Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
It was a while before they moved back into the living room, with a nice fire still going in the fireplace and fresh cups of coffee all around. It proved to be an interesting evening, and it was clear that theyíd found that Nellie was an older but kindred spirit. She had a lot of stories, more than had come out around the dinner table, and once in the living room some of the other peopleís stories began to be heard. Nicole and Crystal spent quite a bit of time talking about their adventures on the Appalachian Trail. Theyíd done their end-to-end hikes as different trips, but Nicole had been with Crystal for three weeks on Crystalís end to end. It had hooked her so thoroughly that sheíd done it with another friend two years later. Almost everyone there had heard the stories of Crystalís crewing on the yacht to Hawaii, and her beautiful but dangerous trip down the Inside Passage as crew on a salmon fishing boat, racing winter back to Seattle. And, of course, there were lots and lots of Grand Canyon stories.
All too soon the evening began to wind down. "Goodness, itís late!" Nellie finally protested. "Iím afraid itís hours past my bedtime, but I canít tell you when Iíve enjoyed an evening so much. You young people have got so much sitting in front of you I really envy you."
"Weíll have you over again sometime," Nicole told her honestly, entranced by their new acquaintance. "Preach and Crystal will be leaving in about a week, but the rest of us are here in town and we get together frequently."
"Iíd love to join you again," Nellie replied. "Itís so refreshing to be around active young people who see a future in front of them! Please feel free to invite me anytime."
"Oh, Iím quite sure we shall," Myleigh smiled. "You have given us many of your memorable stories. I know even thinking about them has expanded my own horizons. I should not find it surprising were many of us to find considerable inspiration as a result."
Nellie was still a while getting out of the house; Randy accompanied her to her car, and gave her a wave as she drove off. He headed back into the house, to discover Nicole setting up a fresh round of coffee. Randy helped her with it, and settled back in his easy chair. "Well, Randy," Preach grinned, "Iíd say you did a pretty good job of casting your bread upon the waters with that one."
"Yeah, no fooling," Randy shook his head, getting Preachís Biblical allusion without comment. "You know the old saw about small towns being where everyone knows everyone?"
"Yeah," Preach smiled. "Iím from a town smaller than this one, so Iím familiar with it."
"Iím beginning to think Spearfish Lake isnít a small town," Randy smiled. "I mean, I know Iíve seen her around here and there, but Iíd never talked to her before today that I recall. And to think she has a past as interesting as that! Boy, you never know, do you?"
"No, you never do," Preach agreed. "Thatís one thing we get out on the river. I mean, stories of other peopleís adventures. Some of them are pretty wild. This summer we had a guy tell us about crashing his motorcycle on the Bonneville Salt Flats at over 300 miles an hour. I mean, we are talking a serious case of a hole right straight through his head! But you only rarely come across someone with as many stories as Nellie."
"It makes me a little jealous," Crystal admitted. "Itís almost like Iím getting to be a stick in the mud, comfortable with what Iím doing and not quite ready to strike out and do new things." She shook her head, let out a sigh, and continued, "And, I guess thatís what I am. Preach, we need to do something new, and maybe before rafting season starts."
"We could probably scrape together three or four weeks, if we have it planned before your folks come back from Truk," he said. "Weíd need to have it pretty well firmed up, or else your father is going to find something for us to do."
"It would still be kind of a short notice to come up with anything thatís really new," Crystal protested. "And the season would be all wrong to do a lot of the things on my list. Iíll admit, I sort of envy Duane and Michelle, up there in Alaska."
"Iím not all that crazy about cold weather," Preach said. "But they wanted the adventure of spending the winter up there training Philís dogs, rather than doing it here in Spearfish Lake."
"Weíve missed them this year," Randy said of the two Ė Duane and Michelle were Canyon Tours trip leaders like Crystal and Preach, and theyíd spent the last several winters in Spearfish Lake helping to train Dannyís brother-in-law Philís Iditarod dogsled teams. The year before theyíd talked Phil into letting them do the training in Alaska, just for the change in scenery, and to get a little better acclimatized to the winter weather before making Duaneís rookie run in the race. "And winter in Alaska isnít exactly my cup of tea, anyway. It gets cold enough around here, thank you."
"You could have done that if youíd wanted to," Nicole pointed out. "You had the time for years, and youíve always complained about how boring the winters are."
"Well, yeah, Iíve considered it more than once," Randy admitted. "But, well, it really hasnít appealed to me, and Iím not all that free in the winter, especially late in the winter. I probably could have done it a few years ago, but since Brent started having his heart attacks I really havenít been able to take that much time off while weíre getting ready for construction season."
"I guess I have to give you that one," Nicole agreed. "I guess it really is a case of setting your priorities, like Nellie said. I guess I didnít realize it, but when I married you I had to marry your priorities, too."
"Are you saying you wouldnít have done it if youíd thought about it?" Randy asked.
"Oh, no," Nicole shook her head. "Yes, it would be nice if we could get out and have a few bigger adventures together, but I have priorities too, like a home and a family. I was able to get out and have some fun before I settled down to them, and Iíve always been a little sorry that youíve felt jealous about it."
"I can understand," Danny shook his head. "Hell, I married a woman who didnít share any of my priorities. I spent years having to bend my life to fit hers, which I didnít care for at all. Fortunately, Debbie and I seem to share our priorities pretty well, so itís like night and day. But then, Iíve never been as much of an adventure freak as Crystal, like you seem to want to be at times, Nicole. I mean, donít get me wrong, that Canyon trip we did was a lot of fun, but please understand, Crystal and Preach, while it might be fun to think about, I donít believe Iíd want to make a life doing it."
"Me, either," Debbie agreed. "I wish I could have made that Canyon trip with you that time, but the way it came down there was just no chance of it happening. But I donít have the great driving need to go out and have a great adventure just for the sake of doing it. And thatís fine, I guess. Itís like Nellie said, you have to decide where your priorities are." She leaned back and stared into the fire for a moment before she continued, "Randy, maybe Iím wrong in saying this, but as long as Iíve know you, itís always seemed to me as if you have a pretty good idea of what your priorities ought to be. But that vision of what they ought to be has always seemed to be at war with what you want them to be, and what you want them to be usually has been the loser."
"No, I donít think youíre wrong in saying it," Randy sighed. "And, in fact, I think you just did a pretty good job of describing it. I manage to keep what I want my priorities to be pretty well stuffed back deep in the closet most of the time. If they werenít, itíd be all too easy to say the hell with it and turn into a Canyon Tours boatman." He shook his head and smirked, "Or buy a sailboat and set off on a trip around the world."
"But you donít think it would be the right thing to do," Debbie nodded.
"Yeah," Randy sighed. "And itíll probably never be the right thing to do."
* * *
It was getting pretty late before Randy and Nicole went to bed, but they werenít quite ready to go to sleep yet. Lying in bed before going to sleep was their favorite time to talk privately, even when they were alone in the house and especially with company like Crystal and Preach there. They could whisper softly in each otherís ears, cuddle each other and let their bodies sometimes say what words couldnít.
"That was quite an evening," Nicole whispered. "You manage to meet some of the neatest people in the most unconventional ways. Iím sure glad you offered to clean out Nellieís driveway for her."
"I am, too," he said. "My God, how can one person do all those things? I mean, I thought Crystal had an adventurous life, but Crystal was sitting there just overwhelmed by the stuff Nellie was telling us about. Itíd be nice to have a few stories like that, but Iíve come to the conclusion itís not going to happen so I really shouldnít wish for it."
"Randy," Nicole sighed, "ever since we got back together after you got out of college Iíve heard the same thing. Honestly, Iím a little tired of hearing about it. There are times I wish youíd just say the hell with your job, and say letís go buy a boat and drop out for a few years."
"Itís not going to happen," he sighed. "And you know why."
"I know it, but do you ever think about it?"
"Almost every day. You know that. But realistically, doing something major like that just isnít on my list of priorities because it canít be. And, itís just going to get worse in the next few years, rather than get better. If Iíd wanted to be able to do something like sail around the world, Iíd have had to set some different priorities ten years ago. And if I had, Crystal would probably have been who Iíd have been doing those adventures with, not you."
"I know," she sighed. "But you gave her up for the sake of those priorities. Iíve always known that, and in fact Iím grateful for it. I love you, Randy, and I especially love you because you take your responsibilities seriously. I know that sometimes you donít like having to do it, but at least you do it. Itís never seemed like itís quite fair to you. At least weíre doing a little better about getting out and doing stuff than we were for a while."
"Yeah, that trip to Patagonia seemed like the sort of thing we ought to have done more often," he said. "Itís not like we canít afford it. We could afford to do more if we wanted to, but the problem isnít money, itís time. And that problem is not going to ease up, itís just going to get worse over the next few years, with little whatís-their-name and their possible brother or sister involved. It was like pulling teeth to be able to get the time we took to go out to Little Woodlark last summer. Donít get me wrong, every minute of it was worth it, and Iím counting the days until we can do something like that again, but itís not going to happen very often."
"Youíre probably right," she sighed, squeezing her body up next to him. "I can wish it was some other way, but itís not going to be. What weíre just going to have to do is learn to take advantages of the opportunities when we get them, and make the most of them when we can. Maybe weíve tried to think too big, Randy."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Weíve always thought in terms of big trips, destination trips, dream trips," she said. "How many times have we had the chance to hop in the sea kayaks and paddle out to the far end of the lake for an overnight campout? Weíve done it just that one time, Randy. Weíve had a lot of chances, and weíve only done it rarely. There have been times we could have stretched it into two nights and you wouldnít have had to miss a minute of work. But we just havenít done it, other than that one time last July."
"True," he said. "But weíve occasionally done other things, and all too often other stuff get in the way of something planned."
"I guess thatís sort of what I mean," Nicole said. "We need to think about getting our priorities straight, and that means the little ones as much as the big ones. You were saying tonight that youíd like to learn how to sail. Well, I happen to agree with Crystal or Nellie or whoever it was that said that itís a little bit silly to have as much lakefront as we have here and never have a boat sitting there thatís bigger than a seventeen-foot sea kayak. At least if we had a sailboat out there we could learn a bit about sailing, and maybe sometime we could do a charter someplace like you did with Scooter and Jim that time."
"Well, yeah," he said. "Itís something to think about."
* * *
Two rooms away, Crystal and Preach were also lying awake, talking in soft tones. "Boy, some things donít change," she sighed. "It still bugs him about as bad as it ever did; itís just that heís gotten better at covering it up."
"Or adapting to the reality, no matter how much he doesnít like it," Preach said. "And really, thatís about the best that heíll ever be able to do. Not everybody is cut out for that kind of a life, Crystal. When you get right down to it, we arenít, either."
"I suppose," Crystal sighed. "I still want to be able to do some other things. Donít get me wrong, as much as I like the Grand Canyon, sometimes it seems a little limited."
"Of course it is," he replied. "I thoroughly enjoy the time I spend there with you, but by the time the end of the season rolls around, being able to sleep in the same bed for a week at a time has its appeals, too."
"I know," she said. "And I know weíre going to be doing that more than I want to, all too soon. Cutting the trips back to fourteen days is going to mean more time in Flag, and you know Dad and Mom are going to want us to get in some office time. Weíve been able to come up with every excuse under the sun to duck out of that, but after this summer itís going to be harder to avoid."
"Itís not entirely bad," he pointed out. "The schedule weíve been keeping gets wearing after a while. I suspect that itís part of the reason that your father has more crew turnover than he likes."
"Oh, Iím sure of it," she agreed. "With the schedule the way it is, if someone stays with it you know theyíre a really committed boatman."
"Or a masochist, which is to say the same thing," he replied, only half teasing. "Even your dad didnít keep up that kind of life for thirty years. He managed to mix running a business and being a boatman pretty well, after all."
"Yeah, he did," she sighed. "But with Randy, I guess I saw that coming, and itís probably why I ducked out on him. I couldnít face up to having to watch him fight that battle."
"Well, you know about that standing sort-of-offer he made to marry me. I never was really interested in it, at least most of the time, because I saw it being made out of pity, and I didnít feel like being pitied. Then Nicole and I hiked together for three weeks, and it wasnít until then I found out just how strong Randyís connections here were. Thereís money wrapped up in it, a lot of money. He may have wanted to do something else, but the money meant that there was no way he could ever have done it without giving up a lot to do it, more than he would ever be able to. Nicole already knew that, but I was really pretty shocked to learn it."
"I always knew that he wasnít hurting," Preach replied. "This house just proves it. But I never thought of him as rich."
"Well, he isnít," Crystal said. "But both Clark Construction and Clark Plywood are family businesses, and ultimately thereís only Randy and his sisters who are going to come into it. Randy decided years ago that his responsibility to the family meant that he had to pay attention to what went on in Spearfish Lake, which his sisters have never done. Iíll tell you what. Up till Nicole told me that, I was really thinking pretty hard about taking Randy up on that offer after I got off the trail, but I sure thought about it a lot and changed my thinking after that. I mean, it was all I thought about for the next couple weeks. I realized I had to give up when I understood he was never going to be able to play the game the way I wanted to play it."
"And I do?"
"Well, yeah," she replied. "You were faced with the decision to give up a pretty promising career for the idea of fun, romance, and adventure, and you did. Randy faced the same decision, and chose his career. Heís had second thoughts about it for a long time, but thereís no chance heíd ever try to change his mind."
"It tears at him," Preach agreed. "I never really got to know him down there in North Carolina, but ever since then Iíve been able to see how much it tears at him."
"How about you?" she smiled. "Do you ever have second thoughts?"
"You mean about leaving the ministry to be in the Canyon with you?"
"No, not really," he sighed. "I went through a long period of agonizing over the fact that I didnít really feel that it was my mission to be a minister. Once I put it in the past, Iíve felt better about leaving it. That doesnít mean that I donít have other priorities, but thereís still some time for them. Realistically, Iím in no hurry."
"What do you see as a priority youíre not moving towards?"
"Crystal," he sighed. "Iíve tried to keep this in the background since I know youíre not very enthusiastic about the idea, but I still would like to have a family sometime. I donít want this to sound like a guilt trip, but you were without a family for a while because you walked out on yours. Iím without a family because a truck driver had a habit of mixing pills and booze and ran over my parents without stopping one night, so itís not the same thing. Al and Karin and the rest of your family make up for that hole in my life part of the way, but itís not the same thing, either."
"Itís that important to you, huh? I mean, I always knew there was something of that laying there, but well, I never realized it was eating at you like that."
"Most of the time it doesnít," he admitted. "But like Randy has times where he feels the weight of his chains and wants to throw them off, I have times, too. The other night was one of them. It was hard to sit back and listen to Nicole and Debbie, and even Myleigh, if you would believe it, talk about baby names and how to manage work and child care. And then to have Nellie come in and talk about having two kids while sailing around the world Ė well, that just stabbed in the knife deeper."
"Yeah, I even got a little of that," Crystal sighed. "Iíve never been real crazy about the idea of having kids, but that even had me thinking about it a little."
"Iíve realized that itís not something thatís ever been very high on your priority list," he said. "And I realized that when I married you, so itís why Iíve never pushed it at you. I guess I was hoping that youíd come around in time, perhaps that youíd feel the need some as you got older." He let out a long sigh, and continued, "I havenít seen any sign of that change, and Iíve been reluctant to push you about it. Perhaps I should have. Maybe itís just tonight thatís eating at me some, I donít know."
"It probably would mean a huge change in our lives," she said defensively. "Maybe more of a change than either of us want to make."
"Oh, thereís no doubt about it," he replied. "It would change our lives more than we can imagine. But again, I think of Nellie and her husband with two small children while sailing around the world. They wanted both things enough that they managed to make accommodations and still accomplish everything they set out to do, and it would have been a lot harder than the accommodations we would have to make."
"Iíve done long ocean voyages," Crystal said. "A couple of them, in fact. When she said that, I had visions of a toddler learning to walk on a sailboat pitching around all over the place. Well, a Tahiti ketch headed downwind isnít exactly like a ride in a cement mixer; itís more stable than some sailboats but not exactly a living room floor, either. You have to figure that both of them had to give a lot of attention to the kids, maybe more than most parents."
"Probably more than most parents," Preach agreed. "Probably more than we would have to. We wouldnít exactly be taking the kids down the Grand Canyon every trip, after all."
"Well, youíre right about that," she sighed. "But Iíll tell you what, it would probably mean that weíd have to trade off making trips, and probably wouldnít get to run together very much. Iíd really miss that."
"I would, too," he admitted. "But no one said there wouldnít be sacrifices, and itís not like weíd be giving up the Canyon entirely. In fact, sometimes I wonder if we arenít overdosing ourselves on it. There are other things in life besides the Grand Canyon, you know."
"There are?" she giggled. "What?"
"I donít know that Iíd be up for a sailing trip around the world, but Iíd like to do something besides the Grand Canyon and being a booth bunny at outdoor shows. I know that when I get a chance to wander around and check out some of the other booths, I often get ideas that Iíd like to do this or that."
"Tell you what," she said. "Randy was always jealous of Nicole and me for having our big adventures while he had to stay back and work, but other than our work, we havenít really had a big adventure in a while. Letís save some money, do some planning, and maybe next winter we can wiggle out of being booth bunnies and have one last big adventure."
"One last . . . Crystal, are you saying what I think youíre saying?"
"I donít know," she sighed. "Maybe. Maybe not. I want to think about it, but Iím certainly not ruling it out. But, either way, I think we owe ourselves one big adventure outside the Canyon before we make up our minds."