Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
The house on Windmill Island wasnít quite done yet, but they were down to fiddle pieces and details, most of which could be done while the Newtons were living there. From a distance it looked like something out of a story book, at least to the untrained eye, but a second look belied it. The cedar shake shingles on the walls, the roof and the tower were still new and unweathered, a rich, warm brown; in a few years they would have weathered to a gray that would make the windmill look like it had stood there for many decades. A still closer look would still show a lie, for the sails were a high-tech polymer material that didnít have to be furled, just feathered like no English or Dutch windmill had ever done.
Getting the sails up to the top of the tower along with the associated machinery and cap was an interesting experience for Clark Construction. Even Don had to mostly stand back and watch as the Newtons, a couple of riggers, and some people from the company that had done the fabrication took charge. There was no way to get a crane big enough to do the job out to the island, and using the hot air balloon had been a stroke of genius, as far as Randy had been concerned. It was something to remember, and something that Randy hoped he never had to be involved in again, but it had worked well.
The job was cumbersome, and the work had to be done nearly at dawn when the air was still. The first morning they used the balloon, Randy paddled his sea kayak out to the island well before dawn, in fact it was still dark when he got on the water. Once out to the island, there wasnít much to do but stand around sipping coffee with Don and most of the rest of the Clark Construction crew that had showed up early to watch the show before they got down to their normal work. It was just starting to get light when Dave and Stacy began to inflate the balloon, which when laid out flat, covered a good part of one side of the island. A big propane burner was involved, and Randy just couldnít see how Dave and Stacy could inflate it without burning everything to a crisp. Theyíd done it many times before, though, and as the sun came up the balloon was floating low over the island.
While Stacy rode the balloon to handle the controls as needed, the balloon was kept tethered to the ground. The backhoe was used to keep it from floating away, and there were several lines attached that allowed them to lift the hub section up to the ring that had been one of the first things erected. Bolting that into place took some time, and since things were still quiet it was decided to try and get at least one of the sails up. It was impressive to watch the balloon pick up the sail, and quite a bit of maneuvering back and forth was required before it was aligned and the riggers could bolt it into place. By then there was a hint of a breeze, but still they decided to try the second sail while they still had the chance.
This took a little more maneuvering, as the balloon had to lift the sail from the other end and take it higher. There were a few anxious moments when the breeze picked up a little, but it died back down again long enough for them to get the opposing sail bolted into place.
By then Dave and Stacy figured there had been enough betting on the wind for one day, so they brought the balloon down and let the hot air out. They started again early the next morning, with Randy and Don watching again, and got the other two sails and the cap into place, along with the fantail that would turn the windmill into the wind automatically, then landed the balloon and began to pack it up.
Dave, Stacy, and the fabricator crew had spent much of the rest of the day getting the mechanical parts of the windmill hooked up. As soon as the final piece was in, they let the fantail slowly swing the sails into the wind for the first time and released the brake on the sails. Much to everybodyís amazement, it really worked! Though the sails turned slowly, the DC generator was geared up and shoved amps into the batteries in the basement of the house Ė they had been a real pain to bring to the island since they pushed the limits of the raftís capacity. And now, the output from the batteries was run through an inverter to give them usable AC power.
Dave and Stacy stayed around for several days to make sure things were working right, and while they were there the Clark Construction power tools were being run by wind power. Randy was busy with other things by that time, but he still thought it was pretty neat.
But that was in the past, now Ė all more than a month ago. There were a few minor items that needed to be done yet, and some of them would wait for the slow days of the winter. Still, since it was before winter set in and the leaves were at their prettiest, Dave and Stacy had decided to hold an open house for the Clark Construction crew, their friends and families, and anyone else involved in the building of the unique, isolated house.
Thus it was that Nicole, Rachel, and Jared rode the raft to the island on one of its final trips before being dismantled and hauled away; Randy met them at the landing, where his sea kayak was pulled up on shore. It was in the afternoon of a particularly nice day, with puffy white clouds overhead, the trees turning color, and a steady breeze turning the sails of the windmill in a stately manner. Nicole and Rachel had only seen the windmill from the shore before, and now they got a good look at it. "That," Rachel said, "Is quite a house."
"Itís far and away the wildest thing Clark Construction has ever built," Randy agreed. "But it came out better than I expected, and the Newtons are very satisfied with it. Theyíre planning on spending quite a bit of time out here in it this winter."
"How are they going to get back and forth when the ice is thin?" Nicole asked. "That really worries me, and I donít think theyíd want to be stuck here for a month or more."
"Actually, theyíre looking forward to it," Randy replied. "Their jobs are winding down and theyíre looking forward to some down time. But if they want to get off the island while the ice is thin, theyíre getting a hovercraft. Then the ice wonít matter."
"A hovercraft? One of those things with fans so it rides on an air cushion?"
"Yeah, they out-teched my thinking on that, too," Randy shrugged. "That was one of those things I should have thought of, but I never did."
"They think of everything, donít they?" Rachel commented.
"I hope so," Randy replied. "They sure have thought of a lot, but itís the things that you donít think about on a project like this that concern me. I just hope they donít get surprised too badly."
They walked up the path to the front door, where Dave and Stacy waited to greet them. Both of them had met Nicole and Rachel before, and they were giddy with excitement about their dream house. Since there were a lot of guests, Jim Wooten had been pressed into service as a tour guide Ė he was the only Clark Construction man who had been on the project from start to finish. The backhoe had only been floated back to shore a few days ago, but Jim was just about as proud of his involvement with the project as the Newtons were.
Jim led them through the house, pointing out some of its unique features, and then led them up into the tower, which contained bedrooms and an office. It was interesting to stand in the bedroom high in the tower and see the sails of the windmill sweeping by about once a second. "That might take a little getting used to," Rachel commented.
"Itís what they wanted," Randy told her. "I agree, it would bother me too, but to each his own, I guess."
As a final part of the tour Jim led them out onto the catwalk around the base of the tower. The view was particularly fine Ė it was a great place to take in a beautiful fall day, and the shadows of the sails sweeping over them made it seem even more exotic.
"I guess Iíd better get back down there," Jim said finally. "I can see the raft coming with more folks, so that means Iím going to have to do the tour all over again."
"Well, thanks for giving us a good one," Randy told him.
"Yeah, well, this has been a really interesting job," Jim replied. "Itís going to be hard to go back and dig footers and drain lines again."
"Goes with the territory," Randy smiled. "We canít do a job as off the wall as this all the time. It would be nice, but footers and drain lines and that kind of thing happen to be our bread and butter."
"Yeah, but still," Jim shook his head. "I guess weíd better get going."
"Do you think we could stay out here for a while?" Rachel asked; she knew Jim slightly from the office. "Itís just nice to stand here and take in the view."
"I guess it would be all right," Jim said cautiously, "So long as you stay on this side of the tower and away from the sails. They donít look like theyíre moving very fast, but they are, and if you got hit by one it could knock you into the lake from here. The wind is pretty steady, but if the sails start swinging toward you, just get inside."
"Itís all right, Jim," Randy said. "Weíll be careful, and we wonít be long."
"All right, I guess," he said, still not very happy about the idea but willing to concede the point. "Just be careful."
In a moment he was gone, leaving the four of them standing there taking in the view. "That Jim is sure a nice guy," Nicole commented.
"Yeah, he is," Randy said. "Heís only been with the company three years, no, four years now, but he really knows his stuff and how to make a backhoe sit up and talk. We couldnít have built this house without him. We were real lucky to get him. He had a nasty divorce, his wife was a drunk, and he moved up here to keep her from bugging him. Heís apparently enjoying the bachelor life up here in the woods. Heís usually laid off in the winter, and he spends it ice fishing and snowmobiling and the like."
"And probably a relief at that," Nicole grinned. "Itís nice to take some time off, but itís nice to be back to teaching, too."
They stood there a while longer, just taking in the view, until Rachel commented out of nowhere, "This is really nice, and it caps off an interesting day."
"Howís that?" Randy asked.
"I had a call from Pat Roberts," she replied. "Heís the one handling the divorce on Joelís side. It turns out Iím not going to get anything much as a settlement."
"The house is going back to the bank, so in a way thatís a relief. Between the main mortgage and a couple second mortgages, Joel owes a lot more on the house than it was worth, and there havenít been any payments made in months. The banks are fighting with each other over who gets to foreclose on it, and whichever one wins is fine with me."
"Not a surprise," Randy shook his head. "I know Joel lived to run fast and loose with money."
"I knew that," she said. "But I didnít realize just how loose. He apparently arranged to sell the BMW and a couple of his investment deals to settle some debt that was particularly pressing, so thereís not even that to get involved in the settlement. With that stuff gone, thereís nothing left for a settlement, so I guess I get nothing. Thatís fine with me, I didnít get much out of being married to him and just being rid of him is all the settlement I need."
"How about his clothes, and the furniture and stuff?"
"I guess his clothes are going to go into storage, heís apparently arranging for someone out there to do it. The furniture is nothing special, and to me itís not worth the trip out there to pick it up. Thatís something else Iíd just as soon leave behind me. Itís still a few months before the divorce will be settled, but that means there isnít that to fight over."
"The furniture might be useful if you decide to get a house or an apartment or something," Nicole pointed out.
"Could be," Rachel shrugged, "But it would just remind me of him. Iíll put a sleeping bag out on the floor before I sleep in that bed again. I really donít care what happens to it so long as I donít see it again. When I get a house or an apartment, Iíll come up with something different, somehow. I donít want to say Iím tired of staying with you guys because Iím willing to stay there as long as youíll have me, but I think Iím ready to get out on my own a little more."
"Youíre welcome to stay as long as you need to," Nicole said, "But I agree, getting your own place is the next step, and maybe you ought to be thinking about taking it."
"It sounds good but I donít know what Iíd do for money," Rachel replied.
"Actually, it should be pretty easy," Randy said. "Talk to Dad about it. You still have the timber land, and it ought to be possible to work out some kind of a deal against it. Iím no Joel when it comes to fiddling around with money, but Dad knows a trick or two. He probably can roll off enough to buy you a small house free and clear in exchange for a partial ownership of the timber land, anyway."
"You think so?"
"Well, Iím guessing," Randy shrugged. "He can probably come up with a better idea than that off the top of his head. Thatís something Iíve still got to learn. Thereís a lot more tricks to running Clark Plywood than there are the Clark Construction end, and Iíve got to learn at least some of them in the next few years. Iíll probably be putting a fair amount of spare time in on it this winter."
"Randy," Nicole shook her head, "Youíre going to be just about as busy in the winter as you are in the summer."
"Well, Iíd rather be busy than be looking for something to do, which is pretty much how itís been in the past. Nicole, Iím not good at sitting on my butt and doing nothing. I never have been, and you know that as well as anyone."
"Does that mean that the Bahamas trip is off the books?"
"Well, we werenít going to do it this winter anyway," he said. "I donít think either of us is good enough with the sailboat to try that on for size. Another winter, maybe, maybe not. Weíll have to see. The way my schedule eased up this summer, though, maybe we can think about trailering the sailboat over to the North Channel of Lake Huron or something for a few days."
"Iíd still like to go somewhere this winter, maybe over Christmas like we did last winter. I donít think I should take off from school, though."
"Itís something we need to think about," he replied. "Thereís Brent to consider, and I donít know that we want to leave him with Mom or Rachel that long. A week or so after Christmas, maybe, but after whatís happened this year, I think we need to have a big family Christmas."
"That would be nice," Rachel said. "Thatís something else Joel and I hardly ever did. We really havenít had a family Christmas since we were here when Jared was a baby."
"Well, that settles that pretty easy," Randy sighed. "Nicole, letís just leave it loose for a bit and think about it. Maybe we can think of something, but you know I think that it doesnít pay to plan these things too far ahead, since stuff has a way of coming up."
"Youíre probably right," she conceded. "But Iíll think about it, too."
"Randy," Rachel piped up, "I think youíre probably right about me seeing Dad about a house. Itís nothing I have to be in a rush over, but it is something to think about."
"I think it would be good for you," Randy said. "I suppose weíd better get back inside and be a little social."
The great room of the house was built into the base of the tower, with the enclosed drive shaft to the generator running right through the middle of the mostly above-ground "basement." They hung around in the great room for the next couple hours, talking with people about the house and other things, but as the day grew short they decided to head back to town. Rachel, Jared, and Nicole rode the raft back to shore on the next trip, while Randy paddled lazily alongside in the sea kayak. It was getting close to dark by the time they got back to the house.
"You know," Randy said, "It hasnít been a very tough day, but I think some time in the hot tub would be worth it. Thatís one thing we have that the Newtons donít."
"A simple oversight that Iím sure theyíll take care of as soon as they think of it," Nicole laughed.
"Probably so," Randy said. "Letís get to it, so we can have Jared in bed in time to get up for school in the morning."
In a few minutes they were in the hot tub, nude and comfortable with it as had become their custom. They were just getting settled in comfortably when the phone rang; Nicole got out and went to the kitchen to answer it, dripping water all the way.
In a moment, she called from the kitchen. "Myleigh and Trey have something they want to talk to us about," she said. "I told them weíre in the hot tub, and theyíre willing to join us. Does anybody have any objection?"
Not surprisingly, no one did; it wouldnít be the first time their friends had joined them for a soak. Since the two lived right up the street, in a few minutes there were two more naked bodies in the hot tub. The next few minutes were filled with tales of the house on Windmill Island and their expedition there before Randy got around to asking, "So, what was it you wanted to talk to us about?"
"Well, more you, actually," Trey said. "Weíre thinking about buying a different house, something a little larger. Thereís what looks like a nice one for us up the street a ways the other way, and weíd like to have you or one of your people go through it like you did for us before."
"That wasnít me," Randy said. "Well, I was there, but Don was the one who went through it. I just took notes."
"Whatever," Trey said. "Weíre not in a real big hurry, but it would be nice to move before the weather closes in."
"What are you going to do with your present house?" Nicole asked.
"Weíll sell it if we decide on the new one," Trey told him. "We just think we need some more space. If we add on to the house we have, itís still going to be a small house with an addition."
"Yeah," Randy said, "Sometimes itís better to trade than it is to try to make do with something that just doesnít fit you."
"It was fine when we first got married," Trey explained. "But it really is a little small for us, now."
"You know, Rachel," Nicole said, "that might be a good house for you and Jared. Itís big enough for the two of you but not too big, and itís close enough that it would be easy for you or Jared to walk over here."
"Thatís something to think about," Rachel agreed. "But I think Iíd better talk to Dad before I go any further than that."
"Weíve got some time," Trey said. "Nothing is a done deal, yet, but we want to get moving on it."
"What brought this on?" Nicole asked. "I mean, other than you wanting to get moved before winter sets in. You might not be able to manage that at this time of the year, you know."
"We are aware of that," Myleigh grinned. It had been a little of a surprise for her to not be the talkative one; Trey usually let her do the talking, mostly because he still liked to hear her talk. "However, other ramifications enter the picture, and to move next spring would be much too late. I agree, the house is adequate for us now, but I fear it will not be come the spring."
"What happens next spring?" Rachel asked.
"Well, itís a little strange for me to admit it, because I thought for many years it would never happen, but Trey and I anticipate an addition to our family around the ides of March. I shall have to take the winter term off, but I do not anticipate a problem, and the concert schedule will face a drastic revision as well."
"Hey, wait a minute," Nicole said, trying to work something into the rush of words. "Are you saying youíre pregnant?"
"I am indeed with child," Myleigh grinned. "So Trey and I will be joining our friends in the joys and woes of parenthood. As I intimated, itís something I never really expected until recently, but Trey and I have spent many hours considering it. It finally came down to the fact that we are not getting any younger, and with such fine examples as you and the Evachevskis it became clear that weíve reached the point in our lives when we should take action."
"Oh, boy," Randy shook his head. "Iíve wondered from time to time what kind of a mommy you would make, and I confess to some difficulty imagining it."
"I attest to the same sort of questions," she smiled. "But as you are well aware, when things like this happen thereís no place to go but ahead."
"Yep," Randy replied. "I guess Iíve learned that. It may not be the easy way, but itís been worth it so far."
-- The End --