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Down By the Riverside book cover

Down By the Riverside
Book Nine of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Wes Boyd
©2015, ©2016

Chapter 32
Saturday, March 20, 2004

The weather was warming up, and there were plenty of signs of spring in Flagstaff, Nanci thought as she wheeled the Camry across town to the Canyon Tours office. It would be nice to see Crystal again; they’d only had one chance to get together and sit down to talk like sisters since she and Preach had gotten back from the show trip east almost two months before, and that hadn’t lasted long enough.

She wheeled the Camry to a stop at the Girls’ House, where she’d stayed with Crystal on the off weekends the first summer she’d been in the Canyon. She couldn’t tell from the outside if her sister was there or not, but decided to go up to the door and knock anyway. She was a little surprised when Crystal came to the door. “Hey, stranger,” Crystal said. “What brings you up here? Come on in.”

“I decided to come up and spend the night,” Nanci replied as she stepped through the door. “I’m preaching tomorrow, and I prefer to not have to get up way early and drive beforehand if I can help it. Besides, it gets me away from the two little kids in the house.”

“Preaching tomorrow?” Crystal frowned. “I thought Preach was going to be speaking.”

“Oh, he is,” Nanci grinned with a smile about three-tenths of a mile wide. “He’ll be at the Fellowship. I’m going to be filling in for Reverend Miller at Hillside. He’s going to be away at some conference.”

“Well, I guess that makes sense. I mean, you are a member at Hillside after all, and you had all those lay speakers classes.”

“Oh, more than that,” Nanci grinned even wider than she had before, if such a thing were possible. “I wanted to do the church licensing classes and they had a session of them on my spring break week. The rules are that you can’t take them unless you’ve been called, but Reverend Miller was able to bend the rules a little bit. What’s better, I can get some more internship credit for it, too. You are now talking to the temporary unpaid associate pastor of Hillside Methodist Church. I passed the classes, so you can now call me ‘Reverend Chladek’ if you happen to feel like it.”

“Holy . . . uh, wow,” Crystal beamed, catching her mouth just in time. Preach still hadn’t been able to clean up all of her rough language, although he was making progress at it. She reached out to give her sister a big hug as she went on, “Reverend Chladek, I thought you weren’t hanging around Hillside much any longer.”

“I’ve missed two Sundays since we got off the river last fall, and both of them were on finals weeks,” Nanci said as they broke the hug. “I’ve been double-dipping on the Sundays I speak at the Fellowship by going to the early service at Hillside. It’s a lot of driving but I think it’s worth it.”

“Let’s grab a chair,” Crystal suggested. “So have you decided on whether you want to go on to seminary?”

“I still haven’t made up my mind,” Nanci said as she found a seat in the tiny living room, which had a pile of outdoor gear stashed in one corner. Crystal slouched into another chair as her sister went on, “I know passing the licensing course is another step down the road, but it doesn’t have to be the final step. Reverend Miller has volunteered to be my official Supervising Pastor if I decide to go through with seeking ordination or even becoming a full-fledged local pastor. I have to be making up my mind in another year, at least if I’m going to apply for a year from next fall. There’s still no rush, and I want to be sure of what I’m doing.”

“Well still, that’s pretty darn cool. I’m sure you’ve heard once too often that I never would have dreamed this would happen.”

“I have heard it a lot, and not just from you. You have to remember that I would never have dreamed it, either. So where’s Preach?”

“He’s taking a course toward his EMT certificate renewal. He’s probably going to be gone until this evening sometime.”

“You know, if I ever find a spare minute, that’s something I’m going to have to do, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to get into trouble even if I wanted to.”

“It’s pretty intensive, a lot of hours,” Crystal agreed. “I managed to get my Wilderness First Responder card renewed a year ago last fall, and that’ll be good for a while yet. I’m glad I didn’t have to do it this year or I don’t know where I would have found the time.”

“You’ve been busy. I was a little surprised when Mom told me you wound up going to Costa Rica.”

“It was on again, off again all winter,” Crystal shrugged. “It was off, and then after Mom and Dad got back from Truk it looked like we were going to have a little hole, so we got in a week. The surf was pretty good but Scooter and the gang said they’d seen better this year. They sure live a life down there, and they manage to see the bottom of a few glasses, too.”

“Party central, huh?”

“Not all the time, but there were some nights it got knocked back pretty good.” Crystal shook her head and went on, “The older I get, the less I find it appeals to me. I suppose we’ll go back sometime if we get the chance, but I’m really more interested in the surfing than I am in the partying. But I figure it’s warmer than Alaska.”

“Yeah, I heard Duane finished the Iditarod way back in the pack, but I haven’t heard any details.”

“I’m sure we’ll hear more than we want to when he and Michelle get back. That’s probably going to be a week or ten days or so.”

“I’m a little surprised that Scooter and the gang aren’t back yet. I halfway expected this place to be overflowing.”

“Any day now, and that’s going to make it crowded for a few weeks, but I guess we can live with it. We’ll be on the river in a month, and then it won’t matter.”

“A month?” Nanci frowned. “Isn’t that earlier than normal?”

“Yeah, it is, but the schedule is all goofed up. We’re going to be the first team out this year, and believe me, that’s not the only thing that’ll be different from last year.”

“What happened to get it all goofed up?”

“That’s a long story,” Crystal sighed. “Dad and I have been working on it off and on all winter, and I don’t think we’ve got all the kinks out of it yet, but we’re getting pretty close to having to go with what we have whether we like it or not. You know this is the last year we’re going to be running the eighteen-day trips, right?”

“I’d heard something about that. I guess that means they finally got the new management plan passed.”

“Yeah, that’s at the core of it. Next year we’re mostly only going to be running fourteen-day trips. There will be a few sixteen-day trips, but those are sort of experimental. You remember how we had to skip taking out at Diamond Creek that trip last summer?”

“I couldn’t forget it. That was a pain in the neck.”

“Well, next year, 2005, that is, we’re going to experiment with doing it on four trips. It’s too late to get it on the schedule for this year and the schedule won’t allow it, but there’ll be room for it next year.”

“You mean, have GCR pick up the trips and tow them in?”

“Well, for the rafts and crews, anyway. When GCR runs their eight-day motor rig trips, they’re met by a fast ferry right below Separation Canyon and they carry the customers in to South Cove. It’s going to be a little tricky to get the timing right, but Dad, Marty, and I have been working on it. If it works and there’s enough call for it, we may do more like that in future years. It’s not a lot cheaper than taking out at Diamond Creek, but at least we don’t have to worry about flash floods.”

“That’ll be a little different,” Nanci nodded. “But everything else is going to be fourteen-day trips, right? I thought the new limit was sixteen days.”

“It is, but cutting the trip lengths was something Dad traded away to the Park Service for moving more of our launch dates into the warmer months,” Crystal explained. “It’s all been in the works for a while and won’t get started until next year, anyway. We’ll be starting a little later and ending a little earlier, and I don’t know if it’s a fair trade or what, but it’s how things are going to have to be. So that means that this summer is going to be transitional between the old trips and the new trips, and that’s why this summer is going to be a mess.”

“What do you mean by transitional?”

“We’ve been running those six fourteen-day trips since we got them from GCR, right? This year, we’re going to run ten of them. But to get everyone used to the idea of the shorter trips, we’re going to have every crew running at least a couple of them, rather than dumping most of the load on the Gold Team like we’ve done the past couple of years. The short trips will launch on Saturday and take out on Friday two weeks later, while the other twenty-six trips will launch on Monday and take out two and a half weeks later like we’ve always done.”

“I can see how that could make things complicated, all right,” Nanci nodded.

“You don’t know the half of it,” Crystal sighed. “Dad and I have been wrestling with the crew schedule since we got off the river last fall, and he’d already made a start on it. We think we have something that will work now, and like I said, it had better work since we’re at a point where we can’t do much to change it. To make everything work out, we’re going to have to take it out of the breaks. Rather than the standard three-day break, it’s going to have to vary from two to four days.”

“I’m sure everyone won’t mind having a four day break, but that two-day stuff is going to cause some complaints.”

“Yeah, I’m glad Dad is going to have to be the one to break it to everyone, not me. Burnarounds like that are no fun. That’s sort of what happened to us when Diamond Creek caught us out last summer, and you know what that was like. But, like I said, it’s transitional and things ought to be a little easier to handle in another year. There are still some quirks here and there but we think we’ve got the schedule for the summer ironed out as much as it’s gonna get.”

“I guess we’re just going to have to live with it. I presume we’re still doing the church trips?”

“Yeah, they’re still on the board. We may add on another one next year, we’re still working on it. Having to have the White Team on those trips is what caused us a lot of headaches in making the schedule work, but we figured out a way to do it.”

“You’re still looking at only making five trips this year, I take it?”

“Yeah, assuming the boatman situation doesn’t get too screwy. I’ll probably only make the spring and fall trips, plus the church trips. Dad says there’s too much I need to learn topside, and the more I dig into it the more I’ve come to believe him. The plan now is for Preach to lead the trips when I’m not on the river, with Kevin as the assistant.”

“Who is going to be in the other raft?”

“Still working on it. It’s sure not going to be the stable crew we had last year, that’s for sure. See, there’s another thing that we’ve been working on. Dad thinks, and I have come to believe him, that we need to be developing some more trip leaders, mostly so we don’t get caught too far out if something unexpected happens. As Dad says, we’ve got four husband-wife leader teams, and someone could wind up getting pregnant at any time.”

“Are you thinking about it?”

“It’s not off the board. We probably aren’t going to be doing it real soon, but it’s clear to me that I’m not going to be spending a lot of time on the river for the next few years and maybe never again. I’m going to have to be more like Dad, getting on the river when an extra pair of hands is needed, or to just ride along and see how a crew is working. It seems logical that if Preach and I are going to have kids, we might as well think about it. We’re still planning a big trip for next winter, although we haven’t worked out where yet. After that, well, I can see it happening. I’m going to be turning thirty next year, so I don’t want to put it off too much longer if I’m going to do it.”

“I’ve heard you talking about taking a big trip for a couple of years,” Nanci shook her head. “Do you think you’re going to be able to do it?”

“Well, we want to do it, but whether we’ll be able to is another story. Right at the moment it looks like a sea kayaking trip, but we’re still not sure about the details. I’d say paddling around Tasmania looks like the leader, but we haven’t given up on something around the south end of South America. We thought real hard about going to the Falklands, since nobody goes there much, but when we got to looking into it we found out that there’s a reason nobody goes there -- it’s too hard and expensive to get to. Besides, from what we can find out the permit process will drive you about half nuts. So that’s probably out. Southern Chile is probably the next best choice, but well, there are ups and downs there, too. It’s wilder than Tasmania, and the weather is wilder too, and colder to boot. On the surface I kind of like the idea of paddling to Cape Horn, but when I stop and think about it I think we’d be nuts to do it. It would eat up the whole three-month period we could give it, that’s for sure. Tasmania is a little more expensive, but time-wise it’s a better fit.”

“Either one sounds like a pretty good adventure to me.”

“Well, none of it’s a done deal. It’s probably going to be mid-summer before we can tack it down. That’s going to mean my staying topside for a few trips probably will work in our favor, since I’ll be able to do a lot of the tacking. I think it’s going to come off, but really, it’s up and down whether it’ll actually happen, since Preach and I have been kicking around the idea of getting a house.”

“Wow, you really are settling down.”

“That’s not a done deal yet, either, but it’s something we’re thinking about. This place is all right up to a point but it isn’t ours. We don’t live here, we just crash here, and I keep thinking that it would be nice to have a place of our own. If we take the big trip next year, probably by a year from next fall we’ll be looking if we’re not in a place of our own. If it doesn’t come off, it could happen next fall. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

“I know what you’re saying, Crystal,” Nanci nodded in understanding. “Don’t get me wrong, it was nice of Jon and Tanisha to take me in. I really owe them for that, but there are getting to be more and more times when I wish that I had a place of my own. I’d like to be able to live my own life, spend time praying, study the Bible, and do the other things I have to in peace, and not have two little kids just about running the household.”

“The kids are getting to you a little, huh?”

“Yeah, they are. I mean, they’re just kids and they can’t help themselves, but sometimes being able to retreat to my room in the basement is just not enough.”

“I guess that goes with having kids,” Crystal sighed. “And I’m still not all the way thrilled with the idea, but it’s becoming more and more of a reality. Have you been having any thoughts along that line?”

“Not even close, even considering that I’m getting more than I want of small children at the moment. I haven’t even thought about it. I’ve got enough to do right now as it is.”

Nanci didn’t want to come right out and tell Crystal that she wasn’t thinking much about either getting married or having children in the near future, if at all. While she admitted to herself that she might change her mind, neither appealed to her very much. If she wound up going to seminary, which was hardly a done deal yet, it could easily be five years before she would be willing to consider the idea, and maybe not then. She hadn’t even been looking for a guy; she’d had a couple of study dates down at Black Mesa in the past year, but they had really been just for studying.

But even though her mother realized just how busy and focused she was, Nanci had been picking up more and more grandmotherly-yearning hints, and had the idea that Crystal had been getting them, too. Maybe if Crystal did have a baby in the next few years her mother would back off a little bit, but there was no way to tell about that.

Things could change in five years, and she knew it more than most people. Five years before she’d been stuck in the hell her life had been and worse was to come although she hadn’t realized it at the time. Five years from now, well, who knew? There were a lot of things she could be doing, and admittedly being the pastor of a church was one of them, but it wasn’t the only possibility.

It wasn’t something she wanted to share with Crystal right now, mostly because it wasn’t anything she wanted to think about very hard right now, anyway. To get the conversation off onto another track, she asked, “You said the White Team isn’t going to be very stable this year?”

“No, no way,” Crystal replied. “Preach, Kevin, and Angie will be on it all season unless something gets goofy. You’re going to be on it while you’re out of school, and I’ll be on it some. There’s still some question of who is going to be in your seat on the first trip and there are a lot of possibilities, so a lot is going to depend on who’s available when the time comes. The same is true for the fall. My switching on and off the team is going to be the fun part. I told you about Dad wanting to develop new leaders, so one of the things he wants to do is to switch out the assistants on all the teams for at least one trip. With this new schedule, it can be done for a single trip if the timing is right, so it seems likely that at least one of the trips will be filled with an assistant from another team. Kevin doesn’t quite count in that deal since he’s going to be getting a lot of time as an assistant anyway.”

“Boy, I can hear the griping about the leader teams being split up now, even if it’s just for a single trip.”

“No fooling, I can too, so don’t tell anyone. We’re going to wait until the preseason leader meeting next month before we break it to everyone. I think Scooter and Jim will be all right with it, and Michelle will go along with it even though she won’t be happy.”

“But I can just hear both Dave and Mary screaming now,” Nanci shook her head.

“Yeah, and I’m not sure how Dad will handle that. It may come down to Dad or me taking a trip with them, which I wouldn’t mind. I’ve heard a lot about how they do things, but I’ve never been able to make a run with them.”

“I’ve heard some of those stories, too. They sure seem to have a good time, although I hear they tend to be a little, uh, new-age.”

“Try a lot,” Crystal grinned. “I don’t know how much to make of it, but Mary and Preach had some pretty good discussions down in Costa Rica. I don’t think either of them convinced the other one very much, but it was interesting to listen to them. I don’t know how well you would manage to put up with them, since you tend to be a little straighter than Preach, anyway.”

“I can keep my mouth shut and be tolerant, Crystal. You know that.”

“Yeah, maybe so, but I think after two weeks of Mary I’d be singing that ‘Down By the Riverside’ song I hear you doing on the river every now and then, if for no more reason than to twist her tail.”

“I guess I don’t have that kind of sense of humor. I do take my religion a little seriously, I think.”

“You sure do, Reverend Chladek,” Crystal grinned. “Sometimes you have to open your ears to someone else’s beliefs just to get a little perspective of your own. Hey, when Preach and I were in Spearfish Lake, visiting Randy – you remember him?”

“Yes,” Nanci sighed. “I was awful afraid of him for a long time until I realized he wasn’t mad at me but at what I’d done to you at Northern Michigan.”

“He got over it,” Crystal shrugged. “Anyway, Preach and I spent the afternoon talking with a friend of his, and she’s really into Native American spirituality. She had me lost for a little while, but you know the teaching Preach does about vision quests?”

“Yes, Jesus going out in the wilderness to talk to God, to fast and pray and be tempted. I’ve thought about that more than a little.”

“Well, this gal did her own quest, and it was really a little horrendous, but it was pretty cool, too. She had a vision that reshaped her life a lot like the way you had yours redone. I was really surprised that she even talked to us about it, but she was pretty open. I guess that Preach got to her a little, but I have to say she believes what she says.”

“That’s interesting. So what happened?”

“It’s a long story, and I think Preach could tell you better than I can since I was zoned out through part of it, thinking my own thoughts. But maybe we’ll have to get Preach talking about it when we’re out on the river sometime.”

“It might be interesting,” Nanci agreed. “It seems like it’s still going to be a long time before I’m on the river again, but I can look at the calendar and see it’s getting closer.”

“Mark May tenth on your calendar,” Crystal smiled. “It’s when you turn into a river rat again.”

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To be continued . . .

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