by Kamalla Rose Kaur
“How are Maude and Claude faring?” David asked me recently.
“They are happy to be retired and to have finally moved to the Pacific Northwest. They purchased a gorgeous island view property and they are going to build their dream home – so they are busy with an architect and with permits, plans and potential contractors. They are renting a condo while they wait for their home to be constructed.” I reported to him and then I added, “But mostly Claude and Maude are enjoying themselves; exploring the region, seeing the sights, and taking hikes.”
“Whew!” Maude puffed, plopping down on a bench beside the trail.
Claude sat down beside her with a deep contented sigh. “This bench was put here just for us, Maude. Ah, this is the life. Take a look at this forest.”
“Beautiful. It is simply beautiful.” Maude marveled.
“Let’s see now if I’ve got this right – that tree right there is a Douglas Fir, with the rough bark,” Claude declared, “and that one, with the broad base and soft bark is a Cedar tree.”
“They look like they are dancing together, don’t they? See? The Douglas Fir looks like a tall strong man, and the Cedar tree is a beautiful lady, wearing a lovely swirling skirt.” Maude mused.
“Are all the trees dancing?” Claude whispered to Maude suggestively, sidling close and draping his arm around her shoulders..
“Yes, they are all dancing. Can’t you see?” Maude teased.
“Yes, I see!” said Claude, and he felt a bit bemused because he found that he DID see.
“How about those two?” Claude inquired, pointing towards a Douglas Fir and Cedar that were completely joined at their base.
“Oh my! They are dancing very close together, aren’t they?” gasped Maude in mock shock, and then she giggled girlishly and pointed, “Claude, look at those two Douglas Fir over there? And what about those three Cedar trees! How scandalous!”
“Scandalous. Shocking.” Claude murmured huskily, as he nibbled softly on Maude’s neck.
Elizabeth Daugert was 12 and I was 11 on the day, in 1966, that we discovered Dr. David Mason. Elizabeth and her family practically lived on Western’s campus here in Bellingham, in a big old house that got removed when they connected Garden Street to Highland Drive.
Elizabeth and I were always snooping around Western, seeking adventures and treasure – but strangely we didn’t have to roam to discover David Mason. He just suddenly appeared that day in a building that was nextdoor to the Daugert’s house. It was a little, old, wooden house, bought up by Western, which would also soon get torn down to make way for that new street. The sign on the building read: “The Fresh Water Institute.”
I have had many best women friends in my life. I seem to practice serial monogamy in my best girlfriends. Back then, in that era, Elizabeth was my best friend, which left me at a profound disadvantage. For one thing Beth had another bester friend, and Beth was a year older than I, age 12, and thus more womanly. Beth was also smarter than I, more talented, articulate and poised. Elizabeth got better grades than I got. She was tall, willowy, striking and lovely. I adored her.
I also had a vast love and devotional respect for Beth’s Mom, Barbara Daugert. Barbara was brilliant and wise and kind and, among other talents, she was gifted with children. I can see that now. But at age 11 all I remember is trying to get myself invited to dinner at the Daugert’s as much as possible, and then pushing to spend the night at Beth’s house as well.
I can’t say if Elizabeth fell in love with David Mason at first sight, but I know I did. Meanwhile David was in his early thirties, already renowned for his accomplishments, busy, and brand new to Western. When two girl children waltzed into his laboratory, David introduced himself politely, handed us test tubes, and put us to work. He talked more to Beth than to me, because she could talk. I could only stammer. I remember David made us laugh, he made us think, he let us help and he treated us like his equals.
David doesn’t remember being discovered by Elizabeth and me; though he says he vaguely recalls my red hair.
When we told Beth’s mom how we had discovered David Mason, Barbara exclaimed, “You met David Mason? What is he like?”
When we told my mother how we had discovered David Mason she also said,
“You have met David Mason? What is he like?”
Maybe we told our fathers and others as well, I don’t remember. In any case, Elizabeth did the talking.
I didn’t know then what no one could have known; that Barbara and Elizabeth would both die young of breast cancer, or how much I would mourn them.
And, Elizabeth and I had no concept, back in 1966, no inkling of what our parents, and others at Western Washington State College, all knew – that David Mason was a homosexual and “out” at a time in USA history when no one was yet fully “out”.