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 63

November 24, 2001

Flagstaff, Lee's Ferry

Normally weather forecasters in Arizona are pretty much like weather forecasters anywhere -- they'll tell you they had a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch when they actually had tuna salad, just to keep in practice -- but somehow they managed to call it pretty well on this November Saturday. It was cool in Flagstaff, but the day showed signs of warming. Lee's Ferry was at a much lower elevation than the town; that plus being later in the day would help, too.

The parking lot at Canyon Tours was crowded with cars and people standing around shooting the bull. Everyone was casually dressed; for example, Scooter had on a "University of Virginia - Roanoke" sweat shirt that had somehow survived a dozen clothing purges and more. One of Myleigh's many quirks was that she always wore skirts or dresses, even on the river, unless she was wearing a swimsuit. That was no less true today, but this time it was a denim skirt and a "Marienthal College" hoodie sweatshirt, which for her was pretty damn sloppy. She was standing talking with Crystal, who was in her usual jeans and T-shirt, this time with a light pile jacket, and Randy, in khaki slacks and a jacket that said "Clark Construction" with the picture of a backhoe silk-screened on the back.

Nicole, dressed in jeans and a "Spearfish Lake Marlins" sweat shirt, broke away from the discussion and ambled in the direction of the office restroom. On her way, she changed course and headed over to where Scooter was talking with Dan -- his hair growing back now -- Jerry, and Kelly. "Scooter," she said, "Got a minute?"

"Sure," Scooter said, "We're still waiting for a few people." They walked away from the crowd a little, getting a couple cars between them and anyone else. "What's up?" she said.

"I just wanted to thank you again," Nicole told her. "I know that was a big step out of the way for you."

"No big deal; I like Randy, he's cool," Scooter smiled. "I know he doesn't think so, but we here at Canyon Tours think we owe him. I take it things are back on an even keel?"

"I think so," Nicole told her. "That sure grew a little in a hurry, didn't it?"

"No, it grew a lot in a hurry," Scooter smiled. "Maybe this will balance things back out a little."

"I'm jealous as hell," she smiled. "I know exactly what he was going through. It's just my turn."

"No promises for another year," Scooter smiled. There was something else that might be in the works, but at this distance it was still a long shot and she didn't want to let the cat out of the bag. "But maybe we can work out something over next Christmas so you could go along."

"Let's see next spring," Nicole sighed. "Push him hard, I want him happy to be back at work."

"Nicole, I have to be honest," Scooter said, "This is a bunch of raft guides. We work hard, and we play hard. You know what I said about repairing our reputation."

"Randy's a big boy," Nicole grinned. "He can take care of himself."

"You've been warned," Scooter laughed.

"Yo, everybody," Al's voice boomed out. "I guess everyone is here, so we might as well get moving. Crystal, Preach, you take point. Those that are going on the crew bus, get loaded. The rest of us will caravan behind the crew bus; it'll be easier to spot if we get separated."

People began to head for cars; this time Scooter and Jim were going to ride out in his car, rather than the crew bus, just for the sake of comfort, they told everyone. "Not a bad day for heading to Lee's without any rafts," Scooter grinned as she closed the door. "You ready for this?"

"In a way I'm sorry we put it off," Jim smiled. "But yeah, in a sense I've been ready for a long time."

The caravan soon got under way, with Preach and Crystal out in front. It was fairly long, fifteen or twenty cars besides the crew bus. As they headed out of town, the bride and groom got a little ahead of everyone; then the crew bus caught a light, then a second one. By the time they were dropping down out of the ponderosa country into the pinion pine north of town Preach had a good mile on them. By the time they hit the red rock desert of the Navajo Country, they were out of sight. "Looks like we got away with it," Karin leaned forward to tell Jeff, who was driving the crew bus as usual.

"Yeah, unless they decide to stop and wait," Jeff said. "On the other hand, they know that I know how to find Lee's Ferry if anyone does, so maybe they won't."

"That's what we hoped," Karin grinned.

More than an hour later, when the crew bus got to the turnoff to the road down to Lee's Ferry, Jeff drove right past without a hint of a turn signal. The wide spot in the road known as Marble Canyon is very isolated in a state that has a lot of places that are merely isolated; the launch at Lee's Ferry and the Navajo Bridge are about the only reason it has to exist at all. There really isn't much there -- a handful of houses back from the road, a couple of rafting company warehouses, a bar, a gas station and convenience store, and a motel. The motel is nothing special, but it's not exactly an hourly rate "no-tell motel" either. Karin had driven out a couple weeks before to negotiate a rate for a couple hours for every unoccupied room, and that's where the crew bus headed, followed by the entire caravan.

As far as Karin could tell, Preach and Crystal didn't suspect a thing. The wedding guests headed for the motel rooms and started changing clothes; Karin changed from her jeans and flannel shirt to a long lavender ball gown; Al to a tux. Myleigh pulled on the blue-sequined gown she'd worn the last time she'd played a Canyon wedding. Scooter put on a low-cut white gown with some degree of protest -- as far as she could remember it was the first time she'd worn a dress since maybe the sixth grade. With Karin's insistence and considerable help, she put on makeup for the first time since she and a friend had played with her friend's mom's makeup case, and that was well before the sixth grade. "Scooter," Karin said. "You know, you actually look like a woman when you try."

"That's it, Karin, rub it in," she snorted. "Next thing I know you'll be bitching at me about my cigars."

"They really aren't good for your health, you know," Karin teased.

Half an hour after the crew bus pulled in everyone was ready to go. They loaded up, and drove down the hill to Lee's Ferry, where Preach and Crystal were waiting, wondering what had happened to everyone. Trey was the first off the crew bus, Nikon in hand, but Karin followed immediately. It took a few seconds for Crystal's eyes to get wide and realize that she'd just been had -- big time. While the people gathered up at Canyon Tours earlier had been wearing jeans and T-shirts and jackets like the bride and groom -- now the men were in suits and tuxedos, and the women were wearing evening gowns and the like. Trey was snapping photos with his Nikon.

"Motherrrrr . . ." Crystal half-snarled, knowing just who had to be the organizer. She should have been expecting this.

"Come on, Crystal," Karin grinned. "You didn't think we'd let the chance get away, did you?"

"Yeah, but Mom!" she said, looking around. There were her father and mother, Jon and Tanisha; Nanci and Kevin; Myleigh with her travel harp Brown Bess, and her fiancé, Trey; Randy with his guitar and Nicole; Scooter and Jim; Dave and Mary, Michelle, and a lot of other raft guides and friends. As people got out of cars, a few others she hadn't been expecting got out -- including Jennlynn Swift and Phil and Becky Osborne, who Preach had driven home to Connecticut in September. Everyone was dressed like this wedding was going to be at Glen Hill Road First Baptist, not at a launch ramp by the Colorado River. "This is embarrassing. I mean, you got to everybody!"

"I think I did pretty well," Karin laughed. "I mean, people should be appropriately dressed for a wedding."

"Well, yeah, but here I am in a T-shirt and blue jeans," Crystal shook her head and sighed. "I guess I deserved it."

"Yes, you did," her father said. "But it doesn't have to be that way."

"Dad?" she said quietly.

"Louise's wedding dress is on the bus," he said softly. "You're pretty close to the same size."

"And Noah," Pastor Jordan said from behind him. "I used the spare keys to your storage locker you gave me to bring you one of your suits."

Thus it was that twenty minutes later, wearing a suit and a simple but treasured wedding dress, Preach and Crystal were married to the tune of harp and guitar in the open air beside the river that led through what most of them thought was the greatest cathedral on earth.

Pastor Jordan was a good egg, very open and friendly, very charismatic, and he gave the wedding some flourish; it was more than just a quick run-through. He finally got down to, "I now pronounce you man and wife," and "You may kiss the bride." Of course, they kissed.

"Before we conclude these proceedings," Pastor Jordan said, still holding the open Bible in his hand. "We have one more thing to accomplish. Noah, would you and Jim exchange places? And Crystal, would you exchange places with Scooter?"

Both Crystal and her husband looked at each other with looks that said 'What's going on here?' but went ahead as they were told, as Scooter and Jim stepped in front of Pastor Jordan.

"Dearly beloved," he began again, 'We are gathered together in the presence of God and this company to witness this man and this woman enter a state of holy matrimony . . .


Al and Karin's house was packed, and part of the party expanded onto the patio in spite of the cool evening air. Since it was a combination wedding reception and season-wrap party, there were a lot of rafting stories being told. Randy and Nicole and Scooter and Jim, all now back to their normal clothes, found a quiet spot in the corner of the patio to talk for a couple minutes. "The one down deal about the whole thing," Scooter said, "Is that I would have liked to have seen Crystal's face. I could just about hear her eyes get wide as saucers."

"You sure took everyone by surprise," Nicole smiled. "How many people knew you were going to do that?"

"Beyond us, just Karin and Pastor Jordan," Scooter said. "We ran it past Karin a month ago, we didn't want to step on Crystal's and Preach's toes, but everyone we would have had at a wedding was there anyway; why not kill two birds with one stone? Karin set it up with Pastor Jordan. She told Trey to go easy on the film during the ceremony and don't run out, more was going to happen, but she didn't tell him what and told him to not even say anything about being told that."

"Look," Randy said, "I'm happy for you, but here we are back to the sailboat again. I didn't want to horn in on Preach and Crystal's honeymoon, and I don't want to horn in on yours."

"You're not," Scooter told him. "Understand that. Randy, there's gonna be six of us on a thirty-two-footer, that's a lot of things but no way is it a honeymoon. Jim and I are staying at the house tonight, and in the morning we're heading down to Mexico to that place where Dave and Mary hang out. We may stay a day, we may stay a week, we may stay a month. That's our honeymoon; all we have to worry about is being back here before Christmas."

"OK, that makes me feel better," he said. "We should have a good time."

"Darn right, we're gonna teach 'em what they don't know how," Scooter laughed. "I told you, we have a reputation as Grand Canyon boatmen to uphold."

-- 30 --

-- 6:05 PM April 17, 2005

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