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Spearfish Lake Tales
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Joe/Joan book cover

by Wes Boyd
©2015, ©2016

Chapter 20

I wasn’t very enthused about going home for Christmas break. The break would be three weeks long, and I didn’t have much to do, but that would have been true if I had stayed at Venable, which I couldn’t do as they locked up the dorms for the holidays.

The only high point of the holidays for me was that Joey got to make a quick trip home from Ft. Eustis at the height of the holiday rush. He was able to get a military standby flight both ways, but only because he was flying in the very small hours of the morning. That made it difficult for the folks to pick him up and drop him off at Midway in Chicago, so I volunteered. I sure wasn’t doing anything else.

He was waiting by the door when I pulled the Karmann Ghia up to the pickup line at Midway about three in the morning on Christmas Eve. He threw a small duffel bag into the back seat, then got in beside me. “So how are you liking the Army?” I asked as I pulled away from the curb.

“Not very well, but it’s something to do,” he said grumpily. Well, that was understandable; I would have been grumpy at that hour of the morning if I hadn’t gotten some sleep earlier.

“Are they keeping you busy?”

“Busy enough. There’s more classroom work than I expected, but it’s all pretty useful. Truck maintenance and that kind of thing.”

“Do you know if they’re going to send you to Vietnam?”

“No idea,” he shook his head. “I probably won’t find out until just about the time the school ends, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. That’s less than a month off, but I’m told that I’ll have some leave coming before I have to go there.”

I was just making conversation, although Joey didn’t know it. I hadn’t seen Joey since the spring, but we had written a few brief letters back and forth. I had heard more about him from the folks than I had gotten from him. Of course, I had been through the exact same thing over fifty years of Joe’s life before on the other timeline, although admittedly over that long a time my memories were a little bit stale. It was interesting as Joey told stories about some of the other guys in his training unit. I remembered them, although not very well, but his mentioning the names freshened up my recollections.

That topic ran out of energy pretty quickly. After a while he got me to telling some of my stories from Europe – he hadn’t heard much about that, of course. I didn’t tell him much about my climbing adventures, since I knew he wouldn’t understand it and thought I was out of my mind to want to do it at all.

That’s one of the things that from time to time has made me wonder about my new life. Although as Joe I hadn’t known Joanie, of course, I had seen a little bit about climbing, maybe the odd clip on TV. While I had thought it might be nice to climb a mountain for the view, I think I would have preferred to do it on something like Pike’s Peak where you can drive to the top, not that I ever did. But to take on some of the pitches and walls that Cat and I had done, or even to just have a nice workout at the quarry, well, at that point in Joe’s life he would have had a reaction about like LouAnn’s. He might not have been as demonstrative about it, but it wasn’t anything he would have contemplated doing himself.

That opened up the question of how the two of us were different, and why. As Joanie I had become considerably different from Joe or Joey, and not just because I was a woman now, instead of being a man. How had that happened? It was one of any number of questions I had no real answer to.

In any case, I didn’t want to overdo talking about either climbing or the Army with Joey as we drove through the darkened freeways of Chicago toward Simsville. Even at that hour of the morning there was traffic, although not particularly heavy. As my talking about Cat and me in Europe wound down he asked, “So do you have any plans for next summer?”

“That’s really up in the air,” I told him, and went on to explain that we had planned to go driving out west, probably doing quite a bit of climbing, but we were also considering the junior year abroad program and if we got accepted it would change things considerably.

“Well, either way it sounds more interesting than Vietnam,” he commented after I had explained the problem. “Considering the amount of climbing you’ll probably be doing, I wouldn’t want to bet that either one would be any less dangerous, though.”

“I guess it’s what I like,” I smiled. “People like different things. I mean, Dad likes hot rods, Mom likes knitting . . .”

“And you like to risk your neck,” he laughed. “You have sure changed in the last couple of years, Joanie. I can hardly believe you’re my sister. You’re not the shy, mousy kid who wasn’t much for taking a risk.”

Of course, I had changed considerably more than he could have believed, but I couldn’t tell him that, just like I couldn’t tell him that I was him on a different timeline. There was no way he could have believed it, and a part of me still didn’t believe it, either.

We had our usual family Christmas celebration with the usual relatives, just about like always. I got questioned about Europe, and Joey got questioned about the Army, and I think we both were tired of saying the same thing over and over again before it was through.

Late on Christmas night I had to take him to Midway again. We weren’t very talkative on the drive there, and I think it was mostly because we had run out of things to say to each other. In spite of the fact that we had been pretty close the summer after the accident, as Joanie I wasn’t real close to him and from what Joey, other people in the family, our friends, and Joanie’s diary had said, we hadn’t really been before the accident, either.

Finally I pulled up to the drop-off line. “Well, here we are,” I said. “Look, Joey. I know you could be facing some tough times, but take care and come back.”

“Yeah, it could be a while before we see each other again. I’ll be careful, Sis, but you be careful too.”

“I will, Joey. Keep your head down.”

As I drove away from the terminal, I reflected that I really wasn’t worried about him. I knew he would be going to Vietnam, of course, but I also knew he would mostly be facing a hot and boring time, and mostly nothing more dangerous than doing the same thing in the States. I knew that he would get home all right, although with a few memories he’d really rather not have. I knew a lot about what would happen with him, but I couldn’t help but reflect that I didn’t know what lay in my future as Joanie.

The next few days mostly consisted of waiting to get the break over with, since there wasn’t much to interest me around Simsville anymore, and there were several things that needed attention at college, but there was nothing that could be done with the place closed up tight.

Shortly after Joey left I called up Cat for lack of anything better to do. We talked for a while, but we couldn’t think of anywhere that we wanted to go, at least not with the time or the money we had available. A quick trip to Florida seemed like a possibility, but a look at the weather map in the daily paper told us that the weather wasn’t all that great down there, either.

New Year’s Day 1967 passed slowly, mostly with parades and football on the TV screen. I sat around the house after that, reading some of Joey’s science fiction books and watching the days on the calendar crawl past.

*   *   *

A few days after we got back to Venable I had a note from Mrs. Wheaton to come see her about my grant, and whether it could be used to pay for the junior year abroad program at Université de Lancy-Paquis in Geneva. “A little to my surprise, it can be used for it,” she told me. “It won’t pay for the whole thing, but it would pay for a large part of it.”

“Wow, that’s a relief. It sounds like it ought to be a pretty good program.”

“I think so too, from what little I know about it. There are some restrictions, but none of them seem to apply to you. On the other hand, it is pretty liberal in some respects. For instance, if it takes you more than four years to complete a program, and that’s usually true for education students, it will continue to pick up the costs for another year.”

“That’s pretty unusual, isn’t it?”

“It’s very unusual. I’ve never run across it in a scholarship like this before, but then this is an unusual scholarship in other ways.”

I couldn’t hold my curiosity down. “I guess I didn’t know much about it.”

“I didn’t either until I started digging into it over break,” she smiled. “Have you ever heard of Susan Barnes?”

“Other than the scholarship, no.”

“A retired member of the college board told me about this,” she smirked. “It seems Susan Barnes was a graduate of this college a long time ago, back before the turn of the century. After she graduated, rather than becoming a teacher, she went to New York to seek her fortune. She found it by being the kept woman of a very wealthy Wall Street financier.”

“A real fortune hunter, huh?”

“Apparently so. The man was married, but didn’t get along with his wife, but divorce just wasn’t done in those days and I suspect that finances may have been part of the reason. In any case, she was with him for many years, and to make up for not being able to give her a ring, he gave her many other things. Most of them were dollars. Before it was all over with she was a rather wealthy woman herself. Since she couldn’t live with the money ostentatiously, she put it into investments, and she had good advice for most of them.”

I smiled at the thought. “It sounds like she must really have been something.”

“It sounds like it to me, too. Anyway, her family ostracized her for living in sin with the man, and cut her out of their lives, or so I was told, but apparently there were several in the family who didn’t want anything to do with her but had plenty of ideas for the money she had. She outfoxed them by setting up the scholarship as part of her will.”

“She didn’t leave her family a dime, right?”

“Not even a penny. In fact, one of the restrictions in the scholarship is that it is not offered to the descendants of members of her family. That’s why there was the family tree information you had to provide when you filled out the application in the first place.”

That was news to me, but then it had been the old Joanie who had made the application, not me. That might be interesting, and maybe if I got the chance sometime I might hunt around in Joanie’s stuff to see if I could find a copy. “I can imagine what happened then, the lawsuits, the screaming.”

“I don’t know a great deal about it, but one of the provisions of the will was to provide for lawyers to fight such actions. Since you’re here on her scholarship, that part of it obviously worked.”

“She must have been some woman. I would have liked to meet her.”

“I would have too, but she died a long time ago, so I guess there’s no going back.”

If only you knew, I smiled as I told her goodbye and started back to the dorm. I had a lot off my shoulders now that I knew the scholarship would fund a year in Europe. There were all sorts of neat things that Cat and I would be able to do.

Unfortunately, my high spirits didn’t last very long. I got back to our room, to discover that Cat had picked up our mail, not that we ever got a great deal. She was holding a letter in her hands, and seemed very downcast. “What happened?” I asked.

“I heard back from the junior year abroad program,” she said. “I got turned down. The application got in too late, and I guess they do it on a first-come, first-served basis.”

“Aw, crap. Did I get a letter from them too?”

“You did, and I’ll bet it’s the same thing.”

I found the letter where Cat had left it on my desk, and sure enough, it was the same news. “Well, that stinks,” I told my friend. “I just found out I could get my scholarship to fund the thing, too.”

“Yeah, I had Dad pretty well talked into it, too. So what do we do now?”

“Well, we don’t spend next winter in Geneva, that’s for sure,” I shrugged. “But it simplifies plans for next summer a lot.”

“Yeah, we won’t have to be taking tickets or selling ice cream or something at Cedar Point,” she agreed. “I guess our trip out west is back on.”

“I’d guess so, and we’re going to have to start doing some real planning for it, rather than just talking about it.”

“You know, this is one of those things we really ought to get Ed involved in. He’d probably have some good ideas for us.”

That evening, we were over at Ed and Sue’s house. Of course the first thing we told them was that we’d been turned down for the junior year abroad program, and he could see we were still disappointed. After all, a year in Geneva, that close to Chamonix and with all the other mountains around, well, that was hard to lose.

“Look on the bright side,” Ed pointed out after we’d told him about it. “Unless I miss my guess, while you’ll pick up some useful credits in a program like that, maybe even credits that would count as graduate degree credits, you’re going to miss some courses that you will need to graduate here.”

“I wondered about that,” I admitted. “But I guess I hadn’t thought it all the way through. Just what are you saying, Ed?”

“If you take this program, you’re not going to be able to graduate in two years. It’s going to take you an extra year, and that’s especially true since you’re both seeking education minors and teacher certification. What I’m saying is that if you apply for the program again now, you could have a second junior year and spend it abroad.”

Cat and I looked at each other. “I never thought about that,” I said finally. “What do you think?”

“What do they call someone who’s in their fifth year?” she laughed. “It sounds like it would work for me.”

Needless to say, that was great news for us. A year in Geneva was going to be so much fun, and that didn’t even include Chamonix!

We sat and talked about that for a few minutes, then got back around to the original question. “Whatever happens with that for another year, it means that we’re free to make the trip out west that you’ve heard us talking about,” I explained. “But there are several things we need to settle, like where we’re going, and how we’re going to do it cheaply.”

Not long afterward we were sitting around the Norton kitchen table, with a road atlas and several books in front of us while we took notes.

While we wanted to just see some of the sights out west – Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and places like that – we also wanted to get in some climbing, at least some of it in places where we would be likely to find other climbers.

“There’s climbing all over the place out there,” Ed explained. “But there aren’t many places where climbers cluster, and none of them are anything like what you tell me about Chamonix, of course. Realistically, your best bets to find other climbers are Jackson Hole and Yosemite Valley. There are plenty of good hard wall climbs in Jackson Hole, but there’s some great alpine climbing, too. Yosemite is different. The serious climbing there is all wall climbing and tough ones at that, but the Yosemite climbers are probably the best in the world at what they do. I’ve done some climbing there, and it’s pretty cool. But there’s a huge amount of exposure on granite walls that don’t have many holds. When you get to the top of some of those walls, it’s a long way straight down. Even the best European climbers find it a little bit much since they aren’t used to that kind of climbing.”

“It sounds like we ought to at least check it out,” I replied. “We might not do a lot of climbing there, but we ought to at least go see what it’s like.”

“I’d say to do some climbing there if you can. It’s not all big, tough climbs, but at least when you go back to Europe you can dazzle some people with stories about climbing in Yosemite. It does have a reputation, after all.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” I smiled, thinking of some of the tall stories we had heard in the hostel at Chamonix. It would be good to be able to do a little one-upsmanship of our own. “Anyplace else?”

“Well, if you’re looking for other climbers, probably the next best place is the North Cascades in Washington, and perhaps Mount Rainier. Then Colorado, where there’s lots of good alpine climbing and some interesting walls, although not much like Yosemite. After that, well, like I said there’s climbing all over the place but you’re going to have to luck onto other climbers, so you’re mostly going to be on your own. The good side to that is that you can be driving down the road, see an interesting looking mountain or pitch and go climb it. You can get yourself into trouble that way, but you can also find some neat stuff, too. I’ll see if I can come up with some guidebooks that will give you a few more leads on where to go.”

Ed had a list of people he knew who would be good to get into contact with in various places, and promised to think about it and perhaps add some other names. After a while we drifted into another topic that had caused us concern: “We’re going to be taking the Karmann Ghia on this trip, of course, so that’ll be pretty easy on gas. But while I haven’t looked at the cost of motel rooms, we’re going to be hard put to find anything cheap enough to be able to afford them.”

“Yeah, and you don’t want to get into those kinds of motels, anyway,” Ed grinned. “Some of them can be bad, and I mean really, really bad. I know you got along on hostels pretty well last summer, but I don’t think you’ll be able to do it this summer.”

“Why’s that?”

“From what I’m told, the hostel system in Europe is a lot different than it is in this country. They’re all over the place in Europe, but there are only a few here, and then they’re pretty scattered. A lot of them don’t welcome you if you’re driving, either. You might run across one you could use once in a while, but don’t depend on it. Really, you need to think in terms of camping whenever you can.”

“Camping?” Cat frowned. “I’ve never done much of that. Well, I went to a Girl Scout camp one time but we stayed in buildings.”

“You’re just going to have to learn how,” Ed told her. “It’s not hard, and if you’re going to stay with climbing you might find yourself having to hike into a place to climb, and then staying several days.”

“We don’t have anything like camping gear,” I pointed out.

“Then that’s something you’re going to have to fix, but it can be done. I’ll get you pointed in the right direction, and a lot of the gear you want for backpacking will work just fine for car camping. But just like backpacking, with something as small as your Karmann Ghia, you’re going to want to keep the load down.”

Over the course of the next couple of months, various pieces of outdoor gear showed up at Ed’s house – we didn’t want to have it sent directly to the dorm since it would be too much of a hassle there. Most of it had to be mail ordered since like climbing equipment, there wasn’t much to be found in that part of the country in those days. We stocked up on climbing equipment too, ropes of our own, rock gear like pitons, nuts, and carabiners, and other things of that nature. There wasn’t going to be any keeping things down to a single backpack for a trip that lasted all summer, that was for sure. By the time we were done we were prepared to go hiking in the backcountry for three or four days without any problems, and live out of the car for an extended period in the summer.

We still had to learn how to use all of that stuff, and after some discussion we came to the conclusion that we needed to give all the stuff a tryout. The best time to do it was on our spring break trip, down to the Smokies again with the climbing club. Molly, the other girl in the climbing club, couldn’t go on the trip since her family had plans for her. That meant that the guys and Sue all got to stay in motels, while we gentle, delicate girls were staying in our none-too-large tent – and mostly freezing our butts in the process. It was still the middle of March and the Smokies are not far enough south to be exactly tropical.

Freezing our tails or not, that week gave us a lot of confidence in our gear and our ability to camp out of the car, and we learned a lot, too – the biggest thing being that we could do it at all. On top of that, we would not be likely to run into such extremes of weather in the summer out west.

By the time we got back from the Smokies and had a nice, long, hot shower, the end of the semester was almost within reach.

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To be continued . . .

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