February 7, 1956
Fort Resolution, NWT
Happy Valentine's Day, Caroline!
I hope you don't think me too presumptuous in sending you this card, but you made quite an impression on me last month when my partner and I were investigating that fur fraud case. I've never enjoyed a young lady's company as much as I did yours that day on the ferry. I do look forward to seeing you again, and soon, if my luck holds. Perhaps we could step out together for a meal? In the meantime I would be honored if you would correspond with me. The RCMP post here will hold or forward any mail that arrives for me, so I may not be quick in my replies, but I will be true.
In hopes of becoming your friend,
February 8, 1956
Fort Resolution, NWT
My dear Miss Pinsent,
I hope you'll accept this small token of my esteem in honor of Valentine's Day. Forgive me if you think it's a trite display of American commercialism, but I can't help but appreciate a day devoted solely to love and affection. If that makes me a romantic, then I suppose I am.
It would please me greatly if we could continue to keep in touch. Any woman who can handle a dog team and a shotgun with the sureness and levelheadedness you did is a woman I'd feel lucky to know.
With admiration and fond memories,
February 14, 1957
Haines Junction, YT
To both my favorite Mounties,
You are both positively ridiculous, do you know that? This one-upmanship has to stop, both because I find it embarrassing and because I believe it's endangering your friendship. Never mind your partnership, I just can't stand the thought that you two might come to blows over your feelings for me. Now, I can't ask either of you to change those feelings, and I certainly can't choose between you – and wouldn't if I could! I'm equally fond of you both and I don't care what anybody says about it. They can mind their own beeswax as far as I'm concerned! What matters is for us to find a way through this where we all stay friends. Feel free to write with suggestions on what you'll both be doing to accomplish that.
p.s. Happy Valentine's Day to you both. Please tell me you spent it doing something enjoyable together and not bickering away like a pair of old hens.
February 14th, 1958
Lord Nelson, NWT
My darling Caroline,
Well, it sure isn't much of a honeymoon here overlooking the strip mine, but at least we have coal. No, I don't suppose that makes it any better, does it? But I think you'll be happy to learn we'll be moving again in only a month! I have it on good authority that the cabin awaiting us in Rat River has two separate rooms (with a door between!) and only a twenty-five foot walk to the outhouse. Progress!
At any rate, I hope this box of chocolates helps make up for some of the travails the RCMP spouse's life has dealt you so far. You mean the world to me, and not a day goes by that I don't know it. Thank you for being my wife.
All my love,
January 29, 1959
Hello, Caroline, this is Buck writing on Bob's behalf. Our favorite galoot broke an arm and sprained the other wrist, so I'm taking dictation for your St. Valentine's missive. I will endeavor not to editorialize, but I do send greetings and warm wishes your way.
My dearest Caroline,
Ignore whatever it was Buck just wrote. I'm sure it was all poppycock, especially if he said I was injured. I may have collected a bruise or two down in Carcross while breaking up a fight between Biff Johnston and Boxy McGann, but I'm fine. [Er, sorry to interrupt, but this is hogwash; the fight was nothing. Bob rode out an avalanche on his dogsled – not a big one, granted, but it was enough to scare the bejesus out of me.] No, don't mention the avalanche! Lord save me from meddling partners…I am fine! Fine! The cast will come off in a few weeks. There was no need for surgery and Buck will confirm it. [True enough. He broke it clean – clean through, that is!] I'll be back out on the trail again in no time. [With his arm in a sling, I'm sure.] Buck, stop interfering. I'm trying to tell my wife I love her. Start a new paragraph there and write this down:
Caroline, I love you and I miss you every day. I know you're keeping yourself busy down in Rat River, and I hope that this card finds you well. I'll see you with the thaw – maybe it will even come early this year.
With all my love,
[And many fond returns from yours truly.
Ever your friend,
p.s. I'll keep an eagle eye on him while his wings mend, never you doubt it. Happy V-Day!]
February 14, 1960
Pelly Crossing, YT
Dear Caroline and Bob,
I'm afraid I don't know quite what to say, so forgive me if I sound a little pole-axed. I certainly had a feeling that, well, that I wasn't just imagining things between us. Of course, there's the Gaillard family out in Déline, although to be honest I figured that must have been a French thing. Don't ask me why it's less shocking when it's French, but we don't have a good English word for ménage a what-have-you, do we? Yes, go ahead and call me "old fashioned;" I am in some ways, as you're well aware.
Forgive me if I never imagined anyone I was close to would want a relationship like…that, much less with me! Obviously, I'm flattered as hell, and the pair of you are dearer to me than anyone else in the world. The more I think about it, the more I suppose if you're both in agreement, then who's to care what happens in your marriage bed? But are you sure? Each of you? This is hardly a case of "any bedroll in a blizzard", if you take my meaning. There are implications – on a great many levels – and that's what gives me pause. Matters of attraction aside, how exactly is this supposed to work? What are the logistics – of things like being seen together, not the other kind. Those I can imagine! Expect me two or three days behind the mail sled and we can talk it through.
Happy Valentine's Day,
p.s. If you've changed your minds by then, we'll have a good laugh and I'll get back to my patrol. If you haven't, then I might just stay a few days.
February 14, 1961
Clyde River, Baffin Island
To my darling wife and our unborn child,
Happy Valentine's Day! Guess what? We're moving again! Next stop, Cambridge Bay. And yes, I know moving house more than a thousand miles when you're nearly eight months pregnant is less than ideal. That's why I'm going on ahead and my mother will be coming to help you pack. A practical solution, don't you agree?
I have to dash. I've been in from patrol all of twenty minutes and Sgt. Brixton just handed me fresh orders to Ellesmere, leaving in an hour. The resettlement troubles are apparently worse, here and everywhere, and no one likes the looks of this, so I daresay I'll meet you at the lake. We'll have plenty of good to talk about when the baby arrives, and that will do me a world of good.
Oh, love, what I wouldn't give to see your face for just a moment before I go. A kiss. A smile. I will miss you.
p.s. In Buck's last letter, he said he planned to look in on you when he turned north. With luck, he'll arrive before Mother and her books and can lend you a hand. If he does, you might convey my gratitude as well?
February 14, 1962
To my two favorite Mounties,
The baby's asleep, so I can finally sit down to write this and say, Happy Valentine's Day, you two! Bob, thank you for the chocolates and the new hat. Buck, the robe is the softest, warmest thing – it's perfect. Thank you so much.
I hope you're both safe out on the trail, wherever you actually are tonight. Everything is fine here. Martha's keeping Ben for a few hours each day, and I've made a few friends. I'm looking forward to seeing you both again.
p.s. Bob, your father put his back out splitting firewood, and Martha's after him to replace the old woodstove with a modern fuel oil furnace. I'm on her side, as firewood's getting harder and harder to come by around here, but you know how he is about investing in newfangled technology. We would be grateful if you'd send him a note of encouragement.
February 14, 1963
Snare Lakes, NWT
Forgive this maudlin and not-entirely-sober scribbling, and you ought to take that as a warning if you read on. Today I dealt with a pair of rival missionaries: narrow-minded men dueling proverbs and damnation, at least until they started trying to bash each other's heads in. You could say it stuck in my craw.
I came back to the cabin and pulled this out of my wallet: "A will set on love is free from evil." —Chinese proverb
It's what was in my fortune cookie that night in Yellowknife when I wouldn't show you the slip of paper and you got all huffy over it. I've been carrying it around with me all this time, you see, because it rings true with me. It rings true: if there's love, then there is no evil; and yet, the mind boggles at how an old Chinese proverb can succinctly wipe out everything I was taught as a boy about evil and sin. God is Love, right?
It's a quandary. I'd become resigned to being a sinner – guilty of a multitude of wonderfully pleasurable sins alongside those I do regret. How a certain type of love can be a sin at the same time that God is Love is a conundrum I can't answer. But this scrap of paper says a will set on love is without evil, so if my will is set on what I know my will is set on, then my will must be free from evil and, thus, without sin.
Sometimes I wish I'd been raised like you, to have faith in "ideas that work," as your mother says, instead of old fashioned dogma. If I had, all this sneaking around and pretending might be easier on me.
Do you know the scarf you gave me for Christmas still smells like your aftershave? Roddy Byrne accidentally tried to make off with it last night here at the Old Brick tavern, and (speaking of sins) I nearly throttled him before I knew what I was doing. Bless Maud Sullivan's quick intervention!
I'm trying my best to do what's right, here. By each of you and myself. But it's hard to see what's right and I'm not certain what it is I need, other than the obvious. I am impatient for our patrol routes to coincide again, Bob. Damnable schedule. Also, Declan's leaving with the mail bag, so this is going now if it's going at all. Forgive the whisky stains and silly moanings of a heavy heart.
February 14, 1964
Near Faro, YT
To Buck, from both of us:
The chocolates are from Caroline. When I left, she told me, "Make sure he eats at least two thirds of them," so there you are.
The scotch is from me. (We owe her a bottle of birthday brandy in the spring, shh!)
This cabin's been empty since the Blue Streak mine closed, but I spent a few days cleaning it up and collecting firewood. It's well-stocked enough for us to spend a few nights in relative comfort.
February 11, 1965
Heading out. Sorry about this weekend. I'm going to get these bastards if it's the last thing I do. Kiss your wife for me!
Will make it up to you,
February 4, 1966
Dear Buck and Caroline,
I can think of better ways to observe Valentine's Day than spending a week testifying before the court. Alas, that's what's on my calendar in ten days.
I hope the weather will cooperate and allow you to spend the fourteenth together. Think of me, stuck in a courtroom, being harassed by lawyers, while you two enjoy each other's company. I will be thinking of you, to be sure, and in great detail.
My love to you both and to young Ben,
January 27, 1967
My dearest Caroline and Ben,
A very happy Valentine's Day to you both! I hope you're well. I wanted to get down to Norman Wells to see you for a few days, but Buck and I happened to be in town when the Silver Point Mine's office was robbed. They lost their whole payroll, and before we knew it, Yukon Maguire and Musk Ox Tierney had hijacked a bush plane west to the Alaskan coast. We finally caught up to the scoundrels in Skagway, but by then we had to wait for the Americans to kindly permit us to bring the criminals back into Canada. Now we're stuck in Whitehorse while the Crown, in its interminable wisdom, decides whether we have to deliver them back to Yellowknife for prosecution, or if this is close enough. I tell you, it is strange to spend so much time confined to a city again. All this pavement! I don't covet it, I can tell you that much.
I don't suppose you're interested in the tedious details of mushing prisoners overland, so I'll spare you. (Only joking, we took the train. Dead Horse Gulch is a frozen marvel at this time of year!) I very much wish I were there to spend a little time with you. I love you more than these words can convey, as I'm certain you know. Buck sends his fond regards as well. Kiss the boy for me, Caroline, will you?
February 14, 1967
Norman Wells, NWT
Happy Valentine's Day, sweetheart! Today we're going to make special heart-shaped cookies to send to your father and Buck out on patrol. It will be a fun day for us!
Remember that I love you more than the whole world!
February 14, 1968
My grandmother said it wouldn't hurt to write you a Valentine, but it does. It hurts a lot! I love you and I miss you and I know you can't come back because you're in heaven. I know that.
But I don't like it. I'm sorry. But I just don't. I'm still angry about it, even though it's almost been a whole year.
Daddy doesn't come home anymore. At all. You wouldn't like it.
I'm sorry I'm mad. Valentines are supposed to be nice. I'll try to be nice, even if it's hard. I love you forever and I won't stop.
p.s. Happy Valentine's Day in heaven.
February 14, 1969
I had planned to leave this here with your parents and young Ben on the chance that they see you before I do, but they tell me you're down near Hay River again, so we'll hope our esteemed Canada Post reaches you first. Bob, I didn't acknowledge Valentine's Day last year for obvious reasons. You were so deep in your grief that I feared you might sock me in the jaw for it if I tried – but I was grieving too, you know. We both are, even now, I think, and I won't apologize for saying so. You always knew how I felt about her.
But I miss you, too, partner. Maybe it's hard for you to look at me and remember times when the three of us were together, but I call that compounding the misery we're both bearing and I'm asking you to stop it. I'm fed up with this distance. I want your bedroll spread out next to my campfire again, where it belongs. We're partners, damn it, so get yourself back here beside me, where I can look after you and you can watch my back against mad trappers and bushwhackers.
Don't you tarry or I'll sled down there and bring you back myself, don't think I won't. You know how Mounties get their men – and I'm telling you I will!
p.s. Your mother says she'll help me do it, too, just in case you were wondering. She also informed me that she and George are taking Benton and their library to Alert at the end of next month, "just across the strait from Greenland," she made a point of saying, so if you want to see your son before they go, you should hurry.
February 14, 1970
The other day I rounded up Bruce McQuarry and his gang of roustabouts, and at least one of the assault charges ought to stick, so...
I just needed to tell you I understand.
After the way I've treated you since she died, despite your best efforts…well, I don't have to like it, but I do understand and I know Caroline would, too.
All my best (and I do mean that),
February 14, 1971
Congratulations on the birth of little Julie. I'm sure you and Eleanor are enjoying your leave of absence down in Yellowknife. I'll refrain from offering any fatherly advice; you'll remember Caroline was glad to see the back of me long before Ben could sleep through the night. Babies…they're odd creatures, aren't they? They're so loud for being so terribly small. I did consider sending along a proper caribou-skin baby bag, but I don't suppose Eleanor would appreciate the sentiment. Ah well.
I'm heading back out on the ice tomorrow, but I hope to see you in Fort Norman at the end of March, if you're amenable? My best to your new family.
February 10, 1973
Fort Good Hope, NWT
What's a man supposed to do, I ask you? You know me better than anyone, and you know I'm meant for wide open spaces, just like you are. It's why we joined up in the first place, isn't it? What I mean to say is, I have some news: Eleanor is moving to Whitehorse, taking Julie with her, obviously. Eleanor would probably be happier still living in Vancouver, or even Victoria, as much of a nightmare as that would be for me, so Whitehorse is our compromise, at least for the time being. I still love her, of course, but you know she isn't independent in the way Caroline was. She isn't…hell, I don't know what I'm saying! I love her and it's completely unfair for me to compare her to Caroline. They couldn't have less in common. And yet…the fact is ten years ago, I was a happy man. I'm a jerk, aren't I?
I'm back out on the trail in a few days, heading up the river toward Inuvik. I've got myself a rope in need of a grappling hook, Bob, if you take my meaning. Think you could find it in yourself to meet me on the way?
February 1, 1976
Nahanni Butte, NWT
Twenty years seems like nothing, doesn't it? It seems like the Great Yukon Double-Douglas Fir Telescoping Bank Shot was only yesterday. I'll be here or in the near vicinity until the end of May. Drop by?
Ever your friend,
February 14, 1976
Nahanni Butte, NWT
Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you like it.
February 14, 1978
They're letting me out of this godforsaken place tomorrow, and if the doctor changes his mind again, I won't be held responsible for my actions! Truth is, I have a notion of sledding up to your cabin to spend the time while my leg heals (and Geiger awaits trial – may his carcass rot in hell). A Constable Jones here has agreed to drop me off on his way up to Dawson and is at this moment arranging me a full kit, so never you worry. I told Eleanor I needed peace and quiet, and that's the God's honest truth. I love my girls, but a man needs his space – so I'm borrowing yours, ha! You are, of course, welcome any time.
See you soon, partner,