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  • Moments seen clearly through one windshield, can be obscured through another.

    It was early summer, 1972. I was living in Colbert, a suburb north of Spokane, Washington. I had a best buddy of the opposite sex, Kathy Quackenbush.
    One of our favorite pastimes was ‘skinny-dipping’, at a place near us, Peone Creek, which is located between Spokane, and the Colbert access roads west of Colbert, that connected with US 395. The creek passed under the Kaiser Millwood aluminum production plant, where my dad worked as a foreman on the pot lines.

    Kathy’s dad was Justin L Quackenbush, United States federal judge on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. He was not very trusting of young boys that paid any attention to his daughter, and could be quite intimidating. He accepted me as a safe friend to her though, as I had shown no intentions, other than friendship with Kathy, and he found this quite obvious. She treated me as just ‘one of the guys’, and I felt the same about her. We shared a lot of adventures. He felt secure with the tomboy nature of our friendship. His reaction though, to our skinny dips, innocent as they may have been, would not have been as trusting, and were obviously not well accepted by another person in my life then. Unlike this other person, he never knew of them.

    I had a girlfriend at that time, Karen Foster, who was several years younger than I was. She was much more mature than myself in many ways, but grossly more immature in others. She was seriously mistrusting of my relationship with Kathy, even jealous to the point of irrational behavior at times.

    Kathy, and I, had taken an early summer’s day outing for one such dip, despite the cold that clung to the air late that year. The creek ran under the Kaiser smelters for cooling, and ran down a spillway at a park, just under the Peone overpass on the Division Highway (US 395). The water was as warm as bath water coming from the plant, well hidden under the overpass, and with the cold discouraging other visitors, made for perfect skinny dipping.

    The cold air though, held a lot of water in the form of fog, and our clothes got damp, and extremely cold, hanging on tree limbs rather than in the car where they should have been. Fortunately, we had large beach towels safe and warm in the car, which we wrapped ourselves in for the trip home.

    Driving home, in Kathy’s AMC Javelin, a graduation gift from her father, we were getting low on gas, so we stopped, covered only in towels to buy gas at one of the only stations around that still had attendants to pump gas. We weren’t about to parade around, outside the car, dressed only in beach towels.

    Karen, and her mother pulled up to the pumps directly across from us, and she saw me sitting in the passenger seat. She smiled wide, and headed toward me. When she got close enough to see our attire, her face went to stone. She spun around abruptly, got into her mother’s car and stared out the front windshield the entire time we were there, with an ominous scowl. I wasn’t about to get out, and try to talk to her dressed as I was, so we all left the station, without me offering any explanation for the situation.

    It was several days later that I was allowed any contact with Karen at all, as she seemed to be avoiding me. She finally made her opinion known to me with an act of vengeance. She had a baby brother that she cared for when her mother was at work, and had at her disposal a tube of Desetin for diaper rash, which she spread generously on the windshield of my Fiat spider. That took me several hours to clean off, so that when I drove to my work, I was many hours late from the inconvenience it had caused.

    Nearly a full week passed before we finally talked, forgave, and continued the relationship we had, We went on with our dating for several years after that, but there were no more skinny dips with Kathy, or any other buddy outings of any kind. They weren’t allowed. There continued to be bouts of jealousy on Karen’s part throughout the entire relationship.

    I may have salvaged a doomed relationship with a girlfriend, but I lost contact with a best buddy, that I should have kept for a lifetime. The relationship with Karen died away, as a result of the jealousies that I should have known were going to poison it eventually.

    What was the proverb about the clarity of hindsight? 20/20, I think it was. Not so apparent through Desetin, I guess.
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