Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
June – December 1990
The summer passed quickly. They were as busy as they’d been the summer before, busier, even. They spent the next two weeks in Mackinaw City continually, working the ferry dock in the morning and the totem pole in the afternoon; some nights they’d go down to the Keyhole, and others they just decided not to. They got good, steady hats on the weekdays, and the weekends were even better. Finally, they left their stand at the ferry docks a little early on Friday, got into Home and headed south for Bradford. Early on Saturday morning, they drove back up to the Maple Leaf Renfaire, with Bruce and Angie following along behind, and spent the weekend working there. The four spent the night in Home, rather tightly packed, and were up early on Sunday for another day. After the long day, Bruce and Angie headed for home, while the girls loaded up Home again and headed for Mackinaw City, arriving after midnight and setting up in Mrs. Deborin’s driveway as quietly as they could. Early Monday morning, they were down at the ferry docks again. If it hadn’t been for the fact that Dayna’s parents were involved with the Maple Leaf, and the fact that they needed a little break from Mackinaw City, they’d have stayed there all summer.
The same routine continued for another six weeks, with their only breaks on bad-weather days in Mackinaw City; usually there were a couple a week, so they did get some rest. Occasionally, just for a change of pace, they’d take the ferry over to the Island for the afternoon and work the street there; on several occasions, the managers of the historic fort at the foot of the bridge on the mainland invited them to do a special presentation of period music.
Sometimes, on nice warm afternoons, they’d take an hour or two, put on their bikinis and pedal the cheap old garage-sale bikes down to the beach right next to the Mackinaw Bridge. The water was always too cold to swim for long, but they’d splash around a bit, then lie in the sun to warm up before heading back to Home, sometimes to go down to the Keyhole, sometimes just to sit around in the evening, talk with Mrs. Deborin some, or write and practice on pieces that weren’t street-ready yet.
Once the Maple Leaf was over at the end of July, they just parked Home in Mrs. Deborin’s driveway and stayed there through Labor Day weekend, moving the RV only once a week or so to make a run to a nearby dump station to empty the holding tank. The early part of August was worth the effort, the latter part, after the kids had gone back to school was less so, but Cheryl told them to stick around, for Labor Day weekend was big. And so it was; they found there was an annual bridge walk that drew nearly a hundred thousand people to town. On Labor Day morning, they set up in a little park right where people came off of the bridge, and had their best single-day hat of the year.
By the day after Labor Day, they’d had about all of Mackinaw City they wanted to see for a while – like until next summer. But their contention had been correct: they were in a position allowing them to do nothing but hang out someplace warm until spring rolled around if they’d felt like it. But, neither Dayna nor Sandy were the kind of people to hang out and do nothing. The morning after Labor Day, they mailed a large cashier’s check to Angie for deposit in Bradford, then loaded up Home, gave Mrs. Deborin a big hug and told her they’d be back next year, and headed out north across the bridge, west across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, then south to a renfaire in Wisconsin they’d booked the winter before when they’d definitely made up their minds that they weren’t going to do the Flint faire again soon. The Maple Leaf was still their favorite of the renfaires they’d been to – just the right size, a good gate, and a nice attitude – so they’d kept it on their schedule and planned to do it another year.
Like most renfaires, the one in Wisconsin was a weekends-only deal, four weeks straight. Now, they took it easy and let things wind down a little; they still made trips out of the site in Homelooking for pitches, but they weren’t quite as diligent about finding anything they could, they just chose ones that looked like they might be productive, and they’d developed a lot clearer eye for that over the two years they’d been playing together.
The other reason they slowed down is that they were practicing even more. They’d written a number of promising songs over the summer, honed on them and made them presentable. Most of them were theirs, but a few others were Steam Train John’s. Their minds were not totally made up yet on the songs that would be on their forthcoming album, so they planned to over-record and make their final selections after they’d been recorded. They’d talked with John several times; as promised, he was able to relatively cheaply arrange for clearance on Cold Cold Heart and had managed a couple others that they really wanted to at least record. While they were in Wisconsin, they managed to use the University Library in Madison to confirm that the woman’s version ofHouse of the Rising Sun they liked dated back at least into the 1870s, so it was a probable go for the album, too, with little concern for what the lawyers for the copyright owners of the Animal’s version might say. They’d also made similar research on Scarborough Faire, which they thought they might or might not use, depending.
Another thing that happened in Wisconsin was that they ran across Erik and Kurt, the jugglers from St. Louis they’d gotten friendly with at the Indianapolis Renfaire in the spring of the year before. The guys still had grass, and still were horny and pretty good. Since they had been spending most of the last three months with either their parents in Home with them, or parked right next to Mrs. Deborin’s bedroom window, they had pretty much avoided any sex in Home, at least with guys, although a couple times they’d met guys who turned into interesting motel parties, but those didn’t last the night. Erik and Kurt were different; they were with it, buskers themselves, although with regular jobs and a non-musical specialty, and they spent some fun times with them.
With all that, their time in Wisconsin went quickly. The morning after the end of the faire in Wisconsin, they packed up Home again and headed out, this time in a little more hurry. They drove right on through the heavy Chicago traffic to Bradford, there for the first time in two months. They had a number of things to do, and they intended to be gone longer this time, so they took three days there. By now, it was early October, and they had to be in Knoxville by the end of the week, but it felt good to take a couple of honest days off.
* * *
One of the things that Dayna had on her list to do in Bradford was to drop by Emily’s house and shoot the bull for a while – not for any particular reason, but Emily seemed to enjoy the stories of their trips and adventures; she’d really enjoyed the Maple Leaf when she and Kevin had dropped by in July. Dayna suspected, as had Vicky, that whatever she said, Emily was just a little sorry that she’d rushed off to the altar while other kids from the Bradford Class of ’88 were out having their adventures, but she at least could vicariously enjoy the stories. Plus, since college was in session, there were even fewer ’88s left in town, and virtually none were any Emily had hung around with very much. So, it would be nice to see her for a bit.
They already knew that Emily had had her baby in August, had named him Jason, and was taking some time off from the Spee-D-Mart. They’d called earlier in the day to be sure that Emily would be home that evening. But, when they got there, they were surprised at what they found: Emily was shaken, almost staggering. "Jesus Christ, I don’t believe it," she said as soon as they were in the door. "I mean . . . I must not have heard right . . . it can’t be."
"Don’t believe what?" Dayna asked.
"I just got off the phone with Jennlynn," she told them. "I mean, I heard what I heard, but I’m not sure it means what I think it means."
"Well, what, for Pete’s sake?" Dayna asked.
"She said . . . she said she was back at Caltech, taking classes since she got done with her summer job. And . . . and . . . she said she’s really happy with what she’s doing, she could never enjoy life so much back here!"
"She said she made real good money on her summer job."
"Yeah?" Dayna shrugged. "She’s in that high-tech stuff, the internships pay pretty good."
"I don’t think it was that kind of job," Emily shook her head. "She said . . . well, she worked for three weeks at some place called the Mustang Ranch near Reno, taking people for rides, and spent the rest of the summer at a place down south where she didn’t make as much money, but the people were cooler. She said she made almost forty grand over the summer. What kind of summer job at a dude ranch can you make that kind of money on?"
"Hooooly shit!" Dayna said, just about as shaken as Emily. "Are you real sure she said ‘Mustang Ranch?’"
"Yeah," Emily nodded. "She said Mustang Ranch once, and Mustang two or three times. Have you heard of it?"
"Uh, yeah, I have," Dayna nodded, awed near shock herself at the unreality. Hell, there were other girls in the class she could have believed it of – including herself – but not Jennlynn, of all people!
"Well, what is it?" Emily said. "I think I’ve heard the name."
"You may have," Dayna sighed. "It came up several times in a class Sandy and I had last fall. It’s the largest legal whorehouse in Nevada."
"Yeah," Sandy nodded. "At three or four or five hundred bucks a pop, I can see how she could build up forty grand."
"Are you sure about this?" Emily said, excitedly. "I mean, real sure?"
"It came up in a discussion of legal prostitution in Nevada," Sandy told her. "It’s the only state where it’s legal, and then just in some counties. I remember Dr. McIntyre saying that the Mustang Ranch was the largest legal house in the state."
"I can’t believe it," Emily shook her head. "We were talking about John Engler going with Mandy Paxton, and she said that John is the kind of guy who likes to hang around girls that can’t keep their pants on, the kind of guy that makes hookers rich. And . . . and, well later, she said in a real sexy voice, ‘If John Engler comes out this way, tell him to drop in and see me sometime.’ When she said that I started to realize what she was talking about."
"Right out of Mae West, to the point of being corny," Sandy shook her head. "Are you sure she wasn’t pulling your leg?"
"I don’t think so," she shook her head. "We were talking about how Vicky thinks it’s so hard to get dates at Central, and she said, ‘You have to take what’s available. Sometimes the weirdest guy that comes in and picks you out proves to be pretty neat.’"
"Uh, yeah, it sounds like how I understand they do it," Dayna said, still in shock. No wonder Emily didn’t believe it! Emily would be more likely to believe Dayna’s experiences as a hooker, rather than Jennlynn’s! "Did she say anything about her parents?"
"Well, I asked her if things had been patched up between her and her folks, and she said they were about as well as could be expected under the circumstances . . . and, oh my God, now I understand!"
"What she said. She said. ‘I did what they expected me to do. I didn’t want to do it, but after they pushed me into it, it worked out all right.’ My God, I can’t believe that she would say that her parents pushed her into being a prostitute!"
Dayna shook her head. "Me either. But, her parents expected her to do it? God, maybe there’s something going on there we don’t know about."
"Must be," Emily shook her head. "My God, talk about hard to believe. Jennlynn Swift, a prostitute."
"It sure sounds like it to me, from what you said she said," Dayna nodded, and noticing a couple of internal things in the story that tended to prove it from the viewpoint of her own experience, but that she wouldn’t mention to Emily. "I’ll tell you one thing though, I believe the part about the forty grand if she really was a prostitute for the summer."
"Why’s that?" Emily asked.
"Come on, you know Jennlynn. She never does things half assed. She either goes all out or doesn’t bother."
"My God . . . " Emily breathed heavily. "Yeah, I guess that would make sense. For whatever reason, her folks pushed her into becoming a prostitute. She didn’t want to do it, but once she made up her mind, she must have gone all out at it. That’d be like Jennlynn, all right."
"Uh, Emily," Sandy counseled. "You might want to be a little careful who you tell this to. I mean, most girls who become hookers or lesbians or the like, well, they don’t want anyone around home to know. I mean, why would she tell you all that?"
"Uh, yeah, good thinking," Emily nodded. "Yeah, maybe I better not tell anybody."
"Well, damn," Dayna shook her head. "After Vicky’s birthday party, I figured I must be the black sheep of the class. Looks like someone just took a can of spray paint to me."
* * *
"Bullshit she didn’t tell anybody," Dayna snorted as she drove Home over the overpass at the edge of town, and turned south on I-67 a day and a half later. "We couldn’t have been more than out the door and she must have had phones lit up like a Christmas tree. At least from what I heard, she must have left us out of it."
"It sure seemed to get around in a hurry," Sandy shook her head. "I mean, I don’t know this Jennlynn, but you’d think that’s something she would have wanted to keep a secret."
"Unless that’s not the point," Dayna said. "Look, Bradford is a small town, everybody knows about everybody else. Sometimes it’s a pain in the ass, but it has its good sides, too. Jennlynn would know Emily is a gossip. She wouldn’t have told her if she didn’t want it to get all over town."
"That she’s a prostitute?"
"If that’s what it takes to burn her folks, she must be really pissed with them. Hell, from what Emily said, it’s sweetness and light between you and your folks by comparison."
"I don’t know if we were just reading things into it, but Emily’s description sure made it sound like this Jennlynn really was a prostitute."
"Sounded like it to me, too," Dayna shook her head. "Of course, I wasn’t even going to hint about why I suggested it to Emily. Look, Sandy, we’ll probably see her again, but never, ever even hint that we’ve done hooking, that we sleep around some, or that we’re bi. Shit, you saw how quick that got around."
"No fooling," Sandy replied. "Hell, half a dozen people congratulated us on our heading down to Nashville to cut an album."
"At least it’s good gossip," Dayna sighed. "Can you imagine how fast it would have gotten around that we’re lesbian hookers? I mean, shit, if Jennlynn outed herself intentionally, it shows she doesn’t care what people here think, but if we’re going to base ourselves out of here we don’t want to let it get out." She shook her head. "The really unbelievable part about this is that we’re talking about Jennlynn. I really have difficulty imagining her having sex at all, let alone being a house hooker. Hell, we’d be more likely to both turn into nuns."
* * *
They’d been talking with Steam Train John right along since June, and the plan was that they were going to do the first weekend of the Tennessee Renfaire near Knoxville, then drive to Nashville, where he’d made the studio arrangements. They’d set it up to meet him at his house on Monday evening, and were there just as they’d planned – after busking around town a little, of course. There are a lot of loose guitar players running around the town playing for money, so the hat was nothing to speak of, but it would be a story to tell about busking outside the Grand Ole Opry – and getting praise and a bill in the hat from Dolly Parton when they did it.
John’s wife proved to be pretty nice, and his small children were all right. But as soon as they got done with introductions, John told them, "I hate to say this, but I’ve got bad news and I’ve got good news. The bad news is that you don’t have a studio date tomorrow."
"What happened?" Dayna asked, alarmed at this news.
"Somethin’ to do with thirty days for driving under the influence," John grinned. "I knew about it the first of last week but I didn’t know how to get hold of you."
"Damn, I knew we should have called," Dayna said. "Is there any chance of setting up an alternate session while we’re down here?"
"No problem, already done," John told her. "Next week."
"Beats the hell out of nothing," Sandy nodded. "But hell, we’ve been working our asses off to get psyched up for this."
"Hell, I ain’t got to the good news yet," John smiled. "After I found out about this, I started calling around town for studio time, and while I was working on it, the thought crossed my mind that you shouldn’t even be recording in Nashville at all. This town is all country-western. If you want blues, you should go to Memphis. Shit, any of the studios over there have forgotten more about blues than any studio in this town will ever know."
"You found one down there?" Dayna asked.
"Yeah, it took a little doing, but I came up with something really special. The place I’ve got you set up for is a little strange. It’s actually a museum, where people pay to go through on tours and see recording done in progress. You still have to pay for studio time, but it’s nothing like as much, and the equipment is all modern. They had a cancellation they were trying to fill, and since I knew the two of you like playing in front of crowds, you have five days of studio time for what it would have cost you for two here."
"Son of a gun!" Sandy grinned. "John, you are unbelievable. How do you do things like that?"
"Just a case of knowing who to call," he laughed. "That’s ninety percent of how you solve problems in life, anyway."
"That’s all well and good," Dayna said. "But we figured on about two days worth of playing to get through what we want to record. You’re saying we should stretch it out to five?"
"Well, yeah," John said. "But take advantage of it. I know you two have been working like hell to chip the stuff you’ve got down to a single album, right? You’re having to leave a lot of stuff out, right?"
"We’re guessing sixteen tracks or thereabouts," Dayna said. "We were planning on recording around twenty-four, and picking the best ones."
"You’ve got an extra week to get ready now," John said. "Can you work up some extra stuff in that time? Maybe some stuff you’ve put aside for one reason or another?"
"It’d take some practice," Dayna told him.
"Do it," John told them. "Even if it’s stuff that clearances aren’t totally settled on. What I’m thinking is that for the next album you want to put out, you’d already have a lot of the masters."
"Oh, yeah," Sandy grinned, seeing his point. "That puts a heck of a lot different spin on it."
"Yeah," Dayna nodded. "Right off the top of my head, I can think of ten or twelve pieces we put to the side for one reason or another that are about as good as anything we’ve kept. Most of them are ones we do fairly regularly, anyway. Right off the top of my head, the only ones we’d have to get clearances on are yours."
"Durn good," he grinned. "I thought of a couple others that might work for you, too. So, tell you what we can do. Let’s go over the extra pieces tonight, one by one so I can pick at it a little, and I’ll run some by you. Then, I’ll knock off from work early Friday and drive over to this renaissance faire thing you have. Never been to one of them before, and I think it’s gotta be interesting. We can sit around Friday and Saturday night, and I can make any comments before you head for Memphis."
"Sure, that’ll work," Dayna grinned. "Any reason you couldn’t bring Mary and the kids? The faire is a family thing; they’d love it. As far as that goes, we’ll rent a medieval costume for you and stuff you into the act on Saturday for a number or two."
"I’ve played just about everything else, I might as well do that," he laughed. "Honey," he said to his wife, "that might be something else we could do if we ever get to go on the road again."
"Oh, good grief," Mary shook her head. "I’m sorry, but I just can’t imagine you playing Scarborough Faire."
* * *
It was a long haul from Knoxville to Memphis, so they loaded Home up right after the renfaire and hit the road. They hit the edge of town after midnight, found a Wal-Mart and parked in the parking lot to sleep for a few hours, then right on time drove up to the studio. It was only part of a relatively small business block, but there was a big parking lot nearby, so they parked the RV, grabbed their guitars and the keyboard Sandy occasionally used, then walked up to the building. There didn’t seem to be anyone around, so they knocked on the door. The middle-aged man who came to unlock it asked, "Are you two the Dayna and Sandy that Steam Train John was telling me about?"
"Well, good morning," he said, opening the door for them and letting them inside. "I’m Sam Collins, I manage the museum. It’s good to have you here early so we can get you set up before we open the doors to the public."
"No problem, we’re used to setting up in seconds," Dayna laughed. "Hey, what’s the deal about this being a museum, anyway?"
"You mean John didn’t tell you?" Sam laughed.
"No, he didn’t say a word," Sandy shook her head.
"Well, jeez-o-pete, I thought everybody who picked up a guitar knew about this place. Didn’t you see the sign, ‘Sun Records’?"
"Yeah," Dayna said. "Should it mean something?"
"Should it mean something? Miss, some people argue that this is where rock and roll was born. Elvis Presley made his first five cuts here back in 1954."
"Oh . . . my . . . God . . . " Sandy breathed. "No, I didn’t know it; I’ve never been much of a rock fan and don’t know much about the history."
Sam shook his head and sighed. "Now you’re making me feel old. You do know who Elvis was, don’t you?"
"Oh, yeah, sure," Sandy said. "Sam, I’ll be honest and say that I never even particularly liked his music, but I was classically trained and didn’t even know much about blues and pop until Dayna seduced me."
"How about you?" Sam asked Dayna as a tall, bearded black man came up to them and listened.
"I’m not quite the Philistine that Sandy is," she laughed. "I figured that with all the Elvis stuff around Memphis, there had to be a shrine like this somewhere, but I hadn’t realized this was it. My interest is more in old-time blues, like pre-World War II. That’s what I think of when I think of Memphis."
"Name some names," the black guy grinned.
"Well, if you want some of the more obscure ones, try Mayme Smith, Alberta Hunter, Sippie Wallace, Memphis Minnie, Lucille Bogan."
"Memphis Minnie? Lucille Bogan? Yeah, Elvis would be a Philistine to a purist like you," Sam smiled.
"Miss, we didn’t get introduced," the black guy said. "I’m Walker Rabineau, the sound engineer. I have to say that for a white girl to walk in here and invoke the names of Memphis Minnie and Lucille Bogan will drive Elvis’ spirit back into the walls for a bit. Welcome to Sun Records, and this ought to be an interesting week."
"I hope so," Dayna told him. "I’m afraid my blues are more Chicago-style than Memphis-style. I first heard the names Memphis Minnie and Lucille Bogan last winter, but I saw Sippie Wallace sing once when I was a kid. She was old as the hills but pretty good."
"Are you planning on remaking any of them?"
"No, at least not this time. Look, I have to be honest; I turned up Memphis Minnie and Lucille Bogan while I was doing a college project on songs about prostitution. This album is supposed to be G-rated, but I’ve done a couple of their songs in bars when it’s real late and everyone’s pretty drunk, including me."
"They could be pretty rough, especially Lucille Bogan," Walker smiled. "But not everything she did was dirty as sin."
"I’d like to hear some of that some time," she said. "What little of her I know, and I know damn little, she had some real power in her stuff."
"I’d just like to hear a white girl sing some of her music," he smiled. "What do you say we go get you set up, and maybe you can run through one before we open the doors to the public? There’ll be kids here then; we wouldn’t want them to hear any Lucille Bogan first thing in the morning."
"I’m afraid I have to have a few drinks in me to do my best impression of her," Dayna giggled.
"If everything I ever heard about her is right, so did she," Walker laughed. "But still, it’ll be a treat."
A few minutes later, they were set up in the single sound studio, which had a viewing window at the far end of the room to keep out obtrusive crowd noise. Shave ’Em Dry was about the last piece Dayna ever figured she’d be doing for a warmup for her first recording session. She and Sandy hadn’t actually practiced it since the class with Dr. McIntyre almost a year before, but since it was a demo she didn’t worry about it too much. She belted through it in a pretty normal rendition, with Sandy backing her up on guitar. As usual, her focus was on the music, and she didn’t notice the dropped jaw on the sound engineer in the control room.
"That’s pretty darn good," Walker’s voice came over a speaker. "But Dayna, where did you hear that version of Shave ’Em Dry?"
"A friend of mine collects those old records," she said. "He gave me a cassette tape he copied off a 78. Is that anything special?"
"Uh, yeah," he said, coming out of the control room, Sam right behind him. "That’s not the version that’s in the collections anyone I know has. There’s been stories around that she did a dirty version, only a few copies were made for friends, but they were all thought to be lost. That’s the first time I ever heard the dirty version."
"You’re kidding!" Dayna laughed.
"He’s not kidding," Sam laughed. "Dayna, for a couple years we’ve been trying to come up with a copy of everything Lucille Bogan ever recorded, and that’s one we’re missing. We want to put out a re-issue. Could you put us in contact with this friend of yours?"
"Yeah, sure," Dayna said, very surprised at the turn of events. "But I think we’ve got the cassette in Home. Or, Sandy, did we leave it in Bradford?"
"I’m pretty sure it’s in the research material box under the dinette seat in Home," she said.
"Home is Michigan, if I remember correctly, right?" Sam frowned.
"Home is in the parking lot across the street," Dayna grinned. "That’s what we call our RV."
"I know we need to be getting down to work," Walker grinned. "But could maybe one of you girls go out and get it? If I don’t hear it, I’m going to be itching for it all day."
"I’ll go," Sandy said, heading for the door.
"I’ll be switched," Sam shook his head. "The damndest things happen around this place."
"I think this is going to be a very interesting week," Walker nodded. "Maybe after we knock off tonight, we can set it up for you to hear some of our other Lucille Bogan collection."
"Sure, I’d love that," Dayna said. "The other songs of hers I’ve heard are Tricks Ain’t Walkin’ and Bull Dyke Blues, and I don’t know those as well. They’re powerful as hell, and I’d love to do something of hers. But they just aren’t G-rated enough for this project, if you know what I mean."
"There’s some," Walker smiled. "It’ll be interesting to hear you take a swing at one of them. What kind of schedule are you looking at?"
"Pretty heavy," Dayna said. "We’ve never recorded before, but we’ve done a lot of rehearsing, and we figure we can blow through several tracks a day, since we’re not figuring on adding any backup tracks, just the stuff we do in front of people. We figure to start in on blues, move to some more pop, and then move on into some of the songs we play at renaissance faires. This album is supposed to be a medley, a little bit of everything. If we kick out more than enough for one album, some of the masters can be the starter for the next one."
"Sounds like a lot of work for a week," Sam said. "At least people will have something to look at when they come in watching. Look, Dayna, I have to be a little critical. Mixing blues and pop is one thing, but mixing blues and renaissance faire pieces comes across as a bit of a reach to me."
"It does to me, too," Dayna sighed. "But the renfaires are a big chunk of what we do, and if we’re going to sell any CDs at them, we have to do at least some of it."
"Might be worth thinking about pressing right ahead to a second CD," Walker suggested.
"Might be an idea," Dayna agreed. "In six weeks we’ll be done with renfaires until next spring, but a blues and pop album would move over the winter. We’ll just have to see how fast we cover the ground."