Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Thursday, January 7, 1999
Just from the way the schedule worked, Emily didn’t have to be in early on Friday morning, so she made a point of leaving for work earlier and stopping off at the Courier.
The Bradford Courier was over a hundred years old, the last survivor of a newspaper war that had gone on for close to forty years back around the turn of the century, with four newspapers involved. Just a little country weekly usually running eight full-size pages, sometimes more and sometimes less; it occupied a single-story block building toward the edge of downtown, a block or so up the street from the Spee-D-Mart. No longer printed on site – it hadn’t been since the early 1960s – much of the building was little used anymore. The majority of the operation was concentrated in a front room, where there were several computers sitting on several extraordinarily messy desks. Over the years Emily had done the chamber of commerce reports, she’d learned just a little about the business. Way back when she was born, it had employed five full-time and two part-time employees; now it was reduced to Weber, a teacher at the school who did the sports reports on a per-story basis, and Weber’s bookkeeper, ad saleswoman, and whatnot, Hazel Perkins.
In the time that Weber had been involved with the paper, it had gone from old fashioned hot-type letterpress through several generations of cold-type typesetting equipment, with increasing degrees of computerization. Now, the paper was mostly made up right on a computer screen. He was working at a computer doing something or other when Emily walked in. “So what happened at the meeting last night?” he asked.
“It was pretty interesting,” Emily said. “You were right; Lynnette was all up in arms. From what I could see the board couldn’t totally ignore her but couldn’t quite brush her off, either. So they had to politely listen to her rant for a while.”
“About what I figured,” Weber nodded. “Wouldn’t be the first time it happened. What’s this all about, anyway?”
“There’s this guy, Bert Woodward, who bought a farm out on Henderson Road last year. I’ve seen him around the store a few times but have never really gotten to know him. He’s got a thing about big guns, and while he leases the land out for farming, he also uses it to shoot them.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” Weber shrugged. “Some people like hunting and shooting, and other people want to not let them enjoy it.”
“This is just a touch different,” Emily grinned. “I mean, big guns. He’s got a replica Civil War cannon out there, a twelve-pounder Napoleon, he called it. Some other stuff too, but he’s real proud of this Napoleon thing; he said he spent fifteen thousand dollars on it, and bought the farm so he’d have a place to shoot it.”
“Right,” Weber smiled. “That is just a touch bigger than your typical deer rifle. Does he actually shoot things with it, or just make a heckuva racket?”
“It shoots cannonballs and all,” she smiled. “Apparently there’s this old gravel pit on the back of the property, he takes old junk cars out there and pops away at them from a couple hundred yards. I talked to a guy who’s seen it, and he says that a four-inch cannonball will do a number on an old Ford. Anyway, Lynnette lives halfway across the township but as soon as she heard about it she called the sheriff. There was a deputy there who said it’s all perfectly legal.”
“Legal?” Weber frowned. “An artillery piece? I find that hard to believe!”
“The deputy said that the government doesn’t regulate black powder weapons with unfixed ammunition. Fixed ammunition is like a rifle cartridge, where you have the bullet with a brass shell filled with powder. Unfixed ammunition is like a black powder rifle, where you have to load the powder and the bullet separately. Apparently he’s not the only one of these loonies around; they have some sort of a club, like Civil War re-enactors or something. They’re planning on having a meet or rally or whatever they call them. ‘Encampment’ is the word I wrote down in my notes.”
“I will be damned,” Weber shook his head. “So what do the neighbors think?”
“There’s no real near neighbors,” Emily explained. “The nearest house is about half a mile off, the guy who owns it was there, and he thinks it’s pretty neat. I-67 is along one side of the property; it’s on one of those stub ends, so no one lives close by. Woodward said that was part of why he bought the place. So, anyway, Lynnette was trying to get the township to pass an ordinance that bans people owning or shooting off cannons. The township attorney said the township might want to be real careful about that since it gets into second amendment country.”
“The right to carry arms is one thing,” Weber shook his head again. “Towing them is something else. On the other hand, there’s a part of me that’s still juvenile enough to imagine it could be fun to blow the hell out of an old car with a Civil War cannon.”
“I have to admit, although I never thought about it until last night; I can see how it could be fun, too,” Emily grinned. “I have had a couple cars that would have made me happy to light the fuse or however you fire one of those things.”
“I’ve had one or two like that myself,” Weber grinned. “So the township didn’t do anything, right?”
Emily shrugged. “They told Lynnette that they’d have to look into what their options are, which I take to mean that they don’t feel they can do anything and hope she’ll get over it.”
“Knowing Lynnette, I doubt that’s going to happen,” Weber shook his head. “So did you write a story?”
“No, I didn’t,” she shook her head. “I mean, I could go into a fair amount of detail, or I could just keep it brief, saying there were arguments on both sides and touching on them. I wanted to know what you think about it.”
“Did you let Lynnette know you were writing a story about it?”
“No, I never talked to her directly. I thought I heard enough of what she had to say when she was talking to the board, and all I’d get was more of the same. I didn’t actually talk to Woodward, either, but I was in a group throwing questions at him after the meeting. The general attitude I got there was people were curious, and some could see how it could be fun.”
“Then I’d say keep it brief,” Weber advised. “There’s no point in kicking over an anthill or I’ll have Lynnette calling me up three times a day to bitch about it.” He thought about it for a second. “What I’d really like to have real soon is a story about what he’s doing out there, not grinding an axe but from a ‘gee zow, this is interesting’ approach, not even trying to touch on the opposition to it.”
“It is interesting, once you stop and think about it,” Emily grinned. “You know Dayna Berkshire and Sandy Beach, don’t you?”
“It’d be hard to not know who they are in this town,” Weber nodded. “Although I have to admit I don’t know them well.”
“I’ve been to some of the renaissance faires they go to,” she replied. “You’d think seeing people jousting would be pretty far out, but the people doing it have fun and the spectators have even more fun. When you get right down to it, it sounds like the same kind of thing, just a little noisier.”
“That’s the attitude I’d like to see the story approached with,” he smiled. “You think you might like to try and write it?”
Emily was just a little giddy by the time she got down to the Spee-D-Mart. Woodward and his Civil War cannon had seemed a little, well, odd, but amusing. When you got down to it, no odder than some of the people she’d seen running around renaissance faires, something out of the ordinary, and it struck her as interesting that Weber had asked her to write the story. She’d pointed it out to him, but he said it was no big deal. She could write, she was open-minded, and if she wrote it, Lynnette Hershberger couldn’t accuse him of grinding an axe on her fanny, which made sense in a skewed sort of way.
After she’d agreed, she’d sat down at one of the computers there in the Courier office and kicked out a brief story about the board meeting, keeping it pretty simple. Weber looked it over, made a couple minor changes, including fixing a spelling error, and thanked her for her efforts, handing her a twenty for her trouble. That was neat – to actually get paid for writing! She knew it happened, but it had never happened for her.
She headed into the store, said ‘hi’ to Janine who was going off shift in a few minutes, put her coat and purse in the small storeroom off the counter area, and busied herself with her drawer as Janine got set to cash out. There were a number of things to be done around the store, as there always were. She headed over to the coffee bar, filled a cup from a half-full pot and from a quick taste could tell it was getting stale, so started a fresh pot while Janine finished up. With snow on the ground, the floor near the door got messy, so she grabbed a mop – it would have to be mopped up several times over the course of the day. As she dived off into the familiar routine the thoughts of writing a real story about Woodward and his toy faded to the back of her mind.
The pump bell rang; there was someone out at the pumps wanting gas, and blowing like this they probably wouldn’t be in the mood to wait. She headed for the counter to take care of it when Janine stepped out of the closet and authorized the pump. Emily looked up, and recognized the beat-up old Dodge Dayna and Sandy drove around town – if they were going any farther than Hawthorne they took the motor home they lived in much of the year, but it was a pain in the butt for running around town. Sure enough, Dayna was standing out in the wind, her long black hair blowing around while she pumped gas.
Janine was gone by the time Dayna came in and headed for the coffee bar. “Not nice out there, is it?” Emily said.
“I’ll tell you what,” Dayna nodded. “Bradford seemed pretty good when Sandy and I were looking for a place where we could put down stakes, but there are times that I think we must have had holes straight through our heads, and this is one of them. January in Michigan is for the birds.”
“Even the birds head south,” Emily grinned. “You could, too.”
“In theory,” Dayna shrugged. “In practice, I don’t know how far I’d want to risk Home in this weather, anyway.” “Home,” Emily knew, was what the two girls called their motor home – it had gotten the name because for several years they had lived in it permanently, and even now all but four months or so a year. She knew the two had only been back from their last gig in Louisiana since just before Christmas, and were scheduled to do a renfaire in Arizona in the spring. “The tranny is making some seriously funny noises, and it’s only using a quart of oil every other fill.”
“It’s got every reason to be worn out, you know,” Emily smiled. “You’ve got, what? Three hundred thousand miles on it?”
“Coming up on three fifty,” Dayna smiled. “Sandy and I are responsible for about 285,000 of those.”
Emily didn’t need details. The two musicians were among the most traveled people from Bradford, except for a few truck drivers like Dean Sallows, who considered a hundred-thousand-mile year a little on the wimpy side. In nine years, they’d taken Home to all the forty-eight lower states, nine Canadian provinces and Alaska, which is more than Dean could say about his Kenworth. Some of that was just sheer footloose desire to see what was on the other side of the horizon, but the majority of it was traveling to gigs and renfaires.
“You ever think about replacing it?” Emily asked.
“Now and then,” Dayna replied, taking a sip of her coffee. “That’s something Sandy and I need to settle in the next month or so, whether to throw some serious money at the old rig or look for a new one. We’ve been kicking it around for a year or more. I’ll tell you what; I wouldn’t mind having a little more room or a shower that wasn’t absolutely worthless.”
Just about then, the Pepsi truck pulled in, so there’d be stuff to get checked in; Emily halted her conversation with Dayna for a moment while she dug out the inventory sheets. The Pepsi guy was just coming in the door with a cartful of pop when Vicky stepped in front and held the door for him. “So have you heard about the job?” Emily asked as she dug through the inventory sheets.
“I got it,” Vicky smiled. “You are looking at a soon-to-be-former Walmart associate. I start Monday.”
“Oh, God, Vicky,” Emily beamed, “That’s great!”
“I was starting to get worried,” Vicky said. “I didn’t hear anything yesterday, but they called me the first thing this morning.”
“What new job is this?” Dayna asked, after taking another sip of her coffee.
Over the course of a couple minutes, while Emily concentrated on the Pepsi inventory, Vicky explained the new job at Macy Controls.
“That is really cool,” Dayna said after hearing her out. “I know Wally World has really been bumming you out. I’d take you out and buy you a drink to celebrate, but I know you don’t drink anymore.”
“It’s something to celebrate,” Vicky smiled. “I have put up with that damn dead end job for two years, and that’s two years too long.”
“Tell you what,” Dayna said. “Why don’t the two of you come over to the house tonight? I’m in the mood to cook Mexican and it’s not worth the trouble to do it with Sandy not around.”
“Sandy’s not around?” Emily asked with mild curiosity.
“She’s off on a run with Dean,” Dayna shrugged. “Something about only being able to make some schedule if he could team drive with someone. We’ve been here over two weeks now, so she was getting a little stir-crazy.”
Again, further explanations were not needed. Sandy was not a Bradford native, and the only people in town she knew were through Dayna. She also had more wanderlust than Dayna, if such a thing were possible, and the first year they’d wintered over in Bradford she’d been going half nuts from boredom. She and Dayna were sitting down at Hank’s Bar one evening for lack of anything else to do and got into a Spitzer game with Dean and his wife, Kathy. In the course of discussing one thing and another, Sandy had commented that she thought driving a truck would be pretty neat. Before the evening was over with she’d conned Dean into letting her try driving his Kenworth. It was a hell of a lot bigger than Home, but Sandy proved to be a natural. She had a CDL before spring came, and now about half of her winter layovers in Bradford were spent in one of Dean’s or John’s Kenworths, team driving or filling in on shorter runs so the guys could get a little break.
“Boy,” Emily shook her head. “I don’t know how either Kathy or Marilyn let them get away with that.”
“Oh, there’s no fooling around,” Dayna shrugged. “That’s not how Sandy operates, they know that.”
Neither of the Sallows wives could fail to be aware of the stories that Sandy was a lesbian, Vicky thought. Under the circumstances, they might even know the truth, they might also know both Sandy and Dayna occasionally dated guys – she thought as a cover story. She also knew Sandy could act pretty butch if she set her mind to it. She remembered Jason’s son telling about the rafter he’d worked with who smoked cigars, and it put her in mind of Sandy. If Sandy smoked, which she didn’t, it would be easy to imagine her ramrodding the eighteen-wheeler down the road, shifting like mad with a cigar clamped in her teeth.
“Well, I’d be willing,” Emily said, “Except I really ought to do something with Kevin. Between my meetings and his knife making, we haven’t seen each other evenings much the last few days.”
“Bring him along,” Dayna said.
“Maybe not,” Emily shrugged. “There’d be the three of us all talking about high school days; he’d really get zoned out.”
“How about Saturday night?” Dayna asked. “Sandy will be back by then; it’d dilute things a little.”
“Maybe I could get Jason to come,” Vicky said thoughtfully. “That runs the risk of them talking knife making all evening, of course.”
“Not that you can’t get right into the same discussion,” Emily grinned. “It sounds like a possible, if I can get someone to watch the kids.”