Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
Randy went into work early on Monday morning. It seemed pretty likely that Nicole would be allowed to come home later in the day. That meant he would have to go pick her up, and he figured he might as well get some work done while he was still able to, since he probably wouldn’t get much done after he made another trip to the hospital.
As a result, he was into the office a good two hours earlier than normal, to discover that Carlos and Ken and the others had made a good job of finishing the estimates on the Newton house. Things still needed to be finished up, and as Carlos had said there were a couple issues that they needed him to sign off on, but they were relatively minor. Because of the special issues involved the estimate had dragged on longer than they wanted, but the Newtons had been understanding and patient – and often helpful. Stacy Newton’s experience as an architect had been very useful at times, and she had straightened out a number of questions. Randy had wondered more than once if she might be interested in doing some architectural work for the company after they moved up to Spearfish Lake. It might make a nice retirement job for her, he thought.
By then it was clear that they were going to be doing the job, whatever the estimate came out to be, and Randy had started getting things organized for it. It was only prudent to wait till the final contract had been signed before ordering any special-order items, but he knew what he wanted to order, where he wanted to get it, and how long it would take to arrive.
Things were starting to get into full swing by now, although there were still mud-season issues that had to be addressed. Hopefully that wouldn’t last too much longer. It would be another few days before they were done with the excavating work at the pellet plant, which as far as Randy was concerned when he was wearing his Clark Construction hat, was an almost entirely routine steel building, with only a few special features. When he put on his Clark Plywood hat, he knew that there were some issues with the machinery involved, and it could well take most of the summer to get those under control. Still, it wasn’t much further in the future before they could get started with erecting the building. By then, the majority of the excavating crew would be over at Three Pines, getting ready for the lodge addition. With the smaller jobs that Clark Construction had on the books, it looked like a busy summer.
One of the problems they’d foreseen with the Newton house was that it was going to involve more manual labor than they might use on a house in a more normal location. This was mostly because there were things that would have to be done by hand that would normally be done by a machine. While getting a generator and air compressor over to the island was a given and about absolutely necessary, the amount of concrete work with the concrete being mixed by hand meant that more hands were going to be involved. It was going to involve at least a half-dozen extra hands that didn’t need to be terribly experienced. Randy and Carlos had discussed bringing in some college kids from construction management classes to help with the heavy work, in anticipation that they might well learn something while they were doing it.
Randy was on about his third cup of coffee and feeling like he was getting a handle on things when he heard the front door open. Soon, Carlos came back to join him, with a cup of coffee in his hand. "I figured you’d be here before the roosters," he said.
"All that time on the Colorado River," Randy grinned. "The boatmen there have to get up to wake up the roosters in the first place. I’m probably going to have to go get Nicole and the baby later today, and that means I may not be around much in the next few days. I want to get the estimate off to the Newtons so we can get rolling on things."
"They’re ready for it," Carlos told him. "I talked to them Friday, and I think they’re ready to sign off on whatever we send them."
"I think so, too," Randy said. "But I’d rather avoid having any big screw-ups, or missing something that we should have seen. This job is unusual enough that we’re facing that risk."
"I know," Carlos sighed. "And if we’re going to get that place done before the lake freezes up we’re already under the gun. I was thinking over the weekend that we might as well get started on the raft. It’s about the first thing we’re going to need out there, since we’re going to have to get going on the piers. That means we’ll need the backhoe over there almost the first thing, and I think it’d be worthwhile to just leave the damn thing there all summer. A good backhoe man like Jim Wooten can find more things to do with one than just dig holes, and it ought to speed stuff up considerably."
"I think you’re probably right on that," Randy agreed. "Otherwise we’re going to be floating it back and forth all summer. So, we need to get going on the raft. Have we got a couple guys we can put to work on it?"
"I’m sure we can find someone," Carlos said. "But I got to thinking. I don’t know that we want to try to build it on site. I think we can prefab it in the shop where we’ve got better tools rather than trying to haul everything and a generator out there."
"I thought it was going to come out too wide to haul out there," Randy pointed out. "The last we talked about it, it could go down the highway all right with a special permit, but it’d be too big for the approach road."
"It still is. I’m thinking of the – hell, I don’t know what you call them in boat talk – the long stringers could be prefabbed here, along with some other stuff. Don came up with a couple good ideas on that. He said to just use two by sixes and waferboard underlayment to make a truss out of the stringers, rather than having to hunt up poles that long. Not even paint it or anything. The wood will go to hell pretty quick but we should be able to make it through the summer, and then we can just have a big bonfire when we’re done with it."
"Sounds like it might work," Randy admitted. "We’d still have to assemble it on site, right? I agree, let’s get going on it. As soon as the contract is signed, I want to hit the ground running. Are we going to be able to get the estimate sent out today?"
"Should be able to," Carlos said. "The majority of it is done now. It’s just a few more pages and the final numbers, and we can send it off. We ought to be able to do that this morning."
"Good," Randy said. "It would be nice if I can get started ordering some of the critical items in the next few days. Fortunately, what we’re mostly going to need in the next month or so is pretty stock stuff, cement and sand and rebar, but as soon as those pilings are in we’re going to want to get those center section beams up so we can build around them."
"It’s going to take some serious rigging to get those up, especially if we don’t have a crane to work with. That’s part of the reason I want to keep the backhoe out there. With a little luck that should speed things along nicely."
"OK, we’d better tell Ray he’s going to lose Wooten and a backhoe for the summer," Randy said. "And it probably ought to be one of the better hoes. Is that going to interfere with Ray getting started on the Three Pines work?"
"I don’t think so, but he’ll bitch about it anyway."
The talk went on like that for a while, just planning the week and working bugs out of the issues possible now. Randy agreed to call Norm Eaglebeak up at Three Pines to inform him that the excavating crew ought to be up there to get started in the next few days, and that he or Carlos would be up in the next day or two to work out final details. Once that was done, he’d go out and see where things were at on the pellet plant project. Carlos would get to work around the shop on some of the things they’d talked about.
With all the details, it was mid-morning before Randy got over to the pellet plant site; things seemed to be coming along, and Ray Evernham, the excavating supervisor, was a guy who knew what he was doing and didn’t need to be bothered more than necessary. Ray wasn’t happy about the news that he’d be losing Wooten and one of his better backhoes for the summer for the Newton house, but he took it better than Randy had expected and had agreed with Randy’s logic that the job could use both Wooten and the backhoe. All in all, things seemed to be going smoothly.
Since Randy was close to the Clark Plywood office, he dropped in and see his father, who wasn’t doing anything he couldn’t put down. "I was just wondering if you’d gotten hold of Brayton yet," he asked.
"Nothing yet, it’s too early because of the time difference," Ryan told him. "And don’t think I’m any less concerned about it than you are. I’ll probably give him a call right after lunch."
"Just curious," Randy shrugged.
"Well, I’m curious, too," Ryan replied. "The more I think about it, the more I’m worried, but it’s like we said Saturday, there’s not much we can do till we know more than we do now. So, what’s happening with Nicole and young Brent today?"
"I’m not sure yet," Randy said. "Nicole said yesterday that she thought the doctors were going to turn her loose today, so I’m just waiting to hear. Anyway, I just was over at the pellet plant site, and things are going well. I’d say we’re pretty close to on schedule, in spite of the mud season. I want to get that done fairly early on since we can use the people and the equipment elsewhere."
They got to talking about the pellet plant, the machinery orders and what Ryan was doing to increase the supply of wood chips needed for it – just talking, there was little there that needed action on Randy’s part. In the middle of the conversation, though, Randy’s cell phone rang, and since he was expecting a call from Nicole, he answered it.
It proved to be Nicole; she would be ready to go by the time he got there. The conversation didn’t take long; Randy promised he would be on his way shortly. "That’s it," he told his father as he clicked off the phone. "That was Nicole and I’m out of here."
"Take your time," his father said. "It sounds like you don’t have anything over at the shop that won’t keep till tomorrow."
"That was what I planned," Randy said. "I need to get moving."
"I’ll let you know what Brayton says," Ryan reassured his son. "If I can jack him up some, I will."
In a couple minutes Randy was in his pickup, driving home to get the more comfortable Chrysler to bring Nicole and Brent home. Along the way, he called his office and told Regina what was happening and that he had no idea if he’d be back today. In only a few more minutes, he was heading south toward Camden. The morning had been a productive one; he and Carlos had ironed out several issues. It was comforting to know that he could depend on Carlos to keep things going when he wasn’t there. That was a big change from a few years before when Randy had had no real backup and had to keep a finger on everything himself with his grandfather not up to it the last several years.
The miles to Camden rolled by quickly this trip; it was a familiar drive and he was used to the sights. Going through Moffat, Randy noticed for perhaps the dozenth time a fairly big sailboat sitting on a trailer with a "for sale" sign on it. It was bigger than he and Nicole had been talking about for the lake, but from what he could tell at speed, it looked to be in good condition. Maybe it wasn’t too big, he thought – it looked big enough to take some friends along for the ride, and big enough for a night out at the far end of the lake. It sat low on the trailer, so it might be fairly shallow draft, one of the things that Nellie had pointed out that would be good on the lake.
Once again, Randy thought he ought to stop and take a look at it, but once again he didn’t think he had the time. Maybe sometime he could have a half hour free to stop, and he thought he might point it out to Nicole on the way home, if he happened to think of it. While it shaped up to be another busy summer, he was aware of the fact that he had to take some time off, rather than having the all-out struggle some of his past summers had been. He thought back to the fun he’d had sailing with Scooter and Crystal and the gang on the Felicity Ann a few years before, and once again thought it would be fun to be able to take Nicole along on a trip like that some winter. Well, maybe Myleigh and Trey and Danny and Debbie, too; they’d all expressed interest in doing a warm-weather trip in winter. Randy knew that he’d have to know a lot more about sailboats to be able to do a trip like that, but it was one of those things he could learn.
Of course, such a trip might never come off. Few of his dream trips had – really, only the trips down the Grand Canyon and the trip to Patagonia. The idea of going to South Africa or the Falklands in the winter had been his, and he resented a little the fact that Crystal and Preach were picking it up from him. But then, he’d never be able to do a big adventure trip like that now, at least not in the foreseeable future – Brent had changed his focus on those things, he realized. Maybe someday, twenty or thirty years in the future. After all, the Newtons had held the dream of living in a windmill on an island for what? Thirty or forty years? Something like that, and it had taken them most of their lives and professional careers to drag it within reach. Come fall and they’d be living their dream, and Randy would be helping them achieve it.
Maybe someday, he thought. Hell, Nicole had only about another twenty-five years until she could retire from teaching, and then that would be the end of the summer-winter problem that had dogged them for so long. By then, Brent and any possible brothers or sisters ought to be out of college, or pretty near it, depending on how the next few years went, and he’d still be in his fifties. Not so long ago that had seemed older than God, but hell, Al and Karin seemed to be getting a lot of adventuring in at that age, and he envied them the chance to do it. As far as that went, Ryan was that age . . . and in twenty-five years Randy would most likely be putting a lot of attention to Clark Plywood. He wouldn’t be running it – that seemed like a bit of a reach, considering the construction company – but he’d be giving Clark Plywood a lot of oversight.
Face it, he thought with disappointment for the umpteenth time at reconsidering the familiar ground. You’re not ever going to be able to make a big trip like that, unless something really changes. In a few years, a couple weeks on a sailboat in the Bahamas seemed very possible if he knew a little more about sailing, but a couple months sea kayaking in the Falklands just wasn’t going to happen. Get used to it, he told himself again. Like Nellie said months ago, you’ve set your priorities in life, and Brent proves it. Now live with them.
He was still ruminating about it when he walked into Nicole’s room, finding both Brent and her dressed and more or less ready to go. "So, how are the two of you today?"
"I can’t complain," Nicole told him. "I just gave our son his feeding, and he’s taking a nap, so I expect he’ll be sleeping most of the way home. How’s it going with you?"
"Fairly reasonable," he replied. "I got enough work done at the office this morning to keep people busy for a while, and that’s about the best I can expect."
It took longer than he expected to get Nicole and Brent out to the Chrysler; he spent some time buckling Brent into the car seat for the first time. "It sure seems like an awful big seat for an awful tiny baby," he told Nicole, who had been watching him intently.
"He won’t be tiny for long," she told him. "I’ll bet he grows like a weed. You know, I’ve been thinking that he’s going to change our lives a lot."
"I’ve been thinking that, too. He’s another responsibility we’re taking on, not that we didn’t already have a lot of them."
"Our most important one," she said as he finished up getting Brent secured. "I think we’re going to have to work pretty hard at not letting it all overwhelm us."
They got into the car. "You know," Randy said, "Maybe we made a mistake."
"In having him, you’re saying?"
"No, in naming him ‘Brent.’ It’s already getting confusing. It’s too easy to confuse him with Grandpa Brent. I’m already calling ‘my grandfather’ that at the office."
"Well, you may be right on that, but it’s too late to change now," she smiled. "I’ll have to admit, I hadn’t really considered that. I guess we’ll get used to it, though."
"Yeah, but it’s going to take a while. Are you ready to do it again?"
"Not for a while," she replied slowly. "I brought it up to the obstetrician today, and he recommends waiting at least six months before trying to get pregnant again, and he thinks a year would be better. I think our timing on having him worked out pretty well, but if it had been a couple weeks sooner I wouldn’t have minded."
"You’re saying that we need to wait until about a year from June."
"Something like that. I sure wouldn’t have wanted to go through my last trimester in the summer. I think that would have been awful uncomfortable. I think we did that part of it about right this time. If we want to plan ahead that far, I can probably use my birth control pills to put my fertile period just about where we want it to be."
"When you get right down to it, it’s your decision," Randy told her. "I mean, I’m ready for my part of it anytime."
"I know you are," she grinned. "But you’re going to have to wait a while before you start trying again. That’s the other good part of timing this the way we did. With a little bit of luck and some working out, I should be pretty well back to normal by the time swimsuit season gets here. It turns out I didn’t put on quite as much weight as I thought. In fact, the doctor said that it wouldn’t have hurt if I’d put on a little more, but I’m the one who has to take it off."
"Well, whatever," he replied. "I’m sure no expert in that part of it, but it will be nice to have you back to swimsuit shape. Hey, that makes me think. Have you noticed that sailboat sitting for sale along the road in Moffat?"
"Yes, I noticed it when I was down here a couple weeks ago. I was going to tell you about it, but I guess it slipped my mind."
"I’ve seen it several times, but I’d always thought it was too big. Then, on the way down here I got to thinking that it might not be. It looks like it’d be about the right size to take a gang out on."
"I guess I thought it might be too big, too," she said. "Why don’t we stop and take a quick look at it on the way back? I mean, not talk to anyone, but just get a closer look at it."
"Sure, we can do that, if you don’t think it’s going to bother Brent too much."
"It shouldn’t. He ought to stay down for a while. You know, it almost scares me how much our lives are going to revolve around whether he’s asleep or awake the next few weeks."
It wasn’t long before they came up on the sailboat sitting by the side of the road in a lot where people paid to leave items they had for sale. They pulled in behind the boat and got out. "You know," Randy said, "It is bigger than we were thinking about, but it’s not too big. It’s not too heavy, for sure."
"What makes you say that?"
"It’s sitting on a two-wheel trailer. You don’t use one of those with those size tires unless it’s pretty light. I’d guess under two tons. And it sits pretty low on the trailer, so I’d guess it doesn’t take a lot of water to float it."
"Well, that’s to the good," she said. "I was thinking we’d have to put in a mooring offshore, but we might be able to get by with a dock. That would make life simpler."
"Yeah, it would. Just taking a quick look at it and not knowing a thing about these boats, it looks to be in pretty good shape."
"Maybe we ought to bring Nellie down to take a look at it."
"Might not be a bad idea," Randy said, pulling out his notebook, taking down the phone number and the limited amount of information about the boat on the for sale sign. "Twenty-five feet, and a 1984," he commented. "So it’s twenty years old. There’s no price given, so I’ll bet that the owner could be talked into something pretty reasonable."
"Hard to say without talking to him," Nicole said, standing on tiptoes to peek in one of the cabin windows. "It looks a little bare inside, but there’s bunks and cushions, a stove and something that looks like a dinette."
"Well, this might work after all," Randy said. "Let’s have Nellie take a look at it before we call the owner. She’s likely to see something we wouldn’t."
"You’re probably right," she sighed. "My only question is how much we’d really be able to use it. I’m willing to bet that you’re going to busier this summer than I want you to be."