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Spearfish Lake Tales
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Joe/Joan book cover

by Wes Boyd
©2015, ©2016

Chapter 19

That evening the members of the climbing club from the year before gathered in Ed and Sue’s back yard. “Those kids are all new and green as you all were this time last year. Bearing in mind that this is a group of friends with no organization, no dues, and no officers, I think we need to wait a while before we ask these kids to join us,” he said. “At least for the things we do on Saturdays.”

“Makes sense,” Mark agreed. “Some of them may not stay with it as far as the next class.”

“There’s bound to be some learning going on, and it may take a while,” Kirk agreed. “But I don’t think we want to put them down just because they’re new.”

“That doesn’t mean we can’t do things on Saturdays,” I put in. “We haven’t got much time before cold weather sets in, and we want to take advantage of the nice weather while it’s here.”

“Like it or not,” Ed continued, “We still will mostly be going to the quarry or the rail bridge. If it turns into a bigger group going, then some of us can work with some of the new people on things they need to learn, while others can work on more difficult problems. But I still think we need to wait a bit to give those who are going to drop out a chance to do it before we invite them. We got to be a pretty close group last year and I don’t want to ruin it.”

“Jo and Cat, I need to ask you something,” Mark said. “After all the neat climbing I hear you did in Europe, isn’t it going to be something of a letdown to be messing around with the quarry and the railroad bridge again? Or even down to the Smokies like we did last spring?”

“Of course it is,” I told him. “But I look at it as keeping in shape and in practice so we can do something new next year. It’s like a football team. They spend a lot of time on the practice field compared to the time they spend in the game.”

“That’s very true,” Ed agreed. “After talking with Joan and Cat, they picked up some skills last summer that we can’t practice here anyway.”

“But we learned the principles behind them,” Cat said. “That made it easy to learn when we had to do them.”

“I haven’t heard much about what you actually did,” Mark commented. “Why don’t you fill us in a little?”

So Cat and I had to go through the story of our time in Chamonix again. We didn’t leave out much – well, I didn’t talk much about what Yves and I had done on top of that peak – but we had some good stories to tell and we told them as the evening wore on. “It sounds like you two had a heck of a good time,” Andy said after a while. “I sure wish I could do something like that.”

“It’s not cheap, but it’s not that expensive, either,” I told him. “If any of you want to plan something like that I’m sure Cat and I will be willing to tell you everything we can.”

“It would be nice,” Andy sighed. “But I doubt if it will ever happen for me, or at least any time soon. Are you planning on doing it again next year?”

“Probably not, but we might the year after that. It’s still pretty fuzzy. We’re sort of talking about going out west next summer, but we haven’t made any firm plans yet.”

The sun had set and it was after dark before we started back to the dorms. As we walked back, Andy took my arm and held me back a little so the others could get ahead of us. He really hadn’t said a great deal at the meeting and I was sure he had something on his mind. “I’m glad you had a good time this summer,” he said as the others got out of easy earshot. “Like I said back there, it would be nice to do something like that, but it probably won’t happen. It looks like I’m going to have too much to do in the summers.”

“It wouldn’t have happened for us, except for my getting the job in the art department,” I replied. “That turned out to be a lucky break all around. What’s going to be messing up your summers?”

“Mostly working for my dad,” he said. “We had a long talk several times over the summer, and he’s going to want me in the business as soon as I graduate. He’s willing to wait that long, but he’s going to want me to hit the ground running when I’m through here.”

“That happens, I guess,” I sighed. “At least you have some idea of what you’re going to be doing when you get out of college. I haven’t got the faintest notion.”

“There is that, but it sure louses up any chance of doing a trip like you and Cat took. I would have loved doing something like that sometime, but I guess it just wasn’t to be.”

“I guess you have to get out when you can, but sometimes you can’t.”

“Jo, that’s really the truth,” he nodded. “But that’s not the only reason.”

“What’s this?”

“Well, to be honest there’s a girl involved,” he smiled.

“Don’t tell me you got back together with that Linda, or whatever her name was?”

“No, I was smart enough to avoid that. She took a run on me just about as soon as I got home. It turned out that jerk she dumped me for dumped her. She didn’t say, but I guess that when he got what he wanted from her it was time to look for fresh meat. I told her she could go suck eggs, and that she was a proven cheater and not worth any more of my time.”

“Good for you,” I said. “She missed her chance, and now she gets to live with it. So what’s the deal on the new girl?”

“She’s just starting here as a freshman,” he explained. “She was a year behind me in high school but we were always friendly. I won’t go into the details, but it’s a small-town thing. You’re from a small town and you know what that means. She heard about what I told Linda, and came around to see me, and, well, one thing led to another. It’s going, well, it’s going a lot better than it ever did with Linda, too.”

“I suppose I shouldn’t ask this, but a lot, lot better?” I grinned. “You know what I mean.”


“Somehow I figured that. She’s got to be a lucky girl.”

“She’s a lot nicer and more honest than Linda ever was,” he said flatly. “The thing of it is that with her here, I’m going to have to give a lot of attention to her, and that means I may not have much time for the climbing club.”

“She’s not one of the new kids in the climbing class, is she?”

“Oh, no. The mere thought of it scares the crap out of her. I mean, she’ll climb stairs but I doubt if I could get her on a ladder.”

“That’s a shame. Andy, I hate to say it but you might want to re-think your position on her.”

“I’ve thought about it, but well, there are other issues. Small-town issues, one that will get involved when I get into the business with my Dad, so I’m in kind of a tough spot.”

“I don’t want to talk her down, not ever having met her, but again, you might want to re-think things a little. She may let you climb for a while, but sooner or later it’s going to come down to climbing or her, and you’d better figure out right now what your answer is going to be when that happens.”

“I know,” he sighed. “She’s got a lot going for her, so I just don’t want to throw it away and I probably won’t.”

“It’s your decision to make, but you have to do what is best.” I shook my head and went on, “I take that to mean that the idea of us getting together for fun and games sometime is pretty well off the table?”

“It has to be, Jo. It hurts to say it, but if I took you up on the offer I would be doing the same thing to LouAnn that Linda did to me, so it won’t happen.”

“Andy, while I like you and we had a good time together that time, and a lot of other good times the last year, since I know about her now I wouldn’t dream of doing it. I told you not to make long-term plans about me, and I guess you listened.”

“I might not have gotten going with LouAnn if you hadn’t said that,” he sighed. “But maybe it’s for the best, too. Look, with what’s happening I probably won’t be able to hang around you much, maybe not even at the climbing club. Like I said, I’m going to have to give some attention to her, and that means I won’t have the time to throw it at the club.”

I guessed that was inevitable, and really, it was the right move for him to make. “I’m sure we’ll miss you, Andy. Come join us when you can. Like I said, she has to be a lucky girl and I’m sure you should do the right thing by her.”

 “I’m glad you feel that way, since this would be a lot worse if you didn’t.”

Andy was nice enough to walk me the rest of the way back to the dorm. I was a little sorry it had happened, but not real sorry. I had known right from the beginning of our night down south last spring that there was a danger in him wanting to get serious about me, which was something I didn’t want to happen, at least not at that point in my life. Let’s face it, I wanted to get out and see the world and have some fun along the way. It was clear even then that Andy was going to be a homebody, and the two of us would have been a combination that would turn into real problems sooner or later. I had sort of been looking forward to spending another night again with him sometime, although when and where had been very open questions. Now it wasn’t going to happen, and maybe I was just as glad.

While my brief time with Yves back on that mountaintop hadn’t been as much fun as it could have been, it had one main advantage: Chamonix had been a long ways away from Venable. I had more or less made up my mind a long time before that I didn’t want to get involved with anyone on campus, mostly because it could grow into something that could tie me down. There was an old Army saying I remembered from my days as Joe: keep your indiscretions a hundred miles from the flagpole. I had sort of slipped up on that with Andy, but I was lucky that it had worked out in the end. Sex was good and was worth running some risks for, but I wasn’t willing to take that risk of getting involved in a relationship like that since it could easily mess up future summers like the one I had just had.

Andy and I didn’t have much more to say as he walked me back to the dorm. We stopped out front – guys weren’t allowed inside any farther than the lobby – and I gave Andy a brief hug. “Good luck, guy,” I told him. “I hope it works out for you.”

“Same to you, Joan. I don’t know where your life is going to take you, but have fun getting there.”

I found a curious weight taken off my shoulders as I climbed the stairs to my dorm room. I hadn’t thought that I would get anything serious going with Andy for the long run, but I realized now that the danger had been there. Now it was gone. There probably would be another man along sooner or later and perhaps other men, but I decided I would have to make up my mind just how far I would be willing to allow a relationship to go before I even got started. Count that as a lesson learned, I thought.

Cat wasn’t in the room when I got there. I thought that was a little strange, since she had been ahead of me, along with Mark and Kirk, but I didn’t think much about it. I pulled a Pepsi from the refrigerator and settled in to do some studying; it would not be good to get behind on my reading. Of course, when she came in I had to ask what had happened to her.

“Oh, Mark and I went for a walk,” she shrugged. “We haven’t had much of a chance to talk since we got back here. He says he had a good time at Cedar Point, but nothing like the fun we had. I think he’s just a little bit envious.”

“Him and just about everybody else we’ve talked to,” I snickered.

“It’s their own fault. A lot of people could have done it just the same way we did it. It just takes getting up the gumption to do it. We did, and it paid off for us.”

“So are you and Mark going to hang out this semester like you did last year?”

“I guess. It really isn’t anything serious, but it’s nice to have a guy to hang out with. Are you going to be hanging out with Andy?”

“No, he’s got a girlfriend from home on campus now, so I agreed to stay out of their way.”

“That’s a shame. The two of you looked like you were on the way to something.”

“Just as well,” I sighed. “From what I found out tonight, it probably wouldn’t have worked anyway. Do you think you and Mark might get something going?”

“It could happen,” she smiled. “At least I’m not saying it’s not going to happen. Mark might not be a bad guy to spend the rest of my life with but we’re nowhere near making that decision yet.”

It was going to happen with her, I thought, but carefully did not say. Cat had never quite given up the idea of pairing off with some guy here in college and marrying him. It might not happen soon, but I could see it happening after we graduated. Cat and I were the best of friends and had enjoyed a great time together over the summer – but it couldn’t be expected to last forever. I was not looking forward to that day coming.

*   *   *

In a few days things settled into a routine. It wasn’t long before the leaves on the trees began to look aged, and it probably wouldn’t be long before they started to turn color, and soon would be on the ground.

The new climbers who remained in the class after the initial shakeout, three guys and one girl, soon gained a little confidence and were building their skills up rapidly with the help of those of us who had been through the program already. It was only a couple weeks before Ed decided that they were ready for the marble quarry, which had a broad range of easy to hard pitches to follow, none of them terribly high.

It was a hassle to get everyone out there the following Saturday. There were eleven of us now, counting Ed’s wife Sue, and that just about crammed his station wagon and my Karmann Ghia to the maximum possible, especially with the minimum amount of climbing gear along with some lunches and drinks. The situation was made worse when, at the last minute, LouAnn decided she wanted to go along to watch.

I had not previously met LouAnn to talk to her, although I had seen her around campus. She was a pretty enough girl with long dark hair, but she seemed nervous, and I don’t mean just about the climbing. She seemed nervous about everything.

She was almost shaking as she watched Andy rope up with Brad, one of the new guys, to lead him up one of the easier pitches in the quarry to give him a little feeling for the place. She was literally biting her knuckles as she watched Andy lead up the easy pitch, taking his time to give Brad the chance to figure out what he was doing. I swear, the higher Andy got on the wall the higher her blood pressure got, and her voice as well. She was almost shaking with relief when he climbed over the lip of the quarry, and then belayed Brad for the rest of their climb.

Brad made it easily; once he was there, he and Andy stood talking about a few of the tricks of the place, then Andy rigged a rappel and started back down in several small bounces. The place was uneven enough that you had to be careful doing that but it was no huge danger, but LouAnn screamed at the top of her lungs every inch of the way. I couldn’t wonder whether she was angry at him for doing such a dangerous thing or relieved that he had made it safely, but either way she just wasn’t handling it very well.

Ed happened to be standing next to me during the rappel, and I heard him say softly, “That does not look good for Andy.”

“It sure looks that way to me,” I agreed. “What do you want to bet that we don’t see him out here on a Saturday again?”

“I’d just about say ‘no bet,’ except that I suppose there’s the possibility he might dump her.”

“That might be the best thing for him to do, except that I don’t see it happening.”

“Me, either,” Ed agreed.

Sure enough, that was the last Saturday that we saw Andy at the quarry or anywhere else where we were climbing on our days off from school. He continued with the classes, but we could all see that it was just to get through the semester, and that his heart just wasn’t in it. It was a huge loss, as far as I was concerned. Andy was a nice guy and a good climber, probably level with the rest of us by now, but it was clear that LouAnn just wasn’t going to put up with it. That did not bode well for the future, as far as I was concerned; if things continued the way they were, it seemed likely to me that Andy was going to be facing a rather placid and unexciting life, and probably pretty henpecked, too. But if that was what he wanted, then that was what he’d get, warts and all.

Pretty soon the leaves were down and the skies were cold and gray. I was deep in my classes at that point, although I didn’t miss a Saturday with the club, at least when we could get out, it was less often than I liked.

As Joe, I had never been a very good writer, but then, I had no need to be. However, it was something that irritated me and I wanted to do better at it, which was why I had taken the writing class in the first place.

Professor Norton – I couldn’t call him Ed in the class, which sometimes got confusing – set out to fix that. I had asked him to work me hard on it because I wanted to fix the mistakes I was making, and he did just that. My typewritten essays came back with masses of red marks, sometimes with alternative and better ways of saying things, and I like to think my writing improved as a result.

My other classes were going well, especially my French class. I was easily ahead of the rest of the class as the result of all my time in France the previous summer, and at that Professor Reynaud may have given me a little special favor for that reason alone. I was looking forward to getting back to France sometime, so I worked especially hard at the class, and I think it paid off for me.

I happened to show up early for class one day, and happened to glance at the bulletin board, where there was a notice for a junior year abroad program. That sounded like it would be fun, even if the cost was more than a little bit beyond my reach, but I read the sheet over closely, to discover that the program was at Université de Lancy-Paquis in Geneva – only about thirty or forty kilometers from Chamonix!

Boy, wouldn’t that be something, I thought. Could anything possibly be more perfect? Needless to say, I asked Professor Reynaud about it as soon as I could get him alone; he told me that it had just been a mailer, and that he didn’t know anything about it. But it sounded like a good program to him, and it might be a wonderful opportunity for me. Cat wasn’t in the same section of the class, but when I told her about it that evening, she said that it sounded pretty good to her, although she thought that it was probably too expensive for her. On the other hand, it would be at a school, not wandering footloose around Europe, and that meant her mother might not object too badly. Her mother apparently didn’t understand that European schools were a lot more liberal about the control they put on their student’s lives, a fact we had learned around various hostels the previous summer. Her dad would be able to afford it if he didn’t have very many objections from her mother.

Financing it would be a little more precarious for me, even with my modeling income. I just wouldn’t have the money to do it next fall, unless my parents were to help me out, and I didn’t want to ask them since they had some other expenses in their lives just then. But, I pointed out to Cat, if we dumped the trip out west for the next summer and got a job, maybe at Cedar Point or something, it became a lot more possible.

After some discussion we agreed to look into it a little more.

The next day, I went over to the administration building to talk to Mrs. Wheaton, the woman who administered student grants, which included the Susan Barnes Memorial Scholarship, which was paying for most of my schooling. I wanted to know if possibly that Scholarship might cover at least some of the cost of the junior year abroad program. “Right off the top of my head, I don’t know,” she told me. “However, there is a good chance that it would cover at least part of it. I will have to go back over the original terms of the grant to be able to give you an answer.”

“I can understand that,” I told her. “But from what I can see I don’t have a lot to time to make the application.”

“Then I’d suggest that you go ahead and do it. If it works out that you can’t qualify for the grant, there would still be plenty of time for you to withdraw.”

That was about all I needed to make my decision, and Cat was right with me. “I might as well apply too,” she said. “If I can’t talk my folks into it, I could still withdraw. Or, maybe I could get a job at Cedar Point, too. Mark is planning on going there again next summer, and that could get interesting.”

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To be continued . . .

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