Chuck got to town from the refuge about an hour after Vic and Greg arrived from Boise. In the meantime, Greg had gone out again, and brought back two large pizzas for dinner. With a green salad that Alice made up, they settled down at the kitchen table for a California travelogue.

   Vic waxed eloquently about Tahoe and redwoods and the Pacific Ocean, as well as detailing their discussions with Greg's family. Greg filled in the blanks as she took them through the entire trip. It was a nice couple of hours.

   While the women went off to look at Vic's wedding gown, and to talk more about details of the trip, Greg and Chuck settled down in the living room with several days of local newspapers.

   "Our newspapers seem rather news-free, this week," Chuck commented, after a while. "There's one article here about our cool, dry spring. No surprise, I guess, that it's been pretty hard on dry land crops. They're getting ready for the first cutting of hay, but it's expected to be pretty poor. Some ranchers are already selling cattle, because they're not expecting enough grass growth to support the numbers they've been carrying."

   "The outlook must be pretty bad if they're already talking in those terms."

   "Yeah, it does seem early to sound so panicky. Oh, here's an interesting item. Some scientist is recommending the use of nuclear explosives to extract oil from the Wyoming oil shale deposits."

   Greg laughed. "Now, that sounds like a plan fraught with any number of unintended consequences. How does that work?"

   "Well, let's see. First, you have to bore a hole under a shale deposit. You put some kind of nuclear bomb in the hole, and detonate it. Presumably, that creates a cavity under the shale, and an outlet - kind of a chimney - to the surface. Then... Well, I'm not quite getting what happens next. You somehow heat the 'chimney,' and liquify the shale around the cavity produced by the bomb."

   "I suspect that plan needs a little more thinking," said Greg. "Underground nuclear blasts wouldn't  have been my first idea.

   "Oh, here's an article about my favorite subject, the military draft. The House Armed Services Committee is beginning hearings on how to improve the draft. I guess it's partly because the draft law has to be reauthorized next June. Here's a quote from the committee chairman, Mendel Rivers of South Carolina. According to him, the draft is 'an unpleasant fact of life that cannot be wished away.' I wish it could!

  "Unfortunately, they aren't going to be talking about doing away with it, just making it fairer. There aren't any details here. Let's see, this is Wednesday's paper. Are you through with Thursday?"

   Chuck handed him the front section of the Thursday paper. Greg checked it. "Yep, here's a longer article. I guess one of the big issues - no surprise - is that every local draft board handles selections and deferments differently. There's no standard way to handle anything. I guess some congressmen are floating the idea again of a national lottery - one selection for the whole country - doing away with the local draft boards. If we can't get rid of the draft, it seems like that might be a better way.

   "Another proposal is to lower the maximum draft age from 26 to 24. That would probably be pretty good for men as old as me, but I guess it isn't being proposed  for any compassionate reason. They're just saying that we have far more 18- and 19-year olds coming up - 'war babies' - than we need to fill any foreseen quotas, even if the war continues for some time. More cannon fodder!

   "They just don't get it, do they? A boy can't buy beer until he's 21, but he can go to war and kill people when he's still a teenager. Isn't there something wrong with that?

   "Hershey, the head of Selective Service, testified yesterday. He opposes the lowering of the eligibility age - suggesting it should be raised! He thinks that - although he believes in deferments - he thinks they are too lenient, and suspects that a lot of students are in college, not to learn, but just to avoid the draft. Also, he thinks too many men are exempt from the draft because of 'minor' - his word - physical or mental deficiencies. Finally, he's against a national lottery because it would - his words, again - 'substitute luck for judgement.' My opinion: if we can't get rid of the draft, we should at least get rid of the Hersheys of the world."

   Chuck put down the paper he'd been reading. "There doesn't seem to be anything in today's paper about the hearings. There is an article that says over 800,000 men have taken the draft deferment test - the one that supposedly tells whether you're doing well enough in school to keep your deferment. I've heard that almost nobody thinks the test really 'tests' anything - and, of course, it's only about deferments for college students, not for ones who don't attend. Just more of the presumed unfairness of the way the draft is being handled."


   In bed later, Greg told Vic about the draft hearings. "It probably won't affect us, one way or another, but it still bothers me how hard they work to put band-aids on this mess, without really trying to 'cure' anything. I've almost convinced myself that I should write a letter, as a follow-up to yours."

   "That should be interesting."

   "Yeah, I'm not sure what I would say - or who would care - but I'm irritated. But, more to the present day, what should we accomplish this weekend, before I go back to work?"

   "I've been thinking about that. Mom and Mandy and Daddy have accomplished quite a bit of wedding business while we've been gone. I think we should get everybody together, and just see where we stand, and what still needs doing. Do you realize it's just a month now until the wedding?"

   "It is, isn't it?"


   Saturday morning, Chuck looked out the door at blue skies, but a frosty lawn. "Is this really late June? It looks like we had a real freeze, overnight."

   "We did, or at least some parts of the Valley did," Alice responded. "I just heard on the radio that quite a few towns got down to 32, and there was one reading not far from here at 28. Hardly    June weather!"

   One by one, the rest of the family appeared for breakfast. Afterward, Vic suggested that they all get together for a wedding planning session.

   "Before we do that," her dad began, "I have some work news that needs sharing. Allie knows all of it, and Mandy has heard some, but there's quite a bit to tell. Shall we get that out of the way, first?"

   After they'd cleared up the breakfast dishes, they once again settled around the kitchen table. "Now, this is not 100 per cent official," Chuck began, "But Mac wanted me to share it with you, Greg, so you'd be thinking about it before you talk to him on Monday or Tuesday. Here's the gist of it.

   "You know Allie and I accepted the transfer to Idaho Falls. John will be out of the house by the first of August, and we'll shoot to be moved up there by the middle of the month. I'll plan to visit a couple of times in July, and start learning about the area while John and Dan are both still there.

   "The house is unfurnished, except for a stove and such, so we'll need to take most of our furniture  from the refuge house with us. We'll leave you and Vic what we can, but we'll need to brainstorm a little bit, as to how to keep both households functioning."

   "I'll be here after Mom and Dad leave," Mandy volunteered. "I got a job as a waitress at the diner. I'll stay here with them until they give up the house, then I'll room with Nancy's family until we go off to school. I'll probably leave most of my stuff at the refuge with you, Vic, until we leave."

   "That sounds good."

   Chuck picked up the conversation, again. "Now for you, Greg. As we talked about before, Mac would like you to stay here until around Thanksgiving, then shut down for the winter, leaving  Tim as caretaker. He has agreed, by the way. The refuge will become a satellite of Idaho Falls, so I'll be the refuge manager, and you'll be my assistant in charge. You'll get a promotion to go with the added responsibility.

   "The important question, what happens at Thanksgiving, has an answer, now. Dan has been selected for a position in the Midwest. He doesn't have school-age kids, so there's no rush about him reporting, but he'd like to leave Idaho by the first of October. If it's what you want, in November you transfer up to Idaho Falls. That would leave me without an assistant for a month and a half, during which time you would come up every few weeks, and work with me for a few days. You'd leave Tim in charge for those times.

   "So, how does that sound?"

  Greg looked over at Vic, who smiled at him. "Well, with Dan's move assured, it's pretty much what Vic and I have been hoping for. We'll talk it out this weekend, and figure out what questions or concerns we still have, before I talk to Mac."

   "I thought that's what you'd say. Now, not to reach too far into the future, I should tell you what Mac would like in the long run. If the caretaker situation works out - and I don't know why it wouldn't - he'd like to make it the permanent operating procedure - manager March to November, caretaker the rest of the time. That obviously raises the question, what do you do with the manager during the winter? Mac's idea is - you. If you and Vic still want to be in the area next year, he'd like you to work with me at Idaho Falls until March, then move back down here as resident manager until next November, and then repeat as long as we both want to stay around. He'd get me a student trainee to work at Idaho Falls during the summer period, and have you come up every few weeks to work with the trainee and generally help me out. We'd likely re-fill Rusty's position here, so Tim would have help during the times you were gone."

   "Wow. Well, it sounds feasible, and certainly interesting. It's hard to look that far ahead, after not being able to look any distance at all, but Vic will still be in school, so we could easily be in the area.

   "Well, again, we'll talk it out before I talk to Mac."


   The group met again at the kitchen table after lunch, to discuss progress toward the wedding. Chuck had to run some errands, but he reported that the mayor was definitely on board for the service, and that Tim was constructing an arbor for the couple to stand under during their vows. Mandy explained that she was advising Tim on how to build places on the arbor frame to hold flowers during the ceremony.  Then,  Alice and Mandy ran through what they had done while Vic and Greg were traveling.

  "We have the invitation address list done, I think," said Alice, "But you should look it over carefully, to make sure we didn't miss anybody. Since time was short, we went ahead and ordered  the announcements. We decided on an announcement, rather than an invitation. It has the time and place, so people can come if they want, but they don't need to RSVP. The invitations are  supposed to be here early this week, so if we get them addressed and sent by Friday, people will have about three weeks to decide if they can come."

   "That sounds good, Mom. Once we have the invitations, we can all work together to get them addressed."

   "Okay, next is the community hall. Mandy and I gave that a good looking over. It's fresh and clean and bright, and has lots of room. We can put folding chairs on two sides of the aisle leading up to Tim's arbor. Besides flowers decorating the arbor, I think we can have bunches along the way, as well. There's a big coffee brewer and another big heater for tea water. The sideboard is plenty big enough for the cake and for the drinks. We were thinking about a sparkling cider for the other beverage?"

   "Good idea. We should order that pretty soon, I guess."

   "Yes. We've saved several chores for you and Greg, and that's one of them. Now, back to the flowers. You'd mentioned gladiolas. Mandy and I went to the florist, and she has quite a variety, and can get more. She thought glads were a very good pick, and gave us quite a lesson in the language of flowers. For instance, did you know that glads symbolize affection, honor, faithfulness, and integrity?"

   "I did not know that, but those are all good things to symbolize."

   "We thought so. When we gave her details about your gowns, she had further suggestions. She thought medium yellow glads were be nice for Mandy to carry. Besides looking good, she said that yellow signified positive energy, happiness, and friendship, all of which seem to fit the three of you very nicely."

   "She has some good ideas."

   "Agreed. Now, for your bouquet. she said that an all-white bouquet would be standard. However, when we described your looks and personality, she thought maybe you'd like to spice it up a little by adding some of Mandy's yellow glads to your bouquet. She also suggested a possible alternative, a creamy-colored glad with a yellow throat. She didn't have any on hand, but she showed us some pictures. They do look very nice. She can get them if you want them.

   "So, anyway, you and Greg should go in and talk to her soon, so she can order whatever you decide on."

   "Well, I really like the suggestions," Vic responded. "Greg, what do you think?"

   "I haven't seen your gowns, of course, but the picture forming in my head is a nice one. Let's go take a look as soon as we can."

   "Now, Mandy, is there anything else about the hall we wanted to talk about?" her mother asked. 

   "I don't think so. We thought about other decorations, but I don't think we need them, or where we'd put them. We haven't talked about dancing. I guess after the ceremony, you'll meet and greet the guests for a bit, then serve the cake. I don't know how many couples might like to dance, but it would extend the time a little bit, and all we'd need is a record player. I'm sure I could borrow one with good sound from one of my school friends.

   "Greg, do you remember anything I taught you? You and Vic should lead off with a little dance before inviting others to join."

   "I'm sure I could wing a few steps."

   "Okay. Well, then, there's the cake itself to consider. We don't have a real wedding cakery in town, but Mom and I looked at some of Marco's creations at his bakery, and we liked them a lot. They taste good, too! You and Vic should go in for a look and a taste test."

   Vic gave an exaggerated sigh. "Looks like we have a full day ahead of us, Gregory. We better do it soon. So, what haven't we talked about? Photography? I guess Bobbie is on board?"

   "Yes, he's confirmed. He's done quite a few weddings, and is very good."

   "Okay. Clothes? Mandy and I still need to get shoes, and Greg, Tim and Daddy need to get fitted for tuxes. Oh, I know. What about motel rooms for out-of-towners?"

   "You don't have anybody, do you?" Greg queried. "And I probably only have Mom and Dad. I think we made it pretty clear to Janna and Cliff that we won't be expecting them, unless they were coming this way for other reason. So, probably we just need one?"

    "But I wonder if we should reserve one or two more, Just in case. We'll be able to cancel well in advance, so the motel won't suffer."

   "Okay, let's reserve three, for now. Anything else?"

   "How about the marriage license?" asked Mandy.

   Greg glanced at Vic. "Well, we were going to leave that until the last minute, in case one of us changes his or her mind."

   "Ha ha, like that's going to  happen! It would take all the volcanoes in North America erupting at the same time to make you even consider not going through with this - and I'm pretty sure not even that would stop you!"

   "Well, if you feel that strongly about it, we'll put it on our list."


   Later, they sat on the bed in Greg's old room. "Well, between future work and weddings," Greg began, "It sounds like we have a little bit to get done this week. Mac is supposed to call Monday or Tuesday, so maybe I should just plan to be at the refuge those days - to get his call, and generally catch up after our trip. I could take leave on Wednesday - and Thursday, if the wedding announcements are here - and get all our wedding needs - flowers, cake, addressing announcements, et cetera -  done. How does that sound?"

   "Okay. I can work with Mom those first two days, making sure everything is in order, and then we'd make the rounds on Wednesday. Are you sure you want to take the time to go with me? I'm sure I can get Mom - or Mandy, if she's not working - to do it."

   "No, I'm absolutely positive I want to go with you. I know that planning the wedding is more a 'girl thing' than a 'guy thing.' Probably by nature, you have more definite ideas about how things should be than I will have, and I'll likely agree with everything you want. But I don't want to just 'show up' at your wedding. I want to have seen the flowers, and tasted the cake, and talked things out with you before we end up under Mandy's cupola, together."

   "You're sure?"

   "Yes. Look, it's been our marriage to date, right? I didn't send you off on your honeymoon alone, did I?"

   "Considering what honeymoons are mainly noted for, it seems unlikely you would have missed it." She giggled.

   He smiled. "That's obviously true. But what I'm getting at - as you well know - is that this is all about us - our wedding, our honeymoon, our marriage, our life."

   "That's a nice way to put it. I like that."

   "Right. Now, about the call from Mac, are you okay with everything your Dad said about Mac's plans? Anything I should be sure to ask him, or clarify?"

   "No, we've talked about this enough, I think. It seems to be working out just like we wanted. I do have one question for you. What's a student trainee?"

   "Student trainee?"

   "Daddy mentioned that he would have a student trainee at Idaho Falls while you were working down here."

   "You haven't run across that term? Okay, a student trainee is what I should have been, rather than working retail during the summer vacations. I didn't know about the program. Each summer, Fish and Wildlife Service has been hiring a few students who might be interested in a career like your dad's and mine. They apply for the program, but just take the standard Civil Service test. I don't know how they're selected, since - like me - few have any real experience. But, if they are chosen, they get assigned to a wildlife refuge for the three months or so of summer break. Depending on how far along in school they are, they might be given some specific job to do, but generally they just get involved in whatever is going on."

   "Like you, here."

  He chuckled. "Yep. Clerk, typist, maintenance man, biologist - a little bit of everything, so you get an idea of what a career would really be like. I was certainly surprised. They don't teach us actual wildlife management in wildlife management degree programs. We're trained like we're all going to be specialized biologists.

   "Anyway, if they do okay - and if they like the work - they get assigned to the same or a different refuge each summer until they graduate. Then, they're offered a permanent position, usually as an assistant refuge manager."

   "Like you."

   "Yes, like me, but they're starting out with a summer or two - or even three - of experience in refuge management. I came here with just 'book learning.' The actual experience is an obvious benefit of the program, for both the student and the Service. The other really big advantage is that you're pretty much guaranteed a job when you graduate, without further competition. That's no small thing, nowadays. Most of the time, there aren't many jobs available. I was pretty lucky.

   "There's another big bonus, although it's not something you generally think about when you're hired. From the moment you're hired, you're on the books as a 'career-conditional' employee. That means you're accumulating a full year of Federal retirement credit, even though you only work three months. Say I worked three summers as a student trainee. Although I would have only about nine months of actual experience, my Federal record would show that I worked for three years."

   "How does that work?"

   "Well, in one way, it's similar to Tim's situation. He may only work six or nine months, but he's always on the books as  WAE - 'when actually employed.' We can call him up any time we need him, without having to re-hire him. He retains his status. The difference is that, as a wage grade worker, rather than a career employee,  he doesn't get any retirement credit for his time off, like I would, as a student trainee.

   "As I said, you're usually not thinking about retirement when you get hired as a student trainee, but somewhere along the way, it dawns on you that it's a pretty nice bonus."

   "Okay, I think I get it. So, for this week, you'll go out to the refuge Monday and Tuesday, then come back in Wednesday and Thursday."

   "That's what I'm thinking. I can take Friday off, too, if we need to. But, looking ahead, what I was thinking is - if you're not too busy - you could come out to the refuge with me Thursday night, and we could spend a nice quiet, post-honeymoon weekend together. Since Monday is the 4th of July, we can even extend the weekend a little bit."

   "That sounds like a very nice idea."


   Sunday was a quiet family day. After breakfast, Chuck and Greg retired to the living room with the morning paper. Greg immediately looked for more information on the Selective Service hearings.

   "Probably, they haven't had any actual meetings since Friday," he said, " But there's a short article here on the possibility of a national pool to replace local draft boards. As one of the congressman is quoted as saying, there can't really be a fair system when 4,000 draft boards are each making their own decisions on who gets selected and who gets deferred. What's being discussed is entering the names of all those men classified as 1A - immediately eligible - in some kind of national pool, and using some method to randomly select just off that list.

   "One thing I hadn't thought about is that each draft board is given a quota to fill. They're supposed to start with the 1A men, but, if they don't have enough, they dip into other classifications. If it was one big national list, that problem would go away, at least. That doesn't make the draft go away, but I have to agree it would be a step toward fairness, anyway."

   "I suppose. Do you think Congress could ever agree on such a drastic change?"

   "If they did, I would hope they didn't stop there."

   Chuck had been reading another story. "You remember how cold it felt yesterday morning? It was cold! Apparently, we broke all kinds of records for this late in June - 32 degrees, 30, even one 28! That's enough to do quite a bit of crop damage, with growth already far along. They're saying that the beets are probably okay, but grains and hay that hadn't been mowed will suffer damage. The worst losses will likely be in potatoes, with the yield is some areas probably 20 to 50 per cent below average. The potatoes were already in some trouble from our late frosts and bad early growing weather, which had set the season back about 10 days."

   "That's bad luck, and it's probably too late to re-plant much?"

   "I imagine it is. Moving on to another topic, it says here that last Friday they launched a giant balloon - 100 feet in diameter! - from Vandenburgh Air Base in California. It's gone into orbit, and will continue to circle the Earth forever - well, until it quits - taking pictures as it goes. One scientist is quoted as saying that the calculations made from the transmitted pictures will allow them - here's the quote - 'to locate any point on earth to within 100 feet of its true position.' Amazing."

   "That is amazing. I wonder what some of the other countries around the world think about this picture-taking. I'm sure a lot of them - including us - are doing things that they'd just as soon not have the rest of the world knowing they're doing."

   "Yeah, but pretty hard to keep anything like that secret when there are already hundreds of satellites orbiting around the earth. Oh, here's one of your favorite topics - more rocket launches into space."

   "Really? What is NASA up to this week?"

   "Well, the article isn't very clear, but they're saying that they'll soon be attempting two things never done before. One is trying to force a satellite into orbit around the moon. I guess that's been tried a few times, but never successfully. The other is that they're going to launch a rocket with the heaviest payload ever attempted. Apparently, that's something we have to master before there's any chance of putting people on the moon.

   "I know you're vitally excited about this sort of thing."

   Greg laughed. "You know me so well. I won't go into my usual rant about all this hurling stuff into space, but I really continue to wonder about the need and the cost."

   Chuck tossed his newspaper aside. "With that, let's go see what the womenfolk are up to."


   Farmers viewing their damaged crops hadn't forgotten Mother Nature's little freezing tantrum from Friday night, but she apparently had. The last week in June proved to be mostly fair, with only widely scattered showers, and average temperatures between 50 and 85.   Greg and Chuck had only been in the office a few minutes when Mac called. He talked to Chuck for a while, then Chuck handed the phone to Greg. The conversation lasted about five minutes, during which Greg said about five words. He said, "Thanks, Mac," and it was over.

   "Everything okay?" Chuck asked.

   "Somewhat anticlimactic, but yes. I guess it's all settled. Mac will start on the paperwork right away."

   Chuck gave a laugh. "Well, congratulations."

  "Thanks. Can I use your home phone to give Vic a quick call?"


  When Greg called, he got Alice. "Vic and Mandy are off, somewhere. They'll be back soon, because Mandy has to go to work. Should Vic call you?"

   "No. I'm going to be out on the refuge for a while. Just tell her I talked to Mac, and everything is confirmed - just as Chuck presented it to us over the weekend. I'll still plan to come to town on Wednesday. If she wants to talk to me before then, I'll probably be here with Chuck, eating and being massacred at checkers."

   Alice chuckled. "I'll tell her."

   "Oh, another thing, while I have you. I assume you have plans for Vic's birthday?"

   'Yes. I'm sorry, Greg. I should have told you on the weekend. There were too many things going on, and it slipped by. Anyway, we're just going to have some of her friends over to the house Wednesday evening, for cake and refreshments."

   "That sounds nice. I will plan to attend."

   "I should hope so!"


   Greg made a quick survey of the refuge, checking wildlife populations, and the general condition of the ponds and upland habitat. Duck nesting seemed to be at about the same level as in 1965, with lots of mallard and teal broods, and a scattering of other species. The ponds looked okay, but there was already very little inflow. The first six months of 1966 had been extremely dry, the refuge area getting only a third of normal precipitation. Soon, that would result in lowered water levels. He’d need to watch carefully.  Being so dry, it might be a bad summer for range fires, too.

   It had been the same week last year that fires were burning all around them, and BLM had started the backfire (that, later, proved unnecessary). So far, there had been a few forest fires and a couple of range fires, but nothing close. He hoped that would continue to be the case.

   He returned to headquarters but, before going to the office, he wandered down into the woods to check bird activity. As expected, courtship singing was over, and the forest was very quiet. That didn't mean there were no birds, just that they had moved on in the nesting cycle, and now were tending eggs or young. He thought about the mist net that Matt had left with him. Maybe he should try a little summer trapping. He thought it unlikely that he'd discover anything noteworthy, but it was a fun exercise.

   In the office, he and Chuck discussed the work schedule. "We're both going to be in and out a lot, what with impending weddings and transfers," Chuck began. "I think we just play it by ear, and do what we need to do, personally and for work. I can't think of anything vitally pending, except the quarterly narrative report."

   "That's in pretty good shape. I got most of the notes together before Vic and I left for California. I just need to bring them up to date, and then write the darn thing. It shouldn't take much time.

   "I am a little worried about the water situation, and how dry the range is, already. It seems doubtful we'll get much new water until fall, so I guess I need to keep close watch on water levels, and also signs of stagnation, if the water gets too warm or too low. Not much we can do ahead of time about range fires, but Tim and I can stay extra diligent about possible hazard situations."

    "That all sounds good. I don't have any other thoughts. I'll probably go up to Idaho Falls for a day or two before the wedding, and then again before John leaves for Montana."

   "When I was down in the woods this morning, I was thinking about the mist net that Matt left with us. It might be educational - and fun! - to set it up, and run it for an hour or two whenever I'm going to be close by."

   "Yeah, that sounds all right."

   "I'll get Tim to help me set the poles in some permanent location. I think we're covered with our blanket banding permit, but Matt said that the university had to get a special addendum for the mist-netting, because it required a little different training than most trapping and banding. I'll check to see if we need anything. If we do, maybe we can wait until you're in place at Idaho Falls and then - since we'll be under your jurisdiction - we can request the permit to cover both refuges."

   "Sounds logical to me. You work it out."

   "Thanks. I plan to take leave Wednesday and Thursday, so Vic and I can get some of the wedding preliminaries done. Is that okay?"

   "Sure. I'll probably take Friday, so Allie and I can start seriously  thinking about moving."


   Vic called that evening, while Greg was being mercilessly beaten at checkers. He considered it a welcome reprieve, as well as a general pleasure. He described his very brief conversation with Mac, then listened to an equally brief account of her doings concerning the wedding. He confirmed his plans to see her Wednesday and Thursday, then said something romantic, to which she replied in kind. He again invited her to come out to the refuge with him Thursday evening, to spend the weekend. She accepted, again. After hanging up the phone, he returned to the checkers massacre.


   Wednesday morning, Greg got to town as soon as the camera shop opened, left the vacation film and the mist-netting film to be processed, chatted with Bobby about the wedding photography, and then moved on to the jeweler's.

   "You're here," Jeannie greeted him. "Mandy told me you'd gone to California."

   "We did, got back Friday evening. We wanted Vic to meet my family before the wedding, so we took a little pre-wedding honeymoon trip. We stayed a night at Lake Tahoe, stayed with my folks two nights, and saw my brother and sister, then drove up through northern California, and back home across Oregon. It was a fun trip. Vic has always wanted to see redwood trees and an ocean, and I was able to provide both. As a bonus, my sister demanded that I toast marshmallows with Vic - a treat she had never had - so we did that, too."

   "It sounds like a great trip. I haven't ever seen Lake Tahoe, an ocean, or redwood trees, either. .Why didn't you take me with you?"

   "To answer that, Jeannie, we would have to get into a discussion of what honeymoons - pre- or post-wedding - are all about."

   Jeannie laughed. "Fair enough. Shall we get back to the safer subject of marshmallows?  She'd never toasted marshmallows? What about s'mores?"

   "No s'mores. Did you know that I know all about s'mores - know they have been popular with Boy Scouts and Campfire Girls since the 1920s, and have even been called by the same name since the '30s? Despite that knowledge, I have never even seen a s'more, let alone eaten one."


   "Seriously. Even though we had family camping trips every summer, and roasted innumerable hot dogs and marshmallows, s'mores somehow were never in the family repertoire."

   "How very odd, and yet you appear to be normal in most respects."

   "Thanks for that."

   "So, why are you here today - wedding stuff?"

   "No, birthday stuff. Vic's is next Wednesday, and I thought I might get her something to put in her newly-pierced ear lobes. Her birthstone is ruby. Any ideas?"

   "I do have some ideas. Come look." She steered him to a cabinet filled with earrings, and took out several pairs with single reddish-purple stones.

   "These are very nice rubies, I think. Very simple, but kind of elegant. A super high quality ruby would be a little redder than these, but purple is much finer than the more yellow or orangish tinges. These should look really good with Vic's dark hair."

   "I agree. I like them a lot, and I think she will, too." He picked one of the pairs that he especially liked. "I'll take these." As he was turning away, he spotted some long dangling earrings - three separate tiers of glass or some clear material, with gold fittings. The top tier was round, the second rectangular, and the bottom a modified triangle. "I really like these, Jeannie, and I'm thinking they might be just right to go with a wedding gown, worn by a woman with long, chestnut hair."

   Jeannie laughed as she took them out of the cabinet. "You have a good eye, and good taste. These are actually advertised as wedding earrings. The length of the dangle is obviously striking, I think. The glass jewels in 14K gold settings will really sparkle, and the hook backs make the weight of them more comfortable to wear than posts. And you're right - set against her hair and her veil, they'll be fantastic!"

   "I'll get both - one for her birthday, and the other just because I want to."

   They completed the sale, and Greg prepared to leave. "Hey, if you happen to see Vic before her birthday, remember that you don't know anything about the California trip, except what Mandy told you."

   Jeannie made a "lips sealed" motion. "You were never here, Greg."


    At  the Anderson house, Greg found that the wedding announcements had just arrived. "Well, that's good. Do you want to start addressing them today?"

   "No, let's do the leg work stuff today, and save the addressing for tonight and tomorrow. Let's go look at the community hall - just to get the details fresh in my mind - then do refreshments, cake, flowers... And maybe stop at Jeannie's, and get a bridesmaid present for Mandy."

   Their stop at the community hall was brief, just long enough to picture the layout on wedding day. It was plain, but bright and clean, and Tim's arbor and some strategic bunches of flowers would liven it up. Both of them liked it.

   They moved on to the grocers, bought coffee and tea, and ordered a case of sparkling cider. Next was Marco's Bakery. Vic reminded the owner who she was, and introduced Greg.

   "My mom and sister came in a week or so ago, and you showed them some of your wedding cake designs."

   "Yes, I know you. I remember you and your sister from many years ago - pretty little girls." He held his hand at waist level. "You liked my cupcakes. Now, grown women." He raised his hand a little higher than his own head. "Ready for marriage."

   Vic laughed. "Yes, and we still love your cupcakes!"

   Marco beamed. "Good. So, wedding cakes. I don't have any made up like you will want, but I can show you photos of some I have made. And I have several flavors of cake that you can sample."

   He brought out a binder filled with color photos of cakes he had made in the past. "I'll let you look through these, while I wait on some customers."

   Vic began to leaf through the photos. They weren't all of wedding cakes, but there was a good variety of different shapes, with different decorations. "These look really nice," Greg offered.

   "I agree. I especially like some of these three-decker ones - a large cake for the base, a smaller one on top, and an even smaller top layer. It's kind of like those Russian dolls, except the cakes get smaller outside of themselves, rather than hidden inside."

  "They do look very wedding-y."

  "Do you like any of the others any better?"

  "No, I think one of these would be perfect. What color would you like ours?"

  "I think white, both inside and out. White frosting because it just looks right to me. Then, white inside, because I think everybody likes white cake, and you can't always be sure with chocolate or other flavors. Mandy says his white cake is scrumptiously light and moist, and he doesn't make his icing too sweet."

   "That all sounds good to me. What about the top? Do you like the bride and groom figures?"

  "Not especially. They always look a little common to me, and we're obviously high class people. We do need something, though. How about a pretty bell, like on this other cake?"

  "That does seem classier to me. Let's do that."

  "Okay. Now, the icing. I like how he does the extra frosting wall on the edges of each cake, and I like the fillagree - the leaves, or swirls, or whatever they are - that he puts on the sides. But I think I'd like some color. The wedding colors - Mandy's dress, and the flowers - are yellow and baby blue - both kind of pastel, rather than announcing themselves too loudly. Would some of the decorations being done in blue and yellow make sense to you?"

   "It makes good sense, and if the blue and yellow are muted, they'll highlight the cake, and not overwhelm it."

   Marco returned, and they discussed their ideas with him. He showed Vic the different shades of blue and yellow that he could do, and she selected the ones she liked.

   "Come back next week, and I'll have a little model of the cake made, so you can get a better idea of how it will actually look. Now, do you want to taste some different cakes?"

   They did. When they had sampled them all, they agreed with Mandy that the white cake was the winner. After finalizing the order with Marco, they moved on to the florist.

   Mrs. Davidson - who Vic had known for years - was as outgoing and helpful as Alice and Mandy had described her. She showed them the white and yellow glads. "Mom said you could get some white glads that have a yellow center?" Vic asked it as a question.

   "I can. As I told Alice and Mandy, I don't have any in stock, but I'll show you the pictures I showed them." She did.

   "They are lovely," said Vic, after seeing the photos. "What do you think, Greg?"

   "I like them, but I don't know that I like them any more than I like the single-colored ones."

   "Hmm. I think I agree with you. What about this - Mandy's bouquet the lemon yellow glads, the room decorations white glads, and my bouquet mostly white, but with a few of Mandy's yellow ones for contrast?"

   "I like it. How about having half the decoration bouquets white and the other half yellow, just for contrast and more color?"

   "I like that. It's perfect!"

   With Mrs. Davidson, they calculated their need for each color, and completed the order. "So, on to Jeannie's?" Vic asked.

   "She might be at lunch. Do you want to grab something, first?" They got sandwiches at the diner, and Mandy waited on them. Afterward, they left the car where it was parked, and walked the couple of blocks to the jeweler's.

   "Oh, you're back," Jeannie greeted them. "Mandy told me you'd gone to California."

   "We did," said Greg. "We got back Friday. We wanted Vic to meet my family before the wedding."

   "How did that go?"

   "Oh, that went great," Vic enthused.  "We had a fun time with his parents and his brother and sister. We also got to do some sightseeing. Since I'd never been to California, it was all new, and we were able to do some things that I've had on my wish list for a long time. Like, we went to Lake Tahoe - well, that wasn't actually on my wish list, because I really didn't know about it, but it was a great bonus.  But then we did see redwood trees and the Pacific Ocean, which were very definitely on my list."

   "Were the redwoods as impressive as you thought they would be, and did you get to dip your toes in the ocean?"

   "Yes, and yes. Both were better than I imagined."

   "How about..." She stopped.

   "How about what?" Vic asked.

   Jeannie seemed a little confused. "Sorry, I guess I lost my train of thought. I was just thinking that I've hardly been out of Idaho, so I've never seen any of those things. You should have taken me with you."

   Jeannie got in a quick wink at Greg, while Vic was looking away. "Yes, you should have come. We could have had a lot of fun, together."

   Both Greg and Jeannie seemed to have a little trouble, keeping from coughing. "So, what can I do for you today?" asked Jeannie, getting herself back under control. "Is Greg buying you a birthday present?"

   Vic glanced at Greg. "No, we're here to get Mandy a bridesmaid present. Maybe some earrings?"

   "Sure. Let me show you what I have."  She steered Vic to the same case that held the earrings Greg had bought earlier that day. "If you're thinking of something she might wear at the wedding, these are very nice, and would look good on her." She handed Vic a pair much like Greg had bought, but with only two dangling stones, rather than three.

   "Yes, I like those a lot. What else do you have?"

   Jeannie got out a few other sets, but Vic eventually came back to the first ones Jeannie had shown her. "Anything else for you guys?" Jeannie asked.

   "I don't know if jewelry is the answer, but I'm still looking for a best man present," Greg said.

   "Who's the best man?"

  "Tim Johnson, who works out at the refuge with me."

  "Oh, I know Tim. Well, like most farmers and ranchers, he wouldn't wear a lot of jewelry, but everybody dresses up now and then. Have you considered a tie tack? They're simple, but they always add a little to any occasion where a tie is involved."

   "I hadn't considered that. It sounds like an idea."

   "Well, I have tons of them - every theme, every sport you can imagine."

   Greg picked out a flying duck, and showed it to Vic. She approved. He bought it. They chatted with Jeannie a bit more, then went on their way.

   Outside the store, Vic took Greg's arm in hers. "You know, I had the strangest feeling in there that somebody had already told Jeannie about our trip."

   "Well, she said that Mandy had told her."

   "No, I know that, but I'm talking about specifics. Mandy wouldn't have known the details of where we went and what we saw. You hadn't been in there already, had you?"

   "Since we got home, I have barely been out of your sight, except when I was out at the refuge."

  "That's true. Anyway, I've kind of given up on that idea because she asked if we were there to pick out a birthday present for me. That would have been the only reason you would have made a sneaky trip in there, earlier."

   "Yeah, about your birthday. I haven't decided what to do about that. Maybe nothing, as I'm sure you'll be getting plenty of other nice things."

   She gripped his arm a little more firmly. "I think it would be to your future advantage if I find there is some little thing from you at my birthday party."

   "I'll take that under advisement."

   "Still," she continued, as if the subject hadn't changed. "It just felt like she knew everything I was going to say before I said it - about the redwoods, and the ocean. I even thought she might  have been going to ask me about toasting marshmallows, when she abruptly changed the subject to wishing she'd been with us. Also, I'm almost certain she winked at you about then."

   "I guess I missed both of those. Winking at me? I know I'm kind of a magnet where women are concerned, but when we bought your engagement ring, I thought you made it very clear to Jeannie that I was taken. She wouldn't dare wink at me with you present."

   "Maybe, maybe not."

   "Besides, while we're on the subject, did I hear you invite her to go along on our honeymoon with us?"

  "What? No, I was just making conversation. Anyway, our trip is over, and she didn't go. Still, it might have been fun to have her along."

  "It certainly would have made for a different kind of honeymoon."

  Before getting into the car, Vic picked up the conversation, again. "I still can't shake this feeling that Jeannie already knew about the trip."

   "I don't see how."

   "Neither do I, but if I'm still thinking about it on my birthday, I'll ask her."

   "With everything going on, I find it hard to believe you'll still be thinking about this. Still, if there are answers to be had, I think you should have them by your birthday."


   Greg and the Anderson women ate a quiet dinner. After, Greg suggested they start addressing wedding announcements, but everybody seemed too tired to get started. Instead, they began to watch television  - "I Spy," to be followed by "Wild Wild West. Alice gave up fifteen minutes into the first show, and went to bed. Mandy followed twenty minutes later. Vic was already asleep on Greg's lap by then, but he let her sleep until the end of the first show, then turned off the TV and carried her to their bed.

   Thursday morning, all four got to work in earnest. Vic was the best typist, so she worked on their one typewriter, while the other three practiced their neatest printing. It went quickly, and they were over halfway done when Mandy had to go to work. Even with a short lunch break, all the announcements were addressed and the envelopes stamped by early afternoon. Vic and Greg helped Alice with a little clean-up around the house, said their goodbyes, took all the announcements to the post office, and headed for a long weekend at the refuge.


To The Writing It Down Homepage

Leave a Comment:

© Sanford Wilbur 2024