I hope that most people have another kind of memory image — one that brings back pleasant remembrances.
In 1973, singer/songwriter Jim Croce was killed in a plane crash at the height of his popularity. He had a huge fan base and several of his songs were released as singles just after his death and became classics of the mid 1970s era. I was “keeping company” with a young woman who was to become my wife in 1976 and she was a serious Croce fan. She was a much more enthusiastic fan than I was but I enjoyed her enjoying Jim Croce’s music because that’s what we did in the 1970s…music was important.
One of those posthumously released songs was “Time in a Bottle”. The song was a classic love song of the era. It was probably included in countless weddings.
If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
Till Eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you
In the summer of 1975 I managed to talk this city girl into going on a backpacking trip to the Wyoming wilderness. This was very uncharacteristic of her and friends and relatives were astounded that she would agree to do something like that. Going off to the mountains on a field trip with a guide and an organized group would be challenging enough but going off with one other person — on foot — was crazy talk.
We had a couple weekend trips to get in shape for the walk and check out our equipment. I had a stove that wanted to blow up in my face each time I turned it on. We decided to take her car, which had a standard transmission, so I had to learn how to use a clutch. We had to waterproof everything and rub silicone into our hiking boots that weighed a ton. We tested out the freeze-dried turkey tetrazzini and granola bars. We packed and repacked but finally ended up carrying about 110 pounds of stuff in our two backpacks including the tent, sleeping bags, foam mattresses, food, water and that stove.
If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you
We scheduled the trip for late July and finally hit the road, camping along the way. We agreed that we would stay in a real hotel with a real bed after we came out of the mountains but would camp as much as possible. Half the fun of the trip was just getting there. At one point she decided that she wanted to see a buffalo so we were off on a wild buffalo chase in an overloaded Ford Pinto. We found a small herd but almost left the oil pan at the bottom of a ravine in the process.
We said goodbye to civilization, hoisted our packs and staggered around the parking lot for a while until we eventually disappeared into the Big Horn Mountains and Cloud Peak Wilderness. (We heard later that Jimmy Hoffa disappeared that day, as well…not backpacking)
It turns out that we had a great time. The mosquitos were bigger and the trout were smaller than we expected. We camped on a breezy ridge overlooking a lake and the wind kept the mosquitos away. We didn’t get eaten by bears or mountain lions and had only one serious encounter with a Mule deer. We saw only three people the whole time we were on the trail.
If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty
Except for the memory
Of how they were answered by you
We came out of the mountains and went on with the trip. We stayed in that hotel. We had a close encounter with a bear at a later campsite. I convinced her to go camping again. We eventually got married and had a wonderful life together for 31 years.
The picture that most often brings this trip to mind is scratched and faded but the memory is bright and clear.
But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go
Through time with