“If you’re travelin’ / to the north country fair, / where the winds hit heavy / on the borderline / Remember me / to one who lives there. / For she once was / a true love of mine.”—Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash, Girl from the North Country 

May 1978: The returning student supported himself working at LCSC’s campus cafeteria. He met her and they became friends when she worked in the serving line. He would pass her on Sunday mornings as he was returning from first service—and she was walking to second service —at a nearby Lutheran church. They were just friends.  

January 1979: The 26-year-old Grangeville millworker returned from a crowded funeral for a friend in St. Maries. Everyone had been so dressed up, he in his crisp blue suit, she in a pure white dress trimmed in lace. At the snow-blanketed graveside service that followed, everyone crowded around her casket. He felt embarrassed when, wearing slick boots, he almost slipped into her grave. The Lutheran pastor caught his arm without missing a beat, and continued to assure mourners of “the sure and certain hope of the resurrection through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Everyone then quietly turned from her grave.  

He, too, turned and drove south to Lewiston, stopping briefly near where he had met her. He then drove on to Grangeville, turned up the familiar street, came in the house, walked down the hallway to the bathroom, closed the door, and stared blankly at the man in the mirror. Kathy’s death at 19—caused by a brain aneurism hastily misdiagnosed as Russian flu—was just wrong, he thought, so wrong. He turned, tore up his blue suit, wept, and put on mill clothes. There was no reason for him to do that. Like I said, they were just friends.       

“If you go / When the snowflakes fall / When the rivers freeze / When summer ends / Please see for me / If she’s wearing a coat so warm / To keep her from / the howlin’ wind.” 

Gary Altman 


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