Tuesday morning, Greg waited in town until the camera shop opened, so he could pick up photos for the narrative report, and also from the California trip. He quickly browsed  through them, and picked out several to duplicate for the narrative report. Included were good ones of Vic and Mandy removing birds from the mist-nets. After a quick look through the California photos, he picked out one of him and Vic at Lake Tahoe, and left the negative with Bobby to make several enlargements. He left all the photos for the Anderson women to look over, and headed for the refuge.

   "Vic and I have the narrative just about ready to go," he informed Chuck. "I've finished the basic write-up, and Vic has typed everything I've completed. I still have some of the statistical tables to finish, I'll pick up the photos later this week, and we should have it ready for you to sign by Friday."

   "Make it Monday. I'm going to make my first trip to Idaho Falls Thursday and Friday, so after we go in for Vic's birthday on Wednesday evening, I won't be back out here until next week."

   "Well, it should be waiting for you when you get back. Anything in particular you want me to work on, besides the narrative?"

   "I don't think so. Watch the water levels in the pools. This looks like it could be an extremely  dry summer. We haven't had any range fires close to us yet, but with it so dry already, I suspect it's just a matter of time. I want Tim to eventually grade the roads, but there's no sense doing that with the ground so hard. It'll  just washboard them. If we get any significant rain, you should get him out there.

   "As we've talked about before, with the wedding and my move both pending, this is probably going to be a confusing month. We'll just have to remember to tell one another what's going on, any time we both land in the same place long enough to converse."

   "Yeah, I think that's how it's going to be."


   Tuesday and Wednesday, Greg devoted to finishing up the narrative report. He ran the mist-net on and off (nothing particularly interesting caught), and spent some time checking water levels in the various pools. After work Wednesday, he and Chuck drove to town for dinner with the Anderson women, followed by Vic's birthday party.

   At the party, there were two of Vic's high school friends who Greg had met, but didn't really know. Everybody else was a "regular:" Nancy, Jeannie, Bobby, Tim and Rae, Nancy's parents, Tim's parents, and Bob Eastman's parents. There was a lot of visiting, cake with coffee, tea and soft drinks, and the opening of a bunch of small presents. Greg spent a little time with his camera, snapping candids of the guests. Vic seemed particularly delighted with Greg's ruby earrings, and immediately put them on. It was all over in about two hours, and everybody had gone home.

   Later, Vic and Greg sat on the edge of Vic's bed. She had taken off one of the ruby earrings, and was admiring it up close. "It really is amazingly lovely, Greg. Thank you, again."

   "You're welcome. Are you up for another present, or have you had enough for one night?"

   She gave him a sideways glance. "I don't know. Does the 'present' involve us getting into bed together?"

   "I wouldn't say no to that, but it doesn't immediately include any such thing." He brought out a box with the other pair of earrings. "I don't know if this is a birthday present, or a wedding present, or just something I saw that I liked, and thought you would, too." He handed her the box.

   She gasped when she opened it. "Greg, they're wonderful!: She took one out of the box. "I didn't know if I was going to wear earrings at our wedding. Now, I know."

   "I'm glad you like them."

   "I love them." She took the other out of the box. "You know, they're a lot like the ones we bought for Mandy, except mine have an extra stone, so they're quite a bit longer." She held one up against her ear. "Nice, huh?"

   "Nice, for sure, and with your dark hair, they look smashing."

   She laughed happily, and got up off the bed. "I need to look." She walked to a mirror on the wall, slipped the earring on, and swished her hair from side to side. "It is smashing, isn't it?"

   "If it was possible for anything to make you look even more beautiful than you already are, that would be it."

   She came back to the bed, and sat beside him. "Then, I think I should thank you properly for them."

   "And I should thank you for thanking me."


   Chuck was on his way to Idaho Falls as soon as breakfast was over. Greg took a more leisurely approach to the day. "I need to pick up the narrative report photos from Bobby, then I'll head back to the refuge. What's on your agenda?" he asked Vic.

   "I guess Mom and I will just keep working on the bits and pieces of wedding and moving planning."

   "Shall I come and get you tomorrow evening, for an exciting weekend at the end of the god awful road?"

   "That sounds very nice. I'll look forward to it."

   He left soon after, picked up the photos from Bobby, then made a quick stop at the market to buy the fixings for a Saturday morning Mexican omelet. At the refuge, he spent some time talking to Tim about work and the wedding. Then, he retreated to the office to work on the narrative report. He had the statistical tables typed and the photos put in place by noon.

   Matt had sent him a report on the mist-netting, and a series of photos of the unusual birds they had trapped. The package had arrived while Greg and Vic were in California, and this was Greg's first chance to really look it over. A note from Matt accompanying it said he was just going out the door for his Texas adventures. He suggested they do more mist-netting, maybe in the fall, but certainly next spring.

   He'd done a good job. The report included a summary of the trapping activities, a list of those who participated, and a complete register of all the birds captured and banded. Every capture that seemed unusual or especially important had a separate write-up, with a full explanation of how identification was made, and with  color photos for verification.

   Greg spent more time looking at the color photos. There was certainly no question about each identification. Their distinct features were clear in the pictures. Most of the birds were in their most prominent adult plumages. Because of that, Greg didn't think any competent bird-watcher would have any trouble naming them correctly even if they were flying free, and just seen through binoculars.

   He smiled at that. There was a school of ornithologists - actually, most academic bird people, even to that day - who felt no identification was valid unless the bird was "collected" (dead), and made into a museum study skin. Species that would have been almost impossible to mis-identify were being omitted from state and local bird lists - or, at best, shown as "hypothetical" (without sufficient proof) - because they had only been seen, not collected. One of his professors had insisted that, if you were qualified, there was no reason not to trust your own eyesight. Still, color photos of live birds in the hand should be a good substitute for dead birds in the hand!

   He had to admit that there was good reason for requiring some "proof" of unexpected sightings. A relatively small number  of the people watching birds were professionals, or highly-qualified enthusiasts. Bird-watching was a hobby, growing in popularity, and the qualifications of participants ran the gamut of possibilities. A lot of bird species - especially the males - were easily identifiable during the height of the breeding season. Later, many shed their bright, distinctive colors, and for a time males and females all looked pretty much alike. Then, even the professionals could be uncertain. (There was a reason why Greg's field guide had a color plate entitled "confusing fall warblers!") If an amateur claimed a difficult identification well outside of a specie's usual range, it was legitimate to ask for further information.

   That didn't mean that birds weren't sometimes found in unusual places. (As one of Greg's professors had pointed out - probably the same one who declared that eyesight could be trusted  - that birds don't read bird books.) In general, however, species were pretty well set in their ways. Breeding areas, migration routes, and winter habitats had changed little over hundreds of years, even though the individual birds seldom lived longer than five or ten years. Things happened, like hurricanes carrying southern birds far to the north, but those were explainable. Mostly, unusual occurrences were unusual. (Wow, that was a lot of "unusuals" in one thought, but Greg felt he knew what he was saying. It was like one of his nuttier conversations with Vic, that only she and he could follow!)

   The bottom line was that, if he ever decided to formalize his information (like publishing it in a bird journal), he would have all the support information he needed. For now, he'd show the report to Chuck and Vic, and then set it aside until he saw what happened in the fall or next spring.

   He had planned to set up the mist-net that afternoon, but unexpected rain lasted for several hours. There hadn't been any in the forecast, but the storm covered most of Magic Valley. The refuge rain gauge recorded almost a third of an inch - not significant in most of the country, but substantial in the arid intermountain West. It was the most rain at the refuge since January. It wouldn't do much toward alleviating the drought, but it cooled things a little, and freshened the air.

   When the sky started to clear, Greg drove through the refuge, checking conditions. Obviously, it hadn't been enough rain to really soften the roads, but it was as much rain as they ever expected this time of year, and the surface layer was certainly moist. He'd have to ask Tim if there had been sufficient moisture to allow some road grading.

    All the pools still had sufficient water to prevent stagnation, and there appeared to be as many duck broods as there had been in 1965. That was good news. Greg returned to headquarters, talked to Tim about road grading, closed up the office, and went home. That evening, he called his mother from the Anderson's phone.

  "It is you, son Gregory. When you didn't reverse the charges, I thought it was some crank caller impersonating you."

   "I just figured I'm a grown man. I shouldn't need to ask my mommy if I can talk to her? Of course, I'm using my future in-laws' phone, so I'll have to pay them back."

   "So, you're still under a parental thumb?"

   "I suppose so. So, changing the subject, how are you and all the little Clevelands doing?"

   "We're fine. I suppose you want an update on our wedding trip plans? Well, as expected, your brother and sister took the hint that you really didn't want them there, so it'll just be me and your dad. We are going to make it a vacation camping trip, so we'll see you, and then go on somewhere for a few more days before we start home."

   "So, you'll have your double sleeping bag with you?"

   There was a little silence. "Why do you bring that up?"

   "Oh, it was just mentioned in a recent conversation I had with Vic."

   "Well, good. A little motherly advice? Get one of your own, and use it regularly."

   "Thanks. Already in the works."

   "I knew you were a smart kid. How are the wedding plans going, overall?"

   "Good, I think. Busy. Lots of little things to do. Vic and Alice - and Mandy, when she's not working - are doing most of the work, but I've been going into town to help, whenever I can."

    "Good. It's your wedding, too. Actually, Allie and I have chatted on the phone a couple of times, so I'm pretty much up to speed, and have been offering my help and advice when I can."

   "She's a nice lady. I hoped you two would hit it off."

   "We have. I'm not sure you could end up with a better mother-in-law."

   "I'd already figured that out, but confirmation from another source is nice. So, back to your plans. You're going to come in your own car, then?"

   "Yes, we'll take a couple of days to get to you, and plan to arrive Friday afternoon or evening."

   "We have a motel room for you. I hope it fits in your schedule to come out to the refuge with us Saturday night, so we can show you where we live. If you're going east from here, you won't have to backtrack. We can take you out the 'back door,' so to speak, and right out to the Interstate."

   "You don't really want your parents with you on your wedding night, do you?"

   He laughed. "Well, our 'wedding night' is kind of a moveable feast. We've had part of it already, and expect to extend it over several days after the wedding. Actually, there will be so much going on around the wedding itself that it seems we'll be too tired to give it our best efforts that same night."

   "You'll be surprised what you're capable of, at the time. But, anyway, that sounds like a nice way to visit with you a bit. I'll mention it to Cliff. I'm sure he'll want to see the wildlife. So, anything else we should talk about?"

   "Maybe. I sent you a quick note about what's going to happen with work. Do you think you understand that, generally?"

   "I think you. Your in-laws are moving to Idaho Falls in early August. That will leave you in charge where you are, right now. Vic will go back to school. You'll stay where you are until Thanksgiving, then go to Idaho Falls for the winter. You'll come back to Magic Valley in the spring, and Vic will join you there when school gets out."

   "Yep, that's pretty much it. What we're wrestling with now is how to keep two households furnished for the next couple of years. Neither of the houses at Idaho Falls is furnished. The house Chuck and Alice are renting in town had furniture, so all of their own stuff is here at the refuge, and they'll have to take most of it with them. That will mean we'll have Vic's bed and dresser, and probably Mandy's bed for the time being, and the stove, and that's about it. I can bring the table and chairs, arm chair, and refrigerator over from my house. If I can find us a sofa of some kind, we'll probably do all right, this year. Oh, Vic would really like a washing machine. Otherwise, we'd have to take our laundry into town.

   "Now, our house at Idaho Falls probably won't have anything but the stove. There'll be no sense moving our stuff from here up to there just for the winter, particularly since it will mostly be just me who's there. Vic will be with me for school breaks, of course. At the least, I'll have to come up with a bed, a refrigerator, and some tables and chairs.

   "I know you're paying for part of the wedding, but do you think you and Dad could loan us enough to cover buying the basics?:

   "We are splitting the cost of the wedding with the Andersons, but it isn't that expensive. Your dad and I don't have a lot of big money needs. I'll talk to Cliff, but I think if you and Vic figure out what you need, we'll be able to cover it."

   "I didn't mean for you to pay. I just meant a loan."

   "I know, Greg, but you're going to have other start-up expenses. It's inevitable. You don't want to be saddled with a loan, even with easygoing parents. We'll just make it a wedding present."

   "Thanks, Mom. That would be a real load off my mind. I'll talk to Vic."


   Friday morning, Greg and Tim walked a part of the main refuge road, and Tim pronounced it wet enough to use the road grader on. He spent several hours at it, while Greg caught up with miscellaneous paperwork in the office. The previous day's storm was all but forgotten, under blue skies and temperatures reaching up toward the 90s.

   At quitting time, Greg drove to town, stopped to pick up a pizza, then had dinner with the Anderson women. Chuck hadn't returned from Idaho Falls, yet. Greg set out all the photos from the refuge and the California trip, and Alice and Mandy picked out ones they'd like personal copies of. Alice thought they should also send photos of Vic and Greg together to Vic's grandparents in North Dakota. She opted for one of them on the Avenue of the Giants. That would surely impress the old folks!

   On the way back out to the refuge, Greg told Vic about his phone call with his mother. Vic thought they should start that weekend figuring out their needs in more detail. It was already dark when they arrived at headquarters, so they went right to the house, and settled in for the night.

   In the morning, Greg arose a little before Vic, got dressed, and went into the kitchen to begin preparations for breakfast. As he had done with his first Mexican omelet, he dished out a small bowl of kernel corn, and another of black beans. He grated several varieties of cheese into a separate bowl. He diced a tomato into a fourth, and was preparing to chop a yellow onion when Vic appeared, sleepy-eyed and still in her silky pajamas. He looked her over (finding the view quite satisfactory), while she looked over the meal preparations.

   "This looks very much like I remember the start of a Mexican omelet."

   "You are an astute observer, little sleepy-eyed one. I hope you are up for a culinary delight this morning."

   "I'm up, and I'm looking forward to it. What can I do to help?"

  "You can sit and watch, you can go get dressed (not my preference - I like you as you are), or you can get a skillet and put a little olive oil in it."

   She opted for the latter, while he finished chopping the onion. "What now?"

  "Put it on the burner, and start it heating, gently. When I finish chopping these Jalapeno peppers, you may put them and the onion in the heating skillet."

   "I'm remembering the routine. I put them in the oil, and let them simmer for... How long?"

   "About five minutes."

   "Right. Then, I add the tomato, corn, and beans, and let it all warm up together, while you..." She watched him. "Oh, right. While you chop up a lovely avocado."

   "I do chop up a lovely avocado. I hand it to you, and while I get another skillet..." He kissed her, as he walked by. "You take the avocado, and do what?"

   "I put it in the skillet with the other ingredients, but I don't cook it. I just swirl it around, mix everything good, then set the mixture aside."

   "Excellent memory!" He walked to the refrigerator - kissing her again as he walked by - and brought back four eggs. "I don't always kiss my sous-chef..."

   "Who chef?"

   "Sous-chef. It's French. It means my principal assistant. As I was saying, I don't always kiss my sous-chef, but I always do..." He stopped and kissed her again. "If she is wearing silky pajamas."

   "I wondered what the attraction was."

   "Yes, but let's not get distracted. Will you put that second frying pan on to heat, while I crack these four eggs into this bowl?"

   "I will." She did.

   "Good. Now, I add a little salt and pepper to the eggs, and mix them up good. I pour half of the eggs in the heated skillet, and then I add half of the grated cheese. As an aside, you may remember I didn't have a real Mexican blend of cheeses that first time, and we just settled for cheddar. This time, we have an authentic mix, so if you thought the omelet was good the first time..." While he was talking, he arranged the egg-cheese mixture to fill the bottom of the skillet. "Now, take your vegetable mix, and pour it on one half of the egg mixture, and fold the other half over it. Voila! You have a delectable Mexican omelet."

   He scooped it on to a plate for her. "There's sour cream, cilantro, and salsa, if you want to top it off. Go ahead and start eating, while I cook mine."

   She was a third of the way through hers by the time he sat down with his. "So, is it exquisite?"

   She sighed. "It is. I recall that, after eating the first one, I ordered one every morning for the rest of our lives. That was perhaps a little unrealistic, but this one was well worth waiting for."

   "I'm glad you like it. I didn't think to offer you anything else. Toast, orange juice...?"

   "I don't need toast. A little orange juice would be nice."

   He got it for her, and they finished their breakfast in comfortable silence. Afterward, she yawned and stretched. "That was delectable. Now, I suppose I should get dressed."

   "May I help you get dressed?"

   "No, you may not. I'm afraid if you did, we might be at it all day."

   "That's okay. I don't usually help my sous-chefs get dressed, anyway."

   "I would hope not."


   "Shall we use this comfy couch as our 'porch steps' today," Greg asked, after they had cleaned up after breakfast.

   "That sounds good to me. If we move around a little bit, we can almost see them from here. That must be almost the equivalent of being there, don't you think?"

   "I think they'll forgive us. So, what do we want to sort out today and tomorrow? Decide what photos to get prints of. Give some thought to furniture needs."

   "How about, when are we going to get our marriage license, and get you fitted for your tuxedo?"

   "Good topics. What else?"

   "I didn't tell you yet, but I was able to get the Supreme Court decision on the draft. I brought a copy with me. We could talk about that."

   "That would be excellent. I do want to write up something while the Congressional hearings are going on. So, how about this idea to start out with? We'll stay here tomorrow night. I'll take a day of annual leave Monday, so when we go to town that morning, we can drop off the photos to be copied, take me by the tuxedo shop, and then get our license. We probably need appointments for the license and the fitting?"

   "I expect so, but we can make them when we get to town. That sounds good, and that gets much of our 'to do' list out of the way in one trip."

   "Wow, we are good! So, let's get the photos out, and make our list of prints."

   Going through the pictures took quite a while, because they had to reminisce about every shot as they came to it. It was like living the trip all over again. They had fun. The final list would be fairly expensive, because it was mostly color prints, but it was a one-time cost. It was worth it.

   "Okay, what's next?" Greg asked. " Furniture, and household supplies?"

   "Over at your house, you probably have enough pots, pans, plates and silverware to get us through. Mom probably has a few extras she would leave with us. You probably won't want to carry that kind of stuff back and forth between the refuges, so you'll need to get a little collection to have at the Idaho Falls house. Of course, you could eat all your meals with Mom and Daddy, and you wouldn't need anything.

   "Anyway, that's a minor need. Furniture is something else. We can't really lug it back and forth, so we'll need to furnish both houses. My folks will have to take everything from here, except my and Mandy's beds and dressers. Oh, and the stove. That stays.

   "You said that since nobody will be using your house - at least until next summer - we could bring over the refrigerator, kitchen table and chairs, and the big easy chair. So, if we  had a couch, we could probably make do this first year, right?"

   "It'll be a bit spartan, but yes. The Idaho Falls house is the  problem, because we'll probably have to start from scratch - couch, easy chair, kitchen table and chairs, double bed, some kind of bureau, refrigerator... It seems like an awful lot. I don't know what all that would cost."

   "When we're in town, we should go to a furniture store, and just get an idea  of how much. One good thing is that we can space things out a bit. We need the couch here right away, but we have until November to get the other stuff."

   "Yeah, Dan won't be out of the Idaho Falls house until around the first of October, so we can't really buy stuff before then, anyway. That'll spread the cost out quite a bit.

   "So, Monday we're going to get our license, see about my tuxedo, and maybe price some furniture. That takes care of our list except for the Supreme Court, right? Do you want to take a walk or ride before we get into that?"

   She did. They walked down into the woods - scared up a deer - then came back to the house. After lunch, they settled back on the couch.

   "Here's the Supreme Court opinion," Vic said, as she handed him a number of sheets of paper. "I have some opinions about the opinion, but I think you should read it before we talk about it."

   Greg took a long time reading, going back and forth over various sentences, and occasionally underlining something. Finally, he set the papers down, and gave her a puzzled smile. "This isn't really a Constitutional decision, is it? It's more a personal opinion."

   "That's what I thought, too, but tell me why you think that."

   He picked the papers up again. "Okay, here they say 'compelled military service is neither repugnant..."

   "Repugnant, meaning..."

  "Disgusting distasteful, unacceptable. They're saying that compelled service isn't considered any of those things. I bet they're wrong about that. Conscription is all those things to me, and I'm sure I'm not alone, or this wouldn't have ended up in the Supreme Court. Anyway, what does it matter what personal opinion is? The Supreme Court is supposed to be looking at its constitutionality!

   "But that's not the end of that sentence. They say it isn't repugnant in a free government, but then they say neither is it 'in conflict with the constitutional guarantees of individual liberty.' Really? The draft rules say I must register. If I don't, I could go to prison. The draft rules say that, if I am selected, I have to serve two years in the military. I can get out of it if I'm judged physically or mentally unfit - but that's their decision, not mine.  They say I can be exempted as a conscientious objector, but only if my objections are based on what I learned in certain specific Christian churches. (That, by the way, seems unconstitutional to me, as it's saying that only certain religious beliefs are valid in the United States. Really!) I can have my service commitment deferred, but I still have to serve, sometime. If I resist, I go to jail. This doesn't affect my individual liberty?

  "While I'm ranting away here, I just thought of something else. I only have to serve two years, but I'm on call for eight years. That's kind of a reverse of a prison sentence. After you serve your sentence, you might be on parole for a certain period during which, if you don't follow all the rules, you could be sent back to jail. With the draft, you're put on parole for eight years, during which time you might or might not be called into active service. But whether you are or aren't, you could go to jail during those eight years for not following the draft registration rules. But the draft isn't interfering with my constitutional guarantees of individual liberty! Hah!"

   He tossed the papers up in the air, and settled back on the couch. "Is that the end of your rant?" she asked.

   "No, but what do you think, so far?"

   "Well, I haven't read a lot of Supreme Court decisions, but I agree with you - this one doesn't seem like a review of the Constitution. Maybe you're going to talk about this, but one thing I noticed seemed very strange. They made a big deal out of the fact that many other countries had mandatory service. So what? What do their constitutions say? For that matter, why should the Supreme Court care what other countries do? The Court was supposed to be looking at what our Constitution says. I think the military draft is conscription, or involuntary servitude, which supposedly the government can't do to you. I don't think they make any case, otherwise."

   "No, they don't. They make this blunt statement: 'The Thirteenth Amendment protection against involuntary servitude and the First Amendment protection on freedom of thought do not prevent the federal government from implementing a military draft.' But then, they don't say anything to support that wild contention. In fact, they seem to be saying that, since Congress has constitutional authority to declare war, and then to raise the army needed to fight a war, then almost anything goes. War needs override all personal rights under the Constitution.

   "As scary as the proposition is that declaring war negates all personal protections, think of what they're saying. This 'opinion' has to do with the draft, but they don't limit their comment to that one way of raising an army. They say that the Constitution gives Congress the discretion to raise the army however they need to. When we were talking about your letter to the editor, you brought up press gangs - British Navy that went out and essentially kidnapped men off the streets and out of saloons. Is this okay with the Supreme Court? What about the ways that some other countries 'recruit' armies - you know, ways that we normally look on as 'war crimes.' Is that okay with the Court? This 'opinion' is just a not very well thought out rubber stamp for the draft!"

   "That's how it seemed to me, too. I did find out a few other interesting things when I went to the library. It turns out that our librarian, Mrs. Kelly - Marjorie - knows quite a bit about the Supreme Court. She has a college degree in English, but she sounds like us - a general busybody, looking into whatever attracts her attention at the moment. She does have a little additional incentive with the military information, because she has two sons about to reach draft age.

   "Anyway, she said we are right that this 1918 opinion is the only time in history that the Supreme Court has addressed the draft. There was a lot of controversy about it during the Civil War, but it never reached the court. However, Chief Justice Taney wrote an unofficial opinion, that I guess was well-known at the time. He concluded that the draft was unconstitutional, because (he said) the right of Congress to raise and support armies throughout our history had been limited to voluntary enlistments. He also felt that Congress had no authority to draft men to fight overseas. The Court decision didn't acknowledge either of those arguments.

   "Marjorie thinks that the Viet Nam situation will force the Court to some other opinions before long. For instance, she says there's still a lot of debate about what 'involuntary servitude' is. The 1918 Court just kind of took it upon itself to declare that military service wasn't covered by the term. But, as we've just been discussing, where did they get that idea? The Thirteenth Amendment, where the phrase comes from, says that both slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited. Obviously, they weren't different words to describe the same thing, as some people are arguing, now.

   "Well, anyway, I guess that's all I have to contribute, now."

  "No, that's good. This adds a lot to what I think I want to say in a new letter. It gives me a lot to think about."


   Sunday was a lazy day. They got up late, ate a leisurely breakfast, then took an extended walk through the forest area. Later, Greg set up the mist-net, while Vic settled down to read. The net caught quite a few birds, but nothing unusual or unexpected. Between long naps, Vic managed to get Harriet and Lord Peter a little farther along in their story. Greg couldn't settle down to read. His mind was too busy with thoughts about the draft.

   In the evening, they drove out onto the refuge. It was still a balmy 70 degrees at 8 o'clock, but there were no bugs, and they rolled down the truck windows and enjoyed the night sounds. They drove home happy.


   Monday, they waited at the refuge until Chuck and Tim had arrived. Chuck filled them in on his trip to Idaho Falls. After the relative simplicity of Magic Valley custodianship, Idaho Falls was bustling with activity yearlong. Chuck found he was really looking forward to it.

   Greg described their plans for the trip to town. "I'll pick up the rest of the narrative report photos, so I'll have that all ready for mailing tomorrow. We're going to see if I can get my tuxedo fitted. If I can, then I'll be able to describe to you two what you'll need to do for yours."

   "The other thing we might do," Vic began, "Is to go to a furniture store, and just get some ideas about how much it's going to cost us to get both houses furnished. We don't have to worry about Idaho Falls until the house is vacated in October, but we'll probably need to buy just about everything for it. It would be good to at least get an idea of what it was going to cost us.

   "After you clear out all your stuff here, Daddy, we'll just have my and Mandy's bedroom furniture left. But Greg says we can bring refrigerator, table and chairs, and big easy chair over from the little house. We think that's almost enough to get us through to November. The things we really need are a washing machine and some kind of a couch - oh, we didn't think about this, Greg. We'll probably need a couple of floor lamps, too. Anyway, the washing machine and couch are the things we need to buy, here."

   "How would you like a slightly used couch, for free?" Tim asked.

   Vic and Greg looked at one another. "Free sounds like a pretty good price," said Greg. "Where does this free couch come from?"

   "Well, the idea just came to me. My folks bought a new sofa a couple months ago, and we still have the old one hanging around. It's used, but only by small ancient Norwegians - with no cats or dogs - so it's really in pretty nice shape. We could give it to you as a wedding present."

   "Wow!" said Vic. "Tim, I don't know that your mom and dad would like being called 'small ancient Norwegians,' but we'd be very happy to take the couch off their hands, wouldn't we, Greg?"

   "We would. Thanks, Tim. That will help make the transition a lot easier. So, we'll just plan to get it down here, after Daddy clears their stuff out?"

   "Sounds good. I can help you get the stuff over from the little house, too, when the time comes."


   In town, they went first to the house, where Vic made some phone calls to arrange appointments. Having confirmed with Merry that Greg’s siblings would not be attending the wedding, they called the motel and cancelled one of the three rooms. They arranged for Alice to meet them for lunch at the diner where Mandy was working, then set out on their errands. At Bobby's, they picked up the narrative report photos, left the new batch to be printed, and talked a little about the wedding photo plans. From there, they went to the clothing store, and had Greg's tuxedo fitted. That finished, it was time to meet Alice for lunch.

   There was still some time before their license appointment, so they stopped by the furniture store. They explained they couldn't buy anything for a month or so, but wanted to get an idea of prices. The salesman had no problem with that, and let them shop on their own.

   As they left the store, Vic sighed deeply. "It's going to be really expensive, isn't it? Just the real basics are going to be about a thousand dollars!"

   "Yeah. Well, I guess every couple has to start out, don't they? One good thing is that the washer and a couple of lamps are all we need right away. We'll have to buy the washer on credit, but it will only take a few months to pay off, and it would mean what we want my folks to pay in November will only be about $800."

   "Only? When did $800 become 'only' to you?"

   He laughed. "It is an awful lot, isn't it. When you consider my annual take-home pay is only about $4,000. But we gotta do it, Mrs. Cleveland."

   "I know, but it's hard for me to be thinking in those terms."


   Getting the license proved to be fairly quick and easy, but they both walked out of the courthouse somewhat dazed.

   "Wow," Greg exclaimed. "I didn't think I'd feel anything special, doing this. I was expecting it to be just another chore to get out of the way. Instead, I sort of feel like we just erected a giant neon sign, that says 'Vic and Greg are getting married!'"

   Vic giggled, but not frivolously. "Me, too. I mean, we've considered ourselves married for quite a while now, and I've never doubted our commitment - never thought we really needed to make it official. But when we signed that paper, I heard us telling the world about how much we love each other, and how happy we are to be getting married. It's kind of awesome!"

   "So, we should celebrate."

   "No. When you say 'celebrate,' I know what you have in mind. I think that's all changed. Now that we are committed to the conventional way to marriage, I think we have to put off any more of that kind of 'celebrating' until we are officially hitched."

   He glanced at her. She was trying hard to keep a determined look on her face. "You don't really want that," he said.

   She smiled. "No, I really don't."


   Mandy had just got off work when they arrived back at the house. Greg gave her, Alice, and  Vic the copies of the Lake Tahoe picture of Vic and him. "There will be more photos in the batch we just left with Bobby, but I saw this one first and really liked it."

  "It's very nice of both of you," Alice agreed. "Who took it?"

  "Just a couple walking by. I think they were a lot friendlier about it than the man we got to take our picture in Salt Lake. But both pictures are really nice, which I guess shows that you don't have to have the milk of human kindness coursing through your veins to take a good photo."

   He and Vic filled them in on the rest of their activities. "I guess I should stop at the market, and then get back out to the refuge," said Greg. "That is, if there isn't anything in here that you'd like me to help with?"

   "I don't think so," Vic replied. "Mom and Mandy and I have lots of little bits and pieces we're working on, but I think in general we're doing pretty well."

   "Okay. Then, unless we decide differently during the week, I'll plan to come in and get you Friday evening." He gave Mandy and Alice hugs, and started to walk to the door.

   "Wait a minute," Alice called. "I made up a couple of dinners for you to take. Also, there are half a dozen newspapers here. I don't think Chuck has had time to look at any of them."

   "Oh, good. We don't have to eat our own cooking, and if I get him looking at the news, maybe I'll save myself from a checker slaughter or two."

   Vic walked him to the door. "Friday seems a long ways away," she whispered.

  "It does, but in less than two weeks, we'll be married, and you won't be able to get me out of your sight. ever again."

   "I wish that was true, but in only a month and a half, there's this little thing called c-o-l-l-e-g-e."

   "Yes. We'll have to come up with some really imaginative ways to make that time pass quickly, won't we?."


    Tim had already gone home when Greg got to the refuge. Chuck was just closing up. They walked together to the manager's residence, where Greg put the food from Alice in the refrigerator, and tossed the newspapers to Chuck. "I'll be back in a bit," he said, as he went over to his own residence to get cleaned up.

   Back together, they shared Alice's beef stroganoff (excellent, as usual), then settled down to go through the newspapers. After a bit, Chuck looked over the top of his paper at Greg. "I think the last time we did this, we commented on how little 'news' there was in 'the news.' That sure seems to be the case this time. The only real story is about the airline strike."

   "Yep, same in the paper I 've been looking through. Of course, that really is big news. The machinists' union has essentially shut down air traffic in the country, and that's had a big effect on other travel, too.

   "The paper says that, by striking the five major airlines, they've grounded about 60 percent of our passenger planes. It happened so quickly that travelers are stranded all over the country. Apparently, every small airline and every charter company is booked solid. So are the trains, and even the buses are pretty much full. And of course, this is the height of the summer vacation travel season."

   "Yeah, and this has been going on for several days, already, and apparently there's no end in sight. This story from yesterday's paper says that there aren't even any negotiations going on. The key executives apparently all went home for the  weekend."

   "I guess we should be glad we don't have to travel anywhere for a while."

   "I guess that's right."

   They read in silence for a while. "Boy, I wasn't kidding about the lack of news," said Chuck. "No rockets launched, no new satellites headed for orbit..."

   "No underground nuclear blasts to mine oil shale."

   Chuck laughed. "No, not even that. There is one interesting local note about Howell Canyon. You know, south of Burley, where the ski area is?"

   "I haven't had a chance to get down there. I've heard those mountains are pretty nice. I'd like to go bird-watching some time."

   "Well, last weekend wouldn't have been the time. This story says that the canyon broke all previous records by having 1,500 cars and over 6,000 people go in there over July 3rd and 4th. It's not that big an area. It wouldn't have been a good time for a wilderness experience!

   "It kind of interests me just to wonder about how much Idaho has changed in the eight years we've been here. In 1958, you wouldn't have thought there were 6,000 people in all of southern Idaho, let alone in one canyon! On the other hand, where are they all, when they're not in Howell Canyon? The towns and the countryside  in Magic Valley don't seem to have changed that much. Lots of times, there's so little traffic on the Interstate between  Raft River and Pocatello that you wave at oncoming cars because there's a good chance they're your neighbors."

   It was Greg's turn to laugh. "That's true. After growing up in California, the lack of cars on major highways is a strange experience." He read a little more. "Oh wait, here's a commentary on Viet Nam. It's not on the editorial page, but it is an editorial - or a personal opinion - and not a very happy one. It's by Tom Tiede, but I don't know who that is. Here, I'll read some of it.

   "'In the past half-century, the United states has been directly involved in 19 years of shooting wars on foreign lands. Nine were spent in two world conflicts and Korea. And we've been in Viet Nam for the other 10.' He calls this 'the longest hostile confrontation we have ever participated in off our own soil.' He says all indications are that it will go on a lot longer. He says the Pentagon is thinking maybe ten more years, and 'the enemy says they can continue for 100.'  My god!

   "His idea about what comes next - after 10 or 100 years, or whatever - is even more appalling. He says there probably won't  be a U. S. 'victory,' no matter how long the war goes on. He says,  we can expect  'nontriumph' in a struggle we have labeled 'nonwar.' Regardless, he predicts, we won't ever withdraw - 'too many bridges burned, too much is at state.' In short, he says, probably nothing extreme will happen. There'll be a lot more lives lost - on both sides - and a lot more money spent. At some point, the war will just end, with pretty much nothing changed.

   "It reminds me of that T. S. Eliot line, 'This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper.' Wow! Do you think he's right?"

   "You've been following all this more closely than I have, Greg, but it seems kind of pointless and aimless. So, yes, I think he could be right. You know, Korea was like that. The war - or 'police action,' or whatever we officially called it , at the end - didn't go on for so long, but when it was over there wasn't anything except lots of death and lots of spent money that the public could take from it."

   They did play checkers that night, with the usual results. Greg went home early, pleading (so he said) extreme tiredness.


   Tuesday morning, when Tim arrived, he told them that there was a range fire about eight miles east of Rupert. There were six different fires in their general area, but this one was the closest to the refuge. A crew was on it, but it was still growing. Obviously, fire season had started in earnest.

   Greg told Tim and Chuck about his tuxedo fitting. "No big deal, really. It only took about an hour. You just need to schedule your times."

    After that, he added the rest of the photos to the narrative report, put the complete write-up  in a folder, and presented four copies (refuge, regional office, Washington office, and Narrative Club) to Chuck for his signature.

   In the afternoon, when Greg went out onto the refuge, he could see the smoke from the nearest fire. It was a long way from them still, but worth keeping an eye on.  He did his usual wildlife checks, and then a look at how the drought was affecting the various ponds. Water areas were still essentially at capacity, but he was concerned that some were  showing greenish, algae-looking growth around shallow   edges. "Western duck sickness" (botulism), which could kill thousands of waterfowl if it got started, wasn't usually a significant problem in their area, but water stagnation was one of the conditions you wanted to avoid. After a little more inspection, he went back to headquarters to discuss a possible plan with Chuck.

   "We're still getting some inflow from the creek, but it's obviously down from earlier in the summer. We won't get any new water until at least October, so I suggest we start manipulating a little bit right now. What I have in mind is gradually pulling the boards on the first pond beyond the 'narrows,' and running all the available water into the remaining units. That means we'd eventually dry up the first pond, except for the inflow from the creek, which we'd pass directly on to the next pond. We'd raise or lower each of the remaining units to keep all as near capacity as we can. If, as seems likely, we start running out of new water, we gradually lower the second pond until it is dry, and so on, as long as necessary."

   "That sounds logical. Something is obviously necessary. It won't hurt to dry out a couple of ponds - might actually do them good, sun-bake them a little until we can add water, again. The weather prediction is that we could be talking about quite a few drained ponds by fall. That could affect your duck banding, and it would certainly affect the hunting season. We might not even have enough habitat we could open for hunting by the start of the season. That would upset Fish and Game, no doubt, but what's the alternative? They may be having the same problem on some of their areas, if they don't have any better water source than we have.

   "I say go ahead, and see how far we have to take it."


   On Wednesday, they could still see smoke off to the southwest. Tim told them the fire  had burned some 1,400 acres of grass and sage, and the Burley fire crew was about to drop retardant on it from an airplane. They heard the plane, but from the refuge couldn't actually see what was happening. The fire was reported contained by quitting time.

   The rest of Greg's week was taken up with wildlife surveys, helping Tim with various maintenance projects, and working with Chuck on the seemingly never-ending flow of paperwork. He tried a little mist-netting, but it was in what he thought of as "the bird doldrums" - the period between the nesting season and preparations for migration, when the woods went so quiet, you might think there were no birds present. He caught a few, but bird movement seemed as limited as bird sound, so he put away the net until fall.

   He found that his mind would only think about two things - the wedding, and the military draft. His excitement about the wedding - and it was excitement, not anxiety - continued to surprise him. He and Vic had told each other over and over again that they were already married, and the ceremony was actually for other people, not them. But things kept bringing it to their attention - like their surprising feelings when getting the marriage license - and they were both eagerly looking forward to it. He called her a couple times during the week, just to hear her voice and be sure she had all she needed from him.

   The draft was something else. He knew that nothing could be done to change his status. Whatever Congress decided to do - assuming they decided to do anything! - he would either be drafted, or beyond draft age, before any changes took effect. He was pretty sure that nothing he wrote or said would change anybody's mind - he had serious doubts that anybody would even read anything that he wrote - but still he found himself obsessed with writing one more letter. He and Vic just seemed to have this insatiable need - maybe a character flaw? - if something needed to be said, they needed to say it. Vic had told somebody recently that she and Greg were "busybodies" - they needed to be involved in everything. Maybe they did. Whatever the reason, Greg knew that he was going to write a letter about the draft.


   When Chuck was in the house by himself, he thought a lot about what they would take with them to the new refuge. Well, that wasn't really accurate. He was sure that they'd take everything, except for the girls' belongings and their bedroom furniture. He and Allie might leave a little bit with Greg and Vic for the time being, but he knew it would all eventually follow them to Idaho Falls.

   His logic told him it would be silly to move all that stuff. There were boxes that he was sure hadn't been opened in the eight years they'd lived in Idaho. He had no idea what was in them, and he suspected Allie didn't know, either. If they hadn't needed the contents in the last eight years, it didn't seem likely they'd ever need what the cartons contained.

   Logic be damned; he knew everything would go with them. They weren't really considering boxes. Their whole lives were in those boxes - 20 years of his life before Allie, 20 of hers before him, and 25 years of the accumulation of a life together, with the girls. It was all there. Whatever was in those boxes was all the tangible evidence of their existence. Nothing remained with parents, nothing was stored anywhere else. It was all right there.

   Maybe when they got settled, they’d find some time with the girls to open some of those containers, and share the memories and stories that went with whatever they discovered. Maybe they wouldn't get to it, but it would all be there for Vic and Mandy - and their families - whenever they wanted it. It was all worth saving.


   Friday afternoon, Chuck, Tim and Greg all left on the god-awful road. Tim and Chuck would spend the weekend off the refuge. Greg would visit with the Andersons for a while, and probably have dinner with them. Then, he and Vic would return to the refuge for what Greg called his last  weekend of freedom.


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