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 62

October 19 - November 1, 2001


"You know," Scooter remarked as she and Jim headed down the Bright Angel Trail from Indian Gardens. "We ought to rig it around with Al so we could actually run with Dave and Mary once. I've never run with them, and I've always heard they were pretty cool."

"They are," Jim said. "I spent all last fall running with them, remember? If Team 2 has a certain religious tinge to it, Team 1 has a New-Age tinge to it, so to speak."

"What kind of tinge do you think Team 3 has?" Scooter grinned.

"I can't really put a word to it," Jim laughed. "But when you consider that the female trip leader greets the customers smoking a cigar, that starts to set the tone right from the beginning."

"Rough and tough and scruffy?" she grinned.

"Works for me," he said, and let out a sigh. "Scoot, are we real sure we want to do what we talked about?"

"I think so," she replied. "I mean, it feels right, maybe it's a little premature, but I don't think it's wrong. But we aren't dead committed; we've got a week and a half to think about it and almost a month before we have to tie things down."

"It'll be good to have a week and a half out on the river to think about it with the decision in front of us," he nodded, then added with a grin. "Yeah, rough and tough and scruffy. I like that."

Team 1 was hardly a bunch of strangers: with Dave and Mary up the hill, the other members were Barbie, Michelle, and Jerry, who Kelly had let out on the river to fill in just for one trip. Scooter had run with the others a lot, and Jim had run with them some.

The next few days were cold and windy and overcast, the sky looking like it had winter written all over it. Joining a trip partway through is always tough since there's already some interpersonal dynamics that have been established among the customers and the crew with them; the person joining has to play catch-up. It's not any easier for new trip leaders, and is probably a little harder since it's more important to build up a relationship with everyone quickly. Being that it was late in the day and the trip had been sitting at Phantom for several hours, they decided to not run very far, just to Horn Creek, and spend the time getting acquainted before having to tackle the hard part of Adrenaline Alley in the morning.

The next morning when they got up, Scooter about wished that they'd gone ahead and gotten it out of the way, because in addition to it being cold and windy and overcast, there was a cold rain coming down. As much as she liked the Canyon, right then it was about as attractive as hell with the fires out. About the only good thing that could be said was that they were already on the river and wouldn't have to worry about rigging at Lee's in this crap.

Everyone was ready for a break over the winter and a chance to warm up by the time they were through with Crystal. Scooter pulled the trip in at the Baseball Man beach, and told the crew to strip the tarps back and get out the customer's gear bags so people could put on dry clothes if they wanted -- something she rarely did, but she figured the morale could stand a boost. They dug out a big propane burner and heated up water for coffee and cocoa, with the flame turned way up so people might be able to warm up a little, at least psychologically.

While that was going on, Scooter and Jim decided to hike up to the water pocket -- it was not a long hike, but Jim had not been there before. It was just a quick scramble up the rock face, then along a ledge above the water, then up a twisted little trail for a few minutes. They stopped to check out the pictographs and headed on up to the water pocket itself. "So this is the place?" Jim asked.

"Yeah," Scooter smiled, "For as out of the way a place as it is, an awful lot has happened here for people we know. Maybe it's the Team 1 New-Age thing, but you have to figure that there's good karma around here."

They stood there for a few minutes, just letting the good feelings or good karma or good spirits or good memories of the place wash over them. Finally, Jim turned to his lover and said, "Scoot, I'm comfortable with it if you are."

"Same here babe," she admitted. "Let's do it."

They took each other in their arms and had a long, soulful kiss. "You know," Scooter whispered in his ear, "No one has ever said it that I've heard, but when you add all the pieces together you come up with the idea that this had to be where Al and Karin got laid the first time. It might even be where they started Crystal."

"No one's ever said it in that many words to me, either," he smiled. "But that was the feeling I always got, too. I know the weather is absolutely shitty, but do you want to?"

"Why in hell do you think I brought it up?" she grinned.

They had one more day of really crappy weather, then a fairly reasonable day, and then a day that was actually warm; they camped early that afternoon and had a thorough drying out of their clothing and gear. That improved everyone's morale even more. The weather stayed reasonable the rest of the trip and was sometimes even nice, and there was a pretty mellow spirit when they got to Diamond Creek Wash. To no one's surprise, Dave and Mary were there to at least say goodbye to the customers they'd had to leave.

Once again, Jeff took the customers up the hill in the crew bus while the rest of the team members and Jimmie worked at loading up. For once they weren't quite as careful, since they weren't going to be facing a fast turnaround for months.

Any truly committed Colorado River raft guide, from any company, will tell you that the hardest part of any trip is the ride up Diamond Creek Wash or the highway out of Pearce Ferry with their backs to the river, even if they're doing a burnaround and will be back out on the river the next day, spending that evening running between the Burro and the laundromat next door.

The last trip of the year up Diamond Creek is far and away the hardest. Even for the companies that run long seasons, the break is four months, and it's as long as eight months for some of the motor-rig crews. For many, the winter break is a time of unemployment checks, of marginal temporary jobs, some interesting such as ski instruction, others not, such as working in fast food in some distant city. It's a time of living cheap, of dreaming of the day that they'll be back out on their beloved river.

As the seven members of Team 1 rode the crew bus upwards, it was hard to believe that the season was over. It had been an eventful one, sometimes memorable, and sometimes difficult. Unlike the summer kids, all seven of these people were professionals, even Barbie, people who had cast their lot with running the river, addicted to its spell. Scooter remembered the story of Carole Carter, addicted to her handcuffs; these seven were no less addicted to this river, to the life so apart and out of step with the rest of the world.

They talked on the way back -- oh, of the Learjet ride, of the funeral of course, but also of the news of friends, Crystal and Preach's upcoming wedding, plans for the winter for all of them. Scooter and Jim asked Dave and Mary about their place in Mexico; Dave and Mary asked Scooter about the Felicity Ann. The bus jostled and bumped and rolled its way back toward Flagstaff, and in the minds of all seven of them was the wish that it would be taking them up to Lee's Ferry the following Sunday.

Dave and Mary had no place where they stayed off the river locally, and usually just stayed in the small room in the barn that passed for a crew bunkhouse; some years ago, a rudimentary shower had been rigged, and the price was right. "Why don't you come on out to the house?" Scooter suggested. "Crystal and Nanci will still be on the river for a week, and we've got a furnace. It's got to be a lot more comfortable than the bunkhouse."

Dave and Mary were not slow to take her up on her offer. It left Scooter wondering if the two might be interested in getting involved in sharing the house the next summer -- but that was something that really needed to be put off until they could talk to Crystal.

The lights were on in the office when they arrived, not to anyone's surprise. Since there was no rush to turn around this time, the normal unloading, cleaning and repacking was put off till the next day without discussion. They headed into the office, to check in with Al and Karin, and to inform them of their changes in plans.

"Scooter, Jim, Michelle," Karin said once they got there. "I've been waiting for you to get here. There's been a problem come up, and we need your input. There's nothing that can be done about it tonight but it needs to be thought about and quickly."

"Sure, what's the problem?" Scooter asked.

"I'm sure you told Michelle about Crystal and Preach's plans," Karin said. "So I don't need to fill you in on that. I don't know if you remember, but Crystal said that she wanted to tell Myleigh about the wedding before she told Randy and Nicole."

"Yeah, something about that," Scooter nodded.

"She tried, and couldn't get hold of Myleigh. Finally, she called Randy just before the customer bus got in to Lee's. It turns out that the reason that Crystal couldn't get in touch with Myleigh is that she was in Spearfish Lake, where she announced that she and Trey are getting married at Jennifer's on December 29th."

"No kidding!" Scooter grinned. "I thought they were a little more than just friends when they ran with us this spring."

"I know Myleigh well enough to know that things are never quite what they seem on the surface," Karin laughed. "This proves to be full of it. The reason they were in Spearfish Lake was to look for a house. Trey is going to be working for Jennifer and Blake, and Myleigh is moving to an endowed chair at Weatherford College, which is about fifty miles south."

"Good, it sounds like things are working out for them."

"I think so," Karin sighed. "Now the part I find ironic is that both Crystal and Myleigh drifted away from Randy because they didn't want to live in Spearfish Lake with him."

"He probably thinks so, too. What's the problem?"

"After they talked about that, Crystal told him about Preach and her, and invited Nicole and him to the wedding. I'm not totally clear on what happened next. Apparently Crystal told him about the church tour, and somehow Randy got the idea that you and Jim and Michelle had pulled out of the Bahamas trip to give Crystal and Preach the chance to be alone on their honeymoon, so he invited himself out."

"That's sorta true," Scooter nodded. "We'd talked about them taking two weeks and Jim and Michelle and me taking the other two, but we couldn't nail it down till we talked to Michelle."

"That apparently isn't the message he got. Apparently he thinks it's the whole four weeks."

"Oh, shit!" Scooter sighed, getting the implications. "He's pissed, huh?"

"I wouldn't say pissed but I would say very disappointed," Karin replied. "That's how Nicole understood it when she called the next day, hoping that someone out here could come up with some alternative activity for him this winter. She said the only reason he didn't punch a hole in his office wall is that he's a realist; he knows it's cinder block. I told her I couldn't speak for you and didn't think that was the case, but if it was I'd be expecting the rest of you to charter another boat, maybe the Phoebe Lee like you did a couple years ago."

"No, hadn't even considered it," Scooter said. "This was all back when Team 2 launched, right?"

"Right," Karin agreed. "The part that makes it worse yet is that the combination of Myleigh's wedding and a work appointment means that if they do go surfing at Buddha and Giselle's, it's pretty close to a case of fly down one day, stay one day and fly back the next."

"And probably with surf as flat as a ballerina's chest, too," Scooter snorted. "Dave, Mary. You know that Randy was already in on the deal; you got any objections?"

"None I can think of," Mary said. "It wasn't a done deal on our part yet, anyway."

"Good enough," Scooter said. "Karin, you got Randy's home phone number, right?"

"I do, but it might be a little late."

"Yeah, but he'll feel better if he knows we tried to set things straight the moment we heard there was trouble," she sighed. "Give me the phone. I don't know that it'll do any real good, but at least it might make him feel better to know he's been asked."

"Scooter," Karin warned, "Don't even give him a hint that Nicole called here asking for favors."

"Figured that," Scooter nodded.

Randy picked up the phone on the third ring. "Hey, Randy, it's Scooter!" she said cheerfully. "How's things in Spearfish Lake?"

"It's November, it's raining, so it's about as attractive as hell with the fires out. I thought you were on the river with Crystal."

"No, Jim and I had to go relieve Dave and Mary on Team 1, so we're a week ahead of her," Scooter said. "Hey, we just got back in and Karin tells us that Crystal told her that you'd bombed on the sailing trip. Work get in the way or something?"

"No, hell no," Randy said. She could hear the bitterness in his voice. "When I found out she and Preach were going to use it as their honeymoon, I invited myself out. Crystal may be a friend, but there's no way I'm going to horn in on their honeymoon."

"Yeah, that's pretty much what Jim and Michelle and I figured, too," Scooter said. "Look, Randy, it ain't all nailed down yet, Jim and I had to head down the hill in a hell of a hurry, but the way it was when we left was that Preach and Crystal were going to do two weeks and the rest of us do two weeks. We hadn't worked out which was which. You were in on the deal, and you're welcome to come along with us. It's still a split-the-expensesdeal."

"Scooter," he said in surprise. "Are you kidding?"

"No, no way," she smiled, thinking "mission accomplished" however it turned out. "Actually, I'm a little happier it turned out that way. What with Crystal hanging around Preach, they've gotten a little straight arrow. It's gonna be up to the rest of us to restore the reputation of Grand Canyon boatmen. Dave and Mary are talking of coming too; it's not a done deal yet, but I'm thinking if they come maybe we can mess around with the reservations and come up with a little bigger boat if there's six of us. You probably don't know them but they're pretty cool, too. It'd be an extra few hundred bucks, but split six ways it wouldn't be that bad. You up for it?"

"Scooter . . . my God, this is coming out of nowhere. After Crystal bombed me, I gave up on the idea. I, well, I set a couple meetings, but nothing I can't change, I think. What dates are we talking?"

"Don't know yet, Randy," she smiled. "We still gotta work out first half or second half, bigger boat and like that. We just got off the river, and Crystal and Preach are gonna be out for another week, so we can't settle anything till they get back. You're coming out for the wedding, ain't you? Maybe we'll have to find a few minutes to thrash it out."

"Yeah," he said, obviously a little dazed, "We're planning on being there; we'll have to get together."

"Good enough," she laughed. "Hey, just wanted to get that straightened out, and when Karin told me I figured I'd better be about it. I don't want to cut you off, but I just got off the river. There's a shower head with my name on it waiting for me; you know how that is."

"Yeah, Scooter, I do," he said, rather breathlessly and obviously incredulous at the turn of events. "Thanks, Scooter. I really appreciate you thinking of me."

"Shit, I'd have settled it ten days ago if I'd known about it," she replied. "Now, you be cool and say hi to Nicole for me. Tell her I'll be looking forward to seeing her, too."

"Thanks again, Scooter," he replied. "See you in a few days."

She hung up the phone. "Well, that's that," she said. "He didn't even put up any protest about the Wild Woman of the Grand Canyon coming along like he did the last time. He's just about flattened with surprise."

"What was that about me?" Michelle asked.

"Last winter he said that he didn't think it would look good for him to be out on the Felicity Ann with three single women," Scooter sighed. "When you get down to it, he was probably right."

"I'll have to get together with Nicole when she's out here and make sure she understands I'll lay off him and flatten him if he tries anything."

"Might take some flattening, he's got more black belts than you do."

"Then we'll have a hell of a fight sorting it out," Michelle snorted. "I'm not Jennlynn, I don't mess around with married guys, at least if I know they're married." She giggled, and continued, "Of course, there's been a time or two I haven't worked very hard at finding out."

"That leaves just one thing to do, but we'll have to wait for Crystal to get off the river."

"What?" Dave asked. "Work out the details?"

"No, Michelle and I are going to have to kick Crystal's young ass for letting Randy get the wrong impression. I'd do it myself but she's got that black belt; I'm going to need help."

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To be continued . . .

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