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When asked about the fondest memories he holds of David, Ted cites a day in the early 1970s in Great Falls, Mont. David had moved there first, after college, and was working as a copper smelter. Ted was building his cabin on land the brothers had bought together outside Lincoln. One day, Ted recalls, they took their baseball gloves to a park. "We were as far apart as we could get and still reach each other with the ball," Ted says, smiling, as if lost in the moment. "We were throwing that ball as hard as we could, and as far as we could... And so we were making these running, leaping catches. We made more fantastic catches that day than I think we did in all the rest of our years together."
Their bond now was perhaps as strong as it would ever be. They were a pair of anti-careerist Ivy League grads united by their love of the outdoors--and also, frankly, by their failure at romantic love. David had been only slightly more successful with women than Ted. He had already decided that there was only one woman he could ever love--her name was Linda Patrik--and though they had a few dates during college, things didn't work out.
In Great Falls, Ted often spent the night at David's apartment. One day, while David was not at home, Ted came across some letters from Linda, whom Ted had never heard David mention. "They were in a drawer," Ted writes, "not lying out in the open, and I knew that he would not want me to read them, but I read them anyway... Why did I do it? I was full of contempt for him, and when you have contempt for someone you tend to be disregardful of his rights."
Ted thrived on his brother's adulation but was also "disgusted" by it, he writes. While they shared a disdain for materialism and an "oversocialized" lifestyle, Ted considered David undisciplined, physically and intellectually lazy. He also felt David was prone to manipulation, especially by women--as Linda Patrik's letters seemed to illustrate. "The letters were not very informative," he writes, "but they did make this much clear about Dave's relationship with Linda Patrik: He had a long-term crush on her; his relationship to her was servile." Ted saw David, derisively, as more companion than mate to Linda, "a shoulder for her to cry on."
David and Linda had grown up together in Chicago, and he had never given up on her. They kept in touch while David lived in Montana, and throughout the 1970s, as he taught high school English in Iowa, wrote an unpublished novel and drove a commuter bus near Chicago. But Linda eventually married another man. Faced with this reality, David slipped off to the wilderness--interestingly, not to Ted's Montana mountain area but to the Big Bend desert region of western Texas. He had $40,000 in savings and, like Ted, a vague plan to spend the rest of his years alone.
He lived in a fortified hole in the ground called a pit house, with no plumbing or electricity. He kept writing but was mainly, according to a friend, "a lost, searching, unhappy soul." He and Ted wrote each other frequently, extremely tender at times but just as often engaged in brittle clashes of ego. "If that story is typical of your previous writing," Ted wrote after David sent him some of his fiction, "then it's obvious why no one wants to publish your stuff--it's just plain bad, by anyone's standard."