Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Things were slow around Clark Construction on Thursday, so slow that Randy gave some consideration to going over to Brentís office and seeing what could be done with the files and stuff that cluttered the office, but he just couldnít bring himself to do it. Maybe in a week or two, he thought.
Along in the middle of the morning he was beginning to reconsider that decision out of pure boredom when his father called. "You doing anything useful?" he asked.
"Not particularly," Randy replied. "I was just thinking about taking off and seeing what Crystal and Preach are up to. Theyíre leaving in the morning."
"Iím going to miss them, not that we got see them much," Ryan sighed.
"Yeah, and I donít know when weíre going to see them again. Probably not till next winter at the earliest, and maybe not then. Theyíve been talking about getting out for a big trip next winter, no details yet."
"Wouldnít put it past either one of them," Ryan chuckled. "Anyway, any chance you could drop over here for a bit? I need you to sign some paperwork, and maybe pick your brain on a couple things."
"Yeah, I can do that," Randy admitted. "It beats sitting around here and thinking about cleaning out Brentís office. Iím not looking forward to that."
"I wouldnít be, either. Delegate the authority and get Regina to pick away at it."
"Probably the best idea," Randy replied. "I can be over there in a few minutes."
It was not a long trip over to his fatherís office at Clark Plywood Ė only a few blocks Ė and Randy soon was pulling the Dakota into an empty parking space near the office building. Once inside he waved at the receptionist and headed on back. "So, whatís cooking?" Randy said.
"Starting to get caught up after more or less losing a few days," Ryan told him. "Matt got the stock transfer paperwork ready, so you have to sign it. Thereís also a few forms Nicole has to sign too, but no rush. Might as well get it out of the way, though."
It only took moments to sign the paperwork. "Believe it or not," his father said when Randy returned the signed forms to him, "this more or less gets things back to normal. Although you now own a fair chunk of Clark Plywood and I again own a chunk of Clark Construction, thereís no need to jiggle each otherís elbows. Feel free to call on me if you need any help on something."
"Well, same here," Randy said. "Although over the next few months I want to jiggle your elbow on getting to know this place. Iíve been thinking about it. At some point in the future weíll have either Steve or somebody else doing the day-to-day stuff. I think I need to learn more about the nuts and bolts of this place so Iíll be familiar with it when the time comes. Right now while itís slow is a good time to get started at it."
"Fine with me," Ryan replied. "But I know you tend to get yourself buried in things, and right now itís probably not a good idea. Youíre going to find all sorts of issues crawling out of the woodwork at Clark Construction that you never dreamed."
"Thatís very true, but things go in cycles over there, and right now weíre in a slow period. I wouldnít want to have to deal with learning this stuff while weíre in the middle of construction season, so now is a good time for it."
"Yeah, I suppose," Ryan shrugged. "Iíll be honest, it would take years for you to learn what I know, but we donít have to go that far. Maybe what Iíll have to do is to bring you in on areas I think you can help out with, and expand on that as we go along. Thatís sort of what I wanted to pick your brain about anyway. You remember our discussion with Joel about the pellet mill the other day?"
"Yeah, sure. It seems like a good idea."
"I donít think itís going to be a big market for a long time, but just taking a look at it, I think thereís enough of a market there to expand our operations. I know weíve been getting more orders than weíve been able to fill in a timely manner, but there are several side issues. It seems pretty clear that we ought to go ahead with it, and probably this summer, but maybe you could come over here half days for a week or two and review the whole thing so it gets a look with fresh eyes. Thatíll teach you a lot how things work around here, and you might catch something Iíve missed, especially from the construction angle."
"Sure, I can do that," Randy said. "Iíd sort of figured on getting going on the pellet mill this summer, but if weíre going to do it weíre going to have to get serious so we can have it on the books for construction season."
"If weíre not already behind where we ought to be," his father agreed. "Which means we have to be making a decision about it pretty soon, which includes a decision about Rochester or here."
"Without having taken a look at it, Iíd say here," Randy said. "From a construction standpoint, weíll get it done quicker if itís in our back yard. Besides, if weíre looking at rail shipment, we have better rail service here. Rochester is on a stub branch and the last I heard the D&O was talking about pulling it up north of Coldwater."
"Thatís one consideration," Ryan told him. "And itís one of a number of questions that need to be answered to settle the Rochester-or-here issue. Iíve got a file cabinet full of stuff that needs to be reviewed, and you need to spend some time at the pellet plant to make sure you understand the operation. Feel free to ask me anything about where to find the documentation, but Iíd just as soon keep my opinion to myself for a while so you can review it independently. Thereís a vacant office down the hall and itíll probably be empty for a while. Iíll have the pertinent files moved in there so you can work on them."
"Sure, looking forward to it."
"Good enough," his father said. "While we need a fairly quick answer on this, it doesnít have to be that quick. Donít neglect anything at the construction company so you can work on this."
"Iíll try not to," Randy shook his head.
"Donít do it," his father reiterated. "I know you too well. Youíll bury yourself in it like you do in projects at the construction company. Plus, remember that you have a wife, a child on the way, and friends who donít need to be neglected either. One of the things youíre going to have to learn is how to budget your time on stuff like this, and youíve never done very well at that."
* * *
Randy spent most of the afternoon in his temporary office just getting familiar with the files. There had been more work done on the concept of the enlarged pellet plant than he had realized, and even though the pilot plant had been small it was possible to extrapolate some of the costs and difficulties with an upsized version. It was getting along in the afternoon when his father stuck his head in the door and asked, "Getting anywhere?"
"Too soon to tell," Randy shrugged. "Thereís an awful lot of stuff there to go through."
"That there is," his father said. "And youíre not going to get through it all tonight. Besides, you need to get home. Arenít Preach and Crystal leaving in the morning?"
"Yeah, I need to spend the evening with them," Randy said, folding up the file he was working on and stuffing it in one of the desk drawers. "Iíll get Nicole to sign her paperwork tonight. If itís not busy around the shop Iíll get back on this tomorrow."
"First things first, and this isnít the first thing on your list," Ryan smiled. "See you tomorrow sometime. Say goodbye to Preach and Crystal for me."
A few minutes later Randy parked the Dakota in the garage and headed into the house, to discover that the gang was already there Ė Preach and Crystal, Danny and Debbie, Myleigh and Trey, all sitting around the living room with Nicole. The smell of a pot roast filled the house, promising good eating pretty soon. "I figured you were going to duck out a little early," Nicole commented.
"I got hung up on some stuff for Dad," he replied. "Looks like weíre really going to be building the pellet plant next summer after all. Weíre just not sure where yet."
"Good, nothing like a few jobs to keep the summer busy," she replied. "Just remember that youíre going to have someone else to keep you busy next summer, too."
"I never seem to have any problem staying busy in the summer," Randy smiled, then, since he saw where things were going, changed the subject. "So, when are you guys heading out?"
"First thing in the morning," Crystal said. "Well, not exactly first thing, thereís no point in getting going before dawn. Weíve got plenty of time to get over to St. Paul by late in the afternoon, and thatíll give us enough time to get the booth set up. As soon as we get done with the show itíll be time to be heading back to Flag."
"Two days, maybe three if we take it easy," Preach said. "Thereís no real rush. Weíll still have a week before Al and Karin head out into the Pacific."
"Thatíll be a good trip for them," Randy nodded. "That would be something fun to do sometime. Probably not anytime soon, though. Have you had any thoughts about what youíre going to do next winter?"
"Several," Crystal told them. "Nothing really sticks out, though. Thatís one of the things we want to do some thinking about when we get back."
"Well, whatever it is, I am sure you shall enjoy it," Myleigh said. "Do let us know what you plan, although I fear it means we shall not be seeing you next winter."
"Thatís still all up in the air," Crystal shook her head. "Weíre probably not going to have the money to do something that lasts all winter, anyway, although I hope weíll manage to be gone a couple months or so. That might give us the chance for us to get here for a little, maybe in the fall, maybe even on a break over the summer if the schedule works out all right. I am looking forward to seeing little whatís-their-name before he or she gets all grown up on us."
"I think youíll have some time for that," Nicole grinned. "It takes a while, you know. Have you had any more thoughts about having one of your own?"
"Thoughts," Crystal said. "Not much more, other than weíre not quite ready yet. We want to see how the new summer schedule works out. That might affect our thinking some."
"Well," Randy said, "The odds are that weíll be more or less right here when youíre ready to come see us."
* * *
The next morning Randy held off on heading into work, so he could be there to see Crystal and Preach on their way. It was late enough that Nicole had to be in school, although Myleigh and Trey came by to join him. It was a cold morning and there were signs of more snow on the way, although the weatherman insisted that it was not going to be much.
There was, of course, the temptation to linger over a cup of coffee to stretch out the time, but Crystal and Preach were anxious to go. They faced several hours of driving in the minivan, to be followed by the setting up of the booth with the things they carried with them in the back of the van. It would be a long day.
All too soon they were headed up the street. "I am most sorry to see them go," Myleigh said. "I fear we donít see them enough anymore."
"No, we donít," Randy shook his head as he saw the taillights of the minivan disappear in the distance. "But even as friends as good as theyíve been, weíre drawing apart. I donít like it, but thatís the way life works, I guess."
"Doubtless youíre looking at them going and wishing you were off on some great adventure," she smiled.
"Well, yeah," he agreed. "But itís not going to happen, at least like that. I guess thatís the way life works around that, too."
* * *
Randy was busy working in his office at Clark Construction and trying to not think about Crystal and Preach later Friday morning when Carlos stuck his head in the door. "Regina said you were looking for me, Randy?" he asked.
"Yeah," Randy said. "Come on in, close the door, have a chair."
Randy almost always operated on an open-door policy, so this was unusual enough that Carlos was a bit shocked. Still, he did what he was asked. "So, whatís on your mind?" he asked as he sat down.
"Several things," Randy said. "First, how did it go with Norm yesterday?"
"He was glad to get the paperwork," Carlos replied. "He didnít have any chance to go over it in detail, but he said the summaries were about what he was hoping for."
"I hope they were, we spent enough time working on them," Randy replied, then changed the subject markedly. "Carlos, I know that Wednesday I said that things arenít going to change much with Brent being gone, and really, theyíre not. But it turns out that theyíre going to change a little differently than I was expecting. To make a long story short, Iím going to find myself spending more time than I anticipated on Clark Plywood business. Thatís all right, itís a family business and Iím family, so it goes with the territory."
"I was sort of wondering about that," Carlos replied. "I know Brent put in some time on it, and I was wondering how much of that was going to carry over onto you."
"Like I said, more than I was expecting, but I guess I hadnít thought it through," Randy admitted. "What thatís going to mean is that Iím going to have to slide a few more things onto you from time to time. Thatís fine, youíve proved you can handle it. Iím still going to have to take the ultimate authority for everything, but I want you to handle more of the details on some stuff. This is a little new to me and I guess weíre going to have to work towards how I used to work for Brent. It also means that Iím going to have to hand you a sticky one once in a while and let you work out how to handle it."
"What do you mean by that?"
"OK, hereís a good example, and itís a good one to hand to you. Ray was in here this morning trying to sell me on that laser guidance system for the grader. I know itís a hell of a good system and you can do some really exact stuff with it, but eighty percent of what we do with the grader is to grade out woods roads that Clark Plywood logging trucks have chewed the hell out of. You donít exactly need laser-guided blade control for that."
"Right," Carlos agreed. "But there some things where that kind of control is nice, like those big parking lots over at Three Pines, weíre going to have to do for Phase III."
"Right, and thatís the point that Ray was trying to make. He does have a point. Bob Coopshaw has a hell of an eye for grade stakes with the grader even if he doesnít have laser beams to follow. But, Bob has to do other things, too, and what happens if we have to do some exact work with the grader while heís needed somewhere else? Now, Iíll be blunt. That system is going to cost something like ten big ones to retrofit to the Galion. Now, I know Brent told Ray, and I told him again this morning, show me where that system is going to save us those ten big ones and Iíll order it today. To top it off, the Galion is a í79, for Peteís sakes. Thatís twenty-five years old, and twenty-five years is twenty-five years, no matter how well we maintain the equipment. I know itís costing us more each year, and I also know weíre going to be looking at a big maintenance bill on it one of these days."
"Youíre thinking itís getting to be time to think about replacing it?"
"Time to think about it, maybe not time to do it. I want you to look into the idea, bearing in mind that a retrofit isnít going to add much to the value of the Galion, which is already fully amortized, but it wouldnít be a big deal to have it on a new machine. I also want you to get to Ray and get some of his ideas of how a retrofit would pay for itself. Ray is a good excavating man, but he doesnít think like that. Anyway, I need to know the options in a way that I can make a decision on it. We donít have to be in a big rush on it, maybe not actually take delivery till this time next year. Oh, and we donít have to replace it with a Galion, either. Iíve got a feeling Komatsu is going to discontinue the current line of Galion stuff just as soon as they think nobody will bitch too loud about it, and then weíre stuck with an orphan. I kind of like the work Deere is doing with graders, so check them out, too."
"Thatís going to be a lot of work to figure out," Carlos observed. It wasnít a protest, exactly. Randy had raised some excellent points, and as far as he knew there had been little real discussion about replacing the reliable but aging Galion.
"Sure is," Randy said. "And most of it is stuff that Iíd have to work out myself, but at least you can round up the details, then present some viable options as well as the costs involved, and maybe even make a recommendation. I wouldnít be surprised if the answer is pretty obvious once itís all figured out. Get Ray and Bob working with you on it, too. They arenít much on the number side of things but they are good on the practical stuff. Oh, make sure you figure in what the trade-in or sale price of the old one might be. If it isnít worth jack shit maybe we might figure on keeping it around, even if we only use it for a month each year when weíre cleaning up the winter mess on the logging roads."
"Iíll consider that angle, too," Carlos said. "You think of any other angles, let me know."
"Good enough," Randy said. "Thatís a real good example of the sticky ones I planning on tossing your way when I can. I was figuring on working on that one over the next few days, but that was before Brent died. Now, that means Iím going to have to pass the buck on some things like that, and youíre mostly going to be the one Iím passing it to."
"I have no problem with it as long as you give me some timely input and guidance when itís needed."
"Iíll do my best," Randy replied. "Thatís one thing thatís changed for the better. Sometimes it used to take Brent a while to chew this stuff over. It may take me just as long but thereís one fewer layer of people to do it. Now, I havenít gotten a handle on everything yet, but once I do, weíll have to see about a new job title for you if you want one, and a little fatter paycheck."
"And keep me twice as busy as I am, I bet," Carlos grinned.
"I hope not," Randy said. "I could put up with some of that shit because it was family stuff and Iím family. Youíre not. I donít want to have to pay that much overtime. Which makes me think, we havenít come up with a management intern for the summer yet. Would you like to slide up to NMU and see what you can do about finding one? Iíve been away from there longer than you have. Whoever you choose youíre going to have to live with since for the most part heís going to be your assistant."
"Yeah, sure, I can do that," Carlos grinned again. "Nothing like Marquette in January, is there? I can feel the icicles hanging off my nose now."
"Yaah, you betcha," Randy grinned, then got serious again. "Carlos, look. As my responsibilities to Clark Plywood grow, Iím going to have to shove more of this onto you. It may not happen soon, but keep in the back of your mind that you could be running this place someday. I donít think soon, but we never know."
Carlos stopped and looked at Randy for a moment, to see that he really was dead serious. "You think?" he asked.
"Like I said, itís a family business," Randy said slowly. "And there ainít a hell of a lot of family. With Brent gone, thereís one less."