"A Spearfish Lake Story"
It was a little after lunch when Phil and Brandy walked out of the Front Range Technical Services building and got in their rental car. It was a nice day, springtime in the Rockies at its finest. "I donít know that Iím all that anxious to head right back," Phil said. "Are you up for a day or two sightseeing in the high country? We could maybe head over to the Grand Canyon. Iíve never been there."
"Might as well," she said, a little grumpy. "Thereís nothing to do back home. Phil, do you realize you got me between a rock and a hard spot back there?"
"I know," he said, starting the engine.
"Phil, Iíve worked with those people for years! Iím a partner there, and you just got them over a barrel and hit them in the ass with a ball bat. I donít know if Iíll ever be able to work there again. Theyíll just figure itís going to be a setup,"
"I know," Phil said noncommittally, backing out of the parking space.
"Phil, Iíve invested years of my life there. My career is there." Brandy was starting to get a little hot, not so much at Phil, but at his ambivalence.
"I know," Phil said, pulling into traffic and heading toward the interstate that would take them up into the mountains.
"I mean, itís not like we need the money."
"Donít give me that ĎI knowí shit," she said sharply. "You planned this, didnít you?"
"Phil, what in hell did you do that for?"
" Because, Brandy, I could see that you were doing nothing but itching to play with that software," he smiled. "I know you well enough to know that. If Iíd let it go, youíd have been back out in some data trailer within months, looking for some intrusion, just happily doing geology. Brandy, I married you because I love you, not your e-mail address."
"So, you burned the bridges."
"Yep, right down to the base of the pilings," he said. "I could see it coming when you set the computer up at home to do data analysis. I figured that I had six months, maybe less, before youíd be in Bolivia or Botswana or Burundi. Iíve been there and Iíve done that, and frankly, Iíve had enough of it, even if you havenít. I mean, itís clear to me that you can have me, or Front Range Technical Services, or both. Still can, for that matter. But, thereís not room enough in your life for both."
They rode on for several miles without saying anything. Phil had to stop at several traffic lights, but then got on the ramp for the interstate, and headed for the high country. He was up to speed before she said quietly, "You could have told me what you were planning."
"I suppose," he said absently. "But then, youíd have tried to figure out some compromise, and I donít think there is one. Remember, you were the one who quit Front Range, and you had a good reason to. Do I have to mention the word ĎBolivia?í I figured clear back in Nome that Moorehead was going to get through to you somehow, sooner or later. Damn it, Brandy, I want you to be my wife. I hope that youíd rather have me for a husband rather than Front Range Technical Services."
She slid over next to him, and he put his arm around her. "Phil, Iím sorry," she said. "I guess I wasnít thinking. I should have seen that for myself, but I was just so happy about finding something to do, rather than just sitting around the house wishing I had something."
"I know," he smiled.
"Donít start that again."
"Can I say something like you saw a problem to be solved, without seeing the implications, without you getting POed at me?"
"Yes, you can," she smiled. "I guess after all this time, you know me pretty well."
"Not really," he grinned. "Thatís why I want you around, not out on some site somewhere, so I can get to know you better. You know, I kind of like having you around."
"Well, youíre starting to grow on me, too," she said.
They rode along quietly for several more miles, steadily gaining altitude as they headed up to Loveland Pass and the high country beyond. There was still snow up at the upper elevations, but the valley was coming to life after a long winter.
"How come you didnít talk to them about working on their other software?" Brandy asked absently after several minutes of looking at the scenery.
"Mostly because I donít want to," Phil said. "I mean, I hit them up the side of their heads for three million bucks to get their attention about needing to do the upgrades. I donít think I needed to get much more blunt than that. Itíd be several months of work that Iím not particularly interested in doing. As you said, itís not like we need the money."
"So what are you going to do with the time?"
"I donít know," Phil shrugged. "I can always find something to do. Do some kayaking, maybe. Next fall, maybe Iíll help train the dogs. I donít have to be obsessive about things, like you."
"But, that leaves me hanging. At least, I knew I had the data analysis to do."
"So, do it," Phil suggested. "Just not for Front Range. I seem to recall that you were once only about a dissertation away from your doctorate. If you canít find a thesis out of all your work with the magres, then I donít know where you can find one."
"I wish I could say that interested me," she said. "But you know, it really doesnít. I mean, what would I do with a doctorate in geology now that Iím done with Front Range? Not that it would have been any use there, anyway."
"I donít know," Phil shrugged. "It was a suggestion. Thereís still that old Yellowstone problem."
Brandy shook her head. "The magres wouldnít be any use there. Even if it was, itíd involve drilling, and the Park Service would never allow that. A drill hole might screw things up, so I wouldnít allow it, either. Besides, Iím not really interested in that, anymore."
"So what are you interested in?"
"My main interest right now is finding something to get interested in. And, what that is, I havenít a clue."
It was late when the way freight tied up for the night in the Spearfish Lake yard. The Geeps didnít have the fuel capacity of the SDs, and had to be fueled every run, while the SDs could run two round trips without fueling, so Dave stopped the engines by the fuel dock and Josh set the pump to running. That took a few minutes, and then they backed away from the pumps and parked the rig for the night on Track 2, leaving the pumps clear for the Keyhole to tie up at the fuel dock when it came in during the wee small hours. With that, they were done for the night. Dave headed for his pickup, while Josh headed for the office to do some paperwork.
The Camden and Spearfish Lake Railroad office was in the old passenger station in Spearfish Lake. They only used the back part of the building, but kept the waiting room pretty much like it had been when the D&O had run passenger service into the town, years before Josh was born. There was a historical display in it, put together by the Spearfish Lake Historical Society, mostly by George Lindquist, who still tried to stay as active in the society as he could.
Josh was a little surprised to see a clean-cut young guy waiting on the old iron passenger bench facing the track. "Can I help you?" he asked.
"Are you Josh Archer?" the young man asked.
"I was the last time I looked in the mirror," Josh smiled.
"Mrs. Lawrence said I should wait for you," he said. "Iím looking for a job, and she said there might be one opening up."
"Summer job?" Josh asked. The kid looked to be about college age.
"Well, Iíd like to work longer than that. Fred Linder over in Warsaw sent me over. He said you were busy April through November, and then slow through the winter, and that fits what I want to do pretty good."
"I race snowmobiles," the kid said. "I like to think Iím fairly good, and I want to try the winter circuit for a year or two."
Hmmm, could be a fit. "You know what I do in the winter, right?"
"Yeah, the Iditarod, Fred said. Thatís why he thought it might be a good deal for me. Thatís got to be a big deal. Iíd like to do the Iron Dog someday."
Josh smiled. The Iron Dog was a snowmobile race run partly over the Iditarod route, the week before the dog race, and it had become a big deal on its own. "Uh, I better warn you, thatís a touchy subject around me. Those guys tear the track up pretty bad in spots. OK, the magic question is, do you know anything about railroading?"
"Not really, but Iím willing to learn."
He might be worth a try, Josh thought. At least he wouldnít have any bad habits to unlearn. If he raced snowmobiles, he knew about working with his hands, had to be mechanically inclined, didnít mind being outdoors and ought to be pretty well coordinated. "Well, Iíve got to say that this is a dangerous business at times. Thereís a lot of weight moving around and you can stick a hand or yourself in the wrong place and youíre mush," Josh said. "If you race snowmobiles, Iíd be a little concerned about you risking stuff you shouldnít be." Letís see how he responds to that.
"You canít win if youíre reckless," the kid said. "You have to try to avoid dangerous situations. Itís dangerous enough as it is."
Not a bad answer, Josh thought. He wished for a moment that Bud was around, but losing the Rakestraw kid for who knew how long made the brakeman situation that much tighter, and this kidís snowmobiling might get around the winter problem. After all, it had worked with him for the C&SL. "I didnít catch your name," Josh noted.
"Steve Rumsey," the kid said.
"Youíre from Warsaw, right? Is the drive down . . . " He stopped. There was something about that name that rang a bell. It couldnít be . . . oh, yes, it could. "Youíre Stormy Rumsey, right?"
"They call me that, sometimes," he said, shyly. "I donít mind."
"The kid who . . . "
"The kid who was born on this railroad, back in the blizzard of í81? Thatís me."
Josh had just been a little kid when the story happened, but heíd heard about it forever. When theyíd had to evacuate Warsaw during the big fire that burned out half the town, Bud, John Penny and Fred Linder had in desperation loaded a bunch of school buses and an ambulance onto flatcars to evacuate the town. In the ambulance was Marie Rumsey, who had given birth as the train struggled through the blizzard across the Spearfish River swamps. In the waiting room/museum of the railroad office, there was a big Alexandria Metarie painting of Plow Extra One, the relief train, with the Rock pushing the big snowplow through the storm, while towing flats loaded with fire engines. This kid had been part of that saga.
To Josh, it was a no-brainer. They needed the help, and Bud wanted him to take some executive responsibility anyway. If the kid worked out at all, Bud would be amused at how what goes around, comes around.
"I guess you were really born to railroading," Josh smiled. "Meet me here at seven tomorrow morning, and weíll see how it goes. If it works OK, Iíll put you on as a trainee brakeman."
"So, how was your day?" Tiffany asked when Josh got home.
"Pretty much the usual," Josh replied as he flopped down in his living room chair. "I let Dave run the engines while I got some exercise. What happened at the store?"
"Not bad," Tiffany told him. "I sold a couple bikes and a canoe, and booked two people for the trip to the Saguenay."
"I gotta do that trip sometime," Josh said. It was whale watching on the St. Lawrence River, and although it was long haul from Spearfish Lake, Tiffany had some great stories to tell from years past. It would mean that heíd have to make night runs and watch the store during the day for a week so she could lead it, but maybe Phil could be persuaded to help out with the store. Getting away to do the trip for a week himself was just an impossibility this year, but maybe another year he might be able to manage it.
"It is pretty neat," Tiffany agreed. "If we ever get the time, Iíd like to schedule a second trip there each year. This oneís getting pretty full. But, the big news is that Jennifer called. She wants us to come down to the race at Talladega this weekend. She said sheíd get the airline tickets and the hotel."
"Thatíd be fun," Josh brightened. He wasnít a big NASCAR fan, but he usually tried to watch the restrictor-plate races on TV when they came up. They were almost always exciting.
"Sheís going to do the National Anthem, and then weíd be in Bubbaís pit as guests of the sponsor. I checked the airlines. We can get out of Camden first thing Saturday, fly down to Chicago, and go from there to Atlanta. Weíd have to rent a car there, but weíd spend Saturday night in Jennifer and Blakeís suite in Anniston. Theyíre driving down from Nashville. We can get back to Chicago real late on Sunday night, but thereís nothing to Camden till the first thing Monday. We could do it, but it means weíd have to spend a few hours waiting overnight in the terminal."
"Yeah, but that leaves the store uncovered all day Saturday," Josh frowned. "And, at least half a day on Monday. We could wipe out Monday and just close the store, I suppose, but Iíd sure hate to close Saturday this time of year. Phil and Brandy are in Denver, too, and I hate to keep asking Joe to cover for us."
"Yeah, me too," Tiffany agreed. "Heís planning on being gone somewhere with Ben this weekend, anyway. I just about called Jennifer back and told her that we couldnít get away, but then I got to thinking that it might not be a bad idea to go. You know she wants us to get away and take a break. Maybe this is her way of getting the message across, and Iíd just as soon keep her happy. Anyway, I called Jackie, and she said sheíd keep an eye on the place."
"Itíd work, I guess," Josh said. Jackie wasnít a kayaker and didnít know much about bikes, but she could at least be honest about it, and she did know backpacking gear. "Iím on nights again next week, so I donít have to be back till Monday night." There was a minor problem with that, but nothing unsolvable. If the Rumsey kid worked out on the run tomorrow, heíd sort of thought about screwing around with the schedule so he and Ames could work the way freight again next week and break the kid in some. He wanted to double the kid with Ames for a few weeks, anyway. On the other hand, Anson was supposed to have the way freight with Dave the next week. Anson may have been a grump, but he was a pro, after all; the kid could probably learn a lot if Anson was approached in the right way, so that might be even better than if he took him.
"I knew that," Tiffany said. "I called and made the reservations, but I havenít called Jennifer back yet. I wanted to wait till you got in to be sure nothing else was going to come up."
"How are we going to handle the dogs?"
"Eric can handle the feedings," Tiffany said. "I asked Dad to come over and check on him, though. Heís working out pretty well."
"Weíve got to think about getting him on a cart when we get to training next fall," Josh said. "Give him a good leader or two, and he could at least get some raw miles on the dogs, even if he canít do the fancy stuff. We might make a musher out of him yet." A smile crossed his mind. Maybe heíd have to invite Stormy Rumsey over to try out running a dogsled, although maybe he ought to wait till there was snow on the ground. A nice young kid like that, maybe he could be made to see the error of his ways . . . "Anything else we need to cover so we can get out of here for the weekend?"
"We were going to meet with Randy Clark about plans for the house Saturday night," she said. "If we put him off, and youíre on nights next week, then itís going to be another week before we can get together."
"I suppose we can wait a week," Josh replied. "Iíve put it off this long. Another week or so isnít going to matter."
"I hate to just keep putting it off," Tiffany frowned. "But this is special. I can call Randy and tell him itís going to have to wait for next weekend."
"You might as well call Jennifer and tell her itís a go," he replied. "Itíll be good to get out of here for a weekend and not have to think about railroad, dogs, or the store."
"Ainít it the truth? You want to get the stove going and peel some potatoes while I make the calls? Iíve got some ham thawed, but I didnít want to get it going till you got here."
"Fair by me," he said, getting up, while Tiffany reached for the phone. "Iím getting a little hungry. We had takeout burgers again today, and they donít stick with me that well."
"Oh, I knew there was something else," she spoke up. "John was over and wants to know if he can borrow the truck for the weekend. He wants to bring a load up from Decatur."
"No reason he canít, especially if weíre going to be gone," Josh replied. "Do you know, does he want the cap on it, or open bed?" The dog carrier box had been off the truck since shortly after Brandy and Phil returned from Alaska; it was kind of unhandy to have on the back just for driving around town.
"I didnít think to ask," she admitted.
"Well, go ahead and call Jennifer and Randy, and then Iíll call him," Josh said. "I probably ought to remind him of stuff like the fact that itís a diesel."
It was good to see Candice and the boys again. It had only been five days since heíd watched them drive out of his parentsí driveway heading for Decatur, but theyíd been five long days.
The trip down to Decatur had been a long one for John. He wasnít used to the pickup, which rode hard and sat a lot higher up than the car did. How could Brandy and Phil have endured the Alaska Highway in this vehicle, with over fifty dogs and gear and whatnot? How did Josh and Tiffany manage it every year?
The fact that heíd taken off right after work for an eight-hour drive through the evening and the night in the strange vehicle hadnít made it any easier for John. It was good to pull into the driveway of the house in Decatur Ė he had difficulty thinking of it as home anymore Ė and see the light on, and Candice waiting up for him, even at the God-awful hour heíd arrived; the boys had been asleep by then, of course. Heíd been tired and sore and aching from the long drive, and they hadnít wasted much time going to bed. It just felt good to go to sleep next to her again; somehow, he felt whole again.
They slept in a little on Saturday morning, and the boys were stirring when they got up. It had been just two weeks ago that theyíd decided on the new house, and Binky had taken them over to his parentsí, and they brought the boys over to show them the place. It wasnít as if they had a right of rejection, but they wanted them to feel like they were a part of the process. John had left them with the orders to figure out who got which of the medium-sized bedrooms, which was going to be a treat for them Ė theyíd each have their own room, now. Apparently long and careful deliberations had gone on, but Shay announced over breakfast that theyíd agreed that Cody would get the room on the lake side.
"Hey, Dad," Shay asked. "Are we going to get up there in time to get on ball teams, like Little League?"
"I checked, and yes, you will," he told them. "School doesnít get out till a little later up there. You may have to miss a few daysí practice, but youíre already signed up."
"Hey, way cool, Dad," Shay said. "How about soccer?"
"Getting a little late for that," John said. "They run that before the baseball season gets going."
"How come school runs later up there?" Cody wanted to know.
"They get a lot more snow up there," John explained. "When itís too bad, they call a snow day, like they do here, but they get a lot more of them up there. So, they have to make it up in the summer."
John could tell that the boys couldnít make up their minds whether that was bad news or good news. He remembered how much heíd loved having the snow days off, but also remembered how much heíd hated making them up in the spring. In any case, the boys would have to learn to live with it.
"Uncle Josh has a cool truck," Shay said. "Will you take us for a ride?"
"I suppose I can," John replied with a smile. "That is, if youíll help me load it up later."
"Yeah, sure," Shay replied. John didnít figure theyíd be much help, but the participation would help them with the reality of moving, and maybe the excitement, too.
"Are you two looking forward to moving up there?" he asked.
"Pretty much," Cody replied.
"Yeah, pretty much," Shay agreed. "Itís neat that the beach is so close to the new house."
John nodded. "I think itís pretty neat, too," he said. "At least you two know how to swim, but the lake is cold, and itís not like a pool, so you may not get to swim as much as you think. But, the good news is that youíll both be able to play football next fall if you want. Itís just a flag league for you, Cody, but Shay, you get to play tackle."
"Thatís great, Dad," Shay beamed.
"How have the soccer games been going?" he asked. "Iím just sorry I havenít been able to make it to any games."
"I scored a goal Thursday night," Cody reported.
"Did you win?"
"No, we lost 4-2, but we won Tuesday night."
"Maybe Iíll be able to make it down here at least once before the season ends," John said. He doubted it, things were still pretty busy at the office. But he looked forward to being able to see the kids play a lot more once they were in Spearfish Lake. There were tradeoffs about this move, but that was one of the better points.
Once the boys had left the table, John learned that Candice had used the last few days well. The big news was that theyíd had a nibble on the house. It had been shown to the prospective customers Friday evening while he had been driving down. It was too early yet to tell if it was going to turn into an offer, but it did at least offer signs of hope. There was a lot of stuff packed, and theyíd fill out the truck load to the cap from stuff in the garage before it was time to head back.
"Letís get the truck loaded today," heíd suggested. "That way, tomorrow we can just take it easy so I can rest up for the drive back."
"It shouldnít take all day," Candice said.
"It wonít make me sorry if it doesnít," he told her. "I really donít have a lot that I need to do down here but be with you."
"I donít think we want to load the truck with anything really heavy," she told him. "Youíre going to just have to unload it into your folkís garage, and then weíre going to have to move it to the new house again."
"Well, I can maybe get Josh over to help with the unloading," he suggested. "Thatís if they make it back in time, and heís got enough time. Heís got a run Monday night."
"Did they go away somewhere?"
"Yeah, when we put the cap on the pickup Thursday evening, Josh told me that Jennifer invited them down to the race at Talladega tomorrow afternoon, so they ought to be in Alabama or pretty close by now. I let them take our car to Camden, rather than have to drive that beat-up old Jeep of theirs down there."
"Thatíll be nice for them," Candice said. "They donít get out enough, and thatís the kind of blue-jeans sort of thing they should enjoy."
"I thought so," John said. "Any progress on movers yet?"
"Not much," she replied. "Itís beginning to look like itís going to be the middle of next month before I can get anyone in here, and itís going to cost more than we budgeted."
He shook his head. "I donít want to wait that long, if for no more reason than I donít want to get the boys behind the curve on the ball leagues. Maybe we just ought to get a rental truck, like we talked about."
"Weíd still have the same problems we talked about, too."
There were, in fact, two problems. The first was shuttling cars; with two cars and a rental truck, they were going to be short a driver unless they did an extra round trip. He had figured that it would be possible to leave one car at the airport in Camden and fly to Decatur, then pick the car up later after driving the rental truck up. But, his time was going to be limited, and it would probably take a day to load the truck if everything was packed Ė and some of the things that needed to be moved would benefit from having extra hands to move them. They could probably find help on the Spearfish Lake end, but they really didnít know anyone to ask in Decatur.
"I suppose I could borrow the truck again," John said after thinking about it a moment. "Of course, thatíd mean that Iíd have to do the round trip most weekends, but at least I get a dayís break. Thatíd mean four or five trips with the truck, and thatíd make a dent in what has to get moved."
"There is that," she said. "I figure Iím going to have to do at least one more round trip, maybe two. I want to measure for curtains and furniture and stuff, and I suppose Iíll have to drive up for closing."
"You could combine them," he suggested. "In fact, why worry about shopping around here at all? Just wait till we get to Spearfish Lake. It might mean that weíd have to camp out for a bit, but it beats having to move more stuff from here."
"You might be right," she said. "Or, how about this? You could maybe drive down here with Josh and Tiffany, we could rent a truck, and weíd have the extra hands for loading, and an extra driver to take the other car back. If we did it right, that might mean that you wouldnít have to drive the pickup down every weekend, and then have that much stuff to move across town later."
"Itís possible," he said. "Of course, Iíd have to ask. Itís not always easy for them to get away. Josh said they had to juggle stuff around quite a bit just to be able to take off this weekend."
"You know, Iím really looking forward to being moved up there, but I donít look forward to the moving. Iíll be glad when itís over with."
"Me, too," John agreed. "Letís let the decision about next weekend slide till I can talk to Josh. You keep working on finding movers, but get a rental truck reserved. That way we can go either way."
She shrugged. "Fine with me. Do you have anything you really want to do tomorrow?"
"Got one thing," he said. "I want to take the boys down to the park or something, and just throw a ball around. I donít know if itíll help much, but theyíre going to be playing catchup a little up there."