Finally he said, “I’ll tell you what happened, but you have to swear not to tell anyone.”
This was the summer of 1974, and it had been a slow day of retail in my Moscow outdoor store. All my customers appeared to be out having summer fun. But suddenly here stood hope, in the form of a customer I had recognized when he walked in. He was one of three forestry students I made friends with a month earlier. They had won a contract with the Forest Service to thin trees and were working all summer sixty miles east of Moscow, cutting down numerous small trees to give the surviving ones a better chance to grow and prosper.
These gents had bought good gear from me: quality sleeping bags and accessories, and what I believed to be the best three-man tent then available. I think the tent retailed for $150, which was big money back then. I had sold them my only one in stock and immediately ordered a replacement.
Today my customer wanted a second one of these three-man tents. I was excited, nearly giddy, about selling another of my best and favorite tents, but he was reserved and grumpy. Even so, I couldn’t help myself, and asked if the three guys had more people working with them. He said no. I asked if they had found the three-man tent too crowded for an entire summer of sleeping together. He said no.
There was an uncomfortable silence, while he looked around the store. After a moment, he loosened up and told the story, but not until I swore a sacred oath to keep my mouth shut about it. Continue reading →