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Hiding Patty book cover

Hiding Patty
A Tale From Spearfish Lake
Wes Boyd
©2012, ©2014

Chapter 27

Henry asked her about the steering committee meeting when he saw her again, which wasn’t until a couple days later. It was just a courtesy question, not a reporter’s digging, for which she was grateful; she didn’t want to have to be cute about it with him. Henry was aware of the outline of the project, so she just told him that while there had been some progress made there was still quite a bit of kicking around going on. It was the truth, if not very detailed; fortunately he left it at that

Over the next few days she gave some thought to the question of marrying him. It was still theoretical and a long way from even being an event on the horizon, but it still warranted some thought, if only to be prepared for when the day came, if it ever did.

It might not; she knew that he was still very concerned about Cindy, and not just in an abstract sense, as his occasional reports about her ongoing phone calls showed. It seemed unlikely to Tricia that he’d give things up here and head back to her, and from time to time he’d come right out and said it. But there was still the possibility; things don’t always go the way you’d like them to. In a tiny way, she almost wished he’d do it; it would at least take away a couple of her serious concerns, but it would also take away a guy she was coming to like an awful lot. It would have been nice if things had been a little more clear-cut, but they weren’t, and about all she could do was to wait and see what happened.

Now that the days were getting longer, spring was definitely coming to Spearfish Lake. The snow was disappearing quickly; the ice on the lake was getting dark and rotten-looking, and the rivers were overflowing.

One Saturday morning in mid-April Henry called her up. “I just got a call,” he said. “And it’s going to turn into a photo. It’ll probably take an hour or so. Want to ride along?”

“Sure,” she said. “Something interesting, I hope.”

“I think so,” he said. “We ought to have some fun just watching this.”

A few minutes later the two of them were in his car, heading south through town. Near the school Henry turned onto a road she’d never been down before. It skirted the edge of the lake past houses, cottages and pure forest for several miles, and finally stopped at the dam that held the lake back. “What’s happening?” she asked.

“The old rapids below the dam only come up when the river is running so much that the turbines can’t handle it and a lot of water has to spill over the top of the dam,” he explained. “I suppose you’ve heard the story that Spearfish Lake was named because it was where the Indians came to spear fish. It probably was these rapids where they did it.”

“Oh, an art shot?”

“No, we have a handful of whitewater boaters in town. Not too many of them, either, but they go a little nuts when the dam is spilling this hard and they can play around in the rapids.”

She briefly told him the story of watching whitewater boaters play around in the rapids below the Mendota Lake dam in Madison in the dead of winter. “I thought those people had a hole straight through their heads,” she added. “I mean, the legendary guys-in-white-jackets-coming-to-get-them crazy.”

There was no sign of the whitewater boaters at the dam, but after a little looking around they discovered several cars at the boat launch below the dam, with colorful boats sitting around while paddlers – both male and female – got organized. They were dressed for the cold waters, wearing wet suits and dry suits, and she was more than a little surprised to see some people she knew among them – Randy Clark and Trey Hartwell.

“Good god,” she said. “I thought those two were sane.”

“Hi, Tricia,” Randy called to them. “Come to join the fun?”

“I may have turned into a dogsledder a little bit, but there are limits,” she said, still a little in disbelief. The rapids out in front of them, just above the boat launch, were raging a lot more than it had looked like from the top of the dam. People went out there voluntarily? In this weather?

“It helps if you know what you’re doing,” Randy said. “I’ve been doing this for years, and so have most of the rest of us. I don’t think Henry brought you along because he thought we might need to have a doctor present.”

“If he did he didn’t tell me that,” she laughed. “But go have fun. I’ll be around for a while if you need me.”

Mostly Tricia just stood around on shore near the boat launch as Henry trooped around here and there, trying for a good shot with his Nikon fitted with a telephoto lens. Even from shore she could see the water wasn’t much warmer than the ice it had recently been, but as she watched the boaters, she could see that they had fun, and for the most part looked like they knew what they were doing. Yes, they rolled over now and then, but they rolled right back upright with just the sweep of a paddle blade and headed back into the froth for more.

After a while, Henry had all the photos he needed, and then some. In the months she had known him, she’d learned that photography was more than a job, it was a hobby to him, and he spent a lot of time trying for just the right shot, be it artistic, flashy, spectacular, exciting, or whatever. That was fine, and a perfectly legitimate hobby, as far as she was concerned. “I guess we might as well head on back,” he told her.

Once they were in the car and headed toward town, she commented, “They may think it’s fun, and it might be, but I don’t think I’d want to do it.”

“I seem to remember you saying something similar about dogsledding, and then skiing,” he smiled.

“Well, yes, but there are limits.”

“You never know if you don’t try,” he grinned, “although I have to think that one is a little beyond me, too. But when the weather warms up and the rivers go down a lot, it might be fun to rent a canoe and make a nice float downstream. No rapids, just a nice float, with some pretty scenery and the possibility of seeing some animals.”

“The foot in the door,” she teased. “The next thing you know you’d have us right out there with them.”

“This might not be the right allusion to use right now, but whatever floats your boat.”

“Oh, I’m not ruling out something easy,” she said. “In fact, a float trip like you just mentioned might be fun to try sometime. I’ll admit, now that the dogsledding and the skiing are over with, I’ve been wondering what we’re going to do.”

“Lots of stuff to do,” he told her. “It doesn’t have to involve whitewater, either. Spearfish Lake Outfitters rents canoes and touring kayaks, and there are some parts of the lake that would be a lot of fun to paddle on and explore. I’ve never done much of it, and I wouldn’t mind doing more. As far as that goes, it would be fun to get you out on a sailboat. I took a sailing course back before we went to Decatur. I had fun at it, but I never got to do it much, and of course, Cindy didn’t want to have anything at all to do with it. I wouldn’t mind giving it another try.”

“I suppose there ought to be sailboats on a lake this big.”

“Funny thing is, there aren’t many of them, and I don’t know why not. Maybe I’ll ask around a bit. Ever since I had that sailing course I’ve thought I’d like to have a small sailboat, but it wasn’t anything I really wanted to do by myself.”

“I’ve never been near one,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of lakes in Los Angeles, and I never made it out to the ocean much.”

“You’re not a surfer girl, then?”

“Hardly,” she shrugged. “When I was in high school I knew a couple kids who did it, but I never had the opportunity to try it. I don’t suppose there’s any of it around here.”

“Not here, not that I know of, but the story goes around that there are a handful of folks who make a trip over to Lake Michigan to do some if everything is right, even up to Lake Superior. Now, that strikes me as crazy. That thing is cold!”

“Would that be anyone I know?”

“If you’re talking about Randy, the answer is yes. Along with Trey, Myleigh, Nicole, and even Jennifer and Blake on occasion. There may be others; I wouldn’t put it past Candice.”

“Now I know you’re pulling my leg,” she replied. “The guys, yes, although Blake might be a reach. I can believe it of Nicole and maybe Candice, maybe even Jennifer if you push me. But Myleigh, no way!”

“I’ve seen pictures of her on a surfboard,” he smiled.

“You’re pulling my leg,” she said. “What would you do if I pulled out my cell phone and called her?”

“Be my guest,” he grinned.

She should have taken warning from that, but didn’t, for whatever reason. It was only a few button pushes to get Myleigh on the phone. “Henry has just been telling me this incredible story,” she said. “He tells me you’re supposed to be a surfer.”

“Why, of course,” Myleigh replied. “I confess I do not get the chance to ride upon the waves very often, but it is quite exhilarating when the opportunity arises.”

Tricia was flabbergasted. “Have you been doing this long?” was all she could ask.

“I’ve been enjoying it ever since my undergraduate days,” Myleigh told her. “I’m sure I’ve mentioned Crystal to you. She, Randy, and I were among a small group who dared to surf upon Superior’s ice water mansions. I confess I prefer it somewhat warmer, but in that period we had to take what we could get when we could get it. There are those of us locally who still occasionally make an excursion to some favorite spots on the shores of Gitchee Gumee, but once or twice a summer we travel over to Lake Michigan to enjoy the thrill. The waters are a little warmer, but the conditions need to be just right, which they rarely are, and we often do not have a great deal of warning. If you and Henry should wish to accompany us, I’m sure you could be accommodated, but I should probably warn you we usually camp with tents when we go. Even if the surf is lackluster, it is still a great deal of fun to sit around a campfire in the evenings.”

Tricia took a deep breath. This was not what she had been expecting out of the nice but prissy-sounding literature professor and harpist! She’d have to see it to believe it. “I might have to think about it,” she said, trying to be polite. “However, the timing would have to work for me, too.”

“Let us discuss it to a greater degree at some future date. I’m quite certain you would enjoy yourself, considering the amount of enjoyment you managed upon the runners of a dogsled.”

“Myleigh,” Tricia asked, “do you run sled dogs, too?”

“I’ve been given the opportunity, and it is an enjoyable pursuit, but I fear I must admit I did not follow up on it to the degree I could have, which doesn’t match the expertise I’ve heard you’ve acquired. Perhaps another winter I shall find the opportunity.”

“We’ll have to talk about it some time,” Tricia told her. They talked for another minute or two before ending the call.

“See?” Henry grinned as Tricia snapped the phone shut.

“I never would have believed it. We just got invited on a camping and surfing trip by the last person on earth this side of Wendy I would have expected to hear it from.”

“Still waters run deep,” he laughed. “And that’s especially true with Myleigh.”

“No fooling!”

“To get back to what I was saying, there are opportunities to do things up here in the summer, and they don’t always involve outdoor sports. It’s better in the summer anyway. All you have to do is be open to it and we can have some fun.”

*   *   *

April became May. As the school board election approached in early May, election signs sprouted all around town, and there were big ads in the Record-Herald. It didn’t seem abnormal to Tricia, but according to Henry it was a big deal; usually there was virtually no campaigning for school board at all. It was clear someone had dumped a record amount of money for a local election into the process.

Whether spending all the money was needed turned out to be a little questionable; from the odd comments Tricia overheard in the office, and what she heard directly from patients, there was a lot of dissatisfaction with the school board anyway. Ryan Clark and John Archer got the clean sweep they were looking for; although it would be July before the new members would take office it was clear things were going to change.

That meant there was relatively little controversial feedback that might have affected the progress of the purchase of the hospital building at the meeting of the county commissioners the next week. As it turned out Tricia didn’t need to tip off Henry about what was coming down; Ryan invited Henry over to his office and gave him a discussion of the whole plan. As Ryan had predicted, one county commissioner wanted to block the plan, or at least hold it up “for more study,” but the county had been paying for the upkeep of the building for so long the rest of the commissioners were glad to have it off their hands.

Thanks to various legal and other ramifications, the actual sale was still held up for a while, but it was hoped the two doctor’s offices and other functions could be consolidated into the “Spearfish Lake Medical Center” by late autumn. While she looked forward to the efficiencies and better patient service that would result, there was a little bit of her that would miss the warm, close camaraderie she’d had with Heather and Molly in Dr. Luce’s old office. The two said at one time or another that they’d felt the same way. All three hoped they’d be able to maintain their working friendships at least to some degree in the larger place, where there would be more people working.

From Tricia’s standpoint, another good thing took place about that time: Henry told her one evening that the paper had decided to hire a new junior reporter, which would free up his evenings considerably. There would still be a modicum of scut work he’d have to deal with, especially if they hit a period where the paper was without a junior reporter, which had happened from time to time in the past, but he was going to be considerably freer most evenings. Tricia hoped that would translate into being able to spend more time with him.

Tricia did not know directly, but got the impression there had been considerable negotiating and fiddling around with Record-Herald budgets to make the deal work. Part of it had involved Henry, his father, and his mother taking small pay cuts to free up some cash to pay the new reporter. She had the impression that all of them considered it money well spent – Henry’s father had no more enthusiasm for all the evening work and government meetings than he did.

More murky, in that she didn’t know the details, was the fact there was discussion going on about changing the ownership around, although it didn’t sound as if there had been anything worked out yet. The paper had been employee owned for over thirty years; while it had worked all right, and had been done in response to turmoil following the death of the previous owner, it had proved cumbersome at times. Mike and Kirsten’s eventual retirement was apparently going to make it even more financially cumbersome, although still possible. The bottom line was that, if it happened, it would make it more of an incentive for Henry to remain in Spearfish Lake. Henry was of mixed feelings about the prospect but admitted things could change; it was entirely possible it would be years from happening if it happened at all.

From Tricia’s viewpoint it at least put a little different spin on the question of Henry leaving, if things got more serious with them, but that was still at least a theoretical discussion, although they were still spending a lot of time together and were getting closer as a result. Really, she didn’t mind; she knew he still had issues over Cindy to sort out in his life, just as she had some to work out in her own. Time would allow for many of them to be dealt with while having less agony in the process. She was content with the way things were progressing.

As May drew toward an end, the new junior reporter showed up at the Record-Herald. He was a kid right out of college like most junior reporters had been over the years, so there was some showing around and breaking in to be done, but right from the first Henry became more available in the evenings. The days were getting long by now, and there were several hours of light after work, and time to do things with them.

As Henry became more regularly available, they evolved without much discussion into a pattern of trading off making dinner on one side of the duplex or the other. Tricia was still improving as a cook and didn’t need Heather’s extensive notes to make a simple meal, although it was still a slow process that often needed a little help from him. One day just before Memorial Day weekend, as the two sat down to dinner Henry announced, “I found someone who has a sailboat, and they’ve agreed to take us out over the weekend.”

“Is this anyone I would know?”

“Oh, yeah,” he grinned. “Randy Clark.”

“Why does that not surprise me?” she shook her head. “I suppose this has to be some kind of sail-powered rocket sled where we’re going to spend more time wet and airborne at the same time than we are dry and on the surface.”

“You sort of expect that with Randy,” he agreed. “But apparently this is pretty sedate. He says they used to take their kids out on it when they were babies. A twenty-five-footer, so it’s pretty big for this lake. It’s lightweight enough that he and Nicole trailer it over to the big lakes every now and then, but usually they just take friends out on it here and more or less drift around, or so he says, anyway.”

“Randy is a nice guy, and has been a huge supporter, but some of the things he likes to do scare me enough to make me wonder a little.”

“Well, he says it gets a little lively if it’s blowing pretty hard, but we’d have some control about whether we’d go out in conditions like that in the first place. Anyway, he was complaining that he doesn’t get to use it enough, so he seems open to letting us use it now and then, once he’s sure I know how to handle it.”

“Do you expect any problems?”

“Not really. I haven’t sailed a boat quite that big, but it shouldn’t be any major problem.”

On the afternoon of the Saturday after Memorial Day weekend Tricia and Henry went over to Randy and Nicole’s to give the boat a tryout. The boat proved to be pretty big, with a small cabin, albeit not with room to stand up in, but with bunks and a tiny kitchen. Randy said he and Nicole sometimes sailed it out to the far end of the lake to spend the night at anchor, just for the sake of getting away for a while. The way he said it intimated there were other activities involved that involved a lack of clothes and some privacy, and Tricia reflected that with two kids in the house she could understand why they liked to do it.

Nicole joined them; the kids were with Randy’s sister for the afternoon. It was not the acrobatic thrill ride Tricia had been half expecting. She and Nicole spent a lot of the time gossiping about one thing and another, but before long Tricia found herself paying more attention to Randy and what he was saying about the boat and how to sail it. In some respects it seemed pretty simple, and she found herself liking it. This, she realized, was something she could enjoy doing.

They were only out for a couple hours in a light breeze, but the boat seemed to move well across the water and there was some indescribable sense of being close to nature that Tricia remembered from taking a dogsled along a snowy trail.

Tricia and Henry liked it so much that they agreed to go out the next day, and sail out to the far end of the lake in what promised to be a little fresher breeze. It proved to be more than a little fresher; in fact, it was blowing fairly hard. When they were heading downwind on the first leg of the trip it was so sedate that Nicole peeled down to a rather brief bikini and spent most of the trip working on her tan out on the foredeck. But when heading into the wind the boat bounced along across the waves, and threw up quite a bit of spray when it crashed into them as they came back across the lake; it was thrilling and exciting, more fun than Tricia had been anticipating. Sailing was appealing to her more and more.

Tricia was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. She didn’t even own a swimsuit anymore. Her last “bikini” had been left behind at the Redlite, and would have made Nicole’s look extremely conservative. It was clear a new swimsuit or two was something else she was going to have to buy on her next Camden run, which was planned for later in the week. It would be tempting, she thought, to tease Henry by wearing something about like Nicole’s but she thought something a little more conservative might be in order, just on general principles.

In any case, it appeared there would be a next time. Randy and Nicole invited them to come along again sometime in the future. Randy had agreed that it would probably be all right if Henry borrowed the boat sometime when he and Tricia wanted to go out together; both Tricia and he agreed that it might well be fun to do. Neither mentioned it to the other one, but it seemed clear that spending an overnight at anchor at the far end of the lake wasn’t on the program.

While neither of them said anything about it, at least Tricia was beginning to hope that something like that wouldn’t be too far in the future. Maybe not on the boat at the far end of the lake, but she wouldn’t rule it out either.

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To be continued . . .

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