CHAPTER Thirty-six: USHERING OUT SEPTEMBER

  Nothing noteworthy happened during Vic’s Thursday classes. Friday, after her swimming class and lunch, she decided to see if she could find Dr. Fichter, the ornithologist. She located his office in the Biology Department without trouble, and saw that his door was open. A man was bent over the desk, engrossed with a large book. She knocked lightly, and a young man – probably a little older than Greg - raised his head.

   “I was looking for Dr. Fichter. I assume you are not him.”

   The young man smiled, as he checked her out. “No, he’s a little older than me and, although well preserved for his age, not as handsome. I don’t think he usually spends time with people who appear without appointment, but he may make exception for pretty girls. I know I do, and, since I am here and he is not, can I help you?”

   Vic smiled back. “I guess that depends on your answer to one question. Are you a bird watcher?”

   He laughed. “Well, that is not the kind of question I was hoping for but, yes, I am. Do you need help with an identification?”

   “No thanks, I have access to an excellent identifier. In fact, he’s the reason I wanted to see Dr. Fichter. I come as an emissary from a national wildlife refuge down near Burley.”

   He stood up. “Well, I don’t think we’ve had one of those yet today. Come on in.” He motioned to a chair, at the same time holding out his hand to her. “I’m Matt Bowen, grad student extraordinary, at your service.”

   She shook his hand, and sat. “Hi, I’m Vic.”

  “Not Vic, as in Victor?”

  “No. Victoria, but I’m usually Vic.”

  “Well, Vic, what can I – as surrogate for the good doctor do – or try to do – for you?”

  “Okay. Well, my bird watcher – my boyfriend – is biologist at the wildlife refuge. He just came from California last spring, and he doesn’t know Idaho very well, but I think he knows a lot about where birds should and shouldn’t be. He saw several species during spring migration that he didn’t think should be here, but he hasn’t been able to find anybody to talk to about it. He saw that there were two lists of Idaho birds, one by somebody at the University of Idaho back around 1950…”

   “Malcolm Jollie.”

   “Yes, that’s the one, and then there’s the one that Dr. Fichter and others prepared a few years ago. Greg – that’s my boyfriend, Greg Cleveland – hasn’t seen those lists yet, but would like to, and anything else that’s available on Idaho birds.”

   “We can get him copies of those two lists, and that’s really about all there is in writing, so far. What kind of unusual birds are we talking about?”

   “I remember some of them: redstarts and black-and-white warblers – I think he’s seen several of each of those. Oh, and the one that really surprised him was the red-eyed vireo. He saw dozens of those. He says they are very common in parts of the United States, but he didn’t expect them here.”

   He gave her a look that Vic took to be skeptical. “You say that Greg is a good bird identifier?”

   “You think he might not be?” she said, perhaps a little too indignantly.

   “No, no. It’s just that, when I think of the Burley area, I think of sagebrush and farmland. These species you mentioned are all forest birds.”

   Vic relaxed. “Oh, okay. I guess I left out one of the main parts of the story. At the refuge, we have a forest – well, a woodland. I don’t know how big, but certainly several acres. We’ve always thought it was planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, but Greg says he thinks some of the trees are older than that. Well, anyway, you’re right about the general area. It’s all very open for miles, and then there’s this patch of forest. Greg thinks that it acts as kind of a magnet for migrating birds, who are attracted because it’s the only thing like it for miles and miles around.”

   Matt pondered for a few moments. “Well, that makes sense. We think of those birds you mention as birds of the eastern U. S. forests, but actually those forests extend northwest all the way to the Yukon if you go north of the open Great Plains. It would be a straight shot over Idaho from northern Alberta for a bird migrating to or from Mexico or Central America – which is what those species do. Most songbirds migrate at night, and with no logical place to stop, they would just migrate over us and keep going north or south. We’d never know they were here, unless places like your ‘forest’ attracted them to stop. Interesting!”

   “So, you think Dr. Fichter would be interested in talking to Greg about it?”

   “Oh, I’m sure he would. I know that I am.”

   “Oh, good.” She gave him a paper that she had been carrying. “This is Greg’s address. Do you think you could send him copies of those two lists, and could you tell him how he could contact Dr. Fichter?”

   “Yes, to both. Hey, I’m glad you stopped by. This really is very interesting.”

   Vic got up. “I’m glad you were here. Greg will really be pleased that I made contact. Thank you for your time.”

   “I thoroughly enjoyed it. Say, are you a Biology major?”

   “No. Well, I haven’t declared for anything yet; still looking around. I tell Greg that I’m not a ‘science girl.’ Still, my sister and I have lived our whole lives on wildlife refuges, so I’ve absorbed quite a bit, I think. I’d never been out bird watching – well, looking at what my dad calls ‘dicky birds’ – before Greg,  but I find I like it. And he’s had me banding ducks with him, which is fun and exciting. Maybe I’m more ‘science girl’ than I thought.”

   “I take it your dad is the refuge manager?”

   “Yes. Mandy and I were born in North Dakota and lived on wildlife refuges there, then moved to Idaho in 1958.”

   “Sounds like an interesting childhood.”

   “It was. Hey, I better go. Thanks again for talking to me.”

   “Sure, any time. My pleasure.”


***

-Vic-

Friday evening, Sept. 24

Hi Greg. Well, I’ve had all my classes, now. Nothing really noteworthy to say about them, so I’ll save it until you get here. (Hurry up!) What I wanted to tell you is that I went to Dr. Fichter’s office. I didn’t see him, but I talked to one of his graduate students. He was very interested in your observations, and was sure the Doctor would be, too. He’s going to send you copies of the two bird lists you mentioned.

   I guess that’s all for now. I’ll write more tomorrow. I love you.


Saturday evening, Sept. 25

   No “Cat Ballou” today, but I did find something to do. A bunch of us went to the football game. I loved it! I never went to any games in high school, and didn’t know that I’d missed anything. It was just electric. The stands were packed with students, all chanting and yelling. The cheer leaders getting us to do various chants. The pompom girls shaking their… pompoms! And the boys enjoying that at much as they did the game!

   We were playing College of Idaho. We beat them soundly (48 to 7), but there was enough action on both sides to keep it interesting. I want to go to more games – and I’d love to take you with me! Could we manage it, somehow?

Sunday evening, Sept. 26

   Several of us went to church, again. This time we tried a Baptist church. It was certainly livelier than the Presbyterians. The songs were louder and less pompous, and the preacher pretty much condemned us all to damnation with his sermon. No “tongues,” but lots of animation. One kind of odd thing – the people didn’t seem very friendly. Even though the Presbyterians were kind of stodgy, they were very pleasant.

   I have a little homework to do, and I’m already sleepy, but I wanted to give you my first impressions of college. You can be thinking about them until we discuss them in person. (I assume we will discuss a bit over the weekend, and not just…!) Anyway, it isn’t what I was expecting. It’s bigger than high school, and there are a lot more people, but it still seems kind of like high school minus parental restraint. Nobody seems very academically-minded. Maybe that’s just because I’m associating mainly with freshmen and sophomores, but I thought people would be a little more serious. (Oh, my! I said that the Presbyterians were stodgy. I kind of sound that way, myself!) I think I better quit, do a little study, and go to bed. I’ll mail this in the morning.

  Love to you, my intellectual (and very desirable!) friend. Only five more days!

 

***

 

    For Greg, his “solo Saturday” was planned to be much like the previous one. He banded ducks (only a few), then cleaned up and headed for town. Chuck had taken his roll of film in to be developed earlier in the week, so Greg stopped at the camera shop to see the results. Some of the shots of Vic banding ducks had turned out very nicely, so he left some of the negatives to have more prints made. After doing his grocery shopping, he headed to the Anderson house, arriving about noon.  Mandy was waiting, and had already moved aside some of the furniture.

   “Did you practice during the week?” she asked.

   “I did. I don’t have a full-length mirror to watch myself in, but I think I did pretty well.” He did a few box steps for her, as a demonstration.

   “Very nice. Let’s try it with music, and a beautiful partner.” She had a “78” on the record player, started it up, and presented herself in the middle of the room. He joined her, and they danced together until the record stopped.

   “Very nice,” she said, “but I wish the record ran a little longer. They’re what – three minutes long? I wish we had five or ten uninterrupted minutes. I doubt there is anything but country music on the radio, but let me try. Maybe ‘public radio.’”

   She fiddled for a while, but didn’t find anything. “Okay, let’s try this next without music. Now, your basic box step is getting pretty good. I like how you’re bending toward me, to give me a little warning of what you’re going to do next. Try to make that a little more fluid, and more of a ‘suggestion’ than a real command.”

   They tried it a few times. “Good. Now, when you have a beautiful partner in your arms, you’re probably not going to just dance in one place. You’d like to sweep her around the room a little – show her off to the crowd, and show off your own moves. Let me show you how to travel with the basic waltz box step.”

   She stood in the middle of the room, her arms held as they would be if she had a partner. “Now, here’s our basic box step. I’m you, the leader. I go forward with my left foot, bring my right foot up to the side, and close with my left foot. Right? Just what we’ve been doing. Now, to complete the box, ‘you’ would go back on your right foot, right? Well, to go forward, you do the first part – left forward, right across, left close. But then, instead of right back, you go right forward, then left forward and to the side, and close with the right.” She demonstrated. “Easy, right? Still, it takes a little for your mind to adjust to going the other direction, and for you to learn to signal your intentions to your partner. Come up; let’s try it.”

   They did, and Greg found it actually pretty easy to adapt. “Very good,” she said. “Now, we’re in a position where you can either complete the box, or you can go forward another time. Let me put the record on, again, and go forward a few times.”

   They danced until the record finished, going forward several times, then Mandy telling him to complete the box, and start over. He stumbled a little bit at first, but caught on fast, and they actually “waltzed” around the room.

   Alice had come in while they were dancing. “That was lovely,” she exclaimed. “You’re getting very good, together.”

   Mandy seemed to be pondering something. “I’ve got an idea. Mom, come dance with Greg, so I can watch his steps.”

  “Oh, Mandy, I couldn’t do that! It’s been quite a while since I’ve danced.”

   “But I bet you danced a lot in the past, and it isn’t something you forget. Come on. I need to be an observer of my pupil’s moves.”

   Alice was still hesitant. “Greg, are you okay with this?”

  “Sure.” He held his arms in position. “Come on. I’ll try not to step on your toes.”

  Mandy started the record, again, and Greg and Alice danced. They were almost flawless. Mandy directed them to do some boxes and some advances. It went very well.

   Alice had tears in her eyes. “Oh my, I do remember! It feels so lovely. You don’t forget, do you?”

   Chuck had come into the room. “What don’t you forget?” he asked.

  Mandy started the record, again. “Show him,” she told her mother and Greg. They did a few moves. “Dad, dance with your wife. Remind her how it used to feel.”

   Chuck hesitated. “It’s been so long, Mandy.”

   “That’s what mom said, and look at her. Go on, try it.”

   Greg held his partner out to Chuck, and he reluctantly came forward. Mandy started the record. Chuck and Alice took a few steps to adjust, and suddenly they were dancing as if they’d been doing it every day of their lives. As the music came to an end, Chuck gave her a whirl and a deep, deep dip. They ended up face to face, and he kissed her. They stood there several moments before they seemed to realize they weren’t alone.

   “I guess you were right,” Chuck mumbled to Mandy. “Thanks. Well, we’ll let you get on with your lesson.” They left the room, with Chuck’s arm still around her.

   Mandy collapsed on the couch. “I guess that’s enough for today!”

   Greg sat beside her. “You are a devious little baggage, aren’t you?”

   She turned to him, and grinned. “Yes, I am. But oh, weren’t they wonderful!”

   “They were. I think he may ask the lady to dance again, before long.”

   “Oh, I hope so!”

   They sat at big longer, then Greg handed her Vic’s latest letters. “Here, I brought these for you to read. We can share them with your parents, too – any parts you deem parent-friendly.”

   Mandy started to read. “Oh, my stars! I think I’m going to blush!”

   “You brat, there’s nothing in there to provoke that reaction.”

   She laughed. “No, maybe not, but I think there are a few little things that should be… what, expurgated? Is that the word? Let me take them in my room and read them over. Then, I can read mom and dad the parts I deem appropriate.”

   They sat a little longer. “You know I won’t be here next weekend.”

   “Yes, you and my sister will be… Oh, now I really am going to blush.”

   He laughed outright. “Okay, but that’s not all we’ll be doing. Saturday, I think we’re going to drive up north of Idaho Falls to the wildlife refuge there.”

   “Oh? Bird watching, or sightseeing?”

   “I though Vic might have told you. I talked to the manager up there, and he told me that there might be an assistant manager position opening up next summer. It would give me a little more variety and experience, and I’d still be close to your sister. It’s not a certainty, by any means, but it won’t hurt to check it out.”

   “No, that sounds logical.” She paused. “Speaking of the future, have you and Vic talked about when you’re getting married?”

   “No. Well, yes and no. I think both of us had it in our minds that it would probably be after she graduated. Now, I think we’re both considering some time well before that. There is a lot to consider, though.  What about you and college? Are you still thinking of going to ISU with Vic?”

   “Yes, but as you say, there’s a lot to consider. I think I want to wait until spring, and get a better idea of what our parents are going to be doing, before I really make up my mind.”

   “That sounds wise.”

   Alice called them to lunch. “I’m going to take the letters to my room for a few minutes,” Mandy said. “Tell my folks I’ll be right along.”

   They had a good visit over lunch, and then Mandy brought out the letters. “Remember, these were written a week ago, and most of what she wrote was covered in the letters she sent us. There are a few nice tidbits to share, though. Here she’s talking about checkers and chess.”

   Yes, we all have played checkers together our whole lives. Daddy likes to tell the story that Mom’s parents started them playing, hoping they would concentrate on the game and not on each other. I don’t know if that’s true; if so, it obviously didn’t work (or Mandy and I wouldn’t be around).

  “Is that a true story, Dad?”

  “Well obviously they wouldn’t have told us that was their intent. As your sister pointed out, it didn’t work, anyway.”

  “That’s true. Well, then, Vic talks about chess.”

   Chess. Yes, the idea of us playing chess together is intriguing. I am hesitant to try, however, because I am really good, and chess is not a game in which you can take pity on your opponent. If I crushed you a few times, it would certainly be bad for your ego, but also might be bad for our relationship. We’ll have to carefully consider that.

  “Always looking out for me,” offered Greg. “I may risk a few games, anyway.”

“Now, she gets to the weather. Obviously, they got it a lot worse than we did. She says they had snow on and off, but not much stuck because the ground is still so warm. Then, this is what she wrote on Friday.”

   It was really, really cold, today – in fact, set an all-time record low for this date, 28 degrees. The previous record was 32 degrees in 1902! The lowest temperature ever in September was 26 degrees in 1949. (I’m hearing this on the radio; I haven’t seen any written reports, so I may not have the figures exactly right. Whatever the actual temperatures, I repeat that it was very, very cold. We may get even colder, tonight.)

   “Then, she wrote this Saturday morning.” I couldn’t find an official temperature for overnight. I don’t think we got down to the predicted 20 degrees (!), but I saw something that looked like we might have hit 25 – still more than cold enough.

    We’ve already had some “escape” decisions. Mary Belle has called it quits, and is headed back to South Carolina, and at least one of the southern California women is leaving. We told them how freakily unusual this was for September, but then we had to tell them that it would be this way every day for most of winter. That was enough. I’m sorry to see Mary Belle leave because we were becoming good friends, but she really wasn’t made for this climate.

     “Then, Saturday evening, she wrote about what she did that day.” Several of us braved the cold, and went into town, and saw a movie. It was called “Cat Ballou,” and had Jane Fonda as “Cat,” a young girl out to find the bad guy who killed her father. A good-natured bandit – who is more interested in her, than in justice – joins up with her. They get in all kinds of scrapes, but they only confront the killer after they get involved with an always-drunk former gun fighter (played by Lee Marvin) who, coincidentally, is the brother of the killer. It is really funny but, more than that, it is just plain fun! I want to see it with you, sometime.

   “In another note, she told me that she thought we’d all like that movie. I’ve been checking the newspapers, but it doesn’t seem to be anywhere around here, yet.”

   Greg suddenly stood up. “I almost forgot something. I need to go out to the car a minute.” He came back a few minutes later. “I just picked up the film that has the photos of Vic banding ducks. Some of them are pretty good.” He passed them around. “I’m going to send these to Vic, but I ordered more prints, so I’ll have some for you to keep next week.

 

***

-Greg-

Sunday evening, Sept. 26

   Well, another weekend without you has gone by. I’m not getting used to it, and I am so glad that this was the last one for a while, anyway. I did manage  to keep mostly busy – kind of a repeat of last weekend. I banded ducks (just a few this time), then went to town to do my grocery shopping. Your dad had taken a roll of film in to be developed, so I picked up the prints. As you have already seen from the enclosures with this letter, included were the photos of you banding ducks. Even if I’m not a very impartial observer, I would say they turned out very well. Of course, it would be hard (impossible!) to not get good shots of that particular subject. I’m having extra prints made for your folks and Mandy.

   So, after shopping, it seemed only neighborly to stop and see your family. Besides, it was almost lunch time. I showed them the prints. I also let Mandy read your last two letters. She thought they were too incendiary for parental consumption, so she just read portions to them. After I’d stuffed myself on your mom’s cooking, she sent several more day’s worth home with me.

   I read in the afternoon (the Le Carré spy book – pretty good, so far), then banded more ducks. Again, not many, although there are still a lot here. I think they are moving through pretty fast, and we’re getting new arrivals almost every day.

   This morning, I got a surprise. I went down in the woods to look at the “dicky birds” – still quite a few Audubon’s warblers, not much else. When I came back up to the house, I found Tim waiting for me. He’d just come down to see how things were going. Since he was there, he went with me to band ducks, and we had a good visit. He still hasn’t committed to the sugar campaign – isn’t sure what he’ll do, as he and his dad are keeping pretty busy around the ranch. Rusty is still in San Diego, and probably still several months away from deployment. He asked about you, and commiserated with me on my loneliness in your absence. It was nice to see him.

   In the afternoon, I read some more, and listened to a ball game on the radio. I’m not even sure who was playing – it was just “company.”

   I had an idea for next Saturday. If the weather is good – and if I can entice you out of bed – what would you think of driving up to John O’Brien’s refuge for a look around? That is still one possibility for a move next summer, so it might be involved in any plans to rescue my “homeless” sisters. I called to alert him that I might show up, but no commitment on our part.

   So, here I am – very lonely for you, and chomping at the bit (that’s racing talk) for Friday to get here. I hope you had a good, and not too lonely, weekend. A teeny, tiny part of me would like you to be miserably unhappy not to be with me, but 99.99 percent would like you to be having the time of your life (while still remembering how much you love and miss me).

 

Monday morning, Sept. 27

   I’m going to send this off this morning, to be sure it gets to you before I do. Just “the usual” planned for this work week. I’m going to take all of Friday off, so I should get to you by noon. There are no hitches with the dorm “dragon lady,” are there? I don’t need to bring any jailbreak gear?

   I ran across an old song. It was written by Benny Davis and Jesse Greer in 1927. As it captures my feelings about the upcoming weekend exactly, I’m sure they had some way to look ahead, and describe what October 1, 1965 will be like. It was nice of them, don’t you think?

 

Now look me over carefully,

All dolled up from A to Z.

Guess you wonder where I'm gonna go.

 

I'm excited, I'll admit

And you don't know the half of it.

I'm gonna meet the one that I love so.

 

Hey, hey, clear the way.

Looks like this is my lucky day.

I'm gonna meet my sweetie now.

 

I can't be annoyed.

Am I happy? I’m overjoyed!

I'm gonna meet my sweetie now.

 

Oh what kissin'

And oh, what pettin'

Oh what lovin' I will soon be gettin'

 

Yay, bo, what a date.

Clear the road, I can hardly wait.

I'm gonna meet my sweetie now.



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