Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
October 1-4, 1999
Flagstaff, Lee's Ferry
Friday morning was strange. It still seemed strange to haul their things in from the trunk of the Dodge, to hang clothes in real closets, put them in real dressers. They took their time about it, and it still felt nice.
Once again, Scooter volunteered to do Crystal's laundry -- a washer and dryer were things the house lacked. After Al picked up Karin and Crystal in the late morning, around lunchtime, Scooter drove the Dodge over to the Burro, got the laundry going, and had a beer and a bar burger while she was waiting. She was a little surprised to see Jim wander in after a while. "I thought your season was over with and you were out of here," she said.
"Season's over," he nodded. "But they offered me a chance to stay around and do some raft maintenance for another few weeks. Just as well, the ski place up in Colorado doesn't open for a while yet."
"I thought you were going back to Denver or some place," she said.
"Yeah, but there's no rush to get back and listen to my mother and father bitch at me about needing to go to college or look for a real job or something. I'll get enough of that as it is."
"Been there, done that," Scooter nodded. "And look where it got me. Not that I'm complaining, I'm pretty much where I want to be."
"Yeah, I suppose I'll want to settle down some day," he agreed, "But not soon. I like this river too much, this life too much. It'd be hard to have a wife and be a boatman."
"It can be done," Scooter said. "You know about Al and Louise, of course, they were together for something like twenty-five years. We've got a husband-wife leader team in our outfit who I've never met; they aren't planning on leaving any decade soon, from what I hear."
"Well, yeah," he nodded, "It just takes the right people getting together. So, is your season winding down yet?"
"No, we have another month and a half, two more trips."
"Well, have fun," he sighed. "Working a ski lodge is OK, too, but I'd rather be on the river."
"So would I," Scooter smiled. "I know I've only had this year in the Canyon, but when you've been a river bum as long as I have, it gets addicting. So how much longer are you going to be in Flag?"
"Another week or two," he said. "I'll probably be gone the next time you're off the river."
"Well, maybe we can get together and hoist a few next spring," Scooter smiled. "And hell, maybe we can wave to each other out on the river, too."
Al, Crystal and Karin weren't back yet when Scooter headed over to the office to get going on groceries, but when she walked into the office, Michelle told her, "Al called and they're on the way back. He says to go get the groceries and they'll help out with the packing."
"Don't know, he didn't say. I called Norma and Barbie to tell them to hold off. Dan's staying with Jeff this trip, and Jerry's with them. They ought to be here any time."
"Guess we'll have to wait," Scooter nodded. "Hey, we never got a chance to talk about the sailing trip much; this might be a good chance to iron out the details."
"Works for me, you and Crystal are the ones who know sailing, and she says you know more about it than she does, so I guess that makes you the captain."
"We'd sort of agreed on it," Scooter admitted. "Crystal actually has more recent experience than I do; mine was all when I was back in school, and it was pretty different. But it really is pretty simple on a boat that small, and I think the three of us ought to be able to muddle through."
"I sure hope so," she said hopefully. "Hey, the other night Al was saying something about going surfing with Karin and Crystal over the winter sometime. I didn't know he surfed. You have any idea what that's all about?"
"Sort of, and I'm not sure how it fits in with you, me, and her going surfing. Crystal thinks that the guy who taught her how to surf is an old high school buddy of Al's. A lot of pieces fit together including the name. Karin wants to try it out, and this guy is supposed to be a hell of a teacher anyway, so they'll probably be gone for a few days sometime."
"I hope the hell it doesn't screw up our sailing."
"Shouldn't. Al knows it's coming down. As far as I know he's planning on being around Flag most of the winter."
They were just starting to unload the pickup truck with the groceries when Al and Karin drove onto the back lot, followed by a white Chevy, which proved to have Crystal, her brother, and sister-in-law. "So you found 'em, huh?" Scooter grinned the instant they got out of the car.
"Sure did, Scoot," Crystal told her.
"Good. You sure as hell yapped about it enough last trip."
"Yeah, this is Jon, and my sister-in-law, Tanisha," Crystal told her. Jon had crew cut brown hair and was several inches shorter than Crystal. He had a solid build -- but seemed to be in good shape, which was not the story that Crystal told about him. Tanisha was a little shorter yet, with a similarly solid build, but shapely and buxom -- and about the blackest person Scooter had ever seen. "They're pretty cool, even though they're not river rats." Crystal continued. "Guys, this hillbilly is Scooter; she's my assistant trip leader and my best buddy; we used to run together back east on the Ocoee and the Nanty. The gal with the bubble gum there is Michelle; she's the one who's actually responsible for tracking you down. Once we get the season wrapped up, the three of us are going to head down to Florida and do some surfing; then we've got a sailboat chartered, and we're going to dink around in the Bahamas a bit."
"Sounds like a nice break," Jon said, and turned to Michelle. "It looks like we have you to thank for our good luck. Thank you a lot."
"No big deal," Michelle said, popping a bubble. "It's all in a day's work. Karin told me she was like pretty worried about you, but I guess things are like OK, huh?"
"Couldn't be better, after you got involved," Jon told her. "Thanks again."
"Let's get this crap packed," Crystal suggested. "Then we can sit around and talk."
Along in the middle of the packing and loading, Scooter felt the need to use the bathroom. Though she was used to rocket boxes by now, flush toilets were one of the luxuries of civilization she appreciated, so she headed up to the office and into the back door to take advantage of it.
She was just getting settled on the pot when she heard someone come in the back door. It proved to be Al and Michelle. "OK, Michelle," she heard Al say. "I wanted to ask you if there was going to be any problem with running the office a few days over New Year's, so Karin and I can take off to Randy's wedding, and then go on to Florida for a few days."
"I can do that," Michelle said, a little unhappily. "Just don't plan on staying too long. Crystal and Scooter are going to have to be heading to the Bahamas right after the first of the year. Scooter and I thought we might be able to work some surfing in on one or the other end of the trip."
"We can't be long," Al told her. "We've got all the end-of-the-year books that Karin is going to have to deal with."
"Yeah, I guess," she said. "Look, Al, I really don't want to have to bring this up. I mean, I know it's been a tough year and all, and I really haven't minded staying in the office some, and I know that with Karin joining you that you want to get out on the river with her at least a little."
"Yeah, I do," Al said. "We're still getting to know each other all over again."
"Look, like I can understand," she said, popping her bubble gum, "And I don't want to get in your way. But, Al, like while I didn't mind running the office this year what with everything, I just want to know if you're planning on letting me get out between the walls at least some next year. I want to be out on the river, not like stuck in the office."
"I can understand," Al said. "But, you know how things are."
"Like, yeah," Michelle said. "I also know that GCR is looking for someone to run oarboats and a motor rig for them next year."
Oh, Jeez-o-peet, Scooter thought from her position in the bathroom. Michelle, that's seriously sticking it to him! You want to get out between the walls, I don't blame you; and you have a legitimate complaint. But a baloney boat?
"Look," Scooter heard him tell Michelle. "GCR doesn't run but about five oar trips a year. You might get below the rim more, but that'd be on motor trips, and I know what you think about motor rigs."
"Five trips a year is more than I'm getting here at this rate," she said flatly. "And, there's other people I could talk to."
"All right, you win," he said. "It's too damn late to do anything about it for now, but plan on running Team 3 next trip. Next year, would you be up for running, say, every other trip?"
She popped her bubble gum at him. "Yeah, I guess," she said. "I don't care if I miss a few, and every other trip beats nothing."
"Look, Michelle, I promise, this winter, we'll look at getting someone else in to help in the office. After all, I suggested that Karin comes into the office just to let you get out some, but she wants to be on the river, too. Maybe I'll have to let her go some time while I stay back. But, I want to jump around teams more than I did this year, maybe do some half trips. I don't know how it's going to work yet, but I'll do my best to see that you make at least half the trips, and we'll try for more. Is that OK?"
"That'll be fine," Michelle said. "Like I said, I don't want to be a pain about it, but this sitting-around-the-office shit gets real old."
"Don't I know it," Al grinned, and changed the subject. "Have you talked to Jerry recently? He seems to be doing pretty good, but how's he really getting along?"
"You're like asking if he's gonna be up for the next trip?"
"Like, yeah," Al said -- Scooter knew that Michelle's teenybopper talk could be catching at times.
"Jeff says he wants to get back on the sticks," Michelle told him. "Whether he's up for it is another story."
"I'll talk with Jeff," Al said. "I don't want Jerry getting back on the river unless his doctor clears him. He can be a damn fool, but maybe he's learned his lesson. Anyway, we better get back to packing."
Jon and Tanisha weren't a lot of help with the packing, but they were willing to carry stuff, and that helped. Things went along smoothly, and soon they were pretty well wrapped up. "That about it?" Al asked Crystal.
"Looks like it," she said. "You know, when I was back up north working with dogs last winter, Tiffany's dad Mike told me the first time that Josh and Tiffany headed for the Iditarod, they left the dog sleds behind, and he had to get out on the highway and chase 'em down. I always think of that right about now, like what important thing are we missing? Like, say, did we throw in the oars?"
"Two hundred trips and I always think that myself," Al grinned. "I suppose some of you want to go over and drink the Burro dry while you can, but if any of you want to come over to the house, we'll fire up a grill and have some steaks so you can lay down a good base. We can probably find a beer or two if we look real hard."
Everyone took him up on the offer, of course, and soon there was a serious meal going together. Being that the cooks were seven boatmen, including Jerry who they let do the heavy potato peeling, the kitchen was mostly bypassed for the grill on the back porch. "Gee zow," Tanisha said in amazement. "Do you people eat like this all the time?"
"Pretty much," Scooter told her. "We work pretty hard, so we burn it off pretty good. It's a great life if you don't weaken."
Over dinner Scooter got to know Jon and Tanisha a little better. They had very good jobs as engineers down in Phoenix, although they pointedly said that what they were actually working on was classified. Scooter remembered Crystal complaining that Jon's idea of exercise was climbing the steps from the computer in the basement for supper. That had apparently changed along the way -- the reason they didn't get back earlier was that they'd stayed in Phoenix so Jon and Tanisha could run the company 10-K! In fact, Crystal seemed pretty amazed about that herself -- "I about shit!" was her comment. Although they'd only gotten married in the spring they'd lived together continually for two years prior to that. They said that they tended to be pretty close to each other, mostly because Tanisha's family wouldn't approve any more than Jon's dad would have, and they were more than a little paranoid about her brother. Having Crystal appear at their door had been a serious and unexpected although ultimately welcome shock.
Since Karin, Crystal and Scooter's house was so small, it had been worked out that Jon and Tanisha were going to spend the night at Al's, and come by to see everyone off in the morning.
Again, with seven river guides and Karin working at it, the dishes were done in a snap. Once the dishes were done, Scooter, Michelle, Jerry, Dan, and Bob took off; Crystal told them, "Sorta like to be with you, but, you know."
"Yeah, you got family stuff," Scooter replied. "See you in the morning."
"Try to be vertical," Crystal said, "But have a good time."
It was not a surprise to see Jon and Tanisha at the loading on Sunday morning, but as they were getting toward the end, Al told Scooter to find a couple extra sleeping bags and Paco Pads. It turned out that Jon and Tanisha were going to follow them up to Lee's, help with the rigging and stay the night, just for the sake of getting a little more family time in. Scooter could understand -- they'd been separated from both their families for years, and having a family come at them from out of the woodwork like that was a strange and heady experience, especially considering what part of that family did for a living!
The rigging went well, with no problems. Norma and Barbie and Jerry were there, in addition to the normal crew, although they headed back to Flagstaff with Jeff in the evening. Michelle was going to ride back with Jon and Tanisha in the morning so she could at least get a night by the river. When they got back down to the launch ramp where the rafts were waiting, Crystal offered to let Jon and Tanisha spend the night on her raft while she curled up in the tamarisks with some of the rest of the crew.
Jon had grown up a city boy; and Tanisha a city girl. Although Jon had watched his older sister head off on camping and adventure trips for years, his inclinations had never led that way. He'd never spent a night sleeping outside, and neither had Tanisha. So, it was a strange experience for them that night, to be spread out on Paco Pads on a raft pulled up on the shore, sleeping out under the stars shining brightly and sharply above, the river whispering almost silently against the raft, making it shake just a little when they moved. It was just a taste of Crystal's life -- and Al's, Scooter's, and the other boatmen -- and the life that his mother seemed to be heading toward. It wasn't their lives, they admitted the next morning, but they could see how it could be addicting.
There was a good breakfast the next morning, and more work, but soon it was done, and the group gathered in the shade of the tamarisks, waiting for the busload of customers to come in. "Al, Karin, Crystal," Tanisha said as they sat there lazily, watching the river flow by. "It's been very neat meeting you, and even neater that you've given us a glimpse into your lives, and I want to thank you very much for it. I hope we get to go down the Canyon with you sometime, but it's going to involve getting free from work."
"I realize it's been brief, if intense," Karin said. "But things will slow down shortly. We can spend some more time together then. And, Thanksgiving won't be that far off. You kids are coming up for that, I hope."
"Actually, Mom, that's one thing we wanted to talk to you about," Jon said. "You see, ever since Tanisha and I have been together, it's always just been the two of us, and we've always wished we could tell someone about us. Actually, what we really wished is that just once we could have the family over for dinner, and just be family. Thanksgiving is the first real holiday we'll have had since we've been married, and we hoped you'd come join us. I realize we can't cook as well as you, but it'd be special to us."
"Sure, we'll make it," Karin grinned. "There's no way we could turn an offer like that down."
"Would you two mind if I brought Scooter along?" Crystal asked. "She doesn't have any family at all."
"Sure, Scooter; you're invited; you're cool," Jon said. "We've got an interesting friend who doesn't have family either. We probably will invite her, too. She's one of our main supervisors."
"You might as well," Karin smiled. "It's your dinner, after all."
"We probably ought to warn you," Tanisha said. "She's rich, she's brilliant, and she's talented. But she has one little, uh, I guess you could say hobby that sometimes turns people off. But she really is the best friend we've made out here, and we owe her, so we ought to tell you."
"Is this the woman who flew you down to the Virgin Islands in her own jet to spend Christmas with last year?" Karin said. "She sounded interesting, all right!"
"She is," Jon said. "And she's a good friend, loyal and true." He took a deep breath and went on. "But a couple times a month, she hops in her Learjet and flies over to Antelope Valley, Nevada, where she spends some time working in a place called the Redlite Ranch Bordello. It's kind of how she deals with her sex drive, and she can do it legally in Nevada."
"That's . . . different," Karin said uncertainly.
There were broad smiles all around the group. The story of Jennlynn eating another customer a new asshole had been a staple campfire story all summer, especially when mixed in with the story of Andrea and Debbie, and Scooter modeling nude for them -- and getting on a cover photo. "That's Jennlynn Swift, right?" Al said with a big grin. "You're right, she's good people. I'd like to see that Learjet some time. She was flying a twin Cessna when I met her."
"You know her?" Karin frowned, with obvious surprise.
"She ran with us three years ago," Al said. "Michelle was usually her boatman. She's a character, got some good stories. She made it clear she keeps it straight in Arizona, but at the Redlite Ranch all bets are off. Jon, Tanisha, if you hooked up with Jennlynn, you hooked up with one of nature's great people. Lucky you."
"There are a lot of Learjet Jenn stories floating around," Tanisha smirked. "The wildest ones happen to be the true ones."
"At Lambdatron, we have this motto," Jon said. "Well, it's not a motto, it's just a phrase that's used a lot: 'Break the paradigm'. Jennlynn breaks more than most." He sighed, and looked around, noting Michelle popping a huge bubble and Scooter lighting her cigar since the tour bus was due soon. "Not that you Canyon Tours people don't break a few yourselves."