Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Over the course of the last couple of years, a close friendship had evolved among Randy and Nicole, Trey and Myleigh, and Danny and Debbie Evachevski. Randy and Nicole had known Myleigh for years, of course, but hadnít known Trey anywhere as well. However, after Myleigh and Trey married and moved to Spearfish Lake, the seeds were already there for a close friendship.
Randy had known Danny much of his life; theyíd grown up in the same neighborhood. To be honest, Randy hadnít much cared for Danny back in neighborhood days when Randy had been a scrawny kid several years younger, and Danny had been an accomplished and rather arrogant high school athlete. But in the dozen years that Danny had been gone from Spearfish Lake during college and his disastrous marriage, Randy had become close with Dannyís father, Gil, who had been a friend of the Clark family anyway. When a rather dispirited and defeated Danny came back to Spearfish Lake a few years before, Randy and Nicole got to know him a little. After Danny and Debbie Elkstalker had started living together and Danny took over his fatherís business, the three couples became much closer, at least partly because Myleigh and Debbie were very unique people in their own individual ways.
Myleigh was small, very neat, very precise, and very brilliant, but very, very quirky Ė the kind of quirks that can grow on people if they can stand them at all, and a lot of people couldnít. Myleighís unique way of talking just underlined her individualism. Debbie, a full-blooded Shakahatche from the Three Pines band was a very warm and outgoing person, the kind who becomes an instant friend. She sold advertising for the local paper as a day job, but in her spare time she was also a tribal katara, a word that didnít translate easily. Danny and Debbie could easily come up with a dozen words that touched on what a katara was, shaman leading the list, but none of them was an exact match. She was very spiritual in her own way, with a talent for making you stop and take a fresh look at things.
Debbie and Preach had only met a couple times, never for long, but getting the two of them together held the promise of an interesting evening.
Though Danny and Debbie were a few years older than the rest of the group gathered in the Clark living room that evening, the age difference didnít matter much anymore, at least partly because they had been fully married the shortest of any of the four couples. However, they were the only ones with a child, their boy Sky, who was a couple of months short of a year old. Debbie was pregnant again, and was due in June, a couple of months after Nicole.
The air in Randy and Nicoleís great room was filled with the smell of pot roast as Danny and Debbie came in, with Sky in a baby carrier. Sky had just recently started walking without holding onto things, but still fell down a lot, so to keep him out of things Nicole had set up a play pen that had spent several years in her father and motherís attic. Sky was the center of attention for a while, especially among the women, but soon fell asleep in the play pen.
"That," Trey observed, "appears to be a look into the future around this place."
"Iíd say you have it about right," Randy agreed. "In fact, Iíd say about a year into the future."
"I take it you guys are still waiting to be surprised in the boy or girl department," Crystal observed.
"We could find out," Nicole agreed. "And it would make life a little bit simpler. But at the same time we decided it would be more fun to be surprised."
"Have you made any decisions about a name?"
"Not really," Nicole said. "If itís a girl, weíve pretty well decided that itís going to be Sabena Marie, at least unless we get a better idea between now and then. A boyís name, well, thatís a little more up in the air. Weíve thrown around a couple dozen names, but nothing seems to stick."
Randy shook his head. "Iíve drawn a couple lines. For instance, I want to lose the ĎRí tradition. Ryan, Rachel, Ruth and Randy are enough in my mind."
"You know," Danny opined. "Dad and I were kicking around possible names for our next addition the other day and the discussion drifted to you guys. He said you guys might want to consider ĎWayne,í after your great-grandfather."
"Thatís on the short list," Randy sighed. "The hell of it is that Wayne Clark is a hell of a name to have to live up to, both good and bad."
"Howís that?" Preach asked.
"Long story. Bear in mind that I never knew him, he died years before I was born, and Dad never really knew him that well." He leaned back and stretched while he was figuring out how to say what he wanted to stay, then continued. "Wayne Clark was a very mixed bag," he began. "On the one hand, he was brilliant in his own way, and he had a tremendously long view. He wasnít the one to invent plywood or wafer board, but was one of the pioneers who got the bandwagon rolling. He was a great businessman who knew when to jump and where to jump to when it was time. Even when everybody else was jumping the other way, his instincts were usually pretty good. For instance, he pulled out of the stock market in early 1929, six months before it bit the big one. People called him crazy for doing it at the time, but he proved that he was crazy like a fox."
"Not too many people did that," Danny observed. "My grandfather Dan said that he never would have made it through the Depression without what Wayne did."
"True," Randy nodded. "Even though a lot of people didnít understand his vision at the time. His ideas about conservative woodland management and sustained yield were decades ahead of his time, principles that Clark Plywood still pretty much follows today and with any kind of luck will be following a hundred years from now."
"How did he help people through the Depression?" Preach asked.
"Again, long story," Randy said. "To be as brief as possible, back in the early thirties much of the woodland around here was still barren and empty following the great white pine clear-cut of the late 1800s. Lots of stump land reverted to the county for unpaid taxes. When everybody was really hurting, Wayne bought up all he could get his hands on at pennies an acre, and hired people to go out and plant tree seedlings. It was sort of the same thing as Roosevelt did with the Civilian Conservation Corps, except that Wayne thought of it first and did it out of his own pocket. My grandfather told me once that Wayne told him that he never expected to cut those trees, but that his grandkids would. And he was right Ė most of what my dad and Clark Plywood harvests today are those trees."
"That doesnít sound like a bad legacy," Preach observed.
"If that was where it ended, it wouldnít be," Randy said, "But all that was on the one hand, and what was on the other hand wasnít as pretty. Letís just say that he wanted what he wanted and didnít mind too much how he got it. He could be vindictive and obnoxious. He would run right over people if they got in his way. He knew what to do when he got a bottle in his hand, and he liked chasing skirts. That didnít fly very well in a small town like Spearfish Lake, which was a lot smaller then than it is now. The story of how he wound up with his last wife, Donna, isnít very pretty, and caused a split in the family and in this town that lasted long after his death. In fact, he and his son, my grandfather Brent, were barely on speaking terms for the last twenty years of Wayneís life, mostly because that deal pissed my grandfather off enough he didnít want anything to do with his father. And, itís part of why my grandfather started Clark Construction, rather than going to work for Clark Plywood. Wayne Clark may have been a great man in some ways, but he was no saint by a long way, either."
"Yeah," Danny commented. "I guess I can see why you would have second thoughts about wanting to saddle a kid with that name."
"Names are very important," Debbie said. "One of the most important questions I have ever had to ask myself is, ĎWhat is my name?í I mean, what does it mean? Why does it affect me? How does it affect what others think about me? What does it mean for my future? Too many people are much too casual about names, Randy, so itís good to see that you are putting some careful thinking into this question. But I should point out that in this case the name carries special power, and itíd be up to you to give the child bearing it the wisdom to use that power wisely."
"Which is part of the reason Iím reluctant to use it," Randy said. "Iím not sure I have wisdom enough to pass that kind of wisdom along to a son. Iíve come to the conclusion that making a baby is easy and fun, itís what comes after thatís hard."
"If youíve thought it through that far youíre ahead of ninety percent of the rest of the world," Preach snorted. "The odds are that itís going to work out for you and Nicole, Randy. You are both showing a refreshing sense of responsibility about it."
"Glad you think so," Randy shook his head. "I mean, I look at Nicole and sometimes wonder just what in hell we were thinking about, beyond the fact that weíre both getting to an age where it needed to be done before too long. No turning back now, though. I guess weíll just have to do the best we can and hope it works out."
"Thatís about all anyone can ever do," Debbie smiled. "I happen to think the two of you are off to a good start."
"You guys are pretty serious about this, arenít you?" Crystal asked.
"Very serious," Debbie said. "Itís a big responsibility. Most people donít understand how big a responsibility it is, and thatís where they screw up. Weíre hoping to avoid that, and I think we may have a chance of managing that. On the other hand, you never know. When you look at the kind of drunken, lousy parents my folks were, I have to think that somehow I got lucky and turned out pretty good. So, you never know."
"Itís a crapshoot," Nicole shrugged. "In fact, itís about the biggest one you can make. I can think of plenty of examples of good people who did everything the best they could and came up with some absolutely loser kids. On the other hand, I can think of people who did everything wrong and came up with a winner, like Debbie or Myleigh."
"The odds are that good is going to produce good, and bad will produce bad," Debbie smiled. "But it doesnít always work that way, in fact, it often doesnít work that way. To be honest, Iím a little surprised that Danny and I decided to take the risk to not only do it once, but do it again."
"The biological imperative is toward reproduction, and itís also toward hedging our reproductive bets," Danny said. "I know I wanted to be a good father for many years before I met Debbie. My ex-wife was totally against having kids, and in looking back at it Iím just as glad that we never did. It would have been a disaster. I think Debbie and I can make it work, though."
"You know," Crystal mused, "Iíve been thinking that Sky is sort of an unusual name for a kid. Is that really Skyler?"
"No, itís Sky, as in Sky Blue," Debbie smiled. "We wanted to come up with a name that reflected both his Indian and White heritage. We went a long time before we settled on that, and it was actually suggested by one of my katara friends over at Three Pines, and we had quite a conclave with them before we settled on it."
"So how about this one?" Preach asked.
"We havenít settled it yet, but weíve still got some time," Danny said. "Right now, the short list would have to be Hunter, Sage, Talon, or Raven if itís a boy, or Raven again, April, Autumn, or Aurora for a girl. But that could change."
"Hunter, even Raven has a good feel to it," Randy said. "Hmmm, Hunter Clark, Raven Clark, except for the ĎRí problem. Not bad, except you guys beat us to it, I think."
"ĎQuoth the raven, Nevermore,í" at least for a boy," Nicole shook her head. "A girl, well, maybe, but weíre not coming from the same place you are, Debbie."
"Actually, I sort of favor ĎCoyote,í except thatís a little too Indian," she smiled. "And Coyote Evachevski sounds a little funny to me, thereís something wrong with the rhythm. Iím not sure Iíd want to be responsible for hanging a name like that on a kid."
"Yeah, especially with the kid growing up with you using Coyote stories for bedtime stories," Danny snickered. "That could get a little too cross-ethnic."
"Itís not easy," Debbie sighed. "Like I said a few minutes ago, a name has a lot of power and should be carefully selected. Fortunately, we have some time to work on it, and weíll probably have to go to my katara friends again, who most likely will come up with something ideal that we havenít even thought of. Myleigh, Trey: right off the top of your heads, if you were to have a kid, what would you choose for a name?"
"No idea," Trey shook his head. "Hell, I was supposed to be Troy, but somehow it got mispronounced and misspelled. Iíve always had a little bit of a problem with it being pretty unusual, and I think Iíd go for something pretty popular even if there was no extra meaning to it."
"I am quite certain I donít have any idea," Myleigh shook her head. "Though Iíve come to like my name very much, I have often wondered if itís not the result of a similar ignorant mispronunciation or misspelling, so I assume chance entered into it. Although, just on instant reflection, I seem to recall a John Wayne film where the character Wayne played was named ĎChance,í so that might be a possibility of itself. Were it a girl, I have often thought ĎCelesteí was a very feminine name. But I assure you that is the absolute limit that I have ever considered the matter. As Debbie has pointed out, the whole question deserves considerably more careful consideration than that."
"Oh, thereís a lot of angles to it," Nicole said. "I mean, in one sense of the word, weíve given it a lot of consideration. Randy and I didnít even need much discussion. We knew even when we were back in high school that if we got married we were going to have kids. Granted, Randy and I were split up for a couple years there, but when we got back together the same conclusion was there, only stronger, if anything. Back when we decided to get married we still knew we were going to have kids, but we decided to put it off for a while, if for no more reason than to spend some time together by ourselves before we went down that road."
"Yeah," Randy said. "And really, it was a wise decision looking back on it. We had some rough edges we needed to grind off each other, even after we got married. Well, especially after we got married. We went years there when we spent little time together, when Nicole in school or out doing her thing and I had to stay back and work. You all know about that; itís nothing new, but there was some resentment that had to be worked out. So, holding off on the kids was a good move that we both agreed on. But like she said, thirty isnít that far off for both of us, and it was time to think about getting on with it. Even then we planned it pretty carefully."
"We wanted to work it around my school schedule and his work schedule," Nicole explained. "We figured that if we had the baby about the first of April, I could take my three months maternity leave beginning in March, and have the summer off to extend it. Then Iíll be able to start with a fresh class in the fall, rather than having to pick up in the middle."
"Right," Randy agreed. "And even then, unless the weather turns warm on us real early, weíre usually not getting fully into the swing of the summer work until along later in the month, so I can take at least some time off helping her get settled in with the kid. As it is, her due date is right at the tail end of the ideal window, and I think if weíd missed it weíd have given some thought to putting it off for a year."
"You canít schedule everything perfectly," Nicole giggled, "But if this kid is a true Clark, itíll be ahead of schedule and under budget."
"A kid?" Randy snickered. "Under budget? Not a chance."
"To tell the truth, I donít know how Iíd handle child care issues without going nuts," Crystal sighed. "Itís tough enough being off the river for the winter as it is, and that could drag it out for years. How are you guys going to handle it? I mean, Nicole, I know youíre planning on taking a few months off work, but how are you going to handle it after that?"
"Gramma power, mostly," Randy grinned. "Mom has been looking for an excuse to retire anyway. Itíd normally be another couple years before she could hang it up, but the school board is offering an early buyout, and sheís going to take it. Dad has another few years before he wants to hang it up, although heís wanting to back off from working some."
"Honestly, I think sheís more excited about it than I am," Nicole grinned. "I mean, sheís already got three grandchildren, but this is the first time sheíll be able to play gramma for more than a few hours at a time."
"Yeah," Randy said. "With Jared out in California and Mike and Abby a couple hundred miles south, she doesnít get the chance very often. Guess weíre going to get to bear the brunt of it."
"Boy, I know how that works," Danny shook his head. "My mother raised hell with all of us kids for years, saying that she expected more than two grandchildren out of five kids, especially when she hardly ever got to see those two. Marsha and I used to get it from her all the time. It backed off a bit after Jeremy and Cheyenne came along, but Jennifer and Blake are such home bodies that she still didnít get her full shot of gramma power."
"Sheís made up for it with Sky, though," Debbie smiled. "It would be a whole lot more difficult without her around, and we work with Jennifer and Blake on the child care issues and probably will more in the future."
"Weíre going to try to work with each other on the child care issues a little, too," Nicole added. "Iím not concerned. Itíll work out, one way or another. Both Debbie and I ought to be able to keep on working."
"It would certainly be different for Trey and I," Myleigh sighed. "Were we to decide to have a child, we wouldnít have what you refer to as Ďgramma powerí available. Treyís parents live much too far away, and I am as estranged from my parents as ever."
"Maybe not." Nicole replied. "If it was fairly soon, say the next couple years or so, I see no real problem in adding an extra kid into the mix among the rest of us with small children. Besides, Treyís schedule is pretty flexible, and you spend more time at home than Debbie or I do, anyway."
"I have to confess that I had not thought of it in quite that manner," Myleigh said. "Whilst the possibility remains in the realm of being merely theoretical for us, that is certainly a point to take under consideration."
"Itíd darn sure be a lot different for us," Crystal shook her head. "The Park Service is going to drop the maximum trip lengths from eighteen to sixteen days next year. Canyon Tours is going to drop to fourteen-day trips, mainly to fit family vacation times better. That pretty obviously is going to mean two weeks on and a week off for us, so that makes things a little more do-able. Itís sure not like my brother and sister-in-law. They have a real good company nursery and day care where they work, so it really works out well for them. Barbara really came as a surprise to them, but it really worked out well. She was only off work a month or so, and they both worked online from home for a lot of that, so they decided to have another one right away to keep the spacing short."
"I can sure understand that," Nicole agreed. "Weíre more or less planning on doing the same thing. Mom spread three kids over eleven years, and she seems to think that she dragged things out way too long. Of course, I was a little unexpected while she was still in high school, so that was part of the reason why they held off on Terry and Meghan. It still seems a little strange that I have a sister still in high school. I had her in a couple classes and it got a little weird."
"Youíre planning on keeping the schedule tight, I take it?" Crystal asked.
"If we can," Nicole nodded. "The timing in terms of time of the year is working so well for this one that it would be nice if I was about this far along again next year. Iím not saying weíre definitely going to do it that way. We might decide to put it off another year, but I donít think we want to let it go much longer than that."
"Randy," Crystal said, shaking her head, "Back when we were having all that fun screwing around at Northern, did you ever think that the bunch of us would be sitting around your gorgeous living room with a nice fire in the fireplace discussing this topic?"
"Never crossed my mind," he shook his head. "It wouldnít have seemed real, not that it doesnít seem a little surreal now. Now, I have to temper that a little by saying that Nicole and I had discussed it a little when we were going together in high school, but to look back on it, both of us knew that we were just talking things around, not being serious about them."
"I agree," Nicole said. "Back when we were seniors in high school I think we felt we were all grown up. I know a lot of kids in school think that today. But you know, every time I walk into the high school I keep thinking about how wrong we were, those kids are just kids and seem younger every year. We were just kids then, too. Boy, have we come a long way."
"I suspect those kids in high school will have their own long roads to travel to realize it, too," Preach smiled. "I think itís part of the cycle of life that we all go through. I suspect that if the group of us gets together in this living room thirty years from now, weíll be discussing grandchildren and retirement plans."
"I hate to admit it, but youíre probably right. But, if I can change the subject on everyone, the smell of that roast beef is driving me about half crazy. Is everyone about ready for dinner?"
"I know I am," Myleigh said. "Nicole, might I assist you with the preparations?"
"Sure thing," Nicole smiled. "Itís not going to take long."
"I can help," Crystal offered.
"No, two of us ought to be enough," Nicole said as she got up. "Iíve learned the hard way that things get crowded out there if thereís more than two in our kitchen. We even have the table pretty well set, so it shouldnít take long."
Nicole was just heading into the kitchen, which was on what they considered the back side of the house, the side facing the road, not the lake, when she heard a knocking at the kitchen door. "Now, I wonder who that could be?" she said to Myleigh.
"Iím quite sure I donít know," the smaller woman said. "Would you like me to get it?"
"No, Iíd better do it," Nicole said, heading for the door.