Sunday morning, Nov. 14

Hi Love,

   It’s only 6 o’clock. I slept pretty well, but woke up early, and couldn’t get back to sleep, so thought I would write a little to my best girl (also, my only “girl”). I did go to town yesterday, and picked out a charm bracelet for Mandy, then went to your house for lunch. Your mom and dad had been out shopping, and came back with burgers and fries, so we all happily stuffed ourselves. Hurrah, again, for those Idaho potatoes!

   I like visiting with them. They – and you – are really becoming my family. The down side is that being with them makes me realize how much I miss being with you. I was restless when I got home last night, so I went out on the refuge and parked at our spot for a little while. It was pretty dark already when I got there, but I heard a flock of geese fly over, and a half-dozen or so coyotes put up a nice howl for me. I felt a little better after that, but wished we could have shared the experience.

   Shifting gears, I have something I want to talk to you about, but you’re not here. Still, it’s fresh on my mind right now, so I guess I’ll just imagine how it would be if you were available.

   I picture us sitting together – probably not on our steps, because this seems like a conversation for a couch, somewhere. So, here we are, side by side, warm and comfy. You sense I have something on my mind, but you don’t want to just barge in and ask me, so you create an introductory conversation.

   “What feature do you like best about me?” you ask. You don’t give me time to answer, because you seem to know what I’m about to say. “Not about my mind, or my intelligence. No girl wants to hear that. I want you to tell me what’s best about my body.”

   I pause a moment to collect my thoughts. “I think you’re wrong about girls not wanting to be known for their intelligence. You love it when I point out how brilliant you are, and I don’t think you’re the only female who feels that way. I think, while many women love to be appreciated for their looks, they would gladly be known as something other than sex objects. But that’s an aside. Right now, you want to be known for your body.

   “Okay, the best thing is your face.”

   “My face? You mean, my smile?”

   “Well, that’s part of it. Actually, you have half a dozen specific smiles - all a little different, but all delightful to behold. You also have several hundred other facial expressions that I admire. They’re a very attractive part of you. I think we’ve talked about this before. I love to just glance over at you while you’re talking, and watch everything you’re saying being punctuated by particular looks or gestures. I remember watching you and Mandy talk when we were up for the football game. I just sat back, and watched a fascinating, joyful conversation in your animated faces.

   “Of course, I haven’t said anything about your actual face. What can I say? Perfect eyes, perfect nose, perfect lips, perfect ears, perfect chin…”

   “Okay, okay. I get it,” you say, but with one of your smiles. “You like my face. What’s second best?”

   “There is no second best with you,” I protest, “But the next things I think of are legs. I have to admit that, since I first realized that boys and girls were different, I’ve always been a connoisseur of legs, the ultimate female attributes. I have admired some good ones in my time, but few that even come close to the perfection of yours. You may cover them with jeans or long dresses, but I know they’re there, and my mind tells me all kinds of stories about them – and the stories are all amazing, too.”

   You lean contentedly against me. “Face. Legs. What’s next?”

   “There is no next. The next is the whole package – body and brain, both marvelous and unique, combining to produce the most beautiful woman in the world.”

   You snort (but ladylike). “Come now, the most beautiful? I admit I look pretty good, but that’s love talking, not logic.”

   “Of course, it’s love talking,” I agree, “But think about it. Face far above average; legs far above average; intellect far above average; general physical construction, far above average. Can any woman beat that?”

   You snuggle a little closer to me. “Right now, I am prepared to believe every word you say. With you, I do feel like the most beautiful woman in the world.”

   We sit quietly for a few moments. “So,” you finally say, “What is it that you wanted to talk to me about?”

   I turn my head a little, to see you better. “Did I want to talk to you about something?”

   “Of course, you did. I could tell before we sat down, but I wanted to let you get ready to tell me. This last little bit was an ice-breaker.”

   I continue to look at your face in profile. “You know, when a big artist comes to give a concert, there is usually an act that comes on stage first, to kind of warm up the audience before the star appears. Sometimes, the warm-up act turns out to be better than the main feature.”

   “I didn’t know that,” you say, “Having never been to that kind of a concert. What’s your point?”

   “My point is that your warm-up was so much more interesting than what I was thinking about, that discussing it now would seem like anticlimax.”

   “I doubt that,” you say. “I think it is important.”

   “It is,” I agree, “But it isn’t anything terrible, or terribly urgent. It’s just some things I’ve been thinking about.”

   “Well, think about them out loud to me, now. I want to hear,” you urge me. So, I tell you what’s on my mind. It goes like this.

   “You know, from some of our other talks, that I’m not sure that wildlife refuge management is where I want my career – and our life, together – to go. After less than a year at a wildlife refuge – one that your dad says is not typical – I know it isn’t logical for me to sound like I’m an expert on the topic. Still, after looking through about 100 narrative reports from refuges all over the country, I’m getting a pretty definite feel for what’s in store.

   “This is what I’m seeing. (I said some of this in that last letter I sent to you.) With only a few exceptions, national wildlife refuges are managed for ducks and geese – areas for nesting waterfowl, for waterfowl stopping on migration, and for waterfowl spending the winter.  Part of this is because we have treaties with Canada and Mexico, pledging the three countries to work together to manage the waterfowl species that we share. That’s good, but I get the feeling that the main motive is to continue to provide ducks and geese for hunters to shoot. Hunters claim to be great conservationists – and they have proven it, through organizations like Ducks Unlimited, responsible for preserving a lot of wetland areas.  Still, I get the feeling that their ardor would cool significantly if they couldn’t hunt the waterfowl they were helping to preserve.

   “That sounds like I’m anti-hunting. I’m not. Although I’ve never been interested, I know a lot of nice people – your dad, included – who are. There are some bad sportsmen – just like there are some ‘bad’ somebodies anywhere you look – but, in general, I think waterfowl hunters are pretty good citizens. My concern is that the apparent fixation of the agency on providing hunting may be detracting from – may actually be harmful to – some other wildlife needs.

   “For example, I saw on one California refuge that they’d cut down a whole grove of trees, so geese would have more grazing land. It looked like trees were already in pretty short supply on that refuge. Was there some other species that really needed those particular trees, more than the geese needed more grazing land? Another example: on an East Coast refuge, they dredged all the cattails and bullrushes out of a marsh area, and deepened the pond so that diving ducks would have better habitat. Were there rails or wrens or blackbirds that really needed the shallow marsh? I bet nobody on either refuge thought about any harm they might be doing to other species. As I said in my last letter, that seems kind of sad, considering the vast number of other birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians – even plants and insects -  that must inhabit those areas. Some may really depend on those areas for survival  - or, if they don’t right now, they may need them in the future.

   “Besides just wondering if refuges are a good fit for me, there’s also my basic long-term preferences. I’ve always been a mountain and forest guy, not a sagebrush and marshland person. Maybe there’s something in the national parks or the national forests that would suit better for a career. And then, there may be some really exciting stuff coming up. Congress passed the Wilderness Act last year, which will mean that the National Park Service, Forest Service, and even Fish and Wildlife Service will be considering areas that will be permanently set aside without development. Congress has been talking about a ‘wild rivers’ bill for the past year, that would designate some streams to be preserved without dams or other developments along them. There’s also been talk about identifying some wildlife as endangered – possibly on the way to extinction – that might get extra protection and study in the future. It might be really exciting to get in on the ground floor of one of these new ventures.

   “And speaking of them, all are likely to be very controversial, as ‘sides’ develop over how large an area should be protected, what should be allowed or not allowed, what kind of protection do endangered species need, etc., etc. I just saw a news article the other day in which Senator Jordan was decrying the growing ‘extremist’ approach to all such actions – no middle ground – all or nothing. I’m sure I would disagree with the Senator on who he considered ‘extremist’ and what actions he considered ‘extreme,’ but he’s right that there will be many controversies. It would likely make for a very interesting life work for us, if you and I positioned ourselves to know how to work to resolve these controversies. I’m thinking that just planning for such possibilities might keep our first couple years of wedded bliss very exciting.”


   Now, I’ve sensed for some time that you were having a little trouble staying awake through my long soliloquy, and your lovely head was resting heavier and heavier on my shoulder. You seemed to revive a little when I said the words “wedded bliss,” but it was momentary. I got up off the couch to let you stretch out, covered you with a blanket, kissed you gently on your beautiful  forehead, said “I love you, Victoria Anderson,” and let you sleep. I think you heard enough for us to pick up this conversation again at a later date.

   Well, that’s how I imagined it, anyway.

Sunday night, Nov. 14

   I’m back, now. I spent a quiet day cleaning up around the house, listening to some football game on the radio (I don’t even know who was playing! – just company), and reading. It became obvious that I haven’t been doing much reading lately when I discovered I hadn’t read any of the John Le Carré spy novel - that I bought in September - since I started it on September 26! I finished it today. It was as intricate as the first one of his I read – and got a little bit confusing at times – but was quite satisfactory, overall.

   I don’t have anything special planned this week. I’ll probably go out to the check station just to see what’s going on, but we’re supposed to stay much milder than usual for this time of year (30s to 50!), with only a little bit of rain – if any. Consequently, the duck hunting should continue to be poor. I’ll do a little bit of bird counting, but things are pretty quiet now, and I don’t expect much change until we get a real weather change. I should also finish my checking of all the water controls. I guess after those chores, I’ll just sit around and wait for you to get home.

   I’ll send this tomorrow.  I love you.



Tuesday evening, Nov. 16

Hi Greg,

   I got your letter with all the farm news. I’m so glad you keep me up to date on the potato harvest, sugar beet processing, etc. It makes me feel like a real Idahoan.

   Our weather is much like yours, quite a bit warmer than it should be, with only a few sprinkles of rain now and then. I can understand why the duck hunters would be frustrated.

   I’m looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on our future with wildlife refuges. It sounds like you have been mulling it over, a lot.

   About the reduction in the draft call for next month: I know it really doesn’t change things very much, but I’m willing to accept anything that leans in a positive direction for us. That certainly qualifies as positive.

   Well, I wasn’t thinking of doing anything too exciting this week. Saturday, I thought I might just lay on my bed and read all day. (I haven’t got into any of the novels you loaned me since before football season.) Instead, I had some homework to do, then Nancy suggested it would be fun to go into town, eat in a restaurant, and do a little shopping. When we got in there, I saw a jewelry store, and went in to look for a birthday present for Mandy. I didn’t buy anything, but I found a nice chain with a heart-shaped locket on it. I was a little hesitant to get it, because I wasn’t sure we could get photos small enough to fit in the locket. (I thought it would be nice to give her a picture of her and one of me. She could get rid of mine whenever she finds somebody who she thinks is more “interesting” to pair up with.) I suspect that Jeannie has something very similar. Do you think we could get portraits small enough to fit?

   What I really want to tell you about is last Sunday. You knew the “girls” were planning to visit a Pentecostal church. We did, and it was pretty exciting. – well, maybe more than “exciting.” It was kind of an average-sized church, but I don’t think there would have been room to squeeze many more people into it. Everybody was milling around, and greeting each other. We were welcomed as if they had known us all their lives.

   People were still getting seated when the pianist started playing, and a young man came out and began to lead choruses. Not hymns – catchy little choruses, all about Jesus and salvation. One of the “girls” said it was like Sunday School when she was growing up. We didn’t know any of the words, but it didn’t matter, because we sang each chorus four or five times, and we caught on quick. Everybody got boisterously loud and happy!

   Then, the pastor came out, and his sermon was all about how much God wanted to do for us – how the “Holy Spirit” had all kinds of gifts for us to make us better, happier people, so we would then be equipped to make other people better and happier. He didn’t talk for very long, and then he asked us all to stand and pray with him. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t what I got. It was amazing!

   When he started praying, most people in the congregation raised their hands over their heads, and moved them around. Some were praying aloud – but not what the pastor was saying! Others  were singing softly – but not all singing the same song! And there was an undercurrent of sounds that I couldn’t figure out. I’m making this seem like it was a crazy, out of control hodgepodge, but it wasn’t. It all seemed to fit together, somehow. It just seemed joyful!

   Suddenly, everything went quiet. There wasn’t any direction – anything that would have brought about order – everybody just all shut up, at once. The quiet was almost scary, and then suddenly a woman was talking loudly, but not in English. It wasn’t any language that I could recognize, but it was definitely a language – I mean, it wasn’t just noises – gobbledygook – but obviously well-formed sentences. She was trying to tell us something.

   When she stopped, it was dead quiet again, for maybe a half a minute. Then, a man’s voice started up loud and clear, and in English, and he was talking like he was God! “I am the Lord, your God,” he said, then went on to list all kinds of promises and gifts. “I give you peace; take it,” he said. Then, “I give you wisdom, take it. I give you love, take it!” He went on and on, urging us to accept what he had already given us through his holy spirit. His last words – I can still hear them in my head! – were, “If I am God, then let me be God!”

   The room just went crazy for another ten minutes, or so – but, as I write that, I’m giving the wrong impression. It was noisy, but very orderly, and when the pastor called for attention, everybody quieted down immediately. He invited anybody who wanted to come forward to “receive Christ” or “receive the Holy Spirit.” People started to move forward, and we decided to slip out. But, at the door, people hugged us, thanked us for coming, and invited us back at any time.

   Wow. As I write this two days later, I still feel a little shaky. I’m guessing that I experienced your  “speaking in tongues,” and felt a little bit of that “mighty wind” you talked about.  I really don’t know what I feel about the experience. It certainly was a different kind of “church” than any I’d been to, before. I think I’d like to learn a little more about it. Are you game?

   Well, I certainly woke myself up with that description. Still, I better get ready for bed. I’ll mail this in the morning.

   It’s now a little over a week before I see you. It seems like a long time, but I think you should start getting prepared for a memorable reunion.

I love you.




Thursday evening, Nov. 18

   I just came home from having dinner and checkers with your dad. Your mom’s food is always good. As usual, I lost at checkers.

    That was quite a letter I got from you Tuesday. I waited to answer it, until I found a little uninterrupted time to tailor an appropriate response. I don’t think I waited too long. If I mail it tomorrow, you should get it to you before you head for home (and me).

   Confession time: I fully expected to answer the letter the night I got it. However, I got kind of engrossed in your concerns about trying to remember who I was. When you started listing all your  little glimpses of memory, I started remembering each instance – sometimes, in great detail. I found my mind was getting a little too occupied to just sit down and write to you. I still might have pulled out of it, but then you mentioned that some of your remembrances were getting pretty “erotic.” That did it for me. I was still thinking about that 24 hours later!

   So, now I’m back – at least, enough to write about other things. (The “erotic” things are still kind of on my mind, however.) It’s interesting about your History professor. Idaho has always been a pretty conservative state, I think, and I’ve wondered if the teachers at the colleges felt any pressure about how they presented their subjects. Since we always talk about the United States as the greatest country in the world (it probably is), we often want to forget about our little “lapses” – like slavery and segregation, for example. In my mind – well, in my fantasy – I picture “college education” as one long free-wheeling discussion between teacher and students, in which topics are really explored. It wasn’t that way for me, however, even in “liberal” California. (It probably isn’t, anywhere.)

   I’m glad your duck banding talk went well, and that there are no liens against our first-born. I read about your “date” with Matt without a trace of anxiety or jealousy. (Well, maybe there was a teeny tiny little bit of unease. I guess I’m still me.) Yes, I have heard about The Palouse and “Wah-zoo,” I’ve never been there (sometimes I’m amazed out little I’ve seen outside of California!), but one of my professors was from there, and waxed eloquently about it. He described it as rolling, hilly country, but not like regular hills. According to him, it was more like sand dunes blew across the land, got frozen in place, and eventually covered with prairie vegetation. That’s hard for me to picture, but apparently it is a rather unique land form.

   A bird watching trip to south Texas would be fantastic, although my dream has been to go to southeastern Arizona. My reasoning is pretty much the same, however. There are a series of little mountain ranges that rise out of the desert – the Huachucas (kind of like Wah-zoo – Wah-choo-kas), Chiricahuas (Cheery-cah-was), Santa Ritas (Santa Ritas!) – that have unique forests, and are the northernmost home of a bunch of Mexican birds that don’t get into the United States anywhere else. No green jays or chachalacas, but a number of unique hummingbirds and warblers, trogons (kind of a cross between a parrot and a big robin, if you can imagine that), and other Mexican specialties. They also occasionally get jaguars and ocelots (smaller Mexican wildcats) that wander north. Maybe we can go there together (probably after I show you an ocean).

   How did I get into bird watching? A short answer is that I really don’t know. However, there is a longer one. We can discuss both when we get together.

   I’m quite excited to hear about your Pentecostal church visit.

   As I’m writing this, the lights in the house are flickering on and off, and I can hear what sounds like distant thunder. There wasn’t any storm predicted here, so I don’t know what this is about. Oops, there was a fairly close lightning flash, with resulting loud bang. I just walked over to the window to see if flames were leaping up anywhere, or if your dad had come outside to look. Neither. It’s after 10 o’clock, and there aren’t any lights visible at your house, so I think he’s probably retired for the night. I guess I’ll do the same, and assess any damage in the morning.

I love you, Vic.


Friday morning, Nov. 19

   I was just listening to the news on the radio. Apparently, our lightning storm was a pretty good one. Quite a few towns lost power, but apparently only for an hour or so, at most. Lighting struck a power line at the dam down on the river, and apparently created quite a fireworks show. However, no real damage anywhere, as far as I can tell. Apparently, the storm wasn’t any prelude to a larger weather change – just kind of a rogue line of thunder cells, like we often have in summer, but not so late in the year. I wonder if this happened because of our unseasonably warm weather, lately?

   Okay, I’m going to mail this, and get to work. I love you (obviously).




Thursday evening, Nov. 18

Hi Sweetie,

   I thought I’d respond to your last letter, even though I may beat it, getting to you.

   I’m so glad you’re having a good time with my family (although I admit to being a little jealous, not being more a part of it). I wish there was some way that I could get to know your family before we’re married. When I think about it, it seems a little awkward for you to just present them with a new daughter on our wedding day. I don’t know what we can do about that.

   It’s good you found a present for Mandy. I’m sure she’ll love it. As I said in my last letter, I have an idea for my present to her. Maybe we can see Jeannie while I’m home, and complete that purchase.

   I liked our long distance conversation very much. You seem to know me pretty well. I’m sorry that I fell asleep before we discussed things, but I guess I sort of have to be there in person for that, anyway. (You like my face and my legs? That makes me happy.)

   I don’t have anything special planned for the next few days. Everybody has scheduled tests before the Thanksgiving break, so I will probably just be studying a lot of the time. School officially ends at 4 o’clock on Wednesday. I don’t know everybody’s schedule that day. We may be able to get away a little earlier. In any event, I’ll get home some time Wednesday evening, and expect to see your smiling face for turkey dinner on Thursday. I already told my parents that I want to spend Friday night with you at the refuge, and they seemed to be okay with that. I assume you will be, too?

  I’ll close this now, and send it off in the morning. See you soon!

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