Tough As Nails: One Womans Journey through West Point
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The spine may show signs of wear. Pages can include limited notes and highlighting, and the copy can include previous owner inscriptions. You'll see it, feel it and learn something from it.
You'll smile and you'll laugh. This is the story that Erma Bombeck would have written had she been a member of the Class of , the second class with women at WestPoint. Originally written to assist her in her role as a West Point admissions liaison officer, the author shares knowledge gained in her 15 years working with admissions.
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It began as a memoir of a female cadet. It evolved into lessons learned by a graduate married to a graduate, an officer, an officer's wife, and a mother of two cadets. Animals know this, and people who spend lots of time in the forest know this. My mother-in-law knows. She took us to a clearing among some trees, looked around a bit, then stopped and bent down. She said she had given each of her children a patch in the forest where she found that mushrooms consistently grew each year.
The whale sighting happened right away, minutes into Day 1. Jon, Dave and I had just been dropped off on a remote Alaskan shoreline, an hour and a half by boat from the closest speck of a town. Jon was working as a sea-kayaking guide that summer in Glacier Bay National Park, and he had invited us up for a seven-day excursion during his week off.
As the boat that delivered us vanished, the drone of its engine dampening into a murmur and then finally trailing off, it became unthinkably quiet on the beach, and the largeness and strangeness of our surroundings were suddenly apparent. It was a familiar phenomenon for Jon from the start of all his trips: a moment that people instinctually paused to soak in. We were on earth — finally, really on earth.
We were only starting to move around again, packing our gear into the kayaks, when we heard the first huff of a blowhole, not far offshore. Jon was ecstatic. It seemed to him as if the animal were putting on a show, swimming playfully in the kelp, diving, resurfacing, then plowing its open mouth across the surface to feed. He took it as a good omen. Though I had no idea at the time, he was anxious that Dave and I might feel intimidated about making the trip; such a big payoff, so quickly, would get us excited and defuse any apprehensions.
For Dave, the whale-sighting had exactly the opposite effect. Once, when he was a kid, his dad took him scuba diving with dolphins. They were friendly, awe-inspiring creatures, purportedly, but they terrified Dave instead. He could still conjure the feeling of hanging defenselessly in that water while the animals deftly swirled around him, less like solid objects than flashes of reflected light, while he could move only in comparative slow-motion. Ever since, he had harbored a fear of large sea creatures — a niche phobia, particularly for a young man who lived in the Bronx, but a genuine one still.
And so, even as Dave understood that a chance to see whales up close like this was a major draw of a kayaking trip in Alaska, and though he feigned being thrilled, some second thoughts were kicking in: We were going out there, he realized. The whale left me exhilarated and gleeful, like Jon; but deeper down, I also remember feeling shaken, like Dave. Nothing about the animal registered to me as playful or welcoming.
West Point Plan | United States Military Academy | Graduate School
It just appeared in the distance, then transited quickly past us, from left to right. Watching it made me feel profoundly out of place and register how large that wilderness was, relative to me. At the time, I was working at a literary magazine in New York City called The Hudson Review, picking poems out of the slush pile and mailing them to an outside panel of editorial advisers. I was trying hard in my letters to impress one of them: Hayden Carruth, a gruff and irreverent year-old poet who lived far upstate.
Never then or now have I been able to look at a cloudless sky at night and see beauty there.