After Pearl Harbor

Mac and I became good friends. Our paths crossed several times over the next two decades. He was a man of boundless enthusiasm who rode with Pancho Villa in the waning days of the Mexican revolution, started a portable radio company in 1922 and went bankrupt in 1929. An inventive engineer, he paid off his debts eventually and staged a comeback with his development of acoustic beacons and ultra sound devices, including the US Navy underwater “pingers” used during WWII. Mac died in the late sixties. Today, his DuKane Corporation, a global manufacturer of hi-tech communication systems, is still in the family and operated by his son, Jack.

***

The prettiest skier in our class was a petite Jewish teenager from the suburbs of Paris. How old was she? Seventeen? Eighteen?

Dark hair, high cheekbones, a rather tense smile. With the grace of a ballerina, she fairly floated across the snow. Early one afternoon, she joined me for coffee and doughnuts at a small cafe in the Village. I can’t even remember her name, but the memory of that afternoon still lingers.

In a halting French-English accent, she told me of her family’s escape to Switzerland ahead of the final Nazi push into Paris. She said her Papa had been a banker in the city. From Switzerland, they had made their way to Portugal, across to South America and then up to the United States.

Obviously, they had escaped with ample family funds. She said they were spending the season at Sun Valley.

As we left the cafe, I invited her on a sleigh ride at sunset along snowbound Silver Creek. She seemed enthralled with the idea. And we agreed to meet at the same cafe later in the afternoon.

I waited at the cafe until long after sundown, when the narrow valley turns dark green and purple with mountain shadows. But she never returned.

The following morning up on Baldy, a subdued young Parisian softly revealed that her Papa had firmly forbidden her to have anything to do with me.

Why?

That’s a question she quietly refused to answer.

***

Ernest Hemingway loved the high meadows and mountains surrounding Sun Valley. Sometime prior to our visit, he spent four months in and out of a room at the lodge, finishing For Whom the Bell Tolls, a manuscript he had begun two years earlier in Cuba. And he returned again and again to Ketchum, the old mining town with sagging wooden sidewalks two miles down the road from Sun Valley village. Alongside Trail Creek on the backside of Ketchum, he built his final retreat.

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