CHAPTER Thirty-five: ALONE TOO LONG

   Monday morning dawned dry and clear, but chilly compared to the average for so early in the year. It was 34 degrees when Greg checked the weather station, not quite a frost, but the weather report said it was five or six degrees cooler than usual. A northwest air flow out of Alaska was supposed to keep the high temperatures only in the 70s through most of the week – a little touch of fall, to follow their little touch of winter.

   Greg was just coming up from a quick survey of the woods when Chuck arrived from town. “Checking the dicky birds?” Chuck asked.

   “Yep. When the weather change started the ducks moving, it also started the dicky birds on their way. For a day or so, things were really alive with warblers. There are still some around, but it looks like the big fall exodus is already pretty much over.”

   They went into the office. “Anything happen yesterday of interest?,” asked Chuck.

   “We had one party of bird hunters stop by. They hadn’t even seen a sage grouse either day. They asked about Huns, but I don’t know if they were really hunting for them. It seemed like maybe they were finished for the day, already. Other than that, I banded a few ducks morning and evening, but spent most of the day at home.”

   Chuck started going through Saturday’s mail. “So, Tim’s gone. I guess it’s just you and me for the duration. Oh, wait. Here’s something interesting. You remember I said that we always have a fall meeting with our game agent, to talk about law enforcement? It looks like none this year. He’s transferring to California, and there won’t be a replacement in Pocatello for a while.”

   Greg felt a little twinge of disappointment. He had been hoping that he could fit a quick hug and kiss in with Vic on the day of the meeting. Chuck handed him the letter. “Here, read it for yourself. He wrote some good notes. It’s pretty much what he would have said, in person.”

 

   “You were probably expecting to hear from me about now, arranging our annual law enforcement meeting with southeast Idaho refuge folks. Sorry, no meeting this year. I’ve just learned that I’ll be transferring to California in the coming month, so there’s no time to call you together.

   “If you’ve been around awhile, you know what I would be going to say, anyway. But it is important. Any time you’re dealing with folks who carry guns, you need to be alert and to know what you can and can’t – should and shouldn’t - do. For your own safety, for the civil rights of the people you deal with, and for the good name of the Government, you need to remember some basics.

   “For instance, although we’ve always acted as if you had the authority of ‘game wardens’ on refuges, I don’t think any of you have had any actual law enforcement training. I have a feeling that situation will be corrected before many years go by, and you will all be required to attend training just like the police go through, including practicing with firearms. Some of you will welcome that; some probably won’t. It may change some career paths, but that’s life, as they say. In the meantime, remember that when you write a ticket for a game violation, it is little more than a ‘citizen’s arrest,’ so to speak. It’s kind of a bluff, but so far an acceptable one. Nevertheless, it’s best to keep your profile just as low as possible, while still doing your jobs and protecting the resources.

   “Here’s my advice:

   “First, let Idaho Fish and Game handle as many of the game law violations as possible. They are credentialed, and can treat a violation on the refuge just like they’d treat one anywhere else. That also means that they’re the ones who will be spending time in court when it is required.

   “Second, for any really serious Federal law violations – like market hunting, or stealing Indian artifacts – our game agent in Boise will take care of those needs while this office is vacated. Just give him a call.

   “Third, if there is serious criminal activity – like a dead body dumped on the refuge (it has happened!) or marijuana growing operations – contact the Boise agent, but let your local authorities – like the sheriff’s department – take the lead. They’re better equipped for that kind of thing.”

    “So, everybody take care. I’ll miss working with you, and will truly miss Idaho. California is not my first choice of places I want to live – particularly in the big city, Sacramento – but the kinds of operations that go on there are really exciting. I think I’m going to love the work, even if the location is not my preference.”

 

   Greg put down the letter. “So, we don’t actually have the authority to write tickets for game violations?”

   “Let’s just say that we haven’t ever been challenged on it, but it is shaky if there was ever a big legal protest. Just be kind and courteous and let the State be the ‘bad guys.’

   “So, moving on. What’s on your agenda this week?”

   “I thought I’d run the duck traps one more week, then take them down before duck hunting season. I’ve been compiling notes for the narrative report, so we’ll be ready to put that together at the end of the month. Other than that, I don’t have any specific plans. What else do we need to do?”

   Chuck took a few moments to think. “Nothing very specific happens here, after duck season and until the spring thaw. I’d say to just keep on doing what you’re doing, and we’ll eventually work out a plan for the rest of the year.”

 

***

-Greg-

Monday evening, Sept. 20

Hi Vic. This morning, I got the letter you sent Friday. I had one ready to go to you, and sent it, so there isn’t much new to say, tonight. I’ll start this one now, and mail it later in the week.

   Your winter weather sounds really brutal. It’s not surprising that you’ve had some “birds” fly south, already. I’m sorry about Mary Belle, but I think we can both be confident that she wouldn’t have made it through the end of the year.

   You know by now that I did “make it through” the weekend, but I think it felt almost as brutal as your weather. I don’t know about your Sunday yet, but it sounds like “Cat Ballou” was a fair replacement for me. Just kidding – I know you wouldn’t replace me with a movie – and it sounds like I would like it a lot, and that you wouldn’t mind seeing it again. Still, somehow, it doesn’t seem real. Can you imagine a young man being more interested in you, than in justice? I mean, justice is a great idea, a towering concept. Would a man (like me, for instance) accept a real live woman (like you, for instance) in lieu of a grand and glorious concept? Really!

   Yes, I am being extra careful with my ring. My “necklace” is very heavy string. And thank you for mentioning the Viet Nam news. As you said, and I said, it’s a reality, but…

 

Tuesday evening, Sept. 21

   Nothing really new to report about me or the refuge, so I’ll just give you a recap of local events.

   First, the sage grouse hunt: 951 hunters only managed to shoot 463 birds. That’s pretty poor compared to other recent years, they say. I didn’t get an actual count for Day 2, but it was also pretty bad. Also, Fish and Game said that hunters had to hunt almost double the hours to get a bird than they did in 1964. They’re blaming the cold weather, that caused the grouse to scatter and made them harder to hunt. As expected, none were killed very near us.

   Second, if you were looking forward to the big celebration for the reopening of the sugar plant, you’re out of luck. It’s been postponed indefinitely. I guess everything is ready to go, but the bad weather slowed beet harvest, and the executives at the sugar plant decided that it wasn’t a good idea to let a celebration get in the way of actual work. Apparently, the plans for the gala would have pretty much shut down the processing for about four days. They couldn’t afford that.

   Third, mark your calendar for next February 10 and 11, when the Second Annual Idaho Potato Conference will be held in Pocatello.

   Finally, more Viet Nam news. Nothing really to do with us, but just another sign that we’re not getting out of that war any time soon. The Defense Department has called for a much increased draft of doctors, dentists and veterinarians starting in January. Not enough have volunteered to meet the military need. In 1964, 1000 were drafted, and in 1965 only 850. In January 1966, the plan is to draft 1500 physicians, 350 dentists, and 100 veterinarians. As the Burley newspaper reported, “The military services have expanded from less than 2.7 million to more than 3 million men as a result of the Viet Nam war.” I hate this!!

  Wednesday evening, Sept. 22

   I’m a little ashamed and embarrassed to confess that I haven’t sent anything to you this week. I pretty well ran out of significant things to say on Monday; at least, I ran out of ways to make them sound interesting. All there is to tell you is that I band ducks morning and evening, drive around the refuge, work in the office, and play checkers with your dad.

   Actually,  that’s far from all, so I’m going to say what’s really on my mind. In your letter, you said you weren’t going to be maudlin, and you were just going to stick to the facts. That really said a lot about how you are feeling without you actually saying it. Well, the time has come when I need to put my feelings right out front, maudlin and all. Vic, I ache for you. My body aches for you. My mind aches for you. I knew this separation was going to be difficult for us, but I never realized how difficult. It hasn’t even been two weeks, and I just feel adrift.

   I look forward to making some serious physical love with you when we’re together again, but that’s not what I’m talking about now. I’m talking about how much I miss seeing you – how much I miss hearing your voice –  how much I miss having conversations with you. Yes, I miss seeing your beautiful face – your lovely body – the way you move. Your voice captivates me – the way it changes when you’re being serious, and then again when there is mischief brewing. I just can’t talk with anybody else the way we talk – never have been able to – and it’s a wonder to me, and a blessing. In short, I am deeply in love with both the idea of you, and the reality of you. I love you, Victoria Anderson!

   After writing this, I feel both happy and sad. I suspect you will feel the same when you read it. One thing I have realized is that three weeks is much too long to be apart. I think we should try to figure out ways to be together more often. I don’t know how, but I’m working on it.

   I’m going to mail this in the morning, so you don’t have too long a gap between letters.

  Love (as if you doubted it),

  Greg

***

-Vic-

Wednesday evening, Sept. 22

Hi Love. Well, we both made it through our first weekend apart. I would like not to do it again, but I guess that isn’t our choice, is it?  This is hard!

   I’m glad you had your “dicky birds,” and glad you had a chance to visit with your future in-laws. I have added the words “expurgated” and “unexpurgated” to my vocabulary. You never know when they might come in handy.

   I did find Dr. Fichter in the college catalog. He’s still here. I’m going to try and visit with him, and tell him a little about you in person. I don’t know how easy it is for a lowly fresh(wo)man to meet with a biology professor, but I think I can explain you in person better than you just writing to him. If I can’t, I’ll send you his mail address.

   Your Sunday sounds a little sad, but I’m glad you made the most of it. The racing book must have been good if you finished it in one sitting. I’ve had a few books like that – ones that kept my full attention from beginning to end – but not many. Of course, I know you were staying with it partially because I wasn’t there to take your mind off it.

   I’ve had all my classes now, except for Swimming. Not much to say about them yet. Oh, I did give my speech today. I talked about growing up on wildlife refuges, which isn’t too much different than a lot of Idaho farm kids. But then I finished with a demonstration of duck banding. Well, I couldn’t find a duck – or anything that resembles a duck – so I used one of Nancy’s teddy bears. I showed how to stuff it under my arm, and extend its leg. I used a rubber band for the bird band. I think I was a hit! I wonder what I’ll do as an encore.

   This is a pretty short letter, but I’m sleepy, now. I think I’ll mail this in the morning so you have something coming, and then start another tomorrow night.

   Sleep well, my love – or, at least, as well as you can without me there to cuddle with you.

   Vic 

 ***

-Greg-

Thursday evening, Sept. 23

Hi Sweetie. Well, I finally know how you did without me on Sunday. I think “sedate” describes my feelings about my couple of Presbyterian visits, too. They were nice enough, but they seemed more lecture than sermon – more intellectual than emotional. I guess many people like their religion that way – there are a lot of Presbyterian churches around – but I kind of have the feeling that worship should have a little more heart, and a little less brain, in it. After all, we’re dealing with the greatest mysteries of life, aren’t we?

   Angela from O-hi (are you sure it isn’t O-ji?) sounds like fun. I know where Ojai is, but I’ve never been there. It’s up in a canyon just inland from Ventura, which does have nice sandy beaches. Their hills go up to 4000 or 5000 feet, so I guess in a lot of places they would be considered “mountains” – like Nebraska, for example.

   At first, it surprised me that you had never seen an ocean, but then I remembered that there aren’t a lot of them in Nebraska and Idaho. I would love to show you the ocean, as it’s one of my favorite places – not so much the Southern California bikini beaches, but central and northern California, where cliffs and forests extend right down to the sand, and the sea often rolls in with crashing waves and wonderful noises. I’ll make sure you see a lot of those kinds of places.

   As for your question, do I think you would look okay in a bikini? I hadn’t written anything in about ten minutes because I’ve been savoring the image that your question planted in my Vic-starved mind. Would you look “okay?” No, definitely not. With or without a bikini, you would look fantastic. Well, that’s not exactly what I meant to say. Obviously, in the latter circumstance, you would clearly be the star of the beach, and no one would give a glance to those “thin little things.” But what I meant to convey is that, whatever you were wearing – bikini, shorts, jeans – you would be the stand-out among any possible competition. As for thin – you, my love, are delightfully – and deliciously – thin, except in a few strategic places. I like the final product very much.  (I’m thinking we might need to present an “expurgated” version of this letter to your parents.)

   I have an idea for October 2 – well, I have one for October 1, also, but you probably know that one, already. What I was thinking is – if the weather is good – what would you think about driving up to John O’Brien’s refuge and having a little look around? I’m thinking that is still a possibility for somewhere I (we?) might live next. It would be good to scope it out ahead of time.

   I’ll work on this more, before I send it. Goodnight, my lovely Vic.

 

Friday evening, Sept. 24

   I got the letter you mailed Wednesday, so now I know how your first and second days of classes went. Like most (probably, all) freshman and sophomore schedules, it’s a mixed bag of general ed requirements and electives that you might find more interesting. I’m looking forward to  hearing more detail when we get together.

   I hadn’t heard of Dr. Beal yet, but he does sound like an interesting character. I’ll have to find some of his books. It sounds like I would like his subject matter. And being a couple in Yellowstone – wow, can you picture Mr. and Mrs. Cleveland, Yellowstone naturalists, in charge of grizzly bears, geysers, and all things natural?

   On other topics: I think we are in agreement on the differences between “belonging to” and “belonging with,” I didn’t mean to make such a big deal out of it, but I just got thinking about how I think of us – glad you agree!

   Yes, my thoughts about your and Mandy’s “homelessness” are what made me start thinking about “scenarios.” I’m anxious to talk about them.

   Should I be worried about Mrs. McPherson? I will break you out of jail, myself, if need be. We are going to spend October 1 to 3 together!!

   Another weekend without you starts tomorrow. I don’t yet know how I’m going to fill it up. I know how I would like to.

Goodnight, Victoria Anderson.


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