Monday, August 25, 2008

The Argus Observes: Why a mother-in-law grows uneasy

Editor’s note: This column starts off innocently enough about a trip our family took to Yellowstone National Park when I was 16. But it ends with a revealing story about the relationship of my parents, a relationship that I’ve fairly accurately represented in my novel Farewell Bend.

From the August 19, 1954 issue of The Argus-Observer

Bright and early tomorrow morning we’ll be off to bear country --- the civilized bear country of Old Faithful Canyon and Fishing Bridge.

It’s been 12 years since we have visited Yellowstone park. At that time, we had one boy, aged 3, and he is 16 and his younger brother nearly 12. These are good ages for visiting the park.

Someone told us that the park waters are now so well stocked and the fishing take so strictly controlled that you can always catch a few fish. Probably just a fish story but we’ll try our luck and hope it is better than it was 13 years ago.

On that occasion I fished in the Yellowstone lake with my father-in-law, who for a man descended from Norwegian sea-going ancestors is the most leery-of-water guy I ever knew. The guide who took us out on the lake told him it was a mile deep and that almost paralyzed him. He held onto the boat with both hands and could hardly let go long enough to handle his fishing pole. We didn’t have much luck fishing but we had a lot of fun.

I wish his health permitted him to make the trip again this year. We’d have some more fun.

At Yellowstone 13 years ago a bear taught me that I was deficient in the natural instinct an animal is supposed to have to for protection of its mate.

Agnes (Mrs. Lynch) and I were carrying the scraps from the evening meal to a large garbage can back of our tent house. It was an armload and she went along to hold a flashlight for me.

We approached the garbage can which was a large one held up in a rack at about table height above the ground.

Agnes asked, “What’s that noise?” It sounded like a hog.

About that time a bear, who had his feet on the rack and his head and shoulders in the garbage can, rose up on his haunches and growled. Standing on that rack he towered above us like King Kong at the movies.

My instincts worked just fine but on an overly practical basis. I dropped the garbage and took off like a rabbit. In nothing flat I popped into the tent house and slammed the door in the face of my dear wife who was about three jumps behind me.

“Where’s Agnes?” exclaimed my mother-in-law. Imagine my utter chagrin, for I had quite forgotten about her.

If I tried a simply honest explanation and told you my spouse is a thoroughly competent person at taking care of herself, you would think I was a poor excuse for a husband indeed.

Take care of old number one first --- that’s what I always say. But I’m afraid my mother-in-law has been a little uneasy about her daughter’s protection since that revealing experience at Yellowstone.

Well, we’ll see what the park holds for us this year.

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