve read that short-ears regularly roost in bunches during the winter months. It must be hard for that many to find food, though. Mice and voles don’t hibernate, so there are always little animals running around in the grass and under the snow, but it must take some work to get at them. I’ll be interested to see if the owls stay in that location for a while.”

   Greg and Chuck ate together Wednesday and Thursday evenings, and played a few games of checkers. They watched the news and weather on TV, but nothing else interested them. Greg went home to bed early both nights.

   They were able to put the finishing touches on the quarterly narrative report, and get it ready to send to the Regional Office. On Friday, Greg suggested that he ride to town with Chuck that evening. “If you don’t mind an overnight guest, that is. The weather forecast is for no significant storms for the next week or so. I could do a little shopping, and retrieve my car from your front yard. I’d also like to try and call Vic to discuss the California trip. I think I owe her an apology for making her go through a lot of confusing thought processes. I should have just said straight out that I don’t want to go to California right now.”

  “You don’t?”

  “No, I think we’d be better off to wait for spring, when we can take a little more time, and probably enjoy better weather. I don’t think she’s going to mind – I think she’ll probably like the idea as much as I do. I’m just sorry I’ve been so wishy-washy.”


   On the drive home, Chuck brought up the California trip. “So, is it certain that you’re not going to make the trip this winter?”

   “I would say yes, but I need to talk to Vic one more time. I’m pretty sure we’ll wait until school gets out.”

    Clearly, Chuck had something on his mind. “Look, I don’t want to say anything to anybody else yet, but I’ve been thinking about taking Allie to Boise for a night or two. Stay in a nice hotel, eat out, maybe see a movie or a show… I don’t know, exactly. It’s been years since we’ve done anything like that. We’ve always worried about leaving the girls, or it would just be too complicated, or… Oh, I don’t know. I think those are all excuses for putting off having some time just for ourselves. I’m thinking it’s long overdue that we do something. I can imagine that Allie has thought that for a long time, while I’m just realizing it. I guess I’m not a very romantic person, but I think I need to work at it.”

   Greg waited for him to say more. “What I’m thinking is, if Vic (and you, I imagine) are going to be here to be with Mandy, I might surprise Allie with a trip during Vic’s break. Would that work?”

   “I don’t see why not. I don’t know Vic’s final exam schedule, but she’ll be finished and ready to come home on either Friday or Saturday. She won’t need to be back until the next Wednesday. That gives you quite a bit of time. I think it sounds like a great idea, and we’ll help pull it off any way we can.”

   “Thanks, Greg. Let me do a little planning, before we say any more to anybody.”



   Greg called Vic’s dorm that evening. He heard the woman who answered the phone call for Vic. A moment later, someone came on the line. “Hi, this is Nancy, Vic’s roommate. She seems to be among the missing, at the moment. Can I take a message?”

   “Hi, Nancy. It’s Greg. No, there’s no bad news, or anything. I’m in town, and I just needed to talk to her for a couple minutes.”

   “I’m not sure where she is. I don’t think very far… Oh wait, here she comes. Vic, it’s that guy from the wildlife refuge, who wants to talk to you.”

   He heard Vic’s voice almost immediately. “Greg, is everything okay there?”

  “Everything’s fine, Vic. I came to town with your dad, because I wanted to talk to you about the California trip. I’m sorry to have made things so confusing. I should have just said that I don’t think we should go, now.”

   The phone was silent for a moment. “Vic?”

   “Funny you should say that, Greg. Even before I got your letter, I was pretty sure this wasn’t the right time. It just doesn’t seem logical to me.”

   “Really? I know I’ve been sending a lot of mixed signals, and I apologize over and over again for subjecting you to my wishy-washiness. I know it’s right for you to meet my family before the wedding, but…”

   “Why don’t we go right after school gets out this spring?” she interrupted him. “I know we’ve talked about an early wedding, but we haven’t set a date. We could do a car trip – make it a pre-wedding honeymoon – that might be unusual, and some might consider it immoral, but it certainly isn’t illegal. Oh wait, maybe it is. It’s the Mann Act, isn’t it? – by the way, why don’t they call it the Woman Act, since it’s really about us? – anyway, it says that you can’t take girls across state lines for immoral purposes. But I’m nineteen – almost twenty – so, maybe I’m not considered a ‘girl,’ anyway.”

   “Vic, can we maybe save the white slavery discussion for another time? Are we in agreement that we won’t go to California this winter, but will plan a longer trip when school gets out?”

   “Yes, and yes. And I think you’re right about deferring the white slavery discussion. There are a couple of girls here, who I think want to use the phone, who are looking at me very strangely right now.

   “So, I gotta go. I love you. Tell Mom and Daddy I’ll get in touch later, and tell Mandy I owe her a major ‘thank you.’ Bye, Greg.”

   And she was gone. Greg hung up the phone, and went into the kitchen, where the others were gathered. “Vic had to go. There were others waiting to use the phone. She said she’d check in later. Mandy, she said she owes you a ‘major thank you.’”

   “She did? I wonder what that’s about. I don’t think I’ve done anything very marvelous, recently.”

   “No details. That’s all she said.”

   “So,” asked Chuck, “Is there agreement on the California trip?”

   “Yes, we’re not going this winter. She had already come to the same conclusion. We’re going to plan a longer trip after school gets out.”

   “That sounds wise,” agreed Alice.



Saturday morning, Jan. 8

Hi Vic,

  I’m at your house – stayed overnight in your bed, which was very comfortable but very lonely. I’m going to do a little shopping, and then head back for the refuge, but I thought I’d get something in the mail to you, today.

   There was a little bit about the Des Moines arm band story in our local newspaper. We’d probably be able to get a lot more details from an Iowa paper. Anyway, five students were sent home, and weren’t allowed to return if they were wearing arm bands. I think the info we saw first said they were all in junior high. Actually, some were in high school.

   Two students gave in right away, one even before the Christmas break, and the other when school resumed Monday. The other three didn’t come back to school on Monday. The school board held a meeting, that was attended by over 100 people. It sounds like it got pretty boisterous, with a lot of people asking the school board to reconsider the ban, but a lot supporting it. When the board voted, five voted to keep the ban. Two voted against it.

   The three holdouts have since returned to school. They didn’t wear arm bands, but the paper said that they all dressed in black. There is talk of the parents suing the school board.

   I’d like to know more details. Our paper said (without explaining) that students had worn arm bands before, and hadn’t been bothered. Also,  I guess quite a few students wear pins and buttons with anti-war slogans – strong ones, like “Get out of Viet Nam!” – and nobody says anything about it. Another little twist is that the students claim they were not wearing the arm bands to take a stand against our government. They were doing it in mourning for all the people who had died in Viet Nam, and in support of a Christmas armistice. If true, that makes the school board decision seem even more arbitrary.

   An interesting little nature note: On one of my drives out on the refuge, I found a dozen or more short-eared owls roosting together. I guess this isn’t uncommon in winter, but I’d never seen it before. I’m going to go back out in the next couple days, and see if they have stayed there.

   It is pretty bad at the refuge. There really isn’t anything for us to do, most of the time. Your dad and I haven’t murdered each other yet, but I don’t know how long the occasional game of checkers can keep us sane. I think we really need to make some staffing suggestions to Mac before next winter.

   Vic, I really am sorry for how hard it’s been for me to work with you on a decision about the California trip. I’m sure we’ve made the right one, now – and I really look forward to planning our pre-wedding honeymoon trip. I think that is going to be great fun!

   I guess that’s all I know for now, so I’ll stick this in an envelope, and then get on my way.

   Did I ever tell you that I love you very much? I do!



Saturday evening, Jan. 8

Mandy, I haven’t thought that I could love you any more than I already did, but I love you more! Your “meddling” was just exactly what I needed to prepare for Greg’s call, and I know we made the right decision.

   So, dear sister, feel free to meddle away (with constraint and good manners, of course).



   Greg stayed at Andersons’ for lunch, did a little grocery shopping, then headed home. The road was “okay.” There were some big puddles resulting from the melting snow drifts, but there didn’t seem to be any ice. He stopped at the top of the hill, and found that Mike had left the day’s mail there.

   At headquarters, he left the mail at the office, after checking that there wasn’t anything personal for him. They had only turned down the heaters slightly when they left yesterday afternoon, so his house was not quite an ice box. He cranked up the heater a few degrees, but kept his coat on for a while. As it would be dark in just an hour or so, he settled in for the evening.

    Sunday morning was brisk, the temperature around 15 degrees, but it was dry, with even a few patches of blue sky. By afternoon, it was a calm 35 degrees – almost balmy, he tried to tell himself. He made and ate a leisurely breakfast, cleaned up the house at bit, then used the Andersons’ washer and dryer to catch up on his laundry. By noon, he was having trouble keeping himself occupied, so decided to check on the short-eared owl roost. The birds were still in the same place, about the same number he had seen the first time. He watched for a while. He knew short-ears hunted in the day, as much as at night, but this group didn’t seem to be doing much of anything. One would occasionally leave its perch, and fly off over the frozen ponds, but either it or another would soon return. There obviously wasn’t a lot of hunting going on.

   The refuge road was in pretty good shape. There were a few puddles from melting snow, but the snow itself was going fast. Greg had been wondering if the road beyond the refuge would be passable for his sedan, if he wanted to take the quicker route to Pocatello some time. He drove as far as the Bowen ranch. The road was almost as good as on the refuge, and he didn’t see any evidence that anybody had driven to the refuge gate since Fish and Game left. Past the Bowens’, the road was a little more rutted from use, but still looked okay for his car. He returned to headquarters, ate lunch, and settled down to read. He fell asleep fairly quickly, and didn’t wake until the cabin had grown dark in early evening. He roused himself enough to eat a quick meal of soup and sandwich, and take a brisk stroll around the headquarters area. Even with his long afternoon nap, he found he was ready to go to bed fairly early.

   When he awoke Monday morning, his mind was filled with what had obviously been a dream he had been having. It surprised him because most of his dreams (and he didn’t think he dreamed very often) were hodgepodges of mixed characters and situations, only partially remembered and seldom making any sense. This one was not only lucid, but amounted to a complete narrative. He thought he could remember every scene, and every event.

   It began like someone was telling him a story about something that happened – apparently, there on the refuge – 100 years earlier. A party, perhaps Indians or perhaps pioneers, had camped for the night. In the morning, a young girl was missing. They looked for her a long time, but found no trace, and finally moved on without her. In the dream, it seemed clear that there wasn’t any confusion about whether the girl was Indian or White. It was just that there were two stories that had survived about the incident.

   Apparently, the story was almost forgotten until a young man felt compelled to look for the girl. He camped about where she had camped, and the next morning he was gone. When friends came to look for him, they found his campsite, but no sign of him. Like the girl, he had vanished.

   The dream jumped ahead to the present, and Greg found that he was now part of the story. He didn’t get the impression that he had known the story, or that he was purposely looking for either the boy or the girl. He just saw himself climbing around the rimrock, and finding the entrance to a cave. He went inside – and woke up!

   Through breakfast, then checking the weather station, he couldn’t get the dream out of his head. It was so well formed, he started to wonder if perhaps he had heard a similar story sometime. When Chuck arrived, he asked him if perhaps there was some similar local lore.

   “Nothing I ever heard of,” Chuck replied. “It seems unlikely a wagon train would have come through here. Most of them followed pretty close along the river, the California travelers splitting off at Raft River, and those bound for Oregon continuing down the Snake. I don’t know about Indian routes or encampments. I never remember hearing about any near here.

   “That’s quite a dream.”

   “Yeah, it’s kind of stuck in my head, because my dreams are never that organized, and real-feeling.”

   With the Saturday mail and the usual Monday morning paper work, both Chuck and Greg were able to keep busy through the morning. Mike arrived with a little more business mail. She reported that even most of the side roads were now snow and ice free.

   “Also, the weather forecast is for a real heat wave over the next few days – low temperatures only in the mid-20s, and highs maybe up to 45 or so! Also, if the forecast is correct, storm tracks are supposed to stay well north of us through next weekend, with maybe only a few rain or snow showers. That would be a nice change. All this ‘through wind and rain, snow, floods, fires, etc.’ is nice as a slogan, but calm weather and clear roads are the mail deliverer’s dream.”


   After lunch, Chuck brought up the school break and his tentative plan to go somewhere with Alice. “Your California trip is definitely off then, and you and Vic can be here with Mandy?”

   “Definitely. Do you have a particular time in mind? I’m not sure when Vic is finished with her school work. Final exams go through Friday, the 28th, but I’m not sure that Vic has any that late. She may be able to leave school earlier than that. I need to ask her.”

   Chuck took a few moments to think. “I haven’t planned anything definite, and of course I haven’t even mentioned the possibility to Allie. If we were to say Sunday night, and maybe Monday, would that work?”

   “I think that would work, whenever Vic’s last day is. She doesn’t have to be back at school until Thursday, so that leaves you a little flex, as to the actual days you go.”

   Chuck took a deep breath. “Okay, I guess I need to do some actual planning. We’ll still keep this from the girls for a while, okay?”


   They had dinner together, and played a couple games of checkers. Chuck won both games, but his heart didn’t seem to be it in.

   “This is pretty bad, isn’t it?” he offered.

   “What, my checkers playing? I didn’t think it was any worse than usual.”

   Chuck laughed. “You’re right, it’s just the usual ‘average bad.’ No, I was thinking about winter here at the refuge. It’s going to be long and boring. I wish there was something more for us to do, but there isn’t. This is – at best – a one man station in winter.”

   Greg stood up, and walked around the room a bit. “Vic and I talked about this over Christmas break. It must have been really hard for you some years. I could imagine you – or me, or anybody – going a little stir crazy. I was thinking that maybe the only way you’ve been able to stick it out was because you had your family here with you.”

   “I suppose that’s true. There wasn’t any work to do, but at least I had somebody here with me, as a support group. I suppose with Allie and Mandy in town, I would have been in big trouble. You’re my surrogate ‘family,’ now, keeping me from going insane. Unfortunately, that means that now there are two of us with nothing to do but keep each other company.”

   Greg sat down, again. “You know, the reason Vic and I started talking about this is because Mac had floated the idea of me staying on through next winter, after you were gone. I couldn’t do it – not by myself, and maybe not even with somebody else. I’ve never been exposed to this kind of winter, and I’m already finding it pretty wearing. I had kept Mac’s idea in the back of my mind because it would have been one way to keep myself fairly close to Vic through the next school year. It wouldn’t have worked, and Vic told me plainly that wasn’t a good enough reason to even consider it. She was right.

   “What I wondered about is if there really needs to be a manager here from December through February. Fish and Game handles the hunting, pretty much without our help, and there’s really nothing else that goes on, is there? Maybe an assistant manager from one of the bigger refuges – one without school-age kids – could be brought in from spring through fall, then go back to his ‘home’ refuge for the winter? Having somebody like Tim check the area once or twice a week would likely be adequate to detect any problems.”

   “No, I’ve never talked to Mac about anything like that. It does seem like it might have possibilities. A  key reason Mac had the idea of you staying here as ‘acting’ manager was so he didn’t have to fill the slot permanently for a while. He never has enough authority to fill all the positions he’d like to. We should talk to him about it.”



Monday evening, Jan. 10

   This is just a quick note, Vic, so I can send it off with Mike tomorrow. It’s still almost three weeks before you’re finished with school. I would love to see you before then, but it doesn’t look very possible right now. As an alternative, I wondered what you would think of me coming to Pocatello at the start of your break, and us spending a night together before we bring you home? It looks like real time alone – just you and me – might be difficult during the school break, and I would love a free night together. If that sounds good/interesting/wonderful/delicious/fantastic – or any similar descriptions – I need to know when you are actually finished with school. I know that finals last into Friday, but I suspect you might be finished and free before then?

   Your dad and I had a long talk this evening about winter here, and the lack of work. Even going into town on weekends, not having his family here is already getting to him – and he realizes how hard it must be on me, combining the ‘no work’ with the fact that I am not a winter person. We’re going to talk to Mac about possible staffing alternatives for the future.

   I went back out Sunday, and saw the owl roost again. I’m used to seeing owls mostly in ones and twos. This is a new experience for me.

   That’s it for now. I’ll make sure Mike takes this with her in the morning. I love you a lot. Greg.


   It wasn’t very late when he finished his note to Vic, but Greg felt tired enough to go to bed right then. He went immediately to sleep, and didn’t wake until about six Tuesday morning. As soon as his brain began to function, he realized that he’d had another dream. Not only that, the very vivid – and in some ways very provocative – dream was a seamless connection to the dream of the previous night. The first thing he remembered was him stepping into the cave that he had just stepped into at the end of Dream One.

   As his memory of the dream unfolded, he saw that he found the missing young man, looking well and just like he would have 100 years before. The man didn’t seem surprised to see him, and immediately told Greg that he found the girl. He directed Greg’s gaze in a certain direction, and – although they were still in the cave – he could see the girl standing in a tall grass meadow, enlivened by wildflowers. Like the man, she looked the age she was when she disappeared. She could have been an Indian – she had long, flowing, black hair – but he couldn’t be sure. She was obviously naked, although the tall grass hid most of her from view.

   In the dream, Greg’s immediate thought was about how awful it must be to see her for 100 years, but not be able to communicate or touch. The young man assured him that they “talked” all the time, and knew each other better than most other couples every had. The only thing they hadn’t been able to do was actually be together. They had been waiting for the means for that to happen. Greg asked what that “means” was, and a voice in his ear whispered “you.”

   He turned to see the naked girl beside him. His physical need for her – he felt it in real time, even as he remembered the dream! – overwhelmed him. He couldn’t touch her, and yet she responded as if he had. He was elated, but at the same time miserable at his lustful, traitorous feelings toward this young man’s 100-year old love. His conflict seemed to threaten to pull him right out of the dream, when the girl beside him whispered “I’m not her.” He looked, and saw the one girl still in the meadow, and another beside him. He was suddenly very happy. And he woke up!

   Greg sat on the edge of his bed, unable to shake the dream from his mind. He finally made himself get moving, but he went through the day pretty much in a trance. He ate dinner with Chuck, but excused himself early, and went back to his house. He didn’t know what he had told Chuck about why he was retiring so soon. His brain told him it was silly to go to bed so early. It also told him that the serial dream he was having was pretty much impossible. Just as surely, he knew there was more of the dream to come.

   The dream started right where it had ended, with him sitting next to one of the naked girls – who he now realized was Vic! She explained that all Greg had to do was stand between the boy and the girl – easier in a dream than it would have been in reality! – and let them kind of flow through him. It worked, and the last he saw of them was them together in the meadow, clearly enjoying each other’s physical company.

   The dream wasn’t quite over, but the scene had changed. He and Vic were standing together on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Both were naked. He woke at that point – confused by the ending, but certain that it was indeed the end of the dream. Obviously, he hadn’t been asleep very long, but he felt he needed to get up and write down everything he could remember. He thought Vic would find it interesting.



Friday evening, Jan. 14

Hi Greg,

  I also am very sorry that we can’t get together sooner, but I am all those adjectives – and many more! – eager to spend a night with you before we take me home. As you guessed, I don’t have a final on Friday, so you could pick me up at the dorm any time that afternoon, and we could escape these prison walls.

   Actually, these walls are far from prisony. If I have to be away from you, this is a pretty nice environment. I don’t think any of my finals are going to be terribly hard, but they cover enough ground that I’m making sure I study everything.

   What you told me about the arm band incident was interesting. I haven’t had a chance to check our library yet, but I know they get newspapers from all over, so I might be able to see one from Iowa. It really, really sounds like a bad decision by the school board.

   I’m glad you and Daddy are sharing your tales of winter woes. I assume that, even if Mac didn’t make you a firm offer, you will “turn him down” at some point. That might make a good time to talk about alternate ways to handle future winters, too – also, maybe to open the door about possible Regional Office positions?

   All my love to you, my lovely lover. Vic.


      The next two weeks acted like they would last forever for both Greg and Chuck. At least, the weather was mostly dry and not overly cold.  For the first time since freeze up, there were a few birds around headquarters: mountain chickadees, Oregon juncos, song sparrows, and some Brewer’s blackbirds. Greg took that as a hopeful sign that winter wasn’t going to last forever.

   When the long range weather forecast seemed to offer no problems with Greg driving to -nd from Pocatello, he sent a note to Vic, confirming his arrival on Friday, January 28.

   Chuck had made preliminary plans for a trip to Boise, and filled Alice in on the details. She was pleased and excited. The plan was to leave on Sunday, January 30, and stay one or two nights, depending on how the mood struck them. They decided not to announce the trip until Vic and Greg arrived on Saturday.


   Greg left early on Friday, the 28th. He took the road through the refuge which, as he had hoped, was easily navigated by his sedan. It was a partially sunny day, with daytime temperatures eventually reaching about 40 degrees. Flocks of tree sparrows and snow buntings were moving in the upland areas, another good sign of changes to come.

   He collected Vic at her dorm and, after a brief chat with Mrs. McPherson, checked into the motel. They ordered a pizza delivered from the good restaurant they had visited previously. They talked through the afternoon, just enjoying being back together.

   Toward evening, Greg brought out some papers. “I had a very strange event happen a couple weeks ago. I wanted to tell you about it, but I wanted to be with you when I did. Therefore, I wrote you a letter, but didn’t send it. Do you want to read it?”

   “Yes. No! Wait. Am I going to like it?”

   “I think so. It’s certainly interesting, in a number of ways.”

   “Then, why don’t you read it to me, as if you were just writing it. Then, I can listen very intently, maybe even close my  eyes to better take it in.”

   “Are you sure? Okay, here goes. I wrote it as a letter, so the whole explanation is included.


Wednesday morning, Jan. 5. (“As I said, I wrote this immediately, so I wouldn’t forget anything.”)

 Hi Vic,  

   Do you remember our talk about how I thought I would probably go crazy if I had to spend a winter here alone?  Well, I’m not alone, because your dad has been here with me, but I think I’m getting a taste of what “alone” might bring. I want to tell you about it while it’s fresh in my mind (although I’m not sure it will ever be not fresh in my mind!)

   I’ve had a dream three nights straight. It’s not a recurring dream; it’s a serial dream, that starts up exactly where it ended on the previous night. In Episode One, I learned a story about a girl – young woman – who disappeared while on what was pretty obviously our refuge. There seem to be two versions of who the girl was. One says she was an Indian, who camped overnight with her family. The other is that she was the daughter of pioneers who passed through the area in the 1860s. Whichever it was, she was in camp when everyone went to sleep, but had disappeared by morning. A long search of the area didn’t yield any clues to her whereabouts, and her party eventually moved on.

   Apparently, the story was well-known at the time. Well, in the dream, I mean, not in real life. Since it was just about a missing girl, and there was no buried treasure, loot from a train robbery, or other attraction, it was soon forgotten by almost everyone. One exception: a young man heard the tale, and felt a strange compulsion to search for her. He camped overnight, probably very close to where she had camped, and began searching the next morning. He disappeared. Friends found his campsite, and looked for him, but – like the girl – there was no trace of him.

   As is often the case with dreams, I’m not sure how I learned of this story. I don’t think that I had any intention of following up on it, but my next dream recollection was of scrambling over the rimrock, and stumbling on the entrance to a cave. I went inside – and woke up!


   “This part of the dream was so realistic, that I asked your dad if it could be some true story that I’d heard about. He said he’d never heard anything like it and, while Indians might have camped here, all the pioneers would have been down closer to the river. I told your dad about that first dream; I didn’t tell him the rest of the story. Anyway, I’ll continue the letter.”


   The dream was very vivid to me, and I wondered what had precipitated it, but I thought that it was just a one-time dream, and just a strange curiosity. What a surprise the next night when, in dreams, I found myself just entering the cave that I had just entered the previous night.

   Episode Two. As I said, it seemed to me from the start that my dream was taking place here on the refuge. A “cave” here would have been either a split between two lava flows, or a lava tube, a natural opening through which lava has flowed. It didn’t seem to bother me that the cave I was entering in my dream was a vast limestone cavern, with stalactites and stalagmites. Not only was it a wonder in its own right, it also was uniquely and beautifully colored with exquisite tints and washes. Also – although it was happening too quickly for me to be sure of what I was seeing – it seemed like I was glimpsing vistas of mountains and meadows and forests and streams. How that could occur underground, I didn’t know, but it didn’t seem to bother me.

   I wandered through the caverns for some time, in vast rooms and then in narrow passageways. I had no appreciation of how long I had spent, when I came into a smaller chamber, and saw a man sitting there. I knew who he was, immediately. He seemed about my age, but I knew I had to add about 100 years to that. He seemed fine, although he didn’t move from his seat along one wall. When he saw me, he smiled, as if he had been expecting me.

   “I found her,” he said, pointing behind me.

    I sat beside him, so I could look where he was looking. It should have amazed me - but in the dream it didn’t seem to – to find we were looking at an outdoor scene of a grassy prairie, clothed in abundant wildflowers, with snow-streaked hills in the background. In the foreground was a young girl, with long black tresses trailing down her back. Apparently, she was naked, although the tall prairie grass hid most of her from view. She waved, and the man beside me returned the salute.

   “She’s there every day, without fail. We know each other well by now, although this is as close as we can get to one another.”

   “That must be so sad for you both – to be so close, yet never converse, never touch.”

   “Oh, no, we converse every day. Not from mouth to ear, but from heart to heart. I know all about her, and she knows all about me. There are probably few couples in the world who are as familiar with one another as we are. What we’ve been waiting for all these years is the one connection that will bring us bodily together.”


   “So, what do you think of my dream, so far?

   “I think you should keep reading.”

   “It does get pretty interesting.”


   He said they had been waiting all those years for the one connection that would bring them bodily together.

   “What is that connection?” I asked, and I heard a whisper in my ear. “You.”

   I turned, and found she was sitting close beside me. She seemed a little older than she had seemed in the field, Her hair was dark, but wasn’t ebony, after all. The hair that had appeared  straight had a definite curl, difficult to miss as it flowed around her firm, naked breasts. I was shocked to feel a traitorous desire to cup the breasts of the man’s 100-year love in my hands, and to kiss them tenderly. I found my hands wouldn’t move toward her, but still she parted her lips and sighed as if I had indeed touched her. Racked by guilt, but unable to stop myself, I imagined my hands traveling down her chest, across her abdomen and waist, to the darkness surrounding her thighs. She arched her back and raised her hips, as if seeking to meet with my imaginary hands. I couldn’t reach or see beyond, but I imagined a churning wellspring of seeing, meeting, learning, awareness, liking, loving, passion, satisfaction, deep contentment and understanding. In my misery for having such thoughts about someone else’s dream, I thought I heard children’s laughter, but nothing more. I was both elated and devastated.


   “Are you still with me?”

   “How could I not be? Get on with it, Greg!”


   Well, as I read to you, I was feeling both wonderful and horrible at that point.  Then, I heard a voice in my ear. “I’m not her.” I looked up to see the vision of the wildflower prairie. The girl was still there. She smiled, and waved. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to contain the joy that I felt at that moment.

   And then I woke up.


   “Oh, come on, Greg. That’s not fair.”

   “There’s obviously more coming.”


   I don’t know how I got through that day. All I could think about was getting back to the dream. I couldn’t stay in the office, so spent much of the day driving the refuge roads, seeing nothing even if there had been anything to see. Your dad and I ate dinner together, and he wanted to play checkers. I lost two games even quicker than I usually do, and excused myself early. I went straight to bed, and closed my eyes.

   Episode Three began where it had ended the night before. One girl beside me, one girl in the meadow. A feeling of unrivalled happiness on my part. The girl beside me speaking.

   “They’ve been waiting 100 years for someone to come – someone who has experienced deep, fully absorbing love. It happens that you were not only the first person to find them, but you were also exactly the person they need.”

   “What can I possibly do for them? I have experienced the kind of love you describe, but how do I use it?”

   “You become the bridge to transfer their very essences to one another. You take her with your one hand, and him with your other. You don’t need to do anything but let the power flow through you, and wish them well. They’ve waited long enough.”

   I didn’t see how I could possibly stretch enough to hold them both, but it worked. I felt a tremendous burst of energy, and then they were gone. Before the view of the meadow faded away, I saw them together. Both were naked, now. He picked her up in his arms, and spun her around. The picture had almost completely disappeared, but I saw them both wave toward me, before they settled into the long prairie grass out of my sight.

   The picture changed. You and I were together. I knew it had been you in the cave with me – I couldn’t possibly feel that way about anyone else, in dreams or in reality. We were both naked, your body as spectacular as I always see it. I looked down at my own form, and had to laugh. “I have never looked this good!” I exclaimed. You turned toward me, pressed your body tightly into mine, and kissed me long and tenderly. “I always see you this way,” you said. “I’ll always see you this way.”

   You turned away from me again, and we stood side by side on a high bluff looking out over the ocean. Behind us was a forest of tall conifers, in front a grassy meadow dominated by blue lupines, bright red-orange Indian paintbrush, and other showy wildflowers. The sun was sinking rapidly toward the water, and for a few moments the sky was painted with great swatches of purple, orange, yellow and red. Just as the ocean swallowed the sun in a quick burst of green, I thought I heard the giggles of children, again.

   You took my hand, and gave it an extra squeeze. “I suppose we should put on some clothes before we put the kids to bed,” you said.

   And I woke up.


   He put down the letter. Vic was very quiet beside him. “What did you think?” he asked.

  “I’m pondering it,” she said. “Could you re-read a couple of passages for me? Start in the second dream where I first appear beside you.”

   Greg picked up the letter. “I turned, and found her sitting close beside me. Is that where you meant?”

   “A little farther, something about my hair.”

   “The hair that had appeared  straight had a definite curl, difficult to miss as it flowed around her firm, naked breasts. I was shocked to feel a traitorous desire to cup the breasts of the man’s 100-year love in my hands, and to kiss them tenderly. I found my hands wouldn’t move toward her, but still she parted her lips and sighed as if I had indeed touched her.

  He stopped, and looked at her.

  “Go on, read the next part.”

  “Racked by guilt, but unable to stop myself, I imagined my hands traveling down her chest, across her abdomen and waist, to the darkness surrounding her thighs. She arched her back and raised her hips, as if seeking to meet with my imaginary hands. I couldn’t reach or see beyond, but I imagined a churning wellspring of seeing, meeting, learning, awareness, liking, loving, passion, satisfaction, deep contentment and understanding. In my misery for having such thoughts about someone else’s dream, I thought I heard children’s laughter, but nothing more. I was both elated and devastated.”

   Vic turned so she was part way on his lap, and put her arms around his neck. “And then I said, I’m not her.”

   She didn’t say anymore. “So, what do you think?” he asked, again.

   She got up. “I think the same thing I hope you’re thinking. It’s time for bed.”

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