Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
After the weekend in California, it was hard for Randy to go back to the snow and the cold of a Spearfish Lake winter. Not only did the weather at home seem detestable by comparison, Randy felt like he ought to be doing something out there, even if he didnít know what. There was nothing to do but to go home and wait for spring to come Ė and wait for word from Brayton in San Jose.
Sometimes spring comes quickly to the north country, and places like Spearfish Lake; sometimes it comes slowly. While most people welcome the milder weather and the freedom from the months of snow that it brings, there are those who do not, and Randy was one of them. This was not because he was any great lover of winter, but was a hater of spring, and especially the mud season that it brings.
The ground froze deep and hard in the winter, and then in the spring the snow melted on top. The melt water that couldnít run off could only soak into the ground until it reached the still frozen under-soil, turning everything to a soft mush. As soon as the ground thawed thoroughly things would normally dry out quickly in the largely sandy soil around the area, but it could take a couple weeks or more for that to happen. The water that couldnít soak in sometimes formed huge puddles in low spots, sometimes small lakes, and for a while any roads that werenít paved would be nearly impassable. Even many paved roads could only be used with caution, since the underlying roadbed was soft as well, the reason for load limits that time of year.
There was nothing much that could be done around construction sites at that time of year, especially if excavating or heavy equipment use was involved. What really frustrated Randy was to have such nice days that seemed perfect for getting construction jobs under way, only to have the ground so soft that it just couldnít be done.
This spring mud season came early, but it came slowly, with a couple nice days followed by several cold ones, slowing down the process of frost going out of the ground. Fortunately, there were a couple of projects that could be gotten under way, like one of the steel buildings that had to get done before they started on the pellet plant Ė the slab for the building had been poured late the previous fall, and the steel materials delivered over the winter. What was even better was that the parking lot in front of the building was paved, so with care the smallest and lightest crane Clark Construction owned could be used to help erect the building. Randy poured a number of workers that would soon be needed on other jobs onto the project, in hopes of getting it done quickly while mud season prevented construction elsewhere.
He may have been a little too eager with that; the building was substantially completed before things were dried out enough to work elsewhere, but at least things were getting close. Fortunately, a nice warm weekend came along and sped up the process. By the first of the following week he was able to send the concrete crew over to the site of the second steel building to get ready to pour the slab, and an excavating crew over to Clark Plywood to begin site preparation work on the new wood pellet plant. By the end of the second week of April it was possible to get some other jobs going, and while the construction season wasnít in full swing yet, it was getting closer.
As soon as the roads dried out enough, Randy loaded one of his sea kayaks onto the rack on his pickup and drove out to Chandler Lake. There was still a big pad of rotten ice floating around on the lake, but it didnít block him from getting in the kayak and paddling out to Windmill Island, the first time heíd actually been there. Part of the trip was just to scope the place out and see what it was like, but there were some things that needed to be evaluated in order to complete the estimate. The island proved to be a little more rocky and rugged than heíd imagined, more of a rock outcropping than a pile of sand and stone, and somewhat higher, too. It was clearly going to make for a spectacular home site, but he could see that there were going to be problems with construction that he hadnít anticipated earlier.
On his first day back from California the month before, Randy had presented his idea about building a raft out of 55-gallon drums to access the island. Everybody thought it was a good idea, and Randy and Carlos started to do some detailed calculations to see if it could handle the stress and work and just how it would be built. Now, inspecting the island, there seemed to be a good spot to unload a raft like that. The situation wasnít quite as good at the shore landing but it seemed simple to build a temporary pier. By the time Randy paddled back from his solo trip to Windmill Island several things had settled in his mind Ė it seemed now like the project really could be done and also the Newtons seemed as anxious as ever to get going on it.
By then, Randyís mind wasnít totally on construction or what was happening in San Jose. Nicoleís due date had come and gone earlier in the week, and it seemed likely that she was going to be having the baby any day now. She had started her maternity leave early in March, to take advantage of the three extra months sheíd have off from school, and by then she was ready to take some time off. It was obvious to anyone that she was far advanced in her pregnancy; she complained of having to use the bathroom every fifteen minutes, and the baby kicking her almost constantly. "Iím glad weíre having this kid," she told Randy not once, but several times, "But as far as Iím concerned, the sooner, the better."
Since returning from California, Randy had tried to get home for lunch every day, or, if that werenít possible, now and then at other times when he could. When sheíd been home in the summer in the past he hadnít even tried to maintain such close contact, but that was different. Randy was an EMT, although not terribly active at it considering the crush of other affairs. He was slowly working on his paramedic certification when he could find the time, so he felt he knew more about childbirth than the average guy. It wasnít that he was worried about Nicole or anything, he was just, well, concerned. Heíd been around women in labor enough that he had some reason for his concern, and he thought that despite the stories Nicole didnít totally know what she was in for.
Late on Friday afternoon Randy, Carlos and Ken were working on what they hoped were the final revisions to the estimate on the Newtonís house, which were, of course, considerably more complicated than normal. By then most of the serious issues had been ironed out, and just details remained, but the project came to a screeching halt, at least as far as Randy was concerned, after his cell phone rang. "My water just broke," she told him. "And Iíve been having mild contractions. I called Shovelhead, and he thinks itís time we headed down to Camden General."
"Be there in a few minutes," Randy said.
"No need to rush," she told him. "I think weíve got plenty of time."
Randy clicked the cell phone off and turned to the other guys in the new drafting room, which had earlier been Brentís office. "Nicole thinks the baby is on the way," he announced. "So Iím out of here. Iron out what you can and Iíll review it on Monday, but weíve got to get this off to the Newtons as soon as we can. See you Monday, most likely."
"Take it easy," Ken told him. "First babies usually take a while."
"Yeah, but Iíve seen times they havenít," Randy replied as he headed for the door, leaving his notes and paperwork scattered on the table.
Randy didnít waste any time as he drove to his house on Hanneganís Cove. Nicole already had a small bag packed for the hospital Ė it had been ready for a month Ė and in a few minutes they were in her Chrysler, heading south. It was a familiar trip, and although Randy tried not to hurry there were times he caught himself driving over eighty. Finally, south of Blair he set the rarely-used cruise control at around sixty and felt like a turtle could outrun them.
There was little talking in the Chrysler on the way to Camden General. Randy tried to talk about the Newton house a little, but it was clear that Nicole wasnít very interested in that; not having done this before she was understandably a little nervous. They still didnít know if they were going to be having a boy or girl, and once again they reviewed the question of a name for the baby. Either Brent or Sabena had been settled on a long time before, and they pretty well decided they didnít want to make any last minute changes. From Randyís history as an EMT there didnít seem to be a big rush; heíd worried that he might have to deliver the baby himself, and while he was prepared to do it if he had to, he really didnít want to.
But there still didnít seem to be any big rush when they pulled under the awning of the Emergency Room entrance, where maternity admitting was done. He helped Nicole from the car, not that she needed it much, and an attendant helped her get inside while Randy parked the car.
Even in an emergency situation it always seemed like it took a while to get the paperwork done, and the paperwork seemed even slower this time. Randy didnít know a great deal about the hospital past the emergency room, but a nurse went with them up to maternity, where Nicole was settled in.
Time passed. Although sunset came later now thanks to Daylight Savings Time, it still seemed like it took forever. Finally Nicole suggested that he go get something to eat, and reluctantly Randy took her up on it. He headed down to the hospital cafeteria; heíd been there before and didnít think the food was particularly good, and such was the case this time. It didnít take him long to eat, and soon he was back up in the delivery room, waiting things out and trying to support Nicole.
Over the course of the next few hours he was to call his father or mother several times to keep them abreast of progress. It had previously been decided that they wouldnít come to the hospital, at least not too early, since there was no point in waiting around doing nothing, and Randy had promised to let them know when things began to look imminent. The plan didnít work; about the second time he called his fatherís cell phone his mother answered and told him that they were on the road to the hospital themselves, as also were Nicoleís father and mother. Myleigh and Trey were soon there as well, and they brought word that Danny and Debbie would have been there except that it was awfully late for Sky Ė but theyíd said to call with any news, anytime.
It was midnight before things showed signs of getting serious, and there wasnít much Randy could do but try to help where he could. Nicole was an advocate of natural childbirth, and Randy had wondered how she would feel about it when the first heavy contractions hit her, but somehow she managed to struggle through it.
Finally, along after three in the morning, the obstetrician said, "OK, youíre about as dilated as you need to be. Go ahead and push." Five minutes later, Nicole was holding Brent Wayne Clark in her arms. He looked, well, like a baby, all red and wrinkled, but with the requisite number of arms and legs, fingers and toes. Randy knew that their lives had changed forever. After a while, Randyís parents and Myleigh and Trey were allowed in to see the new addition to the Clark clan, but they knew they couldnít stay long.
The excitement died down rapidly, but it was a while before Randy and Nicole were left alone to share a little time. "Well, Randy," she sighed, "I guess weíre parents."
"Yeah, I guess, babe," he replied. "Looks like weíve got our work cut out for us. Was it as bad as it looked to me?"
"It hurt some," she sighed. "But it was worth it. I donít think I want to do it again right away, though."
"Itíd be a while in any case, but thatís something we donít have to worry about tonight."
They talked for a while more Ė nothing important, but just reassuring each other that they were there and they loved each other. Presently exhaustion caught up with Nicole, and Randy saw that she was struggling to stay awake. "Better get some sleep," he said finally. "I think Iíll head home and sack out for a few hours myself. See you in the morning."
"It already is morning, or pretty close," she said sleepily.
"All right, Iíll see you in the afternoon. Go ahead and get some sleep. Iíll stay with you for a while yet."
Randy was pretty close to falling asleep himself when he realized that Nicole was out like a light, and if anyone deserved some sleep just then, she did. He gave some thought to just crashing in the chair beside her bed, but figured maybe it would be best if he werenít there for a few hours. When he got out into the waiting room, he was surprised to see Myleigh and Trey still sitting there Ė well, Trey was sound asleep and snoring. "What are you still doing here?" he asked.
"We figured youíd be heading back to Spearfish Lake, and you shouldnít be driving at this hour of the day," Myleigh said. "Trey decided to take a nap so heíd be halfway fresh to drive. Your father and mother said theyíd bring you back when they come back this afternoon."
"Sounds like a plan," Randy said. "I wasnít all that thrilled with the idea of having to stay awake all the way back home."
Soon the three of them were in Myleigh and Treyís minivan, headed back to the north, with Randy riding in the back seat. "Well," Trey said, still shaking the sleep from his system, "How does it feel to be a father?"
"Tiring," Randy said. "Good, but tiring. Thereís a reality that sets in when it happens, I canít explain it, but itís a little hard to get my mind around. This is the real thing, itís not just theoretical anymore."
"Yes, I can believe that you are filled with concerns," Myleigh replied. "Trey and I have discussed the concept from time to time, but I fear there is a great leap from the theoretical to the practical. Trey and I have given some consideration to the matter, and I dare say that imagination will only take us so far. I should hope that watching what happens with your new family will help to fill the gaps in our practical knowledge."
"Itís a huge responsibility," Trey said. "Itís something we donít want to consider lightly."
"I agree, itís an awesome responsibility," Randy said, aware that Myleigh and Trey had been talking about having children. For the most part heíd dismissed it as just being talk Ė somehow he couldnít quite imagine Myleigh being a mother. Trey would make a great father, but Myleigh a mother? It was hard to imagine. "I donít know that Iím ready for it, but I guess I donít have a lot of choice, now."
"Randy, if it helps," Trey said, "I think youíre over-thinking it a little. Youíre the kind of person who cares enough that youíre going to make an absolutely great father. At least youíve thought about it enough to be concerned, and I can think of a lot of people who have never given the responsibility involved much consideration."
"Yeah, youíre right, but like I said, I no longer have any choice, so Iím just going to have to go ahead and do the best I can. I take it the two of you havenít gotten any closer to making a decision about having kids?"
"The mere fact that we are actively considering it means that we have made substantial progress," Myleigh replied. "I feel it safe to say that at the time we decided to marry we hadnít even begun to consider the issue. However, after watching Danny and Debbie, and now you and Nicole, we are aware that the option exists for us. One fact that we must take into consideration is that the calendar pages are turning. Were Trey to render me with child yet tonight, which would involve my staying awake much longer than I wish, I would be in my fourth decade before the child was born, so we dare not put the decision off forever."
Randy spent a moment deciphering the Myleigh-speak before he replied. "That was something else Nicole and I had to consider. Thirty is creeping up on us, too, but at least weíre solidly established now in a way that we werenít when we got married."
"As are we," Myleigh agreed. "Though Iím still a ways away from establishing tenure at Weatherford, we are now at least economically secure enough that having a child would not put us into desperate straits financially. Whatís more, I feel that Trey and I have become comfortable enough with each other that our marital stability is not in question."
"You have to be aware that having a child could change the balance," Randy observed, still trying to imagine Myleigh as a mother. A part of him thought she would be a great parent, since when she did something she was always pretty serious about it. If anything, she might overdo it, especially as the child got older. He was aware that she had come from a pretty piss poor home, although he didnít know the details Ė it was something only mentioned in passing, and he didnít feel like bringing it up just then. However, it had to be something that was of special concern to her. "Iím just hoping that Nicole and I will be able to make the changes that we need to do."
"Youíre pretty well to the point where you have to do it," Trey said from behind the wheel. "I mean, considering tonight and all. At least you and Nicole already knew you wanted kids, you just werenít sure when. If anything, Myleigh and I are approaching it from the other direction, in that we know if weíre going to do it, it has to be fairly soon, but the whether to or not is still up in the air. I think youíll be able to work it out, Randy. My only big concern about you is that you have a tendency to get wrapped up in your work. Itís going to be harder for you to balance that."
"I know it," Randy sighed. "My job has kept me pretty busy for years, especially in the summer, and now that Iím actually running things rather than doing it for my grandfather itís not getting any easier. The responsibility is really in my hands, and I canít fall back on his experience when some goofball question comes up. I know Iíve got to balance things out a little better, and that means that sometimes work stuff is going to have to be put off so I can spend some time with Nicole and Brent."
"Randy, as long as Iíve known you, youíve always rather resented having to work when other people are taking advantage of their few responsibilities," Myleigh commented. "I cannot help but wonder if that represents jealousy on your part, or the fact that you are happy with what you are doing but feel that youíve missed something. I doubt that youíve missed anything. Had you, oh, taken off and become a boatman with Crystal, I fear you would resent the fact that you were essentially out playing when you might have been doing something you consider productive. I have heard you complain that you feel you have to be a worker bee, but Randy, thatís what you are, and I donít think youíd be happy if you werenít."
"You might be right," he sighed. "But that doesnít mean that I donít like to play once in a while. I just have to keep it in perspective. Thatís going to become more important as Brent gets older. I donít like the thought of having to, oh, turn down coaching Little League baseball because Iím busy at the office. Thatís not fair to him, and when you get down to it, itís not very fair to me. Yeah, I have to work to be able to provide for him. You know that I represent a fair amount of money, but it still struck me tonight that itís not going to be all that long before Iím going to have to come up with the funds to cover college expenses."
"I canít imagine youíre not going to be able to handle that," Trey chuckled. "Iím not worried about it for you, and youíre not going to have to put in overtime for the next twenty years to manage it, either. Youíve got other things to do in raising Brent. Itís just that youíre going to have to do them."
"Well, I guess weíre just going to have to see," Randy sighed. "Like I said a few minutes ago, I donít have a lot of choice now. Iím just going to have to do it."
"I think you will do a superior job of it," Myleigh replied. "The mere fact that youíre concerned about doing a good job shows it. You are not the kind of person who takes his responsibilities casually, and Iíve known that as long as Iíve known you. Now youíre facing an additional responsibility, and if youíre anything like the man I believe you to be, youíll take this seriously, too. There are far too many parents who do not manage that, and I can tell you that from all too sad experience. In fact, should Trey and I decide to follow in your footsteps, I think we shall have you and Nicole to follow as an example of how things should be done."