CHAPTER Thirty-seven: WELCOMING OCTOBER

   Both Vic and Greg had almost given up on October 1 ever coming, but it did. Greg arrived at her dorm just before noon. He got out of the car just as the front door opened, Vic appeared, and he heard her say to someone out of sight, “Here he is, now. See you sometime on Sunday.” She walked past him with a funny smirk on her face, and stood by the passenger door, waiting for him to come around and open it for her. He did. He started to say something to her as he got in his side, but she said, “Drive, Greg.” He did.

   When they reached the other end of the parking lot, she told him to stop the car. He did, and she leaned over and gave him a heartfelt kiss. Then, she sat back, looking satisfied.

   “So, what’s this all about, Vic?”

   “Oh, good. I smell hamburgers. I’m really hungry.”

   “Yes, I stopped and got burgers, fries, and drinks. Now, what’s going on?”

   “Well, it’s not exactly illegal for me to be going with you for the weekend – after all, I am an adult – but Mother McPherson is very protective of her charges, and I didn’t want to have to argue with her about my activities. I just said I was going home, and that my father was sending someone to pick me up. Voila, there you were!”

   They drove to the motel,  checked in, and casually (they hoped it appeared that way, anyway) walked to their room. With the “do not disturb” sign on the door, he led her directly to the bed, and sat her on the edge. He kissed her gently, then seemed to be weighing his senses.

   “You’re sweet like the meat of the lichee nut.”

   “What?” she asked.

   He lowered her down onto the bed, and kissed her again, - a little deeper, and a little longer - and again paused, as if thinking about it.

   “Combined with the kumquat rind.”

   “Wait!” she said, when she could catch her breath.

    He kissed her more deeply.

    She pulled away. “Wait! I know this!” He pulled her back, and finished the kiss.

   “The kind of confection to drive a man out of his Mesopotamian mind!” he chanted, softly.

  “Kismet!” she exclaimed. “Ra-had-la-koom!”

 “And you, my love, are more addicting, more alluring, more intoxicating than Rahadlakume, or any other aphrodisiac.”

  “I am?”

  “Definitely.”

  “What would Howard Keel say to that?”

  “Howard Keel? Oh, you mean Hajj, the poet. Hajj is an old man. Proximity to you would kill him, either from a heart attack or excess ecstasy. I’m young and strong, and yet even I fear for my sanity when I’m near you. Even so, I’m willing – nay, eager – to test my defenses against your charms.”

  “You are?”

  “I am.”

  “Well, get to testing.”

  He did.
  Some time later, they lay happily together. Both had forgotten their fear of October 1 never arriving.

  “Wow,” said Greg. “I didn’t think that was the most urgent thing on my mind, but… “

  “We were both ready,” Vic finished his sentence.

  They lay together in silence for a little longer. “Now that we have that out of the way… “ began Vic.

 “We can settle down to a nice platonic weekend?’ questioned Greg.

 “Well, whatever you think now, I don’t think you’ll think it when you see a little something from my suitcase.”

   He raised up on his elbow. “Now, that sounds intriguing. What is it?”

   She pushed on his arm, causing him to collapse beside her. “All in good time. Right now, I am feeling voraciously hungry, and our burgers are getting cold. Let’s eat!”

 

   Later, they started to watch television. Many of the shows were in color, but they were all comedies until later than they planned to be up.

   “I assume you got a letter from me in the last day or so?” Greg asked.

   She looked over at him. “Let me think. I seem to remember something. I remember. ‘Oh, what kissing. Oh, what petting. Oh, what loving I will soon be getting.’ Was that the letter you meant? I seem to recall that you got some of that, already.”

   “I did. I wouldn’t mind some more, but that wasn’t the part of the letter I wanted to talk about. Would you like to drive up to the wildlife refuge tomorrow?”

   “Oh, that. Sure, it sounds like fun.”

   “Your dad was in the office when I was talking to the manager, so I didn’t mention I would be bringing someone with me. Shall I introduce you as Jane Doe, or as Chuck’s daughter?”

   “I think ‘Chuck’s daughter’ will be fine. Now, have we finished with that conversation?”

   “I believe we have.”

   Vic got up from the couch, turned off the television, and went into the bathroom. When she returned, she was wearing her “surprise;” a new pair of pajamas. She modeled them as she came back into the room.

   The top was an extra-long blouse, constructed like a man’s long-tailed dress shirt, but of a shiny, satiny fabric. There were buttons down the front. The bottoms were shorts, like her other pajamas, but of the same satiny material. She came into the room, and stood close in front of him.

  “Where did these come from?” he asked.

  “I bought them at home. If you had rifled my suitcase a little deeper, you would have found them, and ruined the surprise. I went with Mandy to buy them. I didn’t think I wanted to try to explain to my mother why I was purchasing slinky, silky nightwear for a girls’ dorm.”

  “Probably wise.”

 “How do you like them?”

 “From what I can see, very much. The material looks very silky.”

 “You can touch it – see how it feels.”

 He did – in fact, he let his hands wander up and down over the whole outfit, pausing now and then to give a little longer touch. “I am finding them most inspirational.”

   “I thought you would.”

   She crawled into bed. He went into the bathroom. When he returned, Vic was sitting up in bed. He unbuttoned her satiny pajama top, and was soon exploring her torso with gentle fingers and lips. She was not objecting, but her mind wasn’t completely on the activity.

   “Greg, do you know what college girls talk about more than anything else?”

   He paused briefly. “Not knowing for sure, but guessing, it would be college boys.” His began his wanderings, again.

   “Yes, but more specifically, what about college boys?”

   He kissed a breast. “Again guessing, but logically, I would say sex.”

   “Yes.” She seemed to be realizing his presence for the first time. “Greg, what are you doing?”

   He kissed her other breast. “I am peregrinating.”

   “Peregrinating? What is that?”

   “Like the peregrine falcon, who acquired his name from his wanderings far and wide, I am peregrinating. The peregrine’s kingdom is more expansive than the one I survey, but no grander in detail or interest, believe me.” He accentuated that by moving his hands and his lips a little farther down her torso.

   “Peregrinating. I’ve never heard it called that. Like the peregrine, you are having a good time, I take it?”

   “Yes, I am. Are you?”

   “I’m finding it stimulating, but it is distracting me from talking about sex.”

   He raised his head to look at her. “You would rather talk about sex than….?”

   She grinned at him. “I refuse to answer on the grounds… Well, you know the grounds. Suffice it to say that, in this situation, I want to talk about something specific about the subject.”

   “Okay.” He raised himself up, and began to button her blouse. He went about it slowly and meticulously, then took a few more moments to make sure that it was comfortably draped over her. Only then did he lay down beside her. “Okay, woman. Talk.”

   “Okay. So, as I think we’ve discussed in the past, high school girls talk about sex a lot. But their experiences are mostly what I will call ‘front car seat’ activities – going steady, kissing, and such. We knew a few girls who had clearly been in the ‘back seat’ – and we suspected some others - but for most of us, it was pretty tame stuff. Still, girls like to share, and so it was fair game to ask how many boys you’d kissed, or ‘how far’ you’d let a boy go.”

   “What did you say to those questions?”

   “Actually, until you – and you have been mostly after graduation – I didn’t have anything to share. I’d kissed a few boys, but you were the first one I ever kissed twice. Because all the girls recognized how ravishingly beautiful I am, they all suspected that every boy in school was after me.”

   “Were they?”

   “I don’t know. I never looked back. Anyway, when I’d just smile and not share anything, some of the girls thought I was wonderfully mysterious. Most of the others just thought I was snobby and selfish, not to share.

   “So, anyway, skip to college. Here, everybody just seems to assume that you’ve all been in the back seat – or are trying to get there. So, the first question always becomes, are you a virgin? Few women admit they are, but I bet there are really a lot more than admit it.”

   “What do you say?”

   “I just smile and say, ‘My boyfriend is very attentive,’ and let them make of it what they will.”

   “So, still the mysterious beauty?”

   “And probably still with the same reactions of either wonder, wistfulness, or jealousy - or annoyance that I won’t share. But now we come to the second question asked: have you had an orgasm? 

   “An orgasm?”

   “Greg, did you know that many women – maybe most women - seldom if ever have orgasms during sex?”

   That stopped him for a moment. “Well, let me see. If I was sure I knew what an orgasm was… “

  “Greg, you have helped me achieve two and two-thirds orgasms in only three tries, and you don’t know what an orgasm is?”

  He hesitated, a little too dramatically. “Well, I wouldn’t say that I don’t know. I’d just like to hear it defined from a female perspective.”

   She gave him a silent “you are a nut” look. “Well, since you ask, an orgasm is the female equivalent of what happens to you when you… what, explode?”

   “Ejaculate.”

   “Ejaculate. Is there such a word? It doesn’t sound very sexy.”

   “How about, reach a climax?”

   “Okay, I like that better. The female doesn’t have the exterior equipment to make her climax as visible and obvious as the male’s. She does, however, have body parts and areas that react similarly when stimulated similarly. From watching you - and feeling me! - I think our climaxes must be very similar.”

   “Very nice explanation,” said Greg.. “Now, to clarify the question, you wonder why what you and I have been able to achieve so readily is so rare among the female population, at large?”

   “Exactly.”

   “Further, despite your knowing what a neophyte I am in all things related to love and sex – and having an immediate example of how little I know about orgasms – you still would like me to posit a reason?”

   “If posit means to offer a possible explanation, then yes. Posit, away.”

   “Okay. Well, back in the early days of our country… “

  “Greg!”

   “Hold on. This really is background for my positing. As I started to say, in early America, women were not supposed to be interested in sex.  They were only supposed to be available to take care of their husbands’ sexual needs. If they acted like they might enjoy a little sexual stimulation of their own, they were considered brazen hussies, or worse.

   “Women had been under male rules about sex for so long that probably many didn’t know that they had a right to have sexual feelings, and might even have been ashamed when they did have them. Probably, most men didn’t know there was such a thing as a female orgasm. Since I think men in general reach a climax more quickly than most women, even perceptive men might have missed any signs that their mates needed more attention. So, when the man was satisfied, the session was over.

   “Along came ‘women’s lib’ and sexual freedom, and women are learning what they can achieve, and what they have a right to. Some men are learning, but it’s taking time for any real equality to develop. From what you say, having an orgasm has become the principal evidence of female sexual satisfaction, but most are still not achieving it.”

   Vic seemed to be thinking about what Greg had been saying, and didn’t immediately respond.      “So, assuming that your ‘posit’ is correct – or at least in the ballpark – how do things get equalized?”

   “I’m glad you asked. It reminds me of something I heard in church.”

   “Greg!”

   “No, really. Stay with me a minute, and I think you’ll see what I mean. One of the churches I went to several times was Pentecostal. One of the things they believe in is ‘speaking in tongues.’

Are you familiar with that?”

   “No.”

   “Okay. Well, the story is that after Jesus left Earth, he sent down his Holy Spirit to guide Christians until he returned. When the Spirit descended – this is in the Books of Acts in the New Testament -  it came on those watching and praying ‘like a mighty wind,’ and everybody started speaking in languages that they didn’t know. Some of the people in the vicinity were amazed to hear their own languages being spoken by these local people. But others weren’t hearing it that way, and suggested that the speakers were just drunk on red wine. I can relate to that!”

   “Yes, you can.”

   “However, the apostle Peter spoke to the crowd, and said that the speakers were not drunken, as they supposed, but were filled with the Holy Spirit. Over the years, ‘speaking in tongues’ in Christian churches became divisive. Some denominations choose to ignore it, and some think it was a one-time manifestation. The Pentecostals believe it is a gift for today, and some go so far as to suggest that you’re not really a full Christian – one ‘filled with the spirit’ – unless you speak in tongues.

   “This latter belief has led to a lot of people trying everything possible to ‘speak in tongues.’ They’re told to hold their mouths a certain way when they pray, or to utter funny little syllables of their own, thinking that might encourage the ‘god words’ to come. There are dozens of suggestions offered to make it easy for the Holy Spirit to get in. It’s pretty crazy and futile, but they keep trying.

   “I think the pastor at the church I visited thinks that everybody can speak in tongues, but he views it as a total package: get right with God, and lead a full, prayerful life, and when God needs you to speak in tongues, you will. He tries to discourage the obsession with ‘tongues,’ but it’s a hard sell. Everybody wants that experience.”

   “Very interesting story,” said Vic, “And I think I see where you’re heading. The orgasm has become the quest – the ‘speaking in tongues’ of female sexuality – but,, like any quest, you have to take the journey to get there.”

   “Yep. And I guess that’s the reason that knowing about orgasms, and wanting one, is not resulting in a lot of ‘liberated’ women having them. Women need to take the initiative of ‘educating’ their partners about what they want. Men are not going to guess. Then, because men can climax so much more quickly than women, both partners have to be willing to spend the extra time necessary for equal satisfaction to occur.”

   “So, how have we done so well, so quickly?”

   Greg smiled at that. “I think it was mostly about lack of knowledge, and happy circumstances. First, neither of us was looking for anything in particular, except to find another way to express our love for one another. We had no preconceived notions. You were content to let me explore at will, and because you had already helped me with my orgasm, I wasn’t under any emotional pressure to speed things up. I could go on forever, just peregrinating.”

   “I seriously doubt you could have gone on forever.”

   “You’re right, of course. That was an overstatement. Even the strongest of us have our limits. Anyway, as I continued with my explorations,  I finally found the places you needed me to find, and then you guided me to the finale. It turned out very nicely for both of us.”

   “It certainly did.” Suddenly, she gave a little chuckle. “Sorry, I was just having an irrelevant – or maybe irreverent - thought. A while ago, I said something about your ideas ‘being in the ballpark.’ Do you know the baseball game that high school guys play when they’re trying to seduce girls?”

   “I’m not sure I do, never having been trying to seduce high school girls, and not hanging out with the boys who were trying.”

   “Well,  a boy gets to first base when you let him kiss you. I forget the exact things that happen to get him around the bases, but he scores a run when… Well, you know when. What I was thinking is, that works for the man, but how does the woman rate her trip to her orgasm?”

   “Oh, that’s an easy one. The early stages are pretty much the same for men and women. It’s the finale that counts. In baseball, you can reach ‘home’ a variety of ways. A pitcher can load the bases, and then walk in a run. That’s good for the team, but not very exciting. Similarly, a run could score off a wild pitch, a fielder’s error, or just a good solid infield hit. Those are a little more interesting. Then, of course, there’s the home run, often hit out of the park. That is a real thrill, but I doubt many high school seducers get their ‘score’ that way. Most such seductions are probably pretty commonplace events.

   “Now, when a woman reaches orgasm, I think that home run is a blast clear over the center field wall and out of the ball park. If the climax comes as a result of a long session with a much-loved companion, then I think it could qualify as the ultimate in home runs – a grand slam, clearing the bases, as well as the ball park, and sending the ‘players’ into exhilaration as no other ‘score’ can.”

   “Wow! I almost had my fourth orgasm just listening to your description! For somebody who knows nothing about women and sex, you tell an amazing story.”

   “Thank you. I can only do it because you are my inspiration. But before we get completely off this subject, I need to ask a question. It’s this: you keep describing your orgasms as two and two-thirds out of three. What was wrong with the two-thirds one? “

   “Absolutely nothing! All three were wonderful. Probably the first is a little more memorable just because it was the first, but, really, they were all excellent.”

   “Then, why…?”

   She gave him a mischievous smile. “Well, it’s something I borrowed from the Olympics. In the Olympics, when a judge gives a skater or a gymnast a 9.8 score rather than 10, we probably can’t see anything to deduct for. A lot of the time, the performer probably can’t, either. Or a sprinter loses a race by 0.02 seconds. It looks like the same as the winner to us – a photo finish. But what do those scores mean to the athletes? The skater or gymnast knows it was a great performance, but something about it was thought less than perfect. For all practical purposes, the runner tied the winner, but – on paper - it was a second place finish. In both cases, being not quite perfect, encourages – no, it compels - them to try for a better score next time.

   “In the same way, we will look at that two-thirds score, and feel compelled to improve on it next time. And I wouldn’t be surprised, if that compulsion eventually rates us not a 10, but maybe an 11 or 12. Think about that!”

   “I am thinking about that. Would you like to try now for a new record?”

   “Actually, if it’s all right with you, I’d just like to go to sleep in your arms, and maybe dream about the next time.”

   “That is very fine with me.”

   Later that night, they awoke, and moved the count to three and three-quarters.

   And that’s how October 1 ended.

***

   October 2 was different. They got out of bed about 8 o’clock, ate a leisurely breakfast, then got on the road north from Pocatello. It was cool overnight – not quite frosty, but brisk – a nice, clear morning for traveling.

   “So, Vic, after two weeks of classes, does it still seem like high school without parental restraint?”

   She laughed. “That was kind of an odd remark, wasn’t it? You and others told me what it would be like the first couple years, with all the general education requirements. I expected that. I guess I knew, from the description of the classes, that some of it would be like my senior year of high school, revisited. What surprises me is that seems to be all there is. Your description of your final year at college, with all the activism – the marches and protests – yes, and bad behavior, too – I didn’t want that, really, but I guess I expected some excitement of some kind. So far, I’ve seen no indication that anybody cares about anything but class work, and having fun afterwards.”

   “Well, it’s early days. Maybe they just haven’t got up steam, yet. Still, it is odd. Even before things got really crazy in California, there was always something going on – somebody advocating or protesting something.”

   “I think there’s more to it than just being early in the term. You know me; if I have a question, I need an answer – or at least an opinion. I’ve tried to think of things that might be causing this – I don’t know what to call it – this lethargy? I wondered about ROTC. Until recently, all freshman men had to take military training. It’s not required anymore, but the ROTC tradition is still strong on campus. Maybe that inhibits Viet Nam protest. What about the Mormon church? It isn’t a Mormon college, obviously, but I don’t think much happens in Idaho that isn’t influenced by Mormonism, one way or another. Dies that influence how students feel about civil rights or women’s rights? I don’t know. It just puzzles me.”

   “Well, knowing you and your lovely, active mind as I do, I’m betting you’re going to be looking deeper at the subject in the coming year.”

   “I’m already planning my approach.”

 

   North of Idaho Falls, they left the main highway, and veered off to the northwest. Before long, the familiar “blue goose” signs began to appear on fence posts, followed by a large wooden entrance sign, very similar to their own. The government compound beyond looked much like home, also. As they pulled up to the office, John came out on the porch of the residence across the parking lot.

   “Hey, Greg. Over here.”

   They walked over to him. He and Greg shook hands, while Greg introduced Vic as one of Chuck’s daughters.

   “Nice to meet you, Vic. I’ve known your dad for quite a long time. However, it was mostly from meetings, because we worked for different regions until you came to Idaho. Come on in, and meet Annie.”

   “We’re not interrupting any plans, are we?” Greg asked, as they entered the house. “We’re just out seeing the sights, and don’t want to get in your way.”

   “Not at all. I’m anxious to show you around a bit.”

   As Greg had thought about John and Chuck, Annie seemed a few years younger than Alice, but with the same trim, healthy look and friendly demeanor. “Hi, come on in. I made a few sandwiches, and a salad. Nothing fancy.”

   After they were settled around the kitchen table, John reminded Annie how he knew Greg. “We just had that short visit at the refuge last summer. Vic, I guess you and your family were on vacation, then?”

   “We were. With me out of high school, and Mandy only a year away, Mom and Daddy thought it was a good time to visit family in North Dakota. All of my grandparents are still alive, and living where they were when we were born. It was a fun trip. I hadn’t been back since we moved to Idaho in 1958.”

   “So, you’re a lifelong refuge person,” observed Annie.

   “I am. Mandy and I were both born in North Dakota where Daddy had his first assignment, then several years later, we moved west to another North Dakota refuge. Then, down here.”

   “And you’ve liked it?”

   “I have. Coming to Idaho was a little different because we are so far from town. Well, John, you’ve driven that road! It seemed like Mandy and I were spending all of our lives on the bus to and from school. Finally, it was arranged so we boarded in town during the week, and only had the bus trip Mondays and Fridays. It was a little hard being away from home all that time, but we were together, and we were staying with the family of some of our school friends, so it has worked out pretty good. Did you know – well, you probably didn’t – that Mom and Mandy have moved into town for her last school year?”

   “No, I hadn’t heard,” said John. “So, Chuck… “

   “Daddy and Greg are living like two bachelors at the refuge during the week – well reinforced with mom’s cooking, however. Daddy comes to town Friday evening and stays until Monday morning. It’s been a little adjustment but, otherwise, Mandy would have been riding the bus or staying in town all by herself. Mom was feeling pretty isolated out on the refuge – particularly with me leaving for school – and she is enjoying being able to participate a little more in community affairs. Daddy’s adjusting, too. He and Greg play a lot of checkers in the evenings.”

   “It sounds like it’s working out well,” offered Annie.

   “How long have you been here?” asked Greg, changing the subject.

   “About five years. We’re both Montanans – met in school at Missoula, worked on two Montana refuges before moving here. Both of our kids are Montanans. We like it here – actually, it’s less than two hours from home, and both Annie’s and my parents are still alive up there, so we see them pretty regularly. Still, we both kind of hope to be resident Montanans again, some day.

   “Do your parents have any place in mind when they move, Vic?”

  “ I guess it will depend on what’s available, but I know they’re both homesick for North Dakota. I’m sure that would be their first choice.”

   “That might be interesting in the future. There have been rumors for a couple years about a shift in regional boundaries, with Montana leaving Mac’s kingdom for the Minneapolis region. If your folks went to North Dakota, and Annie and I got back to Montana, we’d be in the same region, again.”

   “So, Vic,” asked Annie, “You’ve just started college in Pocatello? Are you a biology, or a wildlife, major?”

   “No… well, I don’t know. I tell Greg that I’m not a ‘science girl,’ but I’ve absorbed a lot of refuge lore in my nineteen years. Greg has been taking me bird watching, and we’ve been banding ducks, together. I like it, so maybe, maybe not. I think I’ll take these first two years, and just use my electives to explore other alternatives.”

   “Sounds practical,” said John. “So, Greg, are you still interested in possibly transferring up here?”

   “I’m pretty sure I’ll be going somewhere within a year, and you made this sound like a possible next step. Mac said you’d mentioned it to him, too. I don’t really know much about anywhere outside of California, so I’m looking around and seeing what might be available.”

   “I’m pretty sure that Dan – that’s our assistant – will be leaving here some time next summer. This is a little smaller than your current refuge – only a little over 10,000 acres – but it’s more intensively managed. We manage mostly for duck nesting and migration so, in that sense, the two areas are pretty similar. However, we have a permanent creek that runs all the way through the property – like everywhere in the intermountain West, there’s not enough flow to satisfy everybody’s full water rights, but enough to give us a few options. We have a few sharecroppers growing grain for the birds – good for us, but probably as important for community relations – helping the local economy by letting the locals use some of the government land.

   “The big difference is probably our public use. Being as close as we are to Idaho Falls and Pocatello, and not far off the Interstate, we get quite a few visitors. We also support a few work projects for ISU students. It’s a pretty good mix of uses.”

   “Considering our entire public use involves visitors like you, a few lost tourists, and some bird  hunters, any public use would be quite a change.”

   John laughed. “I suppose. So, do you want to take a little tour around?”

   “Sure, if you have time.”

   “Do you want to come, Annie? We can take the van.”

   “No. The kids will probably be back from town soon, so I’ll just hang out here. See you when you get back.”

   They hadn’t gone far, when Vic cried out, “Oh look, antelope!”

   There were indeed several ahead of them, crossing the road. “One thing we have that you don’t have down on the plain is big game. Here you might see both white-tailed and mule deer, antelope, elk, and even an occasional moose.”

   “That would be fun,” said Vic. “We have deer – mule deer, right Greg? – and antelope nearby, although I’ve never heard of one actually on the refuge.”

   They drove by several ponds with a good assortment of ducks. “Our history is pretty much the same as your history. This was open range, then the farmers started to move in, and diversify the landscape. Much of this area was a muskrat farm before being acquired by the government – kind of ironic, now that we are constantly fighting muskrats who burrow into the banks and cause road wash-outs and damage to water control structures. The Civilian Conservation Corps built our headquarters – why it looks just like yours – and did all the early work on building dikes and putting in water control. There hasn’t been a lot of change in management since ‘Three C’ days, just improvements here and there.”

   “You have a hunt program?” asked Greg.

   “Yes. Same as yours, I think – waterfowl only, about a third of the area open, run by Fish and Game. Yes, other than more public use and more direct dealings with our neighbors, we’re a pretty standard refuge – narrative reports, duck banding, duck counting, making sure nobody steals the place…”

   “How about government housing. Is there a residence for the assistant manager?”

   “There is, and not a cabin like your current home. My house and the assistant’s house are virtually identical. As far as local amenities, within a couple miles we have a small grocery, gas station, a couple churches, grammar school, and a tiny library. Other than that, we go into Idaho Falls.”

   They had made a loop through the refuge, and were approaching headquarters from a different direction. As they approached the O’Brien residence, two teens – a boy and a girl – were getting out of a car. Annie came out on the front porch.

   “Everybody arrives at once! Come on in; I just took an apple pie out of the oven.”

   Seated around the table together, the kids were introduced – Melanie and John, Jr – high schoolers, but one and two years behind Mandy. John explained that Greg and Vic were visiting from “the refuge down by Burley.”  After a suitable period of chit chat, Greg suggested that they had better get on the road. They thanked their hosts, agreed to keep in touch “as things developed,” and started south to Pocatello.

   They drove in silence for a while, then “What did you think of that?” Greg asked.

   “They’re certainly nice people, and the refuge certainly looks interesting. If you’re going to leave your current location, it would be nice to still have you as a fairly near neighbor.”

    “Certainly that, but you might have some more direct involvement in the refuge, mightn’t you?”

   She looked at him. “What do you mean?”

   “I mean we have some big issues to consider – your impending homelessness, our future marriage. It seems like me being up here might have more significance for you than just being a ‘neighbor.’”

   She didn’t respond immediately. “Homelessness, marriage… those are pretty big issues, aren’t they?”

   “They are. I suggest we start a serious conversation about both, either tonight or in the morning. Agree?”

   She did.

   As they drove into Pocatello, Vic suggested they get hamburgers, again. “They’re good, and it will free up our evening.” Greg agreed, and they took burgers, fries and drinks back to the motel. This time, they ate them before they got cold.

   After a little nap and freshen-up, they settled on the couch. “So,” said Vic, “Homeless college girl. What do you have in mind?”

   “Well, no matter what the rest of the story turns out to be, it’s certain that, from sometime in May to sometime in September, you won’t be able to be in the dorm. I assume that, during that time, you’re going to want to get a job so you will have a dowry to present to me when we get betrothed.”

   “Dowry, my foot! You get me. Any dowry I was to bring would be like a mere spot of icing on what will already be the most amazing cake you could ever imagine.”

   “Silly me, to even consider that motivation. Well, for whatever reason, I assume you will plan to get a summer job. If your folks are still in Idaho, it would be logical to come and stay with them in the rental house. But we don’t know how soon they might depart. I think we can be pretty sure that your dad is not going to wait until Mandy graduates to start his inquiries about a job. He could have an offer in May, or maybe not until September. We don’t know.

   “If – whenever they leave – the lease on the current rental can be extended until you (and Mandy, if she’s with you) return to college, then that’s a big problem out of the way. If it can’t, then maybe you could come and live with me at the refuge. The commute if you wanted to work in town would be long, but you could use my car.”

   “But, wait a minute. That assumes you will still be at the refuge until September. Isn’t the job up here likely to open up sooner than that?”

   “I don’t know, but probably. There’s no guarantee I’d get it even if I apply, so I could still be at the refuge. But, anyway, I might stay on just to cover for you…”

   “No, Greg. That’s kind of crazy, to sacrifice a job – maybe the best job you’d get – just to be on hand for me.”

   “I would do a lot for you, but let me tell you a little more of my musings. When Mac was here, he talked about not filling your dad’s position for a while – using the position authorization and funding where he might need someone more immediately. He asked if I would be willing to stay on through the rest of 1966. He and your dad both think I could handle it with Tim, and maybe another maintenance man, for backup. I would get a promotion, and be acting manager until they got somebody permanent in the spring of 1967.”

    It was a minute or more before she spoke. “Would you really want to stay at the refuge that long? That’s two whole winters, and you don’t even know how you’re going to like the first one. At least, this first one you’ll have Daddy with you. As much as I would like to have you near me in the summer, and still close enough to visit during the school year, it seems like a lot of unknowns.”

   “I know, and I’m just getting ideas out, right now. One other possible wrinkle to your working in the summer, I might get Mac to let me hire you as my clerk-typist. We need one now, and I would certainly need one if your dad left early in the summer.”

   “Boy, I don’t know…”

   “Well, while we’re ‘what-iffing,’ let me present another picture. This one involves me getting the refuge job up here.  If it’s toward the end of summer, then you could be with your folks, and then come north with me until school starts. If I went in the spring, you could come with me, and get a job in Idaho Falls. You could either rent a room, like you’d have to do here in Pocatello, or you could live with me at the refuge, and commute to Idaho Falls. It’s only a half-hour, at the time of year that commuting would be easy and safe. I’d have to check if there were any government regulations about having an almost-relative living in government housing with me.”

   “You’ve really been thinking about this, haven’t you?”

   “Yes, I have. And before your brain explodes from all my ideas, I need to ask you one question. Do you really want to stay here for your whole four years, or would some other college be just as good, if it had what you wanted?”

   There was a pause. “Well, you overloaded me. My brain just exploded. What’s behind this question?”

   “Well, say I had a chance for a job I liked that was outside of Idaho, but had a nice college right nearby. Would you consider coming with me?”

   Another period of silence, of wheels turning. “Come with you? I’m not following…”

  “There is another element that might be added to any of these scenarios.”

   “And that is?”

   “Marriage? You and me, wedded bliss?”

   “I know what marriage is. I just…”

   “Look, we’ve talked about it enough to know that neither of us wants to wait the four years until you graduate. I think we might have mentioned two years – I’ve certainly thought of that. But why not consider one year, if we both feel ready for it?”

   “But I recall rather vividly that, on the subject of Viet Nam and the draft, you said that when we got married, it shouldn’t be to solve a problem. Isn’t that what we’re talking about, here?”

   “Not a bit. We both had ideas about marriage when the Viet Nam discussion came up, but neither of us was ready. The suggestion was really a lovely gesture on your part to help me in a difficult situation. We’re both ready now. If getting married helps clarify some other decisions, I think that’s okay.”

   “I guess.” She was thinking. “Do you really want to get married next spring?”

   “Yes. Do you?”

   “I think so, but this is a lot to think about. My head is spinning. I don’t think I’ll be able to slow it down enough to sleep tonight.”

   But they went to bed soon after, and both slept very well.

***

   They got up fairly late Sunday morning, had breakfast in the motel coffee shop, and returned to the room for an hour before check-out time.

   “There’s one other thing I wanted to be sure we talked about,” began Greg.

   “Please, Greg, despite our nice sleep, my brain is still buzzing from all the talk yesterday.”

   “Believe me, this is good. You can handle it. You may remember in one of my last letters I said that three weeks was much too long to go without seeing one another.”

   “I do seem to remember that letter. I think there was a part of it where you said something  about both your body and your mind aching for me – about how much you missed seeing me and hearing my voice and watching my facial expressions.” She stopped, almost in mid-sentence, and he looked over at her, to see she was crying. “My god, Greg, I cried for an hour after reading that! Not sad crying, very happy tears. It was so lovely, and I needed it so much. I’ve read it so many times since that I almost have it memorized!”

   He came over to her, and they sat together on the edge of the bed, her head on his shoulder. “I meant every word, Vic. That’s why I said we can’t go three weeks without seeing one another. Here’s what I’m thinking. It came to me after you said how much you enjoyed the football game. I looked at the ISU schedule, and there are four home games between now and Thanksgiving. What if I came up to as many of those as I could, and spent the day with you? We might fit it one weekend, but mostly it would have to be me just coming up for the Saturdays. Having to leave you so soon would undoubtedly be very hard, but being with you for even a little while would be worth it, I think. What do you think?”

   She was still leaning against him. “So, that would be like every other Saturday?”

  “Actually, they are every Saturday. I don’t know if I could do every one of them, but I could certainly do some, and maybe we could make a weekend out of one of the trips.”

   “It would be sad to have you come and go so quickly, but I agree it would be worth it. And you and me together at a football game would be outstanding! Let’s plan for it. When is the first one?”

   “I just happened to have made a list.” He retrieved it from some papers on the table. “The first one is Montana State on the 16th, two weeks away. Next Saturday is the opening of duck season, so I wouldn’t be able to come up here, anyway. Then, it’s Weber State on the 23rd, Portland State on the 30th, then – appropriately, I think – North Dakota on November 6.”

   She hugged him. “Let’s do it!”

   “I’m glad you approve. You get into the games with your student body card. I looked it up, and I need tickets. I think I can buy them over the phone. If not, I’ll send you some money, and let you get them here. Wow, I am suddenly looking forward to football season!”

   An hour later, they were pulling into the dorm parking lot. “Stop back here, Greg.” He did. She leaned across the seat and gave him a long, deep kiss. “That’s so you don’t forget me.”

   He smiled. “I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have, anyway, but thanks. That was very inspirational. Why did we stop here?”

   “Just covering my tracks. I left Friday with a man my father had sent to pick me up. In case anyone is watching, I think we should arrive at the dorm with the same formality.”

   “Yes, Miss Anderson,” he said, as they drove the rest of the way to the dorm. He got out of the car, walked around to retrieve her overnight bad from the trunk, then opened her door for her.

   “Thank you, Gregory,” she said, as she shook his hand. “Thank my father for the ride.” And then she was gone into the dorm. Greg drove away.

   Mrs. McPherson was just inside the door as Vic entered. “Hi, Mrs. McPherson. I’m back, safe and sound.”

   “Was everything okay?”

   “It was good. My folks will be moving to another wildlife refuge toward the end of the school year, and there is a lot to discuss about what happens to me – and my sister, who will just be graduating from high school – during the transition period. We discussed a number of possible scenarios, but we can’t really make any real decisions until we know my parents’ timetable better. Do you know if Nancy is around?”

   “I saw her earlier today, but not recently.”

   “Well, I’ll soon find out. It’s nice to be back, Mrs. McPherson.”

   Nancy was in their room when Vic got there. “So, Victoria, how were the folks?”

   “They were lovely. I hated to leave.”

   “I’ll bet you did.  So, what did you do – other than the obvious?”

   “Well, other than the obvious, we drove up to a wildlife refuge north of Idaho Falls, where there’s a possibility Greg may be transferring next year. I met the manager and his wife, ate sandwiches and fresh-baked apple pie, and toured around the refuge. It was a nice day.

   “Other than that, we talked an awful lot. We talked about football…”

   “Football! That doesn’t sound right.”

   “Well, it was. We were thinking of ways to see each other more often, and Greg suggested he come up to each of our home games this next month. It would just be for the day – at least, most of the trips – which could be hard, only being together a few hours – but a lot, lot better than not being with him at all.

   “Besides that, we talked a lot about what will happen with us, and with me and Mandy, when my parents move next summer. We don’t know when, but I’m sure they’ll be gone at some point between May and September. It will leave me – and Mandy, if she decides to stay with me – kind of homeless until the dorms open up again.”

   “You know, I’m sure you and Mandy could board with us again over the summer. I’m sure I’ll try to get a job, and stay there until school starts, again.”

   “Thanks. That certainly would be a good option. Also, we may be able to keep the rental house after my parents leave, maybe until I come back to school. Greg and I talked about other possibilities, too. The subject of marriage also came up.”

   “Marriage, like in setting a date?”

   “Not a date, but maybe a time period. When we first started talking about the possibility, we were both kind of thinking in terms of me graduating first. I think that idea is long gone, and I think both of us have been more in the two years from now mind set. After this weekend, I’m not sure we’re not talking about next summer.”

   “Now, that’s exciting.”

   “Yes, it is.”

***

   On his way home, Greg decided to take the old highway. He stopped at the diner. There was one truck in the parking lot. He yelled a greeting to Cora and Franklin as he came through the door.

   “Hey, Greg,” Cora called back. “The usual?”

   “Yes, please.” He recognized the other patron, and went over to his table.

   “It’s Mr. McHenry, isn’t it? I’m Greg Cleveland from the wildlife refuge. I met you briefly last spring, when the refuge manager had me out showing me the area.”

   The man stood up, and held out his hand. “Sure, I remember. I’m Ross – have the alfalfa fields up the road.”

   “Yes, I remember. I came by them a couple days ago. They looked pretty good.”

  “We did all right. It’s always a little touch and go out here, because of the water situation. Not really enough for a good crop every year. That big storm we had a while back came at a good time – helped the crop through the driest period.”

   “Yeah, it wasn’t the kind of rain you’d write home about in most parts of the country, but out here it goes a long way. Still, it must be hard for you, competing with the farmers down closer to the river with their fancy irrigation systems.”

   “We don’t really compete. Oh, I sell what we grow, but mostly I’m just playing. A few years back, I decided I wanted to be a farmer. Didn’t know anything about it, but we found this land and gave it a try. Obviously, there was a lot of stuff we should have known before we tried, but it’s still been fun.”

   “So, you’re not from this area?”

  “No, I’m a Californian, and we came up here when I retired.”

  “I’m from California, also – the Bay Area.”

   “We were down near L. A. We were glad to come to a place with a real change of seasons, but maybe we didn’t count on what kinds of changes they involved. It’s been a learning experience. Say, nice to see you again. I better get going. I just stop in here on occasion to visit with Jackson and Cora.”

   “It’s called comic relief,” said Cora, as she brought out Greg’s burger. “See you later, Ross. Thanks for stopping in. Between you and Greg, we doubled our profits for this month.”

   Jackson shouted his goodbye from the kitchen, as Ross departed.

  Greg settled at the vacated table. “Come and chat, if you can spare the time.”

  “I don’t know,” said Jackson, as he came out of the kitchen, wiping his hands. “We’re pretty busy. Maybe we can steal a few moments from the task.” Both he and Cora pulled up chairs, and sat.

   “Out getting ready for the duck hunt?” asked Cora.

   “Actually, I’m on my way back from Pocatello, where I’ve been visiting with Vic.”

   “Oh, that’s right. How’s she doing up there?”

    “I think pretty good. We’re both going a little crazy, being separated for so long.”

    “We know a little about that,” offered Jackson. “We were apart for almost two years during the War.”

   “The War?”

   “Korea. We’d only been going together for a short time when I decided to enlist. I don’t even know why, now. I didn’t really enjoy any of it. But yeah, we just had letters back and forth for almost two years. There I was halfway around the world, and she was here, doing who knows what, and with who?”

   “To you, I was as faithful as could be.” She paused, dramatically. “For me,” she finished.

   “Hah!” exclaimed Greg. “Ado Annie right here in rural Idaho. You know your ‘Oklahoma’ music.”

   “We sure do,” replied Cora. “You know, we saw ‘Oklahoma’ on stage in Boise years ago. Not a big cast production – just local – but it was really good. When we saw the movie years later, we remarked on how good the play had been.”

   “Yeah, it’s one of my favorites. So, back to Korea. Obviously, you got back together after your tour was up.”

   “We did. It turned out that our letters back and forth were enough to convince ourselves that we really liked each other. We dated like normal people for about a year, and then got hitched.’

   “Great story. So, I shouldn’t feel too bad about not seeing my girl for three weeks?”

   “Oh, no, honey!” Cora protested.  “Time doesn’t matter when you love somebody. Being apart for a day can hurt pretty bad, at times.”

   Greg changed the subject. “So, Ross McHenry. I only met him briefly last spring. He seems like a nice fellow.” No sense talking about unproven water piracy!

   “Yeah, he’s still got some California ways. You know how they are.” Here, he winked at Cora. “But he’s coming around. It’s a little unusual to see him in here on a Sunday, though. He usually comes in on weekday afternoons. His wife has some full-time job in town, and I think he gets lonely. He’ll come in, and chat with us an hour or so, then be on his way until the next time.”

   “On another subject,” Greg began, “Will your business go up a lot when the duck hunters arrive?”

   “Oh, it’ll go up some, but you’ll find that your duck hunt is not a very big deal. It’s mostly just local boys. We know them all, after all these years. They come out and hunt a few hours, then gather here for burgers and beer, chat us up, and tell lies with their buddies. They’ll be out again two or three more times before freeze-up, then back to work. We like ‘em. They’re a good bunch.”

   “I take it you’ve met the new Fish and Game manager?”

   “Yeah, Todd Holden. Cal brought him around a few weeks ago. I think they had just come from your place. Seems nice enough. Guess we’ll be seeing a lot of him starting in another week.”

   Greg got up from the table. “You’ll be seeing some of me, too, as I help them set up, and then take down, all the hunt station apparatus. Now, I better got home, so I can come back, again. Thanks for the burger and the chat. I always enjoy stopping by.”

  Forty-five minutes later, he arrived at his lonely abode. All was quiet.

  



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