Would You Like to Go ’n’ Shoot the Mountain Masses?

There were two choices: Spanish or German. I went with German.

French wasn’t offered at our high school, so those were the only choices to fulfill the foreign language requirement. Guess my thinking at the time was: Well, which is more like English?

My first classes with our German teacher, “Mintie” Ferguson—a polyester-prim and short-haired woman—began in my junior year with vocabulary building, weekly drills, Wochenende bericht (weekend report) and in-class Wiederholung, or repetition, exercises. Scott “Harvey” Hanson (pictured left, in spring 1978) was in class with me, which made it easier to bitch to someone about how freakin’ hard it was to learn a foreign language, no matter how much like English you thought it would be.

The payoff came in my senior year, however, specifically late autumn 1977.

Since I’d finally gotten a job and paid Mom back for the damage to her car, the Dartillac, I was able to convince the folks to help me save up funds for the biggest adventure yet—joining American Field Service (AFS) in a student-exchange group to West Germany in the spring of 1978. The excitement grew Sept. 2, 1977, when in class we listened to the Spanish teacher talk about the program and show us a film.

My friend Sara Berquist had just returned from Australia and talked up AFS and traveling abroad at our Tues., Sept. 15 class (and told it in German, too). It sounded exotic and wild, something idly imagined while staring out my bedroom window.

German phrases crept into the 1977 diary: Klassenarbeit, Wochenende bericht, und … gesundheit. Through early December, Ms. Ferguson pushed us harder by sometimes conducting the class totally in German—no English allowed. On Monday, Nov. 14, there was no class, but I went in to pay Ms. Ferguson another $250 toward the spring trip. When you’re nearly 18, things seem like they’re never happening fast enough, but with every payment I felt closer to the goal.

Yes’ LP Going for the One had come out that summer and I had the title track looping in my mind. I’d even begun the Dec. 6 entry in all caps: “LISTEN TO LIFE.” The fact the album was recorded in Switzerland had me dreaming about the Alps and everything short of Heidi, alphorns and lederhosen.

Then, on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 1977, the letter came.

It was the introductory letter from the Hutts, the family I’d be staying with the following spring, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The letter was written in English by the family’s mother, who mentioned she had two sons, Stephan and Christof, and that they all lived at the foot of a mountain.

Immediately Yes came to mind: “Would you like to go ’n’ shoot the mountain masses?” Yes! Yes, I would!

Frau Hutt went on to say they were planning to take me skiing in March. They looked forward to meeting me and gave their best to my family. That Wednesday evening there was the German-Spanish Club holiday party hosted by Sara in the party room of her mother’s apartment building at Tipi-Waken. “It was really fun,” the diary reports. “I was running around, dancing with Sara, talking with Jill Crawford and just exciting everyone with the [Hutt] Family Letter.” It was really happening!

Not so fast, junger Gelehrter, Ms. Ferguson said to me and Harvey.

The following week, on Dec. 21, we had to stay late to make up a vocabulary test that we’d failed to turn in.

~ by completelyinthedark on September 1, 2012.

2 Responses to “Would You Like to Go ’n’ Shoot the Mountain Masses?”

  1. On the edge of my seat ….

    Liked by 1 person

    • …for the next chapter? You’ll need to stick around, my friend. Four more posts in 1977, and untold more just getting up to March 1978. I’ll be here if you will, writing away. Thanks for checking in, pal! 🙂


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