CHAPTER Thirty-eight: RACING THROUGH AUTUMN

   The slowness with which September seemed to go by was in sharp contrast to how quickly October was coming and going. In the first week, Greg and Chuck dismantled the duck traps and brought them back to headquarters, where Greg cleaned them thoroughly, then stored them until 1966. Later that week, Greg watched the Fish and Game people set up their hunter check station, then helped them post the limits of the hunting area.

   The season opened with a good number of hunters, but with what duck hunters call “bluebird weather:” clear skies and warm temperatures. As one sports writer described it: “The birds were flying, lots of them, but at altitudes out of the reach of anything but a Nike-Zeus.” Nevertheless, with the refuge birds as yet unwary from hunting pressure, shooting was deemed pretty good. Greg didn’t see any 6-bird limits, but bags of 3 or 4 ducks were common.

   The Fish and Game procedures at the check station were simple. Because cars had to be parked off the refuge, and the check station was set up right at the refuge gate, everyone had to walk into the refuge at the same location. Fish and Game casually looked out for any blatantly illegal firearms, but mostly they just made sure that everyone entering the refuge had a valid hunting license, with a migratory bird hunting stamp (“duck stamp”). On the way out, every hunter stopped at the check station, where the checkers marked down the number of birds each hunter had, and the species and sex of each duck. They also made note of any banded birds. Greg saw that some of the Fish and Game people were a little weak on their identifications, but there seemed to always be someone available who knew what was what.

   The second week, Greg stopped by the check station several times, mostly just from general curiosity. Success wasn’t as good as opening day, but still “pretty good.” Most of the week, however, he worked on the July-September narrative report. October 12 was officially a federal holiday –  a day off for him – but he had nothing else to do, so he just worked through. (He had his doubts about “celebrating” Christopher Columbus, anyway – an apparently evil, treacherous man, who didn’t really discover America!)

   Midway through the week, he received a large envelope from the college, sent by someone whose name he didn’t recognize. In it, he found the two bird lists that he had wanted, and a note from Matt Bowen – the grad student Vic had talked to – saying that he and Dr. Fichter would be very interested in hearing more about Greg’s observations. Later, Greg composed a long response, with full details of the spring migration. He felt quite elated that he finally had someone who was interested in the same type of wildlife that he was.

   He got two letters from Vic that week – mostly just communication with each other, but with a few shareable entries. She talked  about the duck banding photos: “Greg, I’m so sorry I didn’t thank you for the banding photos. We just got so busy with other stuff, it never came up. I love them! It’s obviously the real me – Outdoor Girl - maybe ‘Science Girl?’ Who knows? Anyway, I showed them around the dorm, and became an instant heroine – a mere girl, taking on such a dangerous assignment.”

   She also talked about her second speech: “You remember our first assignment was just a speech to introduce ourselves to the class. This time, she told us to present a story in speech form – any subject we wanted, but with a clear introduction, center, and conclusion. I was kind of stumped, but then I got to thinking about our conversations about student protests and demonstrations. Here’s what I came up with – not the exact words, but I think pretty close to the way I delivered it.

   “My boyfriend had told me about all the student marches, demonstrations, and protests at California colleges. We don’t do that here, but I decided I’d stage my own demonstration. I made up a couple of signs, but didn’t use the standard messages – you know, like ‘Get out of Viet Nam,’ or ‘Make love, not war.” I came up with two that I thought were provocative enough to create discussion. One just said, ‘What is a patriot?’ The other was actually a little too long for a sign, but I couldn’t think of any way to pare it down: ‘Could you love somebody who you knew had done a lot of terrible things?’

  “I took them out on a little hill not far from the student union, and waited for results. I waited and waited. Many students passed by, but I don’t think even one person looked at my sign. Two girls from the dorm had come out with me, but a cold wind and lack of response soon sent them off for hot chocolate. I decided to stand my ground a little longer.

   “I was just about to give up when a young man appeared, and stood looking up at me, apparently really thinking about my messages. He stood there a long time, but never said anything, or made any move to approach me. Finally, I took the initiative and walked down to him.

   “’What do the signs say to you?’ I asked. He looked a little confused. ‘Signs?’ he asked. ‘I’m afraid I didn’t notice them. I was just thinking that you have really nice legs.’

   “Well, that surprised me – Oh, not that he thought I had nice legs. I do. I just had expected something a little more cerebral – a little intellectual. What did I do? I thanked him, and said that my boyfriend really liked them, too. Then, I took my signs back to the dorm, and joined the other girls with their hot chocolate. And that ended my first student demonstration.

   “The class clapped, and the teacher said she thought it was very good. She said it obviously contained a lot of deeper messages that could be explored. I don’t think the class got that part. I think most were still thinking about legs. Several mentioned mine as we left class.”

 

   Week Two ended with Greg traveling to Pocatello to see Vic, and attend a Bengals’ football game. He had purchased his tickets for this game, and the following two, by telephone - $1.50 each. He got an early start, and picked Vic up at the dorm about 10:30. There had been a few scattered showers overnight, but It was clearing and getting a little cooler as the day progressed – pretty good “football weather,” he thought. Being Homecoming weekend, all the restaurants near campus were pretty crowded, so they drove into town and found a booth in a fairly quiet diner. They ordered, then just smiled at each other across the table.

   “I know it was only two weeks this time, but I really, really missed you,” exclaimed Greg.

   “Same here, and, as much as I’m glad you’re here, I’m already thinking it’s going to be a pretty sad, hard jolt when you’re gone soon after the game.”

   “I know. But if it’s any consolation, I ‘m thinking of spending Friday and Saturday night here next weekend. I mean, if you’d like me to.”

   She seemed to ponder that a moment. “Would I like you to come for the weekend? Yes. I think my answer is yes.”

    “I’ll make the reservations on the way out of town.”

   Their food arrived. “Any big news to report?” he asked her.

   “No, although one thing came up that is interesting. You remember my speech about student demonstrations? Well, later that day, one of the girls in the dorm told me that she thought there had been a Viet Nam demonstration last spring. She wasn’t here – she’s new, like me – and she didn’t know anything specific. She’d just heard about it from someone.

   “Well, you know me. After Swimming class last Friday, I went over to the library, and was shown the back-issues of the Pocatello newspapers. I didn’t know where to begin looking, but ‘spring’ suggested April to me, so I started there. I couldn’t find anything in April that looked like it. Did it happen? I don’t know. My informant seemed pretty positive, but it was second-hand  information.  A little demonstration might not deserve mention in a bigger city, but it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t report just about any march or protest in Pocatello.”

   “Well, that’s certainly interesting, and a sign that there might be a little protest life in ISU students. I wonder what actually happened. Are you going to continue to look in your spare time?”

   “I don’t know. All I have, really, is ‘spring.’ I suppose I could look in the May newspapers. The problem is that there aren’t any indexes or anything, so I’d just have to look for headlines that seemed promising. I might; I’m still interested.”

 

   Back at the campus, they found a spot in the visitors’ parking area, although it was filling up, fast. At the stadium, they met Nancy and a bunch of other dorm women, and were soon joined by a bunch of dorm men. They all crammed together into the bleachers at about the 30-yard line.

   Greg loved college football. He was usually non-partisan, and any game was a good game except for a real rout of one team over the other. This qualified for him as a good game. The Bengals were playing the Montana State Bobcats, a rival in the Big Sky Conference. It was mostly a defensive game, with lots of rushing and very little passing. The two touchdowns that the Bengals eventually won by were enabled by errors. In the first quarter, the Bengals fumbled the ball, only eight yards from a touchdown. The Bobcats fumbled it right back to them, but it still took them two plays to cover the eight yards to touchdown. The final touchdown came in the fourth quarter, when the Bengals intercepted one of the few passes in the game, and ran it back 50 yards to score.

   After the game, Vic and Greg mingled with the students for a while, then walked back to Greg’s car, and waited for most of the visitors to leave. When the lot had pretty much cleared out, Greg drove up closer to the dorm, and stopped. She surprised him when, without preliminaries, she climbed out of her side of the car, and firmly shut her door. She thought he looked a little stunned, but she walked around to his side of the car, and knocked on his window. He rolled it down. Again without preliminaries, she leaned her head into the car, and kissed him lengthily and memorably. She stepped back.

   “I thought that might help me remember you were here.” She turned away, then turned back. “It might help you, too.” She gave a little wave, and turned to go, but he called after her. “Well, I’ll certainly remember you through Sunday.”

   She accepted the challenge, and came back to kiss him one more time – if anything, stronger and more lingering than the first. “That will take you through the whole week. I guarantee it.”

   . He sat and watched until she entered her dorm. He missed her, already.

 

   Greg stopped at the motel. The desk clerk remembered him. “I’m just up for the game, today, but we’ll be here next Friday and Saturday nights. Do you have room?”

   They did. “How was the game? I heard we won.” the clerk said.

   “I thought it was great. I love just about any college football. This one didn’t have a lot of scoring, but there was lots of action on the field. The Bengals beat Montana State by two touchdowns. Next week against Weber State may be a little tougher. See you then.”

   Greg decided to stay on the Interstate all the way into town, so he could say hello to the Andersons before going on to the refuge. It had been dark for an hour, but was still only 8 o’clock. Alice greeted him at the door.

   “Greg, I didn’t expect to see you today.”

   “No, it’s an impromptu visit. I’m just on my way back from Pocatello, where I went to a football game with your daughter and Nancy and a bunch of their dorm mates. I just thought I’d let you know that I’d seen her.”

   “Is she doing okay? She sounds good in her letters. We’ve only talked on the phone once.”

   “I think she’s doing really well. We didn’t have much time to talk on this trip, but I think she’s fitting in to college life well. She seems to like all her classes and teachers except for Sociology. That’s a required course, so you just have to grin and bear it, I guess. I know that’s what I did in college.”

   Chuck and Mandy had come into the room while he was talking. “Who won the game?” asked Chuck.

   “The Bengals beat Montana State, 14 to nothing. I thought it was a fun game – not much scoring, but a lot of action between the goal posts. Actually, both touchdowns came about because of errors. In the first quarter, the Bengals got down to the eight yard line, and fumbled the ball. Montana State fumbled it right back to them, and they got the touchdown. Then, in the fourth quarter, the Bengals intercepted a pass, and ran it 50 yards for the other score.”

   “You must be tired, after that drive,” observed Mandy.

   “I am. It’s been a long day, but a fun one. It’s not really that far up there, but add the driving to the game time, and it is a full day. I’m ready to be home.”

   “Did she have any interesting news?” asked Alice.

   “Well, as I said, we didn’t have much time to talk… Wait a minute, has she told you about her student protest speech?” She hadn’t. “Hold on, I think I have that letter in the car. It’s worth sharing.”

   He found the letter, and brought it in the house. Mandy read it aloud. They all laughed at the punchline about her legs.

   “That’s a great story,: observed Chuck. “Really cleverly put together.”

   “Your daughter is a natural. She’s so open, and has such stage presence – a lot more than most people her age.” He got up.  “Well, nice to see you all. I better get home.”

   “I’ll walk you out,” offered Mandy. “Do you want a dance lesson tomorrow?” she asked when they got to the door.

   “I would, but I don’t want to interfere with your Sunday family time.”

   “I don’t think that’s quite so formal now that we’re in town all the time. Let me ask Mom.”

   She went back in the house, then came back. “Mom says it’s okay. She might even feed you.”

  Greg laughed. “That doesn’t surprise me. What time? Noon, one, two…?”

  “How about one?”

  “One, it is.” He kissed her on the forehead. “See you then, sweet almost sister-in-law.”

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