Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

River Rat
Book 5 of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Wes Boyd
2005, 2010

Chapter 61

September 30 - October 20, 2001

Team Two's Autumn - 3

The following Sunday, the last day of the month, they were again out on the river. It turned out that the last-minute couple signed up after all, so the trip was twenty-one people.

The first few days of the trip were crisp; it got chilly at night, but the days warmed up comfortably, although Polartec fleece was welcome on cool mornings.

They generally tried to keep from talking about their winter plans in front of the customers, but when they could the couple hours in Al's office on Friday morning pulled a lot of the coming months together for them. Just from a quick look at the calendar it looked as if Scooter and Jim were going to have a couple shows in the upper Midwest in early March, in Wisconsin and Michigan, not long before they'd have to be back for spring rigging. Those two would have been good shows for Crystal and Preach, since they were from Illinois and Michigan, but they were already committed to shows in the south in December. But the March shows weren't a done deal, and Preach said he'd like to get back to Michigan for a bit to see some distant relatives he hadn't seen for some years. Scooter and Jim were still thinking Mexico a little, but there were other possibilities out there, and things could change considerably before that time rolled around.

After the first few days, the weather deteriorated somewhat as they got into Upper Granite Gorge. It wasn't bad, but overcast; the nights weren't as cold, but the days weren't as warm, either. Nobody said anything, but there was an audible sigh of relief on the part of five boatmen and one swamper on being able to leave Phantom later that day without someone showing up with bad news. Once again they camped above Granite Rapids, which they usually did when they had a chance. That put them in easy reach of Crystal the next morning.

Crystal Rapids was no less hairy than ever, and as always they stood on the rubble pile at the top of the rapids to check it out, then went down and ran it, Nanci at the sticks of Kevin's raft -- they'd evolved a deal to trade off the big ones this trip. It was still overcast and a bit breezy, and by noon Scooter was looking for a place to pull in for lunch. She happened to realize that the Baseball Man beach wasn't far ahead, and there was that nice little hike out of the wind up to that waterfall, which would get people off the water for a while. Scooter and Jim decided to lead the hike, and have people back in an hour for lunch, which Crystal, Preach, Kevin and Nanci would set up.

When Scooter and Jim got back down to the beach, Kevin and Nanci had lunch set up. but there was no sign of Crystal and Preach. When Scooter asked Nanci where they were, she was told that the two had headed up to the water pocket by themselves. "No telling where that could lead," Scooter chuckled.

"No fooling," Nanci grinned back. The customers weren't aware of it, but the crew pretty well suspected without it ever having been said what had happened up there one hot afternoon almost thirty years before.

"Well, let's go ahead and chow down," Scooter replied. "If they don't get back before we tear down then they're going to get what the last little piggy got."

They were getting close to wrapped up when Crystal and Preach finally worked their way down the steep slope from the water pocket. "Have a good hike?" Nanci snickered.

Neither of them answered, but both headed over to Preach's raft. He opened the dry box and dug way down inside, pulling out a medium-size drybag, which had an ammo case inside -- they were often used as small dry boxes. He dug around in there some more, then got up and headed over to the group clustered loosely around the lunch table. "Ladies and gentlemen," Preach began. "My mother and father were killed in a car accident when I was fourteen. At the suggestion of my late grandmother, I took this engagement ring from my mother's body as she lay in her casket. It is the most cherished memento of my parents that I own, so I think it's only proper to use it as my grandmother suggested." He held out the ring, and said, "Crystal, in the presence of God and this company, I ask you to marry me."

"Yes, of course," Crystal said softly before Preach slid the ring onto her finger.

There were cheers and hugs from the assembled customers and crew; packing up after lunch was forgotten. "Crystal," Nanci asked when the excitement died down a little, "What brought this on?"

"We really didn't intend to do that when we headed up there," Crystal replied. "Just go up, hang out, reflect a little on what happened there, refresh a memory or two, and focus on the place," she sighed. "You know that at one point we were planning on wrapping the season up, then going somewhere to sit down, kick back and assess where we're at, but that got a little ruined when we agreed to do that church tour in December."

"We got to talking that it would be easier to do if we were married," Preach expanded. "I mean, being a church tour, you want to be way above board, and it's a little difficult for a single guy and a single girl to travel together and appear that way."

"Then we agreed that it wasn't anyplace we weren't heading anyway," Crystal finished. "I mean, I think both of us had pretty well made up our minds that it was something we wanted to do before next season started, and this way we get the winter to work things in."

"Any ideas about a wedding?" Scooter asked. "I take it you're planning on doing this pretty quick, so that means you wouldn't be able to have a big production down here like your Mom and Dad."

"That's about all we've worked out," Crystal sighed. "Fairly soon, yes. I'd like to keep it small and informal, but down by the river if we can manage it."

"Can I suggest Lee's Ferry, rather than Phantom?" Scooter asked. "You know what I think about the luck that hangs around there."

"It might work," Preach said. "And I agree about the spirits at Phantom. Timing, well, it has to be before the tour starts."

"The season-wrap party is along in there," Kevin suggested. "If it's mostly Canyon Tours people you want to have at your wedding, there'll be several in town for that, anyway. I mean, that weekend, not necessarily that day."

"Might work," Crystal nodded. "Preach, you got anyone you want to have come?"

"No one except Pastor Jordan," he smiled. "And that would kill two birds with one stone."

"Works for me," Crystal smiled. "I only met him a couple times, but he's a real super guy."

"He's pretty impressed by you, too," Preach smiled. "And I'm not talking about that incident where you met him years ago, either. How about you? I suppose Myleigh, Randy, and Nicole, along with a cast of thousands."

"Josh and Tiffany, if they're not too wrapped up in baby and dog training. Randy's folks, maybe. Beyond that, everybody else is in Arizona." She stopped and thought for a second. "Scooter," she smiled. "Would you like to be maid of honor?"

"Of course," Scooter smiled, amazed that this was happening.

"Which leads to a logical thought," Preach said. "Jim, you up for best man?"

"I'd be delighted," Jim grinned.

"Before we get too sloppy and sentimental," Scooter said. "We probably ought to think about getting moving. You two throw together a couple sandwiches; you can eat while the rest of us are tearing down." She stopped and mentally flipped a coin; it came up heads. "Nanci, I think you're insurance qualified anyway, but just to be on the safe side, if everybody promises not to tell Al or the insurance company, why don't you row Crystal's raft this afternoon and let these two lovebirds ride together? And everybody else, there ain't so many of us that we can't leave these lovebirds alone on their raft this afternoon."


"Crystal, I ought to wring your neck!" Karin said in feigned anger ten days later, right after the crew bus had arrived from Diamond Creek. "Do you know what you've managed to do?"

"Mom, what?" Crystal said, a little surprised.

"You've managed to set a wedding date barely a month away and then be gone three weeks of that month! How are we going to make all the arrangements?"

"No big deal, Mom, it's just going to be real informal. Except for Jon and Tani everybody we want at the wedding from Arizona is going to be in town that day anyway. Preach will call Pastor Jordan this weekend, and I'll call Myleigh and Randy. It's no big deal, Mom; it's not going to be a big formal church wedding, just a mostly private ceremony at Lee's Ferry."

"You mean, no lavishly decorated church?" Karin said sarcastically, but smiled when she said it. "No half dozen bridesmaids with ugly but perfectly matched dresses? No tuxes? No wedding gown that costs about what a new car would?"

"No, Mom, none of that," Crystal almost giggled. "Clean jeans and T-shirts would be nice but not absolutely necessary. Besides, the maid of honor hasn't worn a dress since maybe the sixth grade and isn't going to do it for a little thing like a wedding -- not even the one for her best friend."

"You mean, nothing for the mother of the bride to get hyper over?" Karin said. "How is she supposed to meddle in things?"

"Mom, come on. When you married Pete you went in and out of a Las Vegas wedding chapel in about fifteen minutes and neither of your parents knew about it until after it happened. And then when you married Al your wedding dress consisted of shorts and a white blouse that didn't match."

"Yes," Karin said giggling, no longer able to maintain her supposed anger. "I want my daughter to have all those things I didn't have." She shook her head. "All right, have it your way. I just want you to know I'm very happy for you, and I have every hope this is going to turn out well."

"Thanks, Mom," she smiled. "Look, you are right about one thing, people need to get notified, and I just am not going to have enough time on break to deal with all of it. Could you maybe set some of this stuff up while we're on the river?"

"Of course I will," Karin smiled. "You're saying the guest list consists of those people coming to the wrap party, Jon and Tanisha, Pastor Jordan, and the people from Spearfish Lake?"

"That about covers it," she agreed. "I think Preach and I should call all those people this weekend ourselves. I kinda want Myleigh to know before I tell Randy, just because. You may have to get with them to pin down the details."

"I can do that," Karin agreed. "Are you planning anything for a honeymoon?"

"Not really," she shrugged. "We didn't think that the church tour should count, but Scooter and Jim and Preach and I talked about the idea of taking the Felicity Ann for two weeks while the others take it the other two. But that'll have to ride until we can talk to Michelle, she was in on the deal. She's still running with Team 1?"

"Yes, it'll be two weeks before they're off the river."

"Well, I suppose it can keep till we get back," Crystal shrugged. "It could keep till we actually head down there. I think we're going to have enough else to worry about this weekend, especially with having to pull the slide show together."


Scooter was still just a little irritated with the Team 2 practice of getting groceries on Saturday so several members of the team could attend Kevin's church on Sunday. They didn't let themselves get extremely irritated since they knew they'd be outvoted four to two and there was no point in causing dissension. It really wasn't that big a deal, anyway.

In fact, the groceries this trip were going to be a little less a big deal than normal, since there were only eleven customers, so they could comfortably get by with half the normal order. That made for less to pack and load. The members of the team had agreed on Thursday evening to get a real early start on Saturday so they'd have most of the day to do other things. Scooter, Jim, Crystal, and Nanci got to the office early and were waiting for Preach and Kevin when Al and Karin rolled in; they often pitched in with the chore.

There were a few minutes to kill, so Karin went inside to check the answering machine; it was amazing how many trip queries came in over the evening hours. In the season they often switched the phone over to Al's house if they were going to be there in the evening. In a couple minutes, she came back outside and said, "Al, we have a problem."

"What?" Al said, breaking away from his talking about nothing in particular with the Team 2 members present.

"Mary's grandmother died last night," she told them. "You remember, the one she and Dave went to have Christmas with last year."

"Sweet lady," Al sighed. "I talked with her on the phone a couple times. When's the funeral?"

"Tomorrow afternoon, in St. Louis."

"Let me think for a second," Al said. He stared off into space for a moment. "Well, if we hurry we could do it. Karin, call Phantom and have them leave a message for them to not leave there without calling us, either from the ranger station or with the satphone; we'll get them heading up the hill. Scoot, Jim, run home, get your shit, I'll have Karin drive you out to the rim."

"Shit," Scooter sighed. "The 2001 Bad News Gulch jinx, strike three. Yeah, we can do it."

"Al, what are you going to do about crew for this trip?" Karin asked.

"Nothing. With only eleven passengers they can just take three rafts, although there'll have to be some gear shuffling done. Maybe we can get some of the kids to come over from the college to pitch in."

"Al, I hate to point this out," Crystal said. "Even if everything goes perfect it's going to be pretty late by the time they get topside. And then, St. Louis? There's no way they can drive that and get there tomorrow. Even a flight could be iffy."

"I'll get something set up, one way or another," he said. "Karin, figure on checking in from the rim, if we can get them started topside pretty early I might just have you hang around to pick them up and take them to Phoenix. Let's get moving, we're burning daylight on this one."

It took a few minutes to throw their gear together; fortunately they'd done their laundry the day before, and it was sitting there ready to be stuffed into their drybags. Both Jim and Scooter broke out their backpacks and stuffed the drybags in them; they were just barely ready when Karin pulled in driving her Buick.

"Did Al get a flight set up?" Scooter asked as she piled into the back seat.

"Still working on it," Karin said. "What he's come up with so far is that the flights are either full, or the connections are really bad. He said to call before you start down; he should know something then, and you can pass it along to Dave and Mary to keep them from worrying about it."

"There's a chance they could just say nuts to it, too," Jim observed.

"Possibly, but I don't think so," Karin said. "Apparently they really liked her and were looking forward to seeing her again as soon as they were off the river this trip."

"Like I said, the Bad News Gulch Jinx," Scooter snorted. "We got nailed with it two years ago, but it skipped last year. Maybe it'll skip next year, but I'm not taking bets."

"We can hope," Karin said. "Look, I'm glad I got a chance to talk to you alone, because you'd be a key part of the idea I had when Crystal told us about her wedding."

"There's something evil in that tone of voice," Scooter grinned. "I mean, something that makes me want to know more. To top it off, Jim and I have one we want to run by you."

"It's about paybacks and just desserts," Karin laughed. "And it'd be the perfect time."

About three hours later on this coolish day, nice for walking, Scooter and Jim were just hurrying past Indian Gardens, about halfway down the Bright Angel, when they came on Dave and Mary trudging upward. Naturally, they stopped to talk. "Mary, we're really sorry to hear about your grandmother," Scooter told her. "The minute Al heard about it the orders started flying, but it's lucky that you were still above Phantom."

"Just barely," Mary shrugged. "We stopped at Grapevine; we usually try to, so we got to Phantom early and just barely beat the ranger with the message. Do you know if Al managed to get a flight set up? He didn't have anything when we called."

"We checked in from the rim," Scooter smiled. "Let me tell you, our boss does not do things halfway when he decides to do them."

"He got a flight set up, then?" Mary asked.

"Oh, did he ever! We don't want to hold you up, you need to get topside, hopefully before 2:30. Karin's waiting for you. She's going to hit the dry goods store in the Village and see if she can get you some funeral clothes, then she'll haul you over to Grand Canyon Airport, and you should be able to make the visitation in St. Louis tonight."

"Grand Canyon Airport?" Mary frowned. "There aren't any flights out of there!"

"Oh yes there are," Scooter grinned. "Al had Crystal call her brother and pull in a favor. It turns out Skyhook was heading to Washington this afternoon; she said it's no big deal to pick you up and drop you off, the company the charter's really for is picking up most of the tab."

"Skyhook?" Dave said, eyebrows raised. "Do you mean . . ."

"The legendary Learjet Jenn," Scooter grinned. "Like I said, our boss does not do things halfway. Now shag your butts up there, you don't want to keep the lady waiting. See you at the season-wrap party in a few weeks. You want to be there; it's special, but Karin will tell you. Now get moving!"

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To be continued . . .

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