Thursday night, Dec. 2

Hi Greg,

    Mandy tells me that I just missed talking to you, when I called tonight to wish her “happy birthday”. Drat! I would have loved to hear your voice.

   Obviously, the charm bracelet was a good pick. She seems to love it (and you).

   I got your letter with the suggestion you pick me up at school, and take me to the refuge for a couple days before going into town. That sounds lovely to me, but are we sure that Daddy isn’t going to be working that Monday? Even if he is, you could take me into town Sunday night, and we’d still have two nights and most of two days by ourselves. Anyway, let’s plan on the “you picking me up part,”  and we can figure out the rest, later.

   Also in the “figure it out later” category, I’m sorry that the California trip won’t work out like we planned. We’ll have to give it some more thought when we get together.

   I bet there was dead silence on the phone line for a few seconds after your mom asked if we were sleeping together. I would have liked to have been there to see your reaction! Anyway, it’s nice to get that particular situation clarified before we arrive there. I know we don’t have to share a bed every time we’re together – you slept on my parents’ couch a couple nights without me – but I know you don’t sleep well, and you undoubtedly wake up grumpy if you don’t have my warm body near you on all possible occasions. Also, you try to make up for the “lost” nights by making our next times together even more interesting than usual. (Which, by the way, I don’t mind, at all!)

   Nothing much to report on the return to school. Classes about the same. We’ve been fairly warm during the day (got up to 50 one day!), with mostly clear skies, but extra cold at night – 10 degrees Monday, when it normally would have been about 20! Miss South Carolina is probably basking in a humid 80 degrees, or something!

   I thought calling Mandy tonight was my priority. Otherwise, I would have gone to a meeting sponsored by the Young Democrats. It was a panel discussion, titled “The Political Rights of Students.” Our librarian, Dr. Oboler, was on the panel, along with Dr. Johnson – an economics professor I haven’t met yet – and a couple of State politicians. The title was interesting, but nothing I saw gave a clue as to what was actually going to be discussed. Dr. Oboler is well-known for his stands against censorship and for free speech. I imagine the meeting will be well covered in the student newspaper, so I’ll probably have more to tell you, later.

   That’s all for now. I’ll mail this in the morning. I love you. (Duh!)




Sunday morning, Dec. 5

Hi Vic,

   I’m sorry I haven’t written this past week. There wasn’t a lot to say. You know that I had birthday cake with Mandy and your folks on Thursday, and gave her the charm bracelet. It seemed to be a hit. I went back into town for her party on Saturday, and that’s when I learned that I just missed your phone call Thursday. I feel bad about that; chatting with you for a minute would have felt very good to me.

   I saw Tim at the party. He’s decided not to work the sugar campaign, and to devote his time to helping his parents. He seems to be doing okay. Word on Rusty is that he is still “training;” no word on when he might go to war.

   Your dad gave me a crash course on surviving an Idaho winter. He explained what our weather would probably be like, and how that would affect the roads. He taught me how to put chains on my car (which I had never done before!), and also helped me put the snow plow blade on the Fordson. When we get a little snow on the ground, he will show me how to actually operate it. Being a California boy who has never experienced real “winter,” I have some trepidations, but I think his help and explanations are a good start.

   Oh, I thought of one other thing that happened. After my conversation with your dad about our water rights, I was interested to see the actual source of our water supply. One morning, I hiked up to our northwest corner, and saw where the creek empties into the refuge. It’s a fairly sizeable stream. Also, it’s in an interesting little canyon, with various trees and shrubs, that might turn out to be a good “dicky bird” spot next spring.

   I haven’t had a letter from you yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I got one tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it, whenever it comes.

   Your impatient lover, Greg.



Sunday afternoon, Dec. 5

   I’ve had a couple of interesting days, the details of which I thought I would share with you while they are fresh in my mind.

   First, I stopped in the student union Friday afternoon, to get a Pepsi, and heard someone call my name. It was Matt, and he was there with Dr. Fichter, taking a coffee break. They invited me to join them, which I did. I told them what you told me about how your interest in birds developed. Matt seemed surprised that there wasn’t some person or event that you could point to. Dr. Fichter thought it was probably pretty common for something to grab our attention for no particular reason, then develop into a deep interest. As we grow up, he said, a lot of things capture our imagination – “take our fancy,” I thought was a nice phrase. Many “fancies” may be of only fleeting interest, some may develop into hobbies, and some may become the stuff of lifelong careers. The career makers may turn out to be complete surprises within your family, with your friends, and with you.

   One thing that surprised me is that Dr. Fichter isn’t really a bird man. Well, he likes birds, and is interested in their occurrences and distribution, but it’s kind of incidental to his other biology interests. In college in Nebraska, he studied the insects and other little animals that lived in the prairie soil. Then, he studied coyotes for quite a while. I guess the coyote interest actually began for him because hunters were claiming that coyotes were eating all the pheasants. (It reminded me of the fishermen blaming “our” gulls for eating all their fish.) His coyote study was an attempt to find out what they actually were eating. He spent a lot of time hiding near coyote dens, and watching what was going on.  He talked about watching the young coyotes – kits – playing around outside their den, while the parents were off hunting. Some of those observations were a lot of fun, I bet – well, they certainly would have been for me.

   There was a lot more to the food study than just watching. They examined what was in coyote poop, and I guess looked to see what was in the stomach of coyotes they killed. They found that coyotes do eat pheasants, but they also eat other birds, mammals, insects, fruit – just about anything you could name. Mice, gophers and rabbits were by far their most important foods.

   Since Dr. Fichter came to Idaho about 15 years ago, most of his study has been of large mammals, particularly  pronghorn antelope. Oh, did you know that pronghorn antelopes aren’t really antelopes – I mean, like the antelopes in Africa? Apparently there are a lot of differences between our “antelope” and the African species– biologically, I guess they aren’t even very closely related. But then, Dr. Fichter explained that their habits are a lot alike, and that our pronghorns are filling the same “niche” in America as the antelopes do on the other continents. I didn’t quite understand “niche,” so he told me about vultures – the birds that eat dead things, that are the animal clean-up crews. In North and South America, we have what are called “buzzards” – turkey vultures and such – and also the larger condors. The “vultures” of Africa and Asia look very similar to ours, and do the same disposal work, but they are apparently more closely related to eagles and hawks than they are to “our” vultures. In other words, they are very different species filling the same “niche” in the different countries. I think I get it.

   I wish you could have been there. I loved it, and I was certainly an interested listener. I’m beginning to think that I’m more of a “science girl” than I have considered myself. But you would have been able to join right in with the conversations, giving and taking. I got to thinking you must really miss that part of your college days – being able to share with people who have the same backgrounds and interests. That’s almost impossible for you to do now, isn’t it?


Sunday evening

 It’s still Sunday. I took a break to do some other things, but I really wanted to tell you about my second “adventure” this past week. We “girls” haven’t been doing our church hopping lately, because of all the holiday plans. However, yesterday I was by myself in our common area, when two Mormon women came in. I know them both by name, but had never really talked to them, and didn’t know for sure that they were Mormons. We had a good visit.

   I didn’t want to get into the controversial stuff – well, you know me. I really did, but it didn’t seem like the way to start out. They knew about the church visits, so I just told them that I hadn’t been raised in any kind of church, and I was just looking around, seeing what the various ones were like. They were happy to share something about their religion with me.

   They said that the elders - their leaders - didn’t really didn’t like their organization to be called the Mormon Church. Mormon is the name of the man who is supposed to have written the Book of Mormon, their second kind of bible, so he is “important.” They just don’t want him to be the main character. One of the women also said that they thought the elders didn’t like the name used because of the  association with the church’s old practice of the men having multiple wives. That doesn’t occur anymore, but it still gives the church a bad name.

    Speaking of having multiple wives, I don’t understand that. What could Mormon men have done to deserve such a terrible punishment? All those wives constantly fighting and bickering about whose turn it is to make breakfast, who minds the kids, who does the shopping – and, of course, who sleeps with who tonight? That might be what Hell is really like.

   If we had been a Mormon couple when the polygamy decision was made, I think you would have had to resign. I can picture your speech before the bishop. “Well, sir, I don’t question God giving us this obligation, but it’s just too much for me. I have one wife that I love dearly, but she keeps me busy 24 hours a day. She runs me ragged with her needs and desires. A second, third, or fourth wife would drive me to a nervous breakdown. I think I need to find a less strenuous religion.”

   Well, moving along: the official name is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is pretty cumbersome for general usage. For a while, the elders referred to themselves as The Church, which sounds pretty uppity and like they thought they were better than any other churches. I think they tried The Saints, which seems just about as bad – like, the rest of Church-dom aren’t saints! I guess Latter Day Saints is the approved name, but my women say that most all “Mormons” just call themselves Mormons, like everybody else does. They know who they are!

   I asked if they had a Sunday service, and they do. It sounds a little different than the churches I've been to. They start out with a greeting from the bishop, then a hymn. (I don’t know if their hymns are the same ones that the other church people would be familiar with.) One of the congregation says an opening prayer, and then they take up any church business – blessing new babies, welcoming visitors, and such. Then, they have what is called the sacrament, where they pass out little bits of bread and water to all the people present. I guess this has a religious meaning – like the crackers and wine that some churches use to represent the body and blood of Jesus – but we didn’t really talk about that, just that it was the next thing in the service. The morning service closes with prepared talks by members of the church, I guess these are like the sermon in some other churches.

   All of that takes about an hour, and then they have two hours of various Sunday schools for the different age groups. Here’s kind of an interesting part: the men go off to be trained for religious duties, while the women learn to do good deeds. That’s probably a little simplistic on my part, but that’s how it sounds. Women can’t be priests in the Mormon Church; the men do all the mystical, religious stuff. The women all belong to what they call the Relief Society, where the women take care of the worldly needs of the members. It doesn’t seem to bother the women I talked to – they don’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with that set-up. Since the father is head of the family, why wouldn’t he be the heavenly head of the church, as well?

   I’d like to know a lot more about the Mormons – like how the average Mormon feels about Negroes, or how they justified polygamy and why they stopped – even, why they’re specifically against caffeine. This obviously wasn’t the time or place for those kind of questions, but I kind of got the feeling that those weren’t questions that would have been particularly meaningful at any time. I’m left with the impression – which, I admit, might be wrong – that the Mormon Church isn’t   very “religious” for the average Mormon. It’s more kind of a big family that helps one another, and does everything together, and they let the men priests worry about the God-type stuff.

   I am curious to know what they actually talk about at their Sunday meetings. What hymns do they sing? What do they pray about? Are the “speeches” that are given by members of the congregation like religious sermons, or what? I may have to go one Sunday just to satisfy my curiosity.

   Reading back over what I’ve written, it seems to me to be a very odd letter. I haven’t said I love you once (I do), and I haven’t talked about spending Christmas with you, or about discussing our future plans (both subjects to which I am really looking  forward). But I know that you know me, and you will know that these two meetings were very much on my mind, and I very much wanted to share them with you. I’ll get to the lovey stuff next time.

  I have lots of that for you. Stay tuned!




Wednesday evening, Dec. 8

Hi Vic,

  I have both of your letters, now. You had an interesting time your first week back at school. Thanks for giving me all the details. As for your not including a lot of the lovey-dovey stuff, I’m expecting quite a bit of that in person in a little over a week.

   I talked to your dad about his plans for Christmas week. He doesn’t expect to come in at all, so I guess we can do whatever we want during that time. I’ll make sure we have plenty of food on hand, and we can kind of play it by ear.

   Did you hear anything more about the political rights of students? That sounds like an interesting topic. With the panel coming right after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, it may have had to do with  the federal voting age being reduced from 21 to 18, which potentially means that younger students have a legal right to say whatever they want, politically. I say “potentially,’ because I don’t think any state has yet followed the federal law, and dropped their voting age to 18.

   Mormonism. Yes, I’m curious about the things you mention, and also some others that I’ve only just “heard about.” For instance, do Mormons really do ceremonial baptisms for people who are already dead? If so, why? And I heard somewhere – a long time ago; in school, I guess -  that Mormons weren’t “Christian,” even though they believe in Jesus, because they don’t think Jesus was actually God – you know, God being father, son and holy spirit  - all the same “person.”. As I recall – and I may not be remembering this correctly – is that they think he is a son of God, but a human who got married and had a family of his own. So, more of a prophet, like Joseph Smith? I don’t know. I’m just curious, like you, since we live in what is pretty much a Mormon community, and we should know a little about our neighbors.

   Your thought that I would have left the Mormon Church because of polygamy is correct, but your reasons aren’t. When I first heard of it, I would have gone directly to the bishop, and told him that either the order wasn’t from God, or the church leaders had misunderstood the order. “Sir,” I would have said, “This sounds very much like macho exploitation, fully at the expense of girls and women. Someone is trying to legitimize sexual sin by calling it a new heavenly revelation.” After I said that, I’m sure I wouldn’t have had to resign. I would have been quickly shown to the door.

   But I would have had more to say, before I left. “Sir, I have a wife. I love her dearly, above all others. We satisfy all of each other’s needs – emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and sexual. I don’t have any need for any other “wives.” I intend to sleep exclusively with this one for as long as we both shall live. And if there’s some kind of “heaven” afterward, then hopefully we’ll continue on there, too.” That would have got me not only out the door, but off the premises.

   Finally, about your talk with the biologists. I wasn’t jealous – well, actually, I was – but most of all I was just kind of sad. What you described was what I think of as the best part of college life. There was always somebody to talk to – or argue with – about something important to you. We weren’t all interested in the same things – some liked deer, others liked ducks, still others butterflies, dickybird lovers, etc., etc., etc. – but it was all about similar things that all fit together at some level. We learned from each other, we taught each other, and a lot of times we just brainstormed – traded ideas. The class time was important, the teachers added a lot, the books we read were a bonus, but it was the group sessions that really made us who we turned out to be at graduation.

   I don’t know how you keep that spirit – or get it back – once you’re away from school. Most of us go from that environment out on our own – lucky if we have one or two like-minded people that we regularly associate with. I think most of us – not just refuge managers, but almost everybody in these situations – find ourselves far from professional support, in offices that are lucky to even have binoculars and a bird book.

   What are the alternatives? Go back to school for a higher degree, maybe eventually become a college professor? A Master’s degree, or a PhD, would certainly be a short-term fix, but then what? I think college professors get so entangled with internal politics – and just teaching others – that they don’t necessarily retain that spirit I’m talking about.

   The other possibility is working in a real research laboratory, or working with a team of researchers on some particular project. I know there are such possibilities, but… Well, I don’t need to tell you that I’m a little frustrated, trying to see our particular way forward.

   So, this letter is turning out like your last one – heavy-duty, with not much lovey-dovey stuff. But we know we’re a work in progress, so I guess we just get together (soon!) and continue to progress.

   I love you, Vic, and I’m glad we have each other.



Friday evening, Dec. 10

   Greg, you will never believe what I have been doing this week. Well, you will believe it, because I’m going to tell you all about it. I’ve been participating in a protest against the war!

   I was in class Wednesday morning, when we got word that a guy was staging a protest near the student union. He had an anti-war sign, and was beginning to attract a little crowd. When our class let out, some of us went over to see what was going on. Apparently, one guy had started the protest by himself, but by the time we got there, there were half a dozen sign carriers. One of the signs read “Mr. McNamara, good will toward men. Mr. Rusk, peace on earth.” Another said “Love thine Enemy.” A third had a longer thought: “Can those who are killed in a war for freedom ever be free?” All the signs were more of less along the same lines. Without too much thought, I grabbed one of the signs, and joined the protest!

   We eventually had about a dozen protestors, including two professors – Dr. Johnson, from the Sociology Department, and Dr. Keys from Philosophy. There must have been about 100 people watching us, including six or eight protesting our protest. One of that group was wearing camouflage clothing, and he waved matches and a gasoline can. I wasn’t sure what was intended by that, but nothing happened. Both teachers gave short talks. They were anti-war generally, but both also were of the opinion that the United States was the aggressor in Viet Nam. One thought the war was unconstitutional, because Congress hadn’t declared or approved it. Other than that, there wasn’t much interaction between our group and the crowd, and eventually things broke up.

   I missed my afternoon class, because some of us held a little impromptu meeting afterward. I almost earned a trip back to “tend to my knitting,” or whatever girls are supposed to do nowadays, while the men discuss the important stuff.  All I did was ask if the protest had been against war in general, against the Viet Nam War, or against the draft. One guy thought that was a stupid question, and suggested that I shouldn’t be there, if I didn’t know what I was protesting. However, another one came to my aid, saying that he’d heard my “protest” presentation in Speech Class, and thought I was legit. He almost ruined the effect by also noting that he’d noticed my great legs, but they still let me stay.

   Anyway, it turned out that this was pretty much a general peace rally, with no particular plans to follow up in any way. Nobody seemed particularly interested in the draft issue, which I thought was odd considering every guy there was probably draft-eligible. As my first protest, I thought it was probably pretty ineffective. I mean, how many in the crowd even knew who Mr. McNamara and Mr. Rusk were?

   There was a little follow-up. The school newspaper printed kind of an editorial, suggesting that wars were neither necessary nor inevitable, and that we should just learn to work out our differences peacefully. You can’t really argue with that, can you?

   Any kind of protest is so unusual around here that Governor Smylie felt the need to comment. He said he didn’t like it, but didn’t think that our little show was anything to worry about. The Commander of our local American Legion post was more forceful with his criticism, calling the students and faculty who participated in the demonstration irresponsible and immature, and said we were “eroding the morale” of those fighting for us in Viet Nam. He said that we’d had our chance to express our opinions in the last election, and once that was over, we should just let the elected Administration do their job. Of course, most of us most affected couldn’t vote in the last election! And once the election is over, the electees can do whatever they want? That isn’t the way I think it works!

   There was one kind of positive reaction. Dr. Davis, the college president, said that ISU had no “ground rules” about faculty or students being in demonstrations, as long as they didn’t block traffic or disturb the peace. I liked his quote in the paper: “Our society encourages free expression of opinion and assembly as long as it is peaceable.” I guess that sort of ties in with the question of what political rights students have.

  So, anyway, later I had a chance to talk to my Government professor about the demonstration, and about the lack of reaction to the draft. As we had already figured out, this was one of the first protests – maybe the actual first – held at ISU for any reason. I mentioned what Dr. Obermayr had said about there not being much protest on college campuses, in general. He agreed, but thought there was more to it in the case of Idaho. We might never see the big protests here, he said, because Idaho is such a conservative state, overall, and also because the ROTC has been so prominent on campus for so long. Then, he brought up another possible reason. Last October, the director of the draft program had issued a statement that all the protests against the Viet Nam War, including draft card burning and other resistance to the draft, had been a complete failure, as far as slowing down meeting military quotas. As his “proof” that most draft-age men weren’t among the trouble makers, he noted that only about 1 percent of the two million males with education deferrals were among the rabble rousers. Duh! If you’re already temporarily saved from the draft by being in school, are you going to do something that might get the rules changed? In fact, he said he hoped that local draft boards didn’t react to the trouble by cancelling deferments. Talk about a not so veiled threat!


   Another thing: you remember when LBJ added newly married men without children to the draft pool?  Apparently, that has caused a lot of negative reaction. To try to calm that down, Selective Service has said that, while those married men could now be called, they probably wouldn’t be, because – and this is pretty much a direct quote from the newspapers - “150,000 to 190,000 youths a month are coming to their 19th birthday, and this year about 2 million will reach the age of 18.” So, it’s “you wives are probably okay,” but “sorry mom and dad, your little boys are lined up to be the next wave of cannon fodder!” Oh, to make the matter a little bit worse: Despite the assurance from Selective Service that married men are “safe” for the time being,, the Defense Department has said that by early in 1966, “nearly all” states will be drafting married men under 26. Their quote from the October news story: “At least 12 states plan to start drafting married men without children in December.” Idaho is among those states.

  This is all getting really strange! We’re going to have a lot to talk about next week.

  Lots of love – Vic.


   The political scene stayed active at ISU through the next week. Following the December 8 anti-war demonstration, the Young Republican club began circulating a petition in support of the Administration’s actions in Viet Nam. According to the Pocatello newspaper, they quickly acquired 300 signatures. One of their stated reasons for the petition was “to show that the anti-war demonstration of last week gave voice to a minority view on the campus.”

   On December 15, a dozen anti-war demonstrators appeared at the Student Union, carrying signs opposing the petition and the war. No faculty showed up, and newspaper coverage suggested that not all the protesters were students. There was no counter protest, but (according to the news) “a crowd of about 50 persons gathered around the protesters, most of them opposing the views of the sign carriers.”

   Vic didn’t join in any of the activities, but followed them closely. There wasn’t time to get a letter to Greg before she saw him, but she would have plenty more to tell, in person.

   At the refuge, Greg received Vic’s letter about the first protest. There wasn’t time to write to her before they would be together, but he was certainly anxious to hear more details.

   School and work went on as usual, waiting for Christmas break.


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