Canyon Fires
Book 4 of the Dawnwalker Cycle


a novel by
Wes Boyd
©2004, ©2009




Chapter 25

May 7, 2001

One of the nice things about the gear boat, Noah thought, was that you were alone in it. Alone was nice when you wanted to think; it didnít involve having to carry on a conversation. The ride down to Havasu Creek that morning only involved one fairly minor rapids, almost not much more than a pour over. He had to concentrate on that a little, but all the time heíd spent at the oars since Leeís Ferry, what with all the raft experience heíd had in the past, more or less left him running on automatic the rest of the time, leaving his mind free to contemplate what heíd said around the campfire last night.

Maybe he hadnít been rambling, after all. Maybe it was Godís word. He knew, of course, that people often heard what they wanted to hear when they thought they were hearing Godís word, and being sure . . . well, that took faith. Like heíd said.

In spite of knowing that they had the luxury of getting around slowly, the habit of getting around in the morning had taken over the group, and they were on the river as early as always. They were still more or less in what the boatmen called the ĎIcebox,í and it was cool in the morning in the narrow, dark Canyon.

Havasu Creek is a popular spot, and on a busy afternoon there can be a lot of rafts congregating there Ė so many that very often rafts, especially motor rigs, have to moor along the shore in the middle of Havasu Rapid itself, almost immediately downstream from the creek mouth. However, arriving this early, there was only one raft up the creek itself Ė a light blue one with "Canyon Tours" lettered on it, with Jeff Pleva sitting back and smoking a cigarette. Al pulled his raft, with Karin aboard, up on a sand bar to help the others land in a cluster back around the raft that Crystal had brought down earlier.

Because of the lunches, there was a little more confusion getting around than elsewhere Ė and there was an extra bit of confusion as Mike helped Trey and Myleigh unpack Brown Bess off Crystalís raft. Around the campfire the night before, Crystal had suggested that Trey carry the harp a short distance up the creek to a particularly nice pool and small pour over, where she might like to practice by herself while the rest of the hikers explored on upstream.

One minor incident marred the leave taking. The first stage of the hike was up a twisting route back and forth along a series of ledges, and it wasnít very clear. Tanisha was not wearing hiking boots, just cheap sneakers, and she slipped slightly when trying to clamber up one of them, twisting her ankle a bit. She managed to hold on, and didnít fall, but her ankle was stinging. "I guess maybe Iíd better stay back at the rafts," she told Jon.

"No problem," he said. "I can stay with you."

"Oh, donít worry about it," she said. "Iíll be all right. Take the camera and get some pictures. I want to see what I missed here. Iíll sit on the raft and soak my ankle in the water for a bit."

It took a little convincing, since they really did spend very little time apart, and both preferred it that way. Kevin clambered up from the boats to help her back down, while Randy and Jeff assisted from the top side, with Jon still protesting that he could stay back, and with her urging him to go on. Finally, she succeeded, not without a serious kiss, and a promise from him that heíd only be an hour or two. Even then, he was reluctant until Randy told him, "Weíd better get a move on before Myleigh gets to playing. You know how she is when sheís practicing."

"Yeah," Jon submitted. "Iíve heard her a couple times. She doesnít play that stuff around camp, does she?"

In another minute or two, they were gone. As always, anymore, Kevin and Nanci had stayed back from the hike, and Tanisha saw Noah sitting on a ledge overlooking the rapids, staring out at nothing in particular. Something is bothering him, she thought, wondering a little what it might be. She didnít think about it much, though; Kevin found a folding chair on one of the rafts and rigged it so she could sit with one foot in the cold water of the river, then headed back over to his raft while Nanci sat on a nearby rock, close enough to talk with her over the whisper of the nearby rapids. That was good, Tanisha thought; it had become more or less clear by now that Nanci was going to be something of a feature in her life in the future, and maybe it was just as well that she could have a little one on one without Jon around.

Nanci apparently noticed it, too. "Itís kind of nice to be able to talk, just you and me," she said, right off the bat.

"Iíd been hoping to," Tanisha smiled. "I mean, Iíd rather it hadnít been this way, but maybe it was supposed to happen like this."

"Maybe," Nanci frowned. "Tanisha, Iíve got a question Iíd like to ask you, and I hope itís not too personal. Are you a Christian?"

Even knowing that Nanci had been spending a lot of time with Preach since the first of the trip, and with Kevin the last few days, after all the stories sheíd heard about the little blonde, literally from the first moment sheíd had a friendly chat with Jon, this was surprising to hear Ė and with no beating around the bush, either. "Nanci, I have to say yes," she told her, just a touch reluctantly. "As you know, I was brought up in a family that was pretty interchangeable with the church. The problems I had with my family burned a lot of it out of me, but yes, down at the bottom, I know that Iíve been washed with the blood of the Lamb, have been saved and baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. So, in spite of everything, that makes me a Christian."

"I kinda thought so," Nanci nodded. "Is Jon?"

Tanisha let out a sigh. "Iím almost embarrassed to say that I donít know for sure," she said after a moment. "Your brother respects my beliefs. There have been times that Iíve thought that he respected them more than I did, and heís helped me touch those inner beliefs at times. I doubt that heís ever gotten down on his knees, asked God for forgiveness, and asked Jesus to take him into His heart. But I think he believes, deep down inside, which is why Iíve never asked him straight out."

"Donít you want to know?"

"Nanci, religion hasnít been very important in my life the last few years. Like I said, a lot of it got burned out of me with the troubles with my family." She let out a sigh. "I know thatís among the issues Iím going to have to confront some day, when the time is right. Your brother realizes that. We go to church occasionally, not often, and itís usually his suggestion. I think heís testing to see if the time is right. Iím not as worried. When the Lord wills it, the time will come."

"How do you know when the time comes?" she asked.

This was a strange discussion, Tanisha thought Ė then the insight hit her. "You remember Preach talking last night?" she asked.

"Yes," Nanci said. "I thought he was talking straight to me, all the way through it."

"Then what youíre really asking me is whether I think you ought to give your life to Jesus, right?"

"Yeah," she said uncertainly. "Itís . . . well, I guess."

"I canít tell you, Nanci," Tanisha said. "There are a lot of people who will give you a flat out yes. My brother is one of them and my father was one of them, but if I learned anything from them, I learned that theyíre not always right. Nanci, Ďwhetherí is a question you have to ask yourself, and itís one you have to answer yourself, because itís your faith that has to make the decision."

"All right," she said. "I guess Iíll have to think about it."

"Iíve got a suggestion. Go hike up on the top of that ledge, get away from us, and be by yourself. Then get down on your knees and ask God what he thinks."

"But . . . how will I know?"

"I donít know," Tanisha smiled. "If you find out, you will just know it, because thatís what faith is. If you donít find out, youíll know that you havenít."

"But . . . if itís yes, then what do I do?"

Tanisha grinned at her. "Then you come back down and tell us. Thatís a question Preach and Kevin and I can handle."

"All right," Nanci said, standing up and heading for the route to the top of the ledge. "Iíll be back."

As Tanisha turned her head to watch Nanci start up the ledges, walking carefully in her river sandals, she heard Kevin say from right behind her, "Iíve been trying to tell her that, but I guess she had to hear it from you."

Tanisha kept her eye on Nanci. "God go with you, child," she said softly, then said a little louder. "How much of that did you hear?"

"Most of it," he sighed. "That kind of dumped it in her lap."

"Thatís where itís been all along," Tanisha said with wisdom she was a little surprised at herself for having. "Itís just that she realizes it, now."

*   *   *

Jon had a good hike. He didnít go very far up Havasu Creek, because half a mile or so up the trail he reached a point where a chest-deep wade across a pool was necessary, and he didnít feel like forcing the issue any more than that. As it turned out, neither did Jeff.

The two of them stood there looking around the valley for a while, then drifted back down towards the landing. Partway back, they heard Myleigh playing her harp. It was beautiful music, indescribable, but Jon could almost hear the laughter of the creek and the majesty of the canyon walls in it. He and Jeff found a shady spot and sat there for quite a time, out of Myleighís sight, just listening until a while after the music ended. Jon hadnít meant to stay that long, wanting to get back to Tanisha, but the music drew him in. They headed on down the trail and found the little harper packing up her instrument case, and he offered to carry it for her, since Trey had gone on up the trail. It was a little cumbersome, but soon they were back out on the ledge overlooking the rafts. It looked to be a nice view, and Jon thought he might be able to get an interesting photo of them, so as Jeff and Myleigh followed, he walked out to the edge, set the harp down, and pulled his camera from his pocket.

At first, he didnít really pay attention to his wife standing waist-deep on the sand bar that jutted out into the main river from Havasu Creek, with Nanci and Noah and Kevin together with her. But, he thought it made an interesting picture, so he raised the camera. As luck Ė or the Lord Ė had it, he happened to snap the photo as Noah lay Nanci backwards in the cold waters of the river the Spaniards named for the color red, and his words drifted upwards: "I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost."

*   *   *

It was a long, hot hike up Havasu Canyon for Crystal and Nicole Ė well, actually, for Diamond and Marlin, the Appalachian Trail nicknames that they bore proudly but only when out hiking with other AT hikers. But they were both fast, strong hikers who liked to move out seriously on the trail. In spite of the roughness of the route, it was easier than some in the Canyon, though rougher than most of what theyíd found on the AT. They could move along well, even though they both knew they werenít quite as trail-hardened as theyíd been the summer theyíd spent hiking from Georgia to Maine. Marlin had walked with Diamond for three weeks of her hike, and theyíd planned to do the whole trail together. That hadnít happened, for Diamond had discovered the Canyon in the interim, so Marlin had walked the trail with a friend called Jackpine. In fact, this was the first time that Diamond and Marlin had been out on a trail together by themselves since that memorable three weeks in Virginia years before.

But how different this was from northern Virginia and Shenandoah National Park! Each bend of the trail brought fresh wonders of red rock and sparse greenery and that tumbling blue water. Sometimes they had to wade the creek, even getting in deeply, but their wet clothes soon dried off in the warm air of the Arizona sun and the warmth radiating off the walls of the canyon. They moved along steadily, since they were carrying only light daypacks, not the heavy anchors theyíd lived out of for months on the AT, and in little more than two hours they were standing at Mooney Falls, one of the better waterfalls in the Canyon. Theyíd been doing well, and there wasnít even any discussion over hiking another mile on up to Havasu Falls. Diamond had never been up Havasu Creek that far, and had only made it to Mooney Falls once, so this was the perfect opportunity to explore on upstream. They pressed on, finding the trail to be even easier going, and it seemed like only a few minutes before they were looking at one of the gems of the Canyon, as Havasu Creek squeezed through a cleft in the red rock and plunged down into a pool girt with the green of a handful of cottonwood trees.

Having come that far, there wasnít any discussion either about pressing on the next mile to Navajo Falls, and, just above it, Supai Falls. By now, they were meeting people, the first outsiders off the river theyíd seen in a week and a half, people who had hiked down from the rim and who had stayed in the campground near the falls. Having gotten used to the emptiness of the river, the crowds of strangers made them nervous, so they only hung around the upper falls for a few minutes before heading back down to Havasu Falls. There they found a shady spot for a few minutes, munched on candy bars and granola bars, talked desultorily about how neat this was and how there was nothing like it on the Appalachian Trail and how they ought to figure out a way to get together and hike somewhere again sometime. But, in only a few minutes, Marlin made the comment that the people at the rafts would be wondering what happened to them, and that got them back on the trail again.

Going back down a trail youíve gone up earlier always seems shorter and quicker than the trip up, and so it was with them. Though the day was considerably hotter now, they moved right along, splashing across the fords, a couple of places holding their daypacks high on deeper wades, pushing hard and enjoying doing it. It was mid-afternoon when they came down the last bends of the trail, out onto the ledge that overlooked the river and worked their way down the face to the rafts. The mouth of Havasu Creek was busier now than it had been in the barely post-dawn light when theyíd started their hike up the canyon; there was a party of yellow oar boats from another company there, and down river Crystal Ė not Diamond any longer Ė could see motor rigs from three different companies tied up along the cliff face. By now, they were hot, sweaty and tired, and as they made the last few steps, they already had their daypacks off, tossing them onto the sands as they marched right into the cool of Havasu Creek where it met the cold of the Colorado.

"Everybody back?" Crystal asked as she came up for air after that refreshing plunge. "I didnít see any of our people on the trail."

"Weíve been waiting a while," Larry told her.

"We about ready to rumble?"

"Just about," Mike replied, noting that there were a couple of other swimmers out there; virtually everyone had taken advantage of the warmer waters of the creek to have a bath, some of them long delayed, and there had been some swimming to ward off the effects of the heat of the day. "Just have to get people on board, get life jackets on, and get out of here."

Crystal took a look at the traffic jam of rafts with a professional eye; knowing that her own raft was clear back at the head of the line, and the yellow rafts had made the exit tight, leaving would take a while. "All right," she said. "Weíve still got a couple hours to run today. Letís head íem up and move íem out. Iíll stay in the water and help people work their way out."

It was a little confusing there for a couple minutes, but before long, Crystal was scrambling over the side of her own raft, with Nicole already aboard, as Randy used the oars to ease them out into the main stream and set up for the rapids to come. Crystal was still pulling on her own life jacket when they hit the fast water, but they were through it quickly, and as the wave train died out, Myleigh handed her a beer.

Normally, Crystal wouldnít have had a beer on the river, but Randy was at the oars . . . and besides, as hot as she was, she knew it would burn through her in an instant. She upended the can, noticing Nicole doing the same thing on the far side tube. The beer seemed warm Ė it had been sitting in Havasu Creek, rather than the main stream all day, but that didnít matter. "Man, that tasted good." she said. "Thanks, Myleigh."

"You have a good hike?" Randy asked.

"Great hike," Nicole smiled. "Too bad Scooter couldnít have come, sheíd have loved it."

"Itís really neat up there," Crystal said. "You guys should have come."

Myleigh smiled serenely. "Oh, I dare say we had something adequately interesting happen."

A little distant though Myleigh had become in the last few years, Crystal still recognized that mischievous tone in her voice. She glanced up, and took in the broad grins on Randyís and Jeffís faces. "All right, you guys," she said suspiciously. "What happened?"

"It was quite interesting," Myleigh said, the smile on her face growing broader. "I must say that although it surprised me when Jeff and Jon and I came upon it, we all thought it quite appropriate and touching, under the circumstances, and the events that followed were quite thrilling and heartwarming."

"Myleigh . . . "

"Your sister gave her soul to Jesus," Jeff said quietly, but with a grin on his face. "And Noah, Tanisha, and Kevin baptized her into the community of believers."

"Nanci?" Crystal frowned, barely comprehending the bus driverís words.

"It was almost a revival meeting there for a while," Randy grinned as he pulled on the oars to position the raft in the current. "Right down to Tanisha and Jon singing spirituals while Myleigh played Brown Bess, and Preach giving a pretty good sermon. There were some other people who took the opportunity to be re-baptized, as well. There were even some people from a couple of those motor-rig trips."

Crystal rolled her eyes. "Oh, boy, am I ever going to be hearing about that up and down the river for a while." She shook her head, looked down for a moment, and continued. "I sort of wish that I had been there for Nanci, now."

"Donít worry about it," Jeff smiled. "If the Lord had wanted you there, youíd have been there. That was something Preach talked about, how it was a decision that Nanci had to make for herself."

"Son of a gun," Crystal said, shaking her head again. "I still would have liked to see it. I never, I mean never, thought that would happen."

*   *   *

Below Havasu Rapids, the rafts clustered together close enough that there could be some talking back and forth, and Crystal picked up a few more details of that memorable midday event in the mouth of Havasu Creek.

They hadnít noticed that there was a strong wind blowing up the river, sheltered as they had been in the mouth of the creek, and it took some rowing to keep the rafts moving along. It was a slow run for the next couple hours as the beauty of the lower Grand Canyon crept past them, passing through a few minor riffles, but no one minded much. Given the events of the day, everyone felt pretty mellow and like they could have drifted on forever, so it was with disappointment that they saw Tuckup Canyon open out on river right, with Al and Karinís single blue raft pulled up on the beach.

All the way down to Tuckup, Crystal had been wondering how her parents would take the news from Havasu Creek. The memory of their discussion up at Leeís Ferry at the beginning of the trip kept coming back, Karinís words that a heavy religious trip was something that she didnít really want to dump on Nanci, and her own rejoinder that it was better than what had gone before. Now, it had happened, for better or worse.

But when Nanci hopped right out of Kevinís raft, where sheíd been riding with Jon and Tanisha, went right up to her mother and announced the news, Crystal was hardly surprised that there was a big hug and tears of joy, on both mother and daughter.

In spite of everyone being pretty mellow, the routine of the trip had taken over, by now. The noses of the rafts had hardly touched the beach when boatmen were peeling back tarps on the rafts, and soon there was a duffle line passing gear off the boats and onto stacks on the beach. In spite of the events of the afternoon, Nanci and Trey were soon setting up the rocket box in a grove of tamarisks, Karin was setting up the kitchen with the help of some of the boatmen, and people were finding good places to set up their camps for the night, just like had been done for days, and no one thought too much of it. Soon, there was the smell of frying chicken in the air; drag bags were opened and cans were being passed around as the sun began to sink low in the west, and behind the rim of the Canyon.

It was still light as they ate and finished up the dishes, doing the packing that would be needed for the next morning. It was still a little early to get the campfire going, and people clustered in little groups, just talking. Crystal noted Tanisha and Jon and Kevin and Nanci sitting down on a raft by the river, talking seriously, and she figured that she knew what they were talking about. On thinking about it, though, she realized it was just a little surprising to not see Noah in the middle of that discussion, considering what had happened on this day.

There was a mild rapids located just below the camp, and she could hear the whisper of it in the background. She looked downstream, and saw Noah sitting out on a rock by himself in the gathering darkness. She knew that heíd been off by himself a lot the last few days, wrestling with his own troubles, and she had a good idea of what they were. But now, she wanted to talk with him one on one herself for a bit, and this looked like a good opportunity. It was an easy walk in the gathering darkness, and Crystal moved up on him silently. Not wanting to startle him, she made a point of kicking a rock a little so it would tumble and make a bit of noise. She saw him look up at the intrusion, heard him murmur, "Hi, Crystal."

"Hi, Preach," she said softly. "Hope Iím not bothering you."

"No, not really," he replied. "Iíve just been thinking a little, praying a little. I hope youíre not mad at me."

"Mad? Why would I be mad?" Crystal asked.

"Because of today," he replied. "I guess Iím really more mad at myself. Or something. I donít know. Thereís a lot that doesnít make sense anymore."

"Why would you be mad at yourself?" Crystal asked softly, settling down on the rock beside him.

She could see him shake his head. "I really didnít handle that very well," he said pensively. "I mean, the whole business with Nanci. Crystal, I know that you asked me to help her come to grips with herself, and I know you didnít want a heavy religious message to be part of it. I was really trying to keep that part of it down."

"So?"

"So, thatís not exactly what Iím supposed to do," Noah said. "Darn it, Crystal, as a minister, Iím supposed to be helping people find their way to the Lord. I didnít exactly stand in Nanciís way, but I wasnít encouraging it, either. Really, it was more Kevin who put the question out in front of her, and from what I understand it was Tanisha who laid the decision on her. I was sitting down the river a ways, praying about my own problems, and I felt a leading to go back to the rafts. I came back to find Nanci out praying on the ledge, and Kevin and Tanisha down on their knees, praying by the rafts, and I didnít know what was going on. I should have been in the middle of it, not just let it happen."

"It happened," Crystal told him. "Maybe you werenít supposed to be involved. From what I hear, things went all right afterwards."

"Yeah, but I feel like I was just hanging on, rather than leading like a minister should do." He let out a sigh. "Crystal, I told you back up at Nankoweap that Iíve been wrestling with the question of whether I should leave Glen Hill and seek a calling for my own church. I mean, I did all the right things afterwards, but today, Iíve just felt the leading that Iím not supposed to have my own church. And, Iíve become more and more convinced that I shouldnít stay at Glen Hill, either. Itís hard, Crystal. For years, thatís what Iíve worked toward, but the last couple of years, Iíve been scared that itís not where Iím supposed to be."

"Youíre thinking thatís not where the Lord wants you, right?" she asked quietly.

"Thatís the feeling I guess I have," he said quietly. "I mean, I know itís hard for you to understand, since youíre not exactly a Christian, but there it is."

"Noah," she said softly. "What makes you think Iím not a Christian?"

"Well, youíre not," he said, then paused for a moment before adding. "At least you werenít, back when we used to run the Ocoee."

"Nanci wasnít a Christian when she got up this morning," Crystal smiled.

"But Crystal," he protested, "youíve . . . youíve never said anything about it. I never picked up anything from you about it."

"You remember back up at Nankoweap?" she said. "We were sitting up there at the granaries, and you were telling me how people go to revivals and come to Jesus, but if theyíre not taken into a church, they can slip away? Thatís me, Noah. Iím . . . Iím not really in a position to be in a church, doing what Iím doing."

"When did this happen?" he asked, just a little amazed at the revelation.

"You remember me talking about sailing to Hawaii that time?" she asked.

"I remember you saying that youíd done it, but youíve never told the story."

She shook her head and smiled. "Really, itís not much of a story," she replied. "I got this chance to sail to Hawaii when I was hanging around Marina Del Rey in LA. Greg and Susie Chapman were looking for an extra hand, I was available, and I went. The only thing is that their boat, the Andromeda, is a Tahiti ketch, and itís slower than snot. We were over a month getting to Hawaii, and that was mostly downwind. Coming back was worse, we had to go way north to catch the westerlies, and then we broke a spreader so we couldnít carry full sail. It was really slow coming back and we were down to the emergency rations before we made it in. We had a lot of time to talk on the way back, and Greg and Susie are Christians. I remembered all the stuff weíd talked about down on the Ocoee, and one night, it all snapped into place. I was on watch, out under the stars by myself, and I prayed about it, and I accepted Jesus."

"Were you baptized, too?" he asked.

"The next day, after I talked it over with Greg and Susie," she replied. "In the Pacific, about a thousand miles west of Los Angeles." She let out a breath for a moment, and went on. "It was a lot to get my mind around," she continued. "Greg and Susie said I should get in with a church, just like you were talking about up at Nankoweap, but I didnít have a home, just then, except for Randyís folks, and I knew Randy and Nicole were getting close, so I didnít want to break that up. But I was heading back there to see maybe if that was where I was supposed to be, and I knew his folks were active in their church, so I sort of thought that might be it. Then I stopped for gas in Flagstaff, and you know how that turned out."

"Yeah," he smiled ruefully. "I said it the other night. His will will be done."

"When I made that first trip, I realized that this is the place Iím supposed to be," she continued. "I went back to Spearfish Lake after the season, and worked with Josh and Tiffany. I learned a lot about dogs, but I also learned that Spearfish Lake wasnít where I was supposed to be. And, here we are."

"And you feel perfectly comfortable with it, right?" he said.

"Well, with that part of it," she replied. "We talked about the other problems up there at Nankoweap, you know, about the future, about getting married, and like that. But Noah, you were talking to me last night. The time will come, Iím convinced of it, when the Lord is good and ready, and not before. As far as being in a church goes, well, I donít think I could be much of a church-going person, not when I spend as much of my time as I can in the grandest cathedral of them all."

"Crystal, I . . . Iíve never heard anything like that from you before."

"So, I donít talk about it much," she said. "Letís face it, Iím supposed to be a rough and tough and scruffy river guide, not a minister or disciple or saint or something. Youíve seen what itís like down here. But I do try. Look, Noah. Iím just as happy about the way things worked out with Nanci today. I hope that itís really going to be a turning point for her, but itís a problem, too."

"Problem?"

"Yeah, that community-of-believers problem," Crystal frowned. "I mean, she believes it today, but sheís still got to make it stick."

Noah nodded. "Youíre right," he said. "Today canít be the end for her, but just a step along the path, or itís all going to go to waste. You got any ideas?"

"Not really," Crystal told him. "Maybe we ought to pray about it. How about you?"

"Youíre right," he smiled. Actually, in the wake of what had just been said, after what he had been thinking about ever since Crystal asked him on the trip, he did have an idea, but it seemed just too wild to be true. But the Lord, he knew, works in mysterious ways . . . "We do need to pray about it."

*   *   *

The fire was just getting built up as Crystal and Noah got back to the camp when it was just barely light enough to see from the glow of the sky, and the group was gathered around the fire. Usually, Crystal was pretty confident at these fires, had a thought or two, and some business or other to pass along to the group, but tonight, because her mind was full of the ramifications of her discussion with Noah and some of the other things that had happened, she was just drained. "Itís been quite a day," she told the group. "Nicole and I had a good hike, but it was sort of a sideshow compared to what happened with some of the rest of you, I guess. But, with that thought in mind, I think maybe Preach might have a few thoughts that heíd like to pass along."

"Are you sure this isnít Sunday?" Noah smiled as Crystal collapsed on the sand, really more interested in the discussion of a few minutes ago than on the fire.

"I donít think I goofed up the trip log," she said, shaking her head.

"Seems like it to me," he said. "Really, I donít have much to say tonight, but I do have a couple questions. One question answered itself, because I can see that Myleigh has Brown Bess and Randy has his guitar. The other question is for Ben and Joy. We had quite a little talk down at the gear boat back before dinner, and I just want to ask the two of you what your answer is."

"It really hasnít changed," Ben told him. "That is, if youíre up for it."

"I figured out how to do it," Preach answered obliquely. "Shall we go ahead and do it?"

"We might as well," Joy answered.

"All right," Noah said. "Would you like to stand up here?"

Crystal frowned, wondering what was going on, as Ben and Joy walked over to Preach and stood in front of him, side by side. Whatever this was all about, it wasnít exactly in the program. She could glance around the fire, and see that there were others wondering, too.

"Perhaps Iíd better explain," Noah said as the two stood in front of him, hand in hand. "After everything that happened up at Havasu Creek today, we were all a little drained, and I was, too. But while dinner was going together tonight, Ben and Joy came to me, and told me how theyíd spent a lot of time thinking and talking about what I said last night, about the difference between civil weddings and weddings in the church. As you know, they were married a little over two weeks ago in a civil ceremony in Las Vegas. You heard them tell the story about that the other night. This afternoon, they told me that they were more than a little uncomfortable with the way that had come about. It was a little unplanned, a spur of the moment bit of impetuosity, a haphazard thing. And, they told me that in the two weeks that have passed, they have become concerned that it might prove to mean no more than such a haphazard Las Vegas wedding often means, but that theyíve also come to believe that being married was proper for them, and the right thing to do. So, they asked me if I would marry them in the sight of God."

Noah stopped for a moment, just to take in the startled looks on some of the faces around the campfire before he went on. "Now, I want to apologize to Ben and Joy for not saying right up front that I would do it. Theyíve obviously taken some care and thought before bringing it to me, but Iím afraid I was a little tired and not thinking clearly from what happened today at Havasu Creek and then being out on the river, so I told them Iíd have to think about it. But, over dinner, while I was thinking about it, I realized that I was splitting hairs from being so tired. Ben, Joy, I have to tell you that I canít marry you in the eyes of man, since youíre already married. But, what I can do is to have you renew your vows in the sight of God and this company. Is that acceptable to you?"

"Thatíll be fine," Joy smiled, and Ben agreed.

"Very good," Noah grinned. "Myleigh and Randy, up the river, in the afternoon at Baseball Man Water pocket, the two of you did a song that I think would be appropriate to hear again. I donít think you could have gotten that far out of practice."



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