The Adolescents

The town of Cove was an odd little place. It amounted to one main street, maybe six blocks long, located in a remote valley on the edge of the Wallowas. Yet it had a community park and modern, Olympic-sized swimming pool worthy of a Beverly Hills. In the summer heat, the pool attracted young and old from miles around.

Cy and I had no swim trunks with us. Besides, we couldn’t afford the thirty-cent fee. One weekend, we spent an hour sitting outside the iron fence just watching the human parade. Cy, with those sun-pale eyes of his, spotted her first. Climbing out of the pool, wet and glistening, in a clinging, almost transparent swimsuit, was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen in my life.

That was my enthusiastic opinion at that moment. She was dazzlingly endowed. It was a pleasure just to watch her breathe.


Cy celebrated his eighteenth birthday during our stay at the raspberry farm by sitting comfortably up in the hayloft, staring out the barn window, and writing Crystal.

We were both entranced by the awe-inspiring view out that window—a direct view of the wild Wallowa Mountains, looming east of the valley. Eagle Cap, Sacajawea Peak, China Cap, Chief Joseph Mountain, Aneroid and other jagged peaks stretched to the horizon, all capped with snow, all rising sharply to the sky.

A little-known mountain range for many years, the Wallowa Wilderness Area today is recognized as an American treasure.


The berry-picking job came to a close. And time was running out. We’d been on the road for almost two months and we had no idea how long it would take us to hitchhike all the way back to Portland, On our last day, we collected our pay, said farewell to our friendly, redheaded boss, shouldered our gear and headed out.

By the time we got to La Grande we’ddecided that we would try to hop a freight and speed up our return trip. A worker on the railroad siding told us a westbound freight was due to stop in La Grande at midnight.

“But watch out for the bulls!’ he warned. “They’ll chase you off.”

We hid in some tall, weedy grass a few hundred yards up track from the railroad station and sacked out for hours, awaiting the midnight call; Sometime before midnight, when I heard the distant whistle of a train approaching, my adrenals began pumping. We gathered our gear, positioned ourselves and waited. Then, out of the night came the big freight, hurtling down the track toward us, whistle blowing, throttle wide open.

In total frustration, we stood there and watched helplessly as the train roared through the station without stopping. Eventually, the flashing red light of the caboose disappeared around a curve.

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