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Spearfish Lake Tales
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Joe/Joan book cover

by Wes Boyd
©2015, ©2016

Chapter 18

I don’t think I wanted to leave any more than Cat did, but I think we both agreed in our hearts that the time had come to move on.

By this time it was getting toward the end of July, and we had about four weeks before we definitely had to be heading back to the States. We had, of course, given our parents regular updates about extending our trip – but we did it by cablegram, rather than phone calls so it would be harder for them to urge us to come back. This time we couldn’t avoid setting a date and tacking down our airline reservation, but we cut the schedule as tightly as we could. We would only be home for about a week before we had to be back at Venable, and I was pretty sure that would only be barely enough time since I was sure my mother was going to try to buy out J.C. Penney’s with me again.

We had planned to go to Switzerland next, but when we got off the narrow-gauge line at the train station in Saint Gervais we found that the train schedule didn’t work in our favor, so we decided to go check out the Riviera. We expected that it would be too expensive for our blood but we thought we could do a quick in and out. As it turned out, we found a hostel in Nice that wasn’t too expensive and stayed for a couple of days. I bought a really radical bikini at a little boutique to tease Cat as much as anything. I mean, it was considerably more radical than the French bikini that the Beach Boys used to sing about, and actually was pushing the limit for the beaches there, and somehow I talked Cat into buying one, too.

So then, we got to a beach and discovered that a lot of the women there were topless. Of course, I had to try it out, and eventually got Cat to try it out too, with her face as red as her bikini bottom. “Jo,” she protested as her bare breasts waved in the breeze, “I let you talk me into the damnedest things.”

“When in Rome,” I grinned, “do as the Romans do. And don’t forget, this whole trip was your idea.”

“Since you mention Rome,” she smiled. “What do you think?”

So we went to Rome, only for a couple of days, and not anywhere enough to really take in the city, before we turned back toward Switzerland, which was gorgeous. We hadn’t had our fill of mountains by then, but we didn’t have the time to do much more climbing. Somehow the days went by quickly, and shortly the realization came that we had to be pointing it back toward Glasgow and the States after that. We did get a couple of days to check out Amsterdam, which was another place where we could have easily spent more time, then got tickets on a train to London.

This time the train took us to Ostend, and we caught the ferry back to Folkestone and another train on to Victoria Station. We had a day to kill in London before we could catch another train to Glasgow, and London is an easy town to spend time in.

That evening we had a shepherd’s pie dinner in a small pub, with a pint of bitter each before us, when a man got up from the next table, leaving a copy of News of the World behind him. We had not been keeping very good track of what was actually happening in the world, so I snagged the copy, knowing that there wouldn’t be very much news in the paper – it was more of a tabloid, with a front page of screaming headlines. Think what the National Enquirer would be like a lot more sex-oriented with only a little more truth to the stories.

What I hadn’t realized was that the News of the World ran pinup photos on Page Three every day – sometimes bikini-clad, sometimes lingerie shots, sometimes topless, so you can imagine my surprise when I opened up the paper and saw my own bare boobs staring back at me!

Well, I hadn’t told Yves that he couldn’t sell the photo, but I hadn’t told him he could, either. But he must have gone ahead and done it! “I’ll kill him,” I said flatly. “I may never see him again, but if I do I’ll damn well kill him.”

I took a big sip of my beer – that was something I was going to miss back at Venable, too, since we’d gotten used to beer or wine with most meals, and it would be unavailable to us there for a few years considering our ages.

Cat was really amused, especially after the topless beach incident in the south of France. “Look on the bright side,” she said. “No one in Venable reads the News of the World. Probably no one in the Midwest does either, for that matter.”

That wasn’t much of a relief, and neither was the fact that he’d managed to spell my name as “Jeanne,” which probably wasn’t much of a defense. “Yeah, you’re probably right,” I agreed. “But still!”

“Look at it this way,” she smiled. “It’s just another thing on the list of things we hadn’t expected to do on this trip.”

“True, but this one I think I would have just as soon avoided.”

“Don’t think that, Jo. Someday you’ll look back at this and laugh.”

The next day we took the train from Euston Station to Glasgow. It was a long ride, taking most of the day, and we were tired when we got there. We got a room in a small hotel, caught up on our sleep, and spent most of the day poking around the Scottish city, and on the whole rather depressed. It wasn’t that we were depressed because we were in Glasgow – it seemed to be a nice enough place – but our wonderful trip was over with, and we were going to be back in school at Venable in all too short a time.

The day after that, we caught a ride out to the airport, went to the Icelandic Airlines counter, and were soon aboard a DC-6B heading for Reykjavik. We had been a little sorry that we had been in the country so briefly on the way over, so we had arranged a day’s layover. It proved to be an interesting time, and we were to wish we had spent more time there.

The day after that we were in the air again, heading southwest toward New York. As the sound of the propellers drummed in my ears, I got out a scratch pad and did a little math. We had kept a pretty careful record of what we had spent, just out of curiosity. We didn’t do Europe on $5.00 per day, but we didn’t miss by a whole lot, either – the climbing boots and a couple of Carnaby Street boutique dresses we’d bought on our last day in London hadn’t helped the budget. On the other hand we’d probably saved a little money by not having to buy train and bus tickets in the weeks we spent in Chamonix.

When all was said and done, we’d spent over three months in Europe on $8.29 per day each, not counting airfares, and had reason to feel pleased at that figure. We were still within our budget when we counted our emergency money. I doubt if it could have been done for ten times that amount fifty years later.

*   *   *

We’d let the parents know well ahead of time that we were homeward bound since we’d had the date set weeks before when we got the trans-Atlantic airline reservations. When we called home from New York to let them know we were back in the States, Cat was informed that her folks had set up a reservation on North Central from O’Hare. On the other hand, Mom and Dad were still busy and were just as glad when I offered to ride a train to where Mom could pick me up after work.

So it was that Cat and I said goodbye to each other at the North Central ticket counter in O’Hare. We’d been traveling together for over three months and had a wonderful summer doing it. “See you in a few days,” I told her.

“Yeah, I guess,” she sighed. “Back to the old grind. It sure isn’t going to be the same as in Europe. I sort of wished we could have stayed there.”

“Me too, but there’s always next summer to look forward to. We’ll have to get our heads together and do some planning once school gets started.”

“It’s going to be hard to top this summer, but maybe we can try. It would be tempting to think about Europe again next year, but I think my folks will be happy when I tell them we’re probably going to stay home.”

“Home meaning ‘in the States,’ right?”

“Well, yeah. I don’t want to be too specific. Catch you in a few days, Jo.”

“Yeah, a few days.” There was no putting it off any longer since we both had to be going. We slung our familiar backpacks again and started off in opposite directions.

It had been a long time since I’d ridden this train in Joe’s sense of the word, but I remembered doing it on his timeline at about this age, so nothing was very unexpected. That was one nice thing about having been in Europe, because I hadn’t been tripping over my old memories very often; everything was new to me. Now, I was going to be facing the duality of my life for a few days, and I was just going to have to handle it.

I was a little surprised to see both Mom and Dad waiting for me at the train station. I was just about tackled by the hugs, and it really was good to see them again. “Did you have a good trip, Joanie?” Mom asked as I was still trapped in her arms.

“The best,” I told her. “It was just long coming over the Atlantic, but we had a good layover in Iceland. So what do you hear from Joey?”

“He got through basic all right,” Dad reported. “He didn’t say anything much, but I got the impression that he didn’t exactly enjoy it and was glad to have it over with. You missed him by a few days. He was home for a while, but he had to leave for his truck-driving school at Ft. Eustis, Virginia. We’ve only heard from him once since he got there, but it seems to be a little more civilized than Ft. Knox.”

“Well, good,” I said, as always knowing more about it than they did, but not willing to tell them. Then again, it was a long time ago for Joe, and the memory had faded. “When I talked to him before he left, he seemed at least a little interested in the truck driving.”

“It was good to see him interested in something for once,” Dad said. “Let’s get you home. Is your pack all you have?”

“It was all I needed, and I think I’m actually bringing home more than I took with me,” I grinned. “Cat and I went shopping in London on our way back, and I bought the cutest little dress at a boutique on Carnaby Street. I don’t think it will go over very well at college, but maybe I can wear it for a party or something.”

“I was very disappointed at all the things you left behind when you left,” Mom said. “You hardly took anything with you at all.”

“It worked out just fine. We even had more than we needed, but any more would have been too much. That’s one of the things we learned, that we can get along on less than we thought. Like, I managed to get along on just these jeans and a skirt. We just had to live a little differently, that’s all.”

Of course, they wanted to know everything at once as we walked out to Mom’s car and started driving toward home. It was hard to talk in the car, but I promised I had pictures for them to see when we got home. I’d had most of my film processed in Amsterdam on the way back so that I could cull out and hide pictures that I would rather they not see. That included some of the climbing and especially the nude shots Yves took of me with my camera; there were a few adventures they didn’t need to know about.

“So did you see everything you wanted to see?” Mom asked at one point.

“No,” I sighed. “There’s just too much. We never even made a big dent in the list, and there were places where we would have liked to take more time, like Rome, for example. We hardly got a glance at a few of the places, and there’s so much to see. We could probably have done a little better if we hadn’t spent so much time at Chamonix, but there was a lot to see there, too.”

“Are you planning on going back to do some more?”

“Probably someday, but probably not next summer,” I admitted. “We have other things we want to do while we still can. We really haven’t made up our minds yet, but I doubt you’ll see much of me next summer, either.”

“Well, I guess that was bound to happen,” Mom sighed. “You kids are both growing up, and I didn’t think I’d be able to keep you at home forever.”

The next few days actually went a little slowly. Mom, as expected, had decided I needed a whole new wardrobe and it was difficult to hold her down, but that was the big thing. The Karmann Ghia had been parked outside the garage most of the summer, but Dad had started it up on occasion and driven it, along with giving it a fresh oil change. I was actually a little relieved to get into it and not discover he’d mounted a turbocharger or something.

Cat called me a couple days after she got back and reported that she didn’t get anything like the hassles she expected from her parents, especially her mother. We had been right; it was easier to get forgiveness than it was to get permission, and they agreed that it seemed to them she’d had a wonderful experience.

It seemed like the days dragged a little until I could load the Karmann Ghia and head for Venable. I had to admit that things at home seemed a little too familiar after all the new and different things I had seen that summer.

Finally, I could break free and head back to Venable. Mom and Dad didn’t go this time since they knew I could handle it by myself, but in a way coming back to college seemed more like coming home than it had been to really come home.

One of the advantages of being a sophomore was that Cat and I were assigned to a room on the second floor of Murphy Hall, rather than the third. That meant it took me less time to haul my limited amount of stuff up from the car, actually a little less than I had brought the year before since my learning to get along on a little over the summer had carried over.

I had finished up with the hauling and taken the car over to its winter home at the gas station by the time Cat and her family got there. Like me, Cat had less than she’d brought the year before, and like Mom, her mother seemed to think it was way too little. However, there was one welcome thing, since they brought a little portable refrigerator that would mean that we wouldn’t have to run down to the machine in the lobby every time we wanted to drink something cold other than water.

It was late enough when we got their car unloaded that we all went to dinner together in town, but her folks took off for home right afterward. “So how did it really go?” I asked Cat as we walked up to our new room.

“Better than I expected,” she smiled. “They could see that we had a really good time and that everything went well. Of course, I didn’t have any nude photos I had to hide from them, either. I guess I’ll have an easier time selling them on whatever we plan to do next summer, especially if it’s in the States.”

Actually registering for classes the next day was a lot simpler than it had been last year. We didn’t have the long list of required basic courses we’d had to deal with last year, so that meant that I would mostly be able to take classes that actually interested me. We got everything we had asked for with few problems.

While I still had no idea of what I wanted to do, I had signed up for an Introduction to Education class just on the chance that I might actually like to be a teacher. There wasn’t the resistance to women in the field that there was in other areas, so that seemed to be a possibility. In addition to that, we would be taking French II from Professor Reynaud and his chain-smoking again, and after as much French as we had learned over the summer we expected to have few problems with it. Beyond that, there were a couple of history classes that seemed like they might be worthwhile, and an English Writing II, taught by Professor Norton. I also would be a life model for the art classes like I had done last year; Dr. Alta was glad to have me back. Unlike last year, Cat’s schedule was a little different than mine, so we would be taking fewer classes together.

The only surprise was in the physical education course – this would be the last year it would be a requirement, and this year we could have skipped it if we’d wanted to put it off. I don’t remember what we actually signed up for, but there was a note clipped to the file: “Eligible for Bouldering and Climbing II if interested.” Of course we were interested, so we made the change on the spot.

Again, we had books to get at a price that would have kept us going in Europe for a month, but we had no choice but to buy them and lug them back to the dorm, which was filling up as more and more kids showed up for the semester. We dumped them off in the room and decided to go over to Ed and Sue’s, just to touch base with them.

They were glad to see us; just about the first words from Ed’s mouth were, “So did you get any climbing in?”

“A little,” I admitted. “Not as much as we would have liked, but we could only spend six weeks in Chamonix.”

“I’ve never been there,” he admitted. “Is it as good as they say?”

“No, it’s better. There are mountains and climbers every which way, some really, really neat stuff.”

“Did you get to climb anything interesting?”

“Only if you consider Mont Blanc interesting.”

“Wow, I guess I did start something. Give you kids an inch, and look what happens. I hope you have some pictures.”

“Oh yeah, including a group shot at the top of Mont Blanc. There were eight of us that tramped up it one day. It wasn’t too bad but it isn’t a beginner’s climb, either.”

“Well, good. I suppose you saw that note about ‘Climbing II.’”

“Yes, and we signed up for it, too. What’s that all about?”

“Actually it’s pretty much the same thing as last year, except that you’ll be more my student assistants and you’ll be working on a few advanced techniques. I hope you learned a few things at Chamonix.”

“I think we did, although I don’t think we’re quite ready to teach the class yet.”

We sat around telling stories for several hours, along with showing Ed and Sue some photos, and no, I didn’t include the nude shots in there, either. They were wide-eyed, and I suspected they revised their plans for their vacation next summer before we were through.

Classes got under way on Monday. On first impression it looked like they would be pretty good and that we would learn something. When Tuesday afternoon rolled around we went over to the climbing wall in the field house, to see our three guy friends from the climbing club, and a half a dozen new faces. Ed had asked us veterans to not let on about the fact that this was our second year, and after he gave his opening presentation and a demonstration climb of the wall, he turned to me. “You’re Joan, right?” he asked. “Joan, do you think you can do that?”

“Maybe,” I simpered. “I don’t know if I can do that. It’s awful high, and it’s a long way down.”

“If you don’t think you can do it, maybe you’d better drop this class. But you ought to at least see if you can do it.”

“All right, I’ll try.” I took a deep breath, got a fearful look on my face, then put out my hand tentatively like I didn’t want to do it . . . and then scrambled up the wall just about as fast as Ed had done. “Like that?” I asked from the top. “Was that all right?”

“That was just fine,” he smiled.

“All right. Now, how do I get down?”

“You can climb down, or let yourself down on the rope.”

“I’m scared,” I told him.

“Come on, Joan, you can do it.”

“I don’t know,” I said fearfully as I wrapped the rappel rope around me. “This is awful scary.”

“Just try it.”

“All right,” I said, pushing myself away from the wall, descending in just a couple of bounds. I got down to the floor, unwrapped the rope, and said, “Was that all right, Dr. Norton?”

“You’re a quick learner, Joan. Keep that up and you ought to be able to climb a real mountain someday.” He turned to the class and said, “She sure made it look easy. Do you think any of you can do that well?”

There were some very serious looking faces in the group of new students, while we veterans were struggling to keep straight faces. No one said a word.

“None of you?” Ed asked.

“What would you say if I told you that Joan was standing where you are this time last year, and never had done anything like this before, but in that year she’s become a pretty good climber? In fact, good enough to climb the highest mountain in Europe last summer, mostly based on what she learned here.”

I decided to let them off the hook. “I’m not the only one in this group who did it, either, and we have photos to prove it. Yes, it looks dangerous, and it is. Yes, there is some risk, but with good training and practice you can learn to handle the risk, and learn to do things you never thought you could do. The climbing is the easy part. Convincing yourself you can do it and learn how here is the hard part, but we can help you with that, and do it safely, and that extends on to other things besides climbing. What’s more, I can guarantee that you’ll have some fun and make some new friends along the way.”

“Joan is right,” Ed smiled. “If you work hard and apply yourselves, maybe you’ll be the one to scare the hell out of some new kids this time next year.”

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To be continued . . .

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