Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Book 1 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Back at the house, Randy and his father turned to cleaning out Randy's car and carrying things upstairs and the surfboard out to the garage. Without comment, Randy hauled a bag full of dirty laundry to the washing machine, loaded it up, and started it running. "I can't believe it," Linda told her husband while Randy was hauling stuff upstairs. "He's doing his own laundry! What's come over him?"
"He isn't quite the kid we had home at Christmas," Ryan grinned back at her. "He strikes me as a more responsible, more ambitious, stronger, and more active young man than he was this time last year."
"I'll bet those two girls had something to do with it," she replied, not sure whether to be suspicious or not.
"Good for them," he smiled.
As the day wore on, Randy couldn't help but think about the discussion he'd had with his father that morning. It did put a much different light on things. For the first time he felt comfortable with the idea of returning to Spearfish Lake once he was out of college. A little to his amazement, he reflected that money didn't really enter into the decision. He'd always known that eventually he'd be coming into a pretty good inheritance, but that was hopefully so far in the future, with so many places to stumble along the way, that it didn't seem quite real. In any case, it seemed likely that it would be far enough in the future that he'd be getting pretty close to retirement himself, maybe even past it -- and it didn't really affect him, the money was something that had to be husbanded for the future.
But to have a solid problem to work on, a real goal to work towards -- that put a different spin on things. He'd done a lot of growing up in a short time that morning, and he'd been serious enough on the way back from getting the paper that his father had to remind him that there was still some room in his life at this stage for fun and adventure.
That's what was on Randy's mind as he drove the Dodge into town the next morning. There were a couple of things that needed to be done, and he was just as glad that it would be two or three days before he'd be working.
He felt a little nervous about his first stop, at McGuinness Accounting down by the lake in town, but finally realized that the worst that could happen was that he'd get thrown out on his ass, and that didn't seem likely. He was a little surprised to be able to get right in to see Mr. McGuinness after he'd told the woman at the front desk that he wanted to take a minute of his time about something that didn't involve business. He'd known Mr. McGuinness slightly for years -- he was in his forties, a little bigger than Randy, and built a lot solider, going gray. Randy knew that he was the assistant fire chief, and Randy's dad had been an EMT off and on for years, so there was that connection. In spite of the suit and tie, he also knew that McGuinness had the reputation of being the leading kayaking nut in the county. He'd seen him put on a rolling exhibition at the waterfront festival the summer before, and that had been part of what had gotten Randy interested in whitewater in the first place.
"You're Ryan Clark's kid, aren't you?" McGuinness said. "What can I do for you today?"
"Nothing to do with accounting," Randy said. "Maybe I shouldn't ask you at work, but it's about kayaking."
"I'm not that busy, and I'm usually ready to talk kayaking or fire department if it's not tax season," McGuinness grinned. "What's on your mind?"
Randy gave him a brief description of how he'd seen the rolling exhibition, got involved in the whitewater group at NMU, had developed a fair roll over the winter, and had done some whitewater this spring. "Anyway," he finished up, "The gal who I've been paddling with and who has been coaching me on my roll said I should work on my roll over the summer. I'm wondering if you know where I could get a boat, and if maybe you could coach me some."
"We can probably work out something," McGuinness replied with a grin that showed he was taking interest in the idea. "Just how good is your roll, anyway?"
"Fairly reliable onside," Randy said, spreading his arms wide and explaining. "Both with a sweep and a screw roll. I've done a C-to-C and a few others, too. I miss one every now and then. Offside, not so good. I probably make it one try out of three."
"Ever had to do a combat roll?"
"Yeah, this spring," he nodded. "We were down at Quarry on the Nantahala, and I was turning around to surf when I hit a rock forward, and got the upstream gunwale down. I missed on my first attempt -- I hit a rock with my helmet while I was going downstream backwards and upside down. That threw my timing off, but I got set and made it the second try."
"The Nanty, huh?" McGuinness grinned. "Did you run Lesser Wesser?"
"Yeah, that was fun. We played around down at the bottom, and I did my first real ender there, too," Randy replied, beginning to understand that he was being quizzed.
"You run the Ocoee?"
"No, it was higher than snot. Crystal, the gal who's been teaching me, she said she wouldn't even run it in a raft, and she's a raft guide there in the summer. We did run the Dries and the Hiawassee though. That was pretty high."
"You go to NMU, right? Did you get any spring creeking in up there?"
"It's been pretty high, but it got down to where we could run last weekend. We did the Fall and the Silver."
"You got immersion gear, a PFD?"
"Yeah," Randy said. "PFD, wetsuit, and a surfing springsuit. I had both the wetsuits on when I was surfing last weekend, and it was still cold."
"You surf, too?"
"Just took it up this spring, down in Florida," Randy admitted.
"Where were you surfing last weekend? Up around L'Anse somewhere? The state park, maybe?"
"No, the break was wrong. Some beach up the eastern side of the bay, a township park at the head of a nice little bay. I didn't get the name."
"Second Sand Beach," McGuinness grinned. "Yeah, that gets a sweet break when the wind is right. Ever try it down at Au Train?"
"No, that's the only time I've surfed on Superior, but Crystal says we'll have to try it next fall."
"If you do, the break is usually better toward the east end," McGuinness smiled. "Got your own surfboard?"
Randy grinned. "I was thinking it must be the only one in town, but I'm starting to suspect I'm wrong on that."
"You are," McGuinness laughed. "But, as far as I know, I've got the only other one. I don't get out with it much anymore, but maybe you and I will have to do something about that. You got any plans for this evening?"
McGuinness thumbed his intercom. "Dawn, what's the schedule like this afternoon?"
"Clear after two o'clock, Joe," the voice came back over the intercom.
"OK," he said. "You know where I live, right? Meet me there about 4:30, bring your kayak gear. You might as well have something to eat, we won't get back till after dark, but we'll find out what you know and what you need to learn."
"Thanks, Mr. McGuinness," Randy said, surprised at how well this interview had gone. "I appreciate it."
"No big deal," the older man shrugged it off. "Too many people run a Class II once and think they know it all. You sound like you're serious and you know you've got stuff to learn. I like that. I'd better get some work done. See you later." He thumbed the intercom again and said, "Dawn, get a message to Rod to call me at lunch hour, will you please?"
Randy was heading back to his car, pleased about the whole affair, when he realized that the subject of a boat hadn't come up. Well, he was pretty sure Mr. McGuinness had several lying around, and probably intended to loan him one for tonight, but he'd have to remember to ask about where he could buy one. He didn't really know where this could lead, but it might well be more than just rolling practice -- from the sound of the discussion, there might be some surfing in there, too. There was probably a lot he could learn from Mr. McGuinness.
That was the big item he'd had on his list for the day, and it had gone much better than expected, but it left him without much else to do. As he was reaching for the car door, he happened to notice the sign for Spearfish Lake Appliance up the street, and remembered that after the Baughman thing back before break, he had made a promise to himself to thank Mr. Evachevski.
Randy knew Mr. Evachevski a lot better than he knew Mr. McGuinness. He and his father had been friends all of Randy's life. He was a long-retired Green Beret master sergeant, and he looked the part. He stood over six feet tall, but even past sixty he was solid and muscular; his graying hair was still cropped short, and while he was a pretty friendly man, he also left the impression that you messed around with him at your imminent peril.
Evachevski was sitting at his desk in the back of the store, typing slowly at a computer keyboard when Randy walked in. "Well, look who's back in town," Evachevski smiled. "Don't tell me you broke your mother's washing machine with all those dirty clothes you hauled home from college."
"No, nothing like that," Randy grinned. "I just wanted to drop in and say hi, and thanks."
"Thanks?" Evachevski looked at him. "What for?"
"For teaching me those brawling moves back when I was wrestling. Look, don't tell my folks, please, but it saved my butt a couple months ago."
Evachevski leaned back in his chair, put his hands behind his head, and asked, "Sounds like you had some trouble up there."
"Yeah," Randy admitted, looking pained, and going on to explain how the confrontation with Baughman had happened. "I think I was more scared after it happened than when it did," he finished up. "Hell, no, I know I was. I didn't have time to think about it when it happened. I just did it."
"What did you think that this guy had in mind? Did he have anything to be pissed at you about?"
"Nothing that I know of," Randy replied honestly. "All I can figure is that he was looking for a fight and wanted to hurt someone, and it didn't much matter who. He knew Myleigh, and he knew she's roomies with the gal who sent him to the hospital a couple years ago, so that might have had something to do with it."
"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute," Evachevski smiled, taking a little more interest. "You say this gal you were with kicked his ass a couple years ago?"
"No, that was her roomie, Crystal. Myleigh is a sweet little thing who wouldn't hurt a fly. I don't know much about that fight, but apparently this Baughman came onto Crystal a little rough, and she broke up some furniture with him. She's a karate black belt, got some judo, some aikido, I think. She's pretty strong, too."
"Yeah, that would account for it," Evachevski said, thinking. "Typical bully. Not enough guts to take on someone like that head on, so go after their friends that can't defend themselves. Now, when you mouthed off to him, were you looking for a fight?"
"Hell, no," Randy said. "Like I said, I didn't think about it, I just did it. I realized afterward that I wanted to get his attention off Myleigh long enough for her to get the hell out of there. I mean, I'd rather be the one hurt than her."
"I see," Evachevski said quietly, obviously thinking, but with obvious approval, as well. "You said you were shaking afterward?" he said finally.
"God, yes. I could barely walk. Look, Mr. Evachevski, I don't know how to say this, but the thing that scared me was that it was so easy. Like I said, I didn't think about it, I just did it. It helped that he came after me so stupid, but still, well, shit, it bothers me."
"Let me help you on this a little bit, son," Evachevski said. "As I see it, you put yourself into danger to save a friend, right?"
"Well, yeah," Randy admitted. "I didn't think of it that way at the time. I just did it."
"That's the point," Evachevski smiled. "You didn't have to think about it. Trouble came, you reacted, and you let your training take over without having to think about it. And, you weren't trying to fight the guy for the sake of fighting him, you were trying to neutralize him the quickest way you could. That's what a good soldier does. You know where I'm coming from, and that's pretty damn good in my book. You done good, kid. I guess you must have learned something from me."
"Right," Randy said. "That's what I came in here to thank you for. I have to admit, I was a little lucky that I'd been working out with Crystal for a couple of weeks, so she got me sharpened back up a little."
Evachevski cocked his head. "What do you mean, working out? With this gal that had kicked his ass? Weight room, and like that?"
"No, wrestling," Randy said. "She said she didn't know much about it and wanted to learn some of the moves, just for the sake of learning, so I showed her some of the basics, takedowns, some holds. I mean, hell, it was the dead of winter, it's hard to stay in shape, and it was more interesting than just the weight room or swimming laps."
"This is with a girl?" Evachevski asked with an odd expression on his face.
"Nothing like that," Randy smiled. "We're just good friends. She's bigger than I am, probably got thirty pounds on me, and stronger than dirt. And, with that karate black belt, I knew damn well that if I did something out of line, she'd break me into little pieces. Anyway, she's gotten to be a pretty good wrestler. I still have the edge on her in agility and experience, but she more than balances it off in size and strength, so she probably drops me three falls out of four, now. She's been teaching me karate, and that's been fun to learn. I'm just a beginner, but I'm now realizing how much an art it is."
"You real good friends with this girl? Boyfriend-girlfriend?"
"Just good friends," Randy said shyly. "We enjoy working out together. I've learned a lot from her."
"You like the wrestling, the karate, the working out?"
"Yeah," Randy nodded. "Frankly, a lot more than I thought I would. It's not just being with Crystal."
"You always were a pretty good wrestler," Evachevski said distantly. "You medaled that one year, so you were like fourth in the state. I always thought you could be a lot better. That joker you had for a coach was thinking holds, and I could see you were trying to think process, but it wasn't my place to jump in. I know I was wrong now. Would you be interested in meeting some friends of mine, maybe learning some more?"
"I think I would," Randy said. "I've learned from Crystal that it's always fun to pick up a new skill."
"You ever get that girl down here, I'd like to meet her," Evachevski smiled. "Come on down here tomorrow night, about seven, side door and up the stairs."
Mr. McGuinness lived out beyond the far edge of town, in a nice place on Hannegan's Cove. When Randy pulled into the driveway, there was a four-wheel drive pickup with big fat tires sitting in the driveway. He could see that there was a whitewater kayak in the back, some sort of Necky, he guessed from the nose, but wasn't sure of the model. Randy was trying to figure out whether to go to the front door or the garage door when he heard a voice from the garage. "Back here, Randy," he heard the older man call.
Randy walked into the garage and his jaw dropped. Yeah, Mr. McGuinnis had an extra kayak or two sitting around. More like a dozen or two, and a bunch of canoes, besides. There was room to park one car inside, and Randy bet that the car that got parked there wasn't his. Randy noticed a Jensen C-2 -- a racing canoe -- and several other canoes he couldn't identify, three or four sea kayaks, and a potload of whitewater boats. Hanging from the rafters was an old longboard surfboard, with some dust on it. "Help me move this thing, will you?" Mr. McGuinness asked, pointing at a canoe. "Big old Grumman ironboat, one of the best canoes ever made for what it does, and I have to have something to take the grandkids out with if I ever have any."
The old aluminum canoe was big and clumsy, and Joe wanted to move it quite a bit to get where he was going, which was to pull down a bright yellow kayak sitting on a top rack along the wall. "Got this as a throw-in on a trade-around last year," he said. "New Wave Mongoose, last year's model, hotter than shit they tell me, but I'm just a little too big for it, so I guessed it ought to be just about right for you. Let's haul it out on the grass and see."
It was a perfect fit, it turned out; he didn't even have to adjust the backband or the foot brace, and it was just wide enough for his hips to fit snugly. "Fits pretty good," Randy said.
"I've never paddled this, but the guy I got it from said it's a little edgier than an Acrobat, and turns a little better and a fair bit squirtier. You can probably handle it. Incidentally, he was a little big for it, too. Let me go see if I can find the spray deck that goes with it."
Randy slid out of the boat as Mr. McGuinness headed for the shop. "You paddle right control, right?" Randy heard from deep within the kayak collection. "A 195-centimeter paddle about right?"
"I could stand shorter," Randy said as he followed the voice back into the shop, finding Mr. McGuinness pawing around in a pile of paddles, a spray deck dangling from his arm.
"I think this is the right spray deck. It says 'New Wave Mongoose' on it, so I suppose it ain't for a Necky, anyway." he laughed. "Damn, I know I had a 185 in here somewhere. Got a 190 here; will that be OK?"
"Yeah, sure. Boy, you sure have a collection!"
McGuinness shrugged. "Goes with the territory. Stay with this a while, buy two or three kayaks, sell one, buy two, sell one, and the next damn thing you know you have to leave your car outside. Go grab your stuff, and I'll throw the boat in the truck."
In a few minutes they were heading east on the state road. "So, how you liking college?" the older man asked.
"Pretty good," Randy told him. "Majoring in business ad. Taking a look at a construction management minor, but I'm not too sure I can finish it in two years."
"Staying with the family business, I take it?"
"Clark Construction, maybe, but that's not settled," Randy said, not wanting to talk too much about his conversation with his father the day before. "Might wind up at the plant. Wherever Dad wants to put me, I guess."
"Ever do any sea kayaking?"
"No, but I'd like to some time. Seems like it might be sort of dull after the whitewater, though."
"Doesn't have to be. Since you're a surfer, maybe I'll have to take you up to Superior some time and put you in the Romany. Kayak surfing is a little different than board surfing, mostly straight down the face, not on the shoulder, but it's damn near as exciting. Surf launches can be a bitch, though. You got a girl up at Northern?"
"Couple of friends who are girls. I told you about Crystal. No heavy-drama girlfriends, though."
"Pity, a little heavy drama is fun at your age," Mr. McGuinness snickered. "This Crystal, she's been your main whitewater teacher? What's her background?"
"I don't know a lot about it," Randy replied, scratching his neck. "She's been a raft guide, mostly on the Ocoee, for two years, but a lot of it was at the Outdoor Leadership Training Academy, I know."
"Oh, she's an OLTA girl? Well, you're probably getting good instruction then. I'm getting too old for that horseshit, but I should have headed out there when I was younger. From what I hear, they work them pretty hard, but I had enough of that crap in the Marines."
"Hey, where are we going, anyway?" Randy asked. "I figured since we were gonna do roll practice, we'd just do it in front of your house."
The older man smiled. "We don't get that much whitewater time around here, but as long as we got it, we might as well make use of it. We can piss around with roll practice any time."
Spearfish Lake -- the lake, not the town -- was once a group of small natural lakes, the largest of which had the same name. No one is totally sure of the derivation of the name; although it's assumed that the name sprang from the fact that Indians went to spear fish at the rapids where the lake emptied into the Albany River. The rapids are long gone, except in spring when high water spills over a dam raised in the late 1800s. The dam raised the lake level about twenty-eight feet, submerging the original Spearfish Lake and several other small lakes. The dam powered a sawmill during most of the heady clearcut timbering days of the late 1800s. It was later converted to generating electricity, and was one of the reasons that Clark Plywood located there in the early 1930s. The lake is big, about forty square miles, with a very wild and swampy south shore, and a rugged, convoluted eastern shore that's rarely visited since no roads near the lake penetrate south of the Spearfish River, one of three rivers that feed the lake.
The Spearfish River is a pretty big river for the area where it feeds into the lake, averaging perhaps seventy-five or a hundred yards across. Several miles upstream, a rather smaller river feeds into it, the Little Spearfish. In the summer, the Little Spearfish is a nice, placid little trout stream, on the small side for a good cast, but it drains a plateau north of the Turtle Hills, north of Spearfish Lake, so in the spring it's a much bigger affair when it carries a lot of runoff.
On that warm early May afternoon Randy and Joe McGuinness were headed to a spot on the Little Spearfish northeast of the Turtle Hills, where the river takes several big steps down from the swamps of the plateau it drains. Randy had always known it was fairly steep in this area, but he'd never associated it with whitewater -- but then, until recently, he'd never thought much about whitewater, either.
McGuinness turned off the state road near the northeast corner of Spearfish Lake onto County Road 919 and headed out past Turtle Hill. Randy had fond memories of the area; many of his adventures with Nicole years before had been at a hidden road-end on West Turtle Lake. The top of Big Turtle Hill had a tremendous view, which made it the local favorite place for kids to go out and play kissy-face and touchy-boobie, and more -- some of his more favorite high school memories.
Randy couldn't remember if he'd ever been very far on 919 past the two-rut lane that led to the top of Turtle Hill, so for practical purposes he was now in country new to him. He certainly had never been on the two-rut that McGuinness turned off onto as he eased the truck into four-wheel drive. "Look," he told Randy. "Where we're going isn't any big secret, but I'd just as soon it didn't show up in any Best Midwestern Whitewater guides, if you know what I mean. If we got a bunch of whitewater yahoos in here trashing the place, we'd have hell to pay with the landowner."
"Who's that?" Randy asked.
McGuinness grinned. "Clark Plywood."
"Uh, yeah," Randy snickered. Clark Plywood owned a lot of land around Spearfish Lake, most purchased by Randy's great-grandfather Wayne back in the 1930s at pennies per acre on tax sales. They'd provided raw material for the plant ever since, and were more important today, now that the plant wasn't making plywood, which required fairly large trees, but composition board and wafer board, which allowed the use of anything that vaguely resembled wood. Clark Plywood's policy was to allow recreational use of its forest lands, for hunters and such, and usually it wasn't much of a problem, but there were always people who abused the privileges. Randy had heard stories about such jerks all his life, and some areas of Clark lands had been posted in the past to control problems.
"It wouldn't be any trick to grade out this road," McGuinness explained. "But your dad has agreed to leave it pretty rough. That cuts out some of the yahoos, but too many of them are getting sport-utes, so we may have to have it gated. Don't try coming back here in a car."
"Uh, yeah," Randy replied again as the pickup splashed through a large mudhole.
The pickup ground up a hill, went over a ridge, and down a steep, rough hill with a lot of loose rock, made a couple of turns, and emerged into a small clearing. At the far side, Randy could see a nice little stream, perhaps half the width of the Fall. It was smooth, and running fast. "This is where we usually put in," McGuinness explained. "Let's head down the hill."
The road headed into the woods, away from the river, and after a quarter of a mile, stopped at a bank overlooking a nice pool. The two of them got out of the truck, and Randy could hear the roar of water. McGuinness motioned for him to follow, and they walked down a short distance to the river. "OK, upstream from here, from just below the put-in down to the head of this pool, is a nice stretch of Grade II-III water, maybe a quarter mile long. You don't get much chance to rest just running, but there are lots of eddies and two or three nice playholes. Then, it pools up here, and heads downstream. Come on, and I'll show you what happens next."
It had to be interesting, Randy thought, considering the roar of water coming from the direction they were going. They hadn't gone more than fifty yards before he discovered he was right. The entire river necked down through a short, narrow gorge that sort of reminded him of The Slot up on the Fall, then plunged over a narrow, rushing waterfall about six feet high. At the bottom, there was a large rock, splitting a big back roller on either side. "This is Quaker Falls," McGuinness explained. "There used to be a little town here, back in lumber days, although God knows what a Quaker Church was doing here. Those old loggers were really more interested in pilerun whiskey and getting into town for a bar fight. Generally, you can't run the far side, unless the water is real high, and that washes this place out pretty good," Joe explained. "This side is an awesome playhole, but it's tricky as shit to get into since the only way in is to boof off the top of the falls, and then not hit it too hard, or you'll shoot right over the top, so you just about have to backsurf the damn thing and turn on the top. Get it wrong, and it's windowshade city, with the possibility of a pin. Either way, you have to be toward the right to exit, and be ready to ferry left to eddy out. What would you grade it as?"
Randy looked. It was obviously tougher than The Slot, just because there were so few options of places to go, although the approach to the falls was easier. The back roller was an obvious keeper, though, and that was a danger that ratcheted up the rating. "Class IV," he said. "Maybe a high one at that."
"That's about how I read it. IV+, maybe even V at the right levels. Think you can run it?"
"Probably," Randy said. "Just run it, anyway. Getting on the wave, though, well, maybe. And, if you screw it up, well, yeah, that's dangerous."
"Yeah, when you run it, you always want to have someone on shore with a throwbag who knows how to use it," McGuinness agreed. "I've had to swim out of here a few times over the years, and busted up a boat pretty good here once. But, it's a quick, exciting run, from the pool down to the takeout, then less than a hundred yards to carry back up and do it again. I've spent a lot of enjoyable hours here. Let's go look upstream. There's nothing real difficult, but I might as well show you some of the lines."
They walked along a path by the shore. It was, as Mr. McGuinness had said, fairly easy Grade II-III water, maybe a little pushy, and with some obvious shallow spots and problem areas. "We run this a lot, too," he explained. "The playholes are pretty good. It's just long enough that we shuttle with a truck, rather than carrying the boats. This is a neat stretch I discovered before I moved up here, and is one of the reasons I moved up here twenty years ago. The only problem is that it only runs good enough for two or three months, although sometimes in the summer we get a hard rainstorm and we can get a day or two out of it. Anyway, let's get back down to the pool and see what your roll is like."
Back at the pool, Randy pulled on his wet suit while Mr. McGuinness pulled on his. They got the boats out of the truck, and the older man suggested that Randy might like to get some feel of the Mongoose, so he paddled it across the pool two or three times, before McGuinness suggested, "You've done some vertical moves, haven't you? Paddle real hard across the pool, then pop yourself forward like you're doing a duck-dive, sorta, keep leaning forward and be ready to brace."
Randy followed the suggestion, and when he popped himself forward, the nose dived under water and the tail end of the boat went up. He stuck in a paddle to try and control the move, but something went goofy, and he came down on his side, and went over. Without thinking about it too much, he set up, did a sweep roll, and popped back up. "Boy, you're right, this is a lively little shit," he grinned. "Rolls nice, though."
"Try it again," McGuinness counseled. "If you wind up ass end up again, try a screw roll."
Randy tried it several more times, landing it a couple times, missing a couple times and having to roll up. He stayed with it a while, and before long was able to rotate the boat while it was vertical, like he'd done in the Dancer down at Lesser Wesser -- but the Dancer never would have been able to do it on flatwater like this thing! He was so wrapped up in working out the move that he didn't notice a second man standing on the shore next to Mr. McGuinness, and finally the older man had to call to him, "You wanna work on that mystery move all day, or you want to run something?"
"Be right in," Randy said, turning the bright yellow boat toward shore.
McGuinness took the grab loop as he got close to the landing and pulled him up onto the tiny slab of beach. "Well, we didn't get to working on your roll," he said as Randy popped the spray deck, "But I can see you've got one you're comfortable and fairly reliable with, and that was what I really wanted to find out. We can work on the details some other time. You're comfortable with that boat, I take it?"
"Well, I still want to see what it's like on moving water, but it's just fine on flat water," he commented as he got out.
"We'll find out in a few minutes," McGuinness grinned. "First, I want you to meet Rod Turpin. Rod, this is Randy Clark, Ryan's boy."
"Pleased to meet you," Randy said, sticking out his hand. "I've seen you around town, but I guess I never knew who you were."
"Same thing," Turpin grinned, taking his hand. He had a firm grip, but wasn't one to try to show off how strong he was. Randy noted that he was about the same height and age as McGuinness, but in his wetsuit, Randy could see that he was thinner, wirier, more muscular. "You seem pretty comfortable for your first time in that thing. You been doing this long?"
"Only since last fall, mostly up at NMU," Randy replied. "Spent a few days down in the Smokies over spring break."
"Rod's been my main partner for years," McGuinness explained. "When I first moved up here, I didn't know anybody who did whitewater, and this isn't a place to boat alone. I had a friend who would come up from downstate now and then, but never enough to really enjoy this place. Then I managed to talk Rod into coming out and trying it, and we've been running this place and a few others ever since."
"Not just here," Turpin expanded. "We've been all over the country. We try to get out and go places every now and then. We've been over in the western UP a fair amount in the spring every year, and we've gone other places, mostly in the Appalachians, West Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. We've been out west a few times, too. I thought Joe was clean the hell out of his head when he talked me into it, but he got me hooked."
"You surf, too?" Randy asked. "I mean, surfboards?"
"No, I ain't that crazy," Turpin grinned. "Unlike this rockhead."
"I better explain what the deal here is," McGuinness said. "With three of us, two of us can run, while one has to play shuttle bunny, but it doesn't take long. Let's throw the boat in and run up the hill. I'll be nice and let the two of you make the first run."
In a few minutes, Randy and the newcomer were on the water at the little flat section at the top of the hill. Turpin suggested that he run first, so Randy could see some of the lines. The flat at the top of the river didn't stay flat long; it dropped over a little ledge, then turned into a fairly complicated series of moves through small holes, around rocks, and over standing waves. Just an easy run, although the water was a bit pushy. Turpin ran right down the section, and Randy figured he'd better follow right along, rather than stopping to play in some of the holes along the way. It took five minutes, including a couple of small flats to hit the last drop, a fairly straightforward left-to-right move. Turpin headed right for the landing, so Randy figured that doing a run of the falls wasn't on the agenda yet. Just as well, he wanted to have a little more time with the boat and take another look at the falls before he ran it.
Turpin was out of his boat and waiting for Randy as he pulled up. "You like that run?" he grinned.
"Keeps you busy, that's for sure," Randy smiled. "Couple of those holes looked real tempting."
"There's four or five good ones," Turpin grinned. "They're all pretty shallow, though, except for the one up at the end of the pond here. Best you don't try any vertical moves in any one but the last one."
A few minutes later, Randy and Mr. McGuinness were at the top of the run again, with Turpin driving the truck. They took this one a lot slower and stopped to work a couple of the holes a bit, but the run was soon over and it was Randy's turn to run the shuttle. As soon as the two were in the water, he headed back down to the landing, then headed up the path alongside the river to where he could watch the two come downstream. It was interesting, and he could see more from the shore than he could from the boat. Both McGuinness and Turpin were competent boat handlers, aggressive in their moves, and they didn't miss very much. Of course, Randy rationalized, they both probably knew this stretch of river like the back of their hands, and had run it who knew how many times.
Then it was time to get back on the water again. There were other moves to try, other holes to explore, other tips to get from the more-experienced boaters, more things to learn as he watched, and Randy felt like he was learning a lot. Time flew by quickly, and finally there came a run where he was starting to have trouble seeing where he was going.
"Boy, there you go," McGuinness said as he pulled his boat up on shore. "Time flies when you're having fun, eh? Guess the hour got away from me tonight."
"Yeah," Turpin agreed. "Don't guess we're gonna get around to running the falls tonight."
"The light's shot in the ass for it now, especially for Randy to do it the first time," McGuinness agreed.
"Mr. McGuinness," Randy said. "I sure want to thank you for bringing me out here tonight. I never knew we had something like this around Spearfish Lake."
McGuinness grinned, "Randy, why don't you just call me Joe and get it over with? I mean, hell, if you want to, we're boatin' buddies, now."
"OK, I can do that Mr. . . . er, Joe," Randy replied with a smile. "Sure, I'd love to paddle with you guys. I can see I've got an awful lot to learn, but you two seem to be pretty good to learn from."
"We do manage to have fun, too." Turpin grinned. "Too bad you weren't here a couple weeks ago, when the water was high. Too high for here, but the Spearfish Lake dam was spilling, and when it gets to spilling big, the rapids there come to life. We never get more than a few days a year of that, and some years not at all, but they're a fun ride."
"Well, maybe another year," Randy grinned. "Sure would like to try it. Joe, I've been wondering. You said you can't fit in this boat, and you buy and sell boats all the time. What would you have to have for this one?"
Joe looked at him for a moment, then said. "Nothing more than a couple promises, kid."
"Well, first, that you'll try to stay safe, not get in over your head, and don't act like an asshole and ruin the river for others."
"Well, I try not to, anyway," Randy said. "I don't want people thinking of me as some testosterone-filled yahoo. That's not the kind of person I want to be."
"Figured that," Joe grinned. "Otherwise, you wouldn't have come and talked to me the way you did in the first place. I didn't think your father would raise an asshole."
"Thanks," Randy said. "What's the other thing?"
"Rod and I are both with the fire department. It isn't easy to come up with people who'll put the time and dedication into it, and also stay cool and do the right thing when the chips are down. I think you can. Now, there's nothing you can do about it now, but if you decide to come back to Spearfish Lake I'd like you to consider being on the department. I'm not saying you have to do it, because we both know things come up. Your dad is an EMT, used to be back when you were little, and then got busy and had to put it down for a while, then he came back and is running with us again. Like I said, you don't have to do it, but I'd like you to seriously consider it."
"Sure," Randy grinned. "I'd sort of had that in the back of my mind if it works out I come back here, anyway."
"Good," Joe grinned. "Let's get these boats in the truck and get back to town. Maybe we can come out and run the falls tomorrow night."
"Can't tomorrow night," Randy said. "I made a promise to do something."
"Me either," Rod said. "It's Tuesday."
"Oh, shit, I guess it is, isn't it?" Joe said. "All, right, Wednesday, then."