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The Girl and the DC-3

Warren Miller

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She was a very pretty, dignified and graceful lady who exuded animal magnetism. In short, she was a turn-on. She spent all day, every day of her Sun Valley ski vacation on Dollar Mountain under the guidance of a $20-a-day private instructor, and every one of her evenings with me.

It might have blossomed into a long-term romance, but our worlds, unfortunately, were far apart. She was from Texas, and I was from California. She was living in a very expensive room in the Sun Valley Lodge, and I was living in a trailer in the parking lot. Her room was $18 a night, and my camping spot was $18 for the winter.

That didn’t keep the two of us from going bowling in the Lodge basement or walking down to Ketchum for the evening. (I had a secret method of using the same two theater tickets over and over, so we attended quite a few movies together.)

When it came time for Josephine to leave, I volunteered to give her and her roommate, Audrey, a ride to the Hailey Airport. When I picked them up in front of the Lodge, I let Max the bell captain figure out how to get their 11 suitcases jammed in the trunk, the back seat and tied onto the front fenders of my derelict 1937 Buick. Driving to Hailey, we looked like a family of Texas sharecroppers headed for California during the Great Depression (though the ladies’ expensive pigskin luggage gave us away).

Just out of town, the ladies took one last look at the skiers on Baldy. Then we made the slow curve to the left by Smith Farnum’s barn and feedlot, where I shot a lot of rabbits on full-moon nights. But that’s another story. The three of us talked about skiing together again someday, sometime, someplace.

I managed to get them safely to the airport, which in those days was a plowed field. We sat there together and waited for their plane. There wasn’t another car to be seen anywhere. I had assumed Josephine and Audrey would fly out on some sort of a commercial plane, but I hadn’t given it much thought. Finally, we heard the engines of a plane approaching from the south. It was a DC-3, but I still couldn’t make out any commercial markings.

I started to unload all the suitcases, wondering if the plane would be big enough. Then the rear cabin door swung down, and the pilot and co-pilot climbed out. The pilot brought greetings from Josephine’s father, who, it seemed, owned the plane.

The pilot unloaded a table and four chairs, three picnic baskets full of food and a couple of bottles of wine, crystal glasses and sterling silver place settings. While all of this was going on, I was schlepping the suitcases out of my Buick. Finally, I took a tentative look inside the plane. The interior was like nothing I had ever seen in my life: leather seats, plush carpeting and what looked like gold-plated ashtrays.

“I asked our pilot to bring plenty of food with him from Texas, because I didn’t think I could get a caterer to restock our plane in Hailey, Idaho,” Josephine explained. The luggage easily fit into what turned out to be a cavernous luggage compartment. Then we sat there, warm and toasty, eating roast beef sandwiches, seafood cocktails, a great Caesar salad and a chocolate cake that anyone would die for.

Finally, the food was put back in the picnic baskets and the plane was ready for takeoff. Hugs and kisses all around. “I’ll write and phone!”

As the second engine fired up, and the pilot saluted just like John Wayne, he began taxiing to the north end of the runway. Josephine and Audrey waved goodbye and blew kisses from the miniature windows. Then the plane lifted off and headed for Texas in that dark blue winter sky.

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