They clattered up Farley Creek a half mile, slid to park and went into the store. Windy, very importantly and methodically, sorted the mail into little pigeon holes behind the wired window which represented the Post Office. There were about eight letters and cards, a few newspapers and a tin of boat parts for the six inhabitants of Dandy Crossing.White and Farley canyons entering together on the left bank of the river comprised one settlement; Cass Hite’s ranch and orchard on the right bank, the other. Old Cass had named his crossing ‘A Dandy’ and the river people kept it that way. To the rest of the world it was Hite… if you could find it on a map.
Jason walked to the freezer and got an ice cream bar. He laid a quarter on the counter and leaned there, looking out at the only gas pump within a hundred miles. A hum from the generator and a creaking of roof beams in the midday heat were all that broke the silence.
It hadn’t always been this tranquil at Dandy Crossing. Windy’s had been the Upper Store, Fred Bennett’s, the Lower Store. There’d been some fifty families living at the confluence, where a copper processing mill had run full tilt in the forties. The sound of little kids screeching at play, the thrugging of big trucks in low gear, the banging of tailgates and the thumping of the mill had echoed through the canyon all day long. After dark, the cottonwood trees rustled, a steady spring gurgled beside the cliff wall and a lively river sang its song up-canyon.
Jason snapped his mind away from something he didn’t want to think of—a thing the three of them had written about during the winter. On this, their last trip down the Glen—while it was still a living river canyon—they were going to proceed as if nothing about it would ever change. Nothing was to mar this final adventure. No talking about the river’s misbegotten future.
Jason reached into the pickle jar, avoiding the man’s eyes. It depended on which day you listened, what Windy was for and what he was against. He’d been cursing the Bureau along with the rest of them for the past seven years, but now that the dam was nearing completion and flooding a reality, he was kissing up to them for a concession on the reservoir.
Jason altered the subject. ‘What’s Buck going to do with his cabin?’
‘He ain’t figured it out yet—whatever’ll giv’um the most trouble. They offered t’pay him for it, y’know—wanna use it fer some kinda storage shed up to the new Hite Marina—gonna name it after Cass, I guess—said they’d come an’ git it when the water starts backin’ up.’
‘I would have thought they’d do it the easy way: just let the cabin get buried in silt and water.’
‘Naw. Nelson says they got some preference ‘bout the buildings.’ Snorting, he added, ‘Tough titty. Buck’ll do what he wants with that place; took’um a long time g’ttin’ the gas heater ‘n stove in there and then buildin’ onto the back. He ain’t jist gonna quietly move out and let’um take over.’
Licking milk from his upper lip, Jason asked, ‘Where’ll he move to, do you know?’
‘Prob’ly to the mine. Says he don’t know fer sure yet; might move up t’his claim on the Green, or mebbe he’ll stick around here t’work on the White Canyon bridge when they start it.’
‘Can’t wait till Shan gits here t’ tell ‘er what Bennett said ‘bout them Bureau dimwits.’
Jason wanted to ask him not to mention things like that, but instead he said, ‘It’s time I got down to the boat and finished with my tinkering on the Johnson.’
The two stepped out of the trailer with toothpicks working at their gums, and cottonwoods whis-s-shing in the early afternoon breeze.
‘What’cha tinkerin’ with?’
‘Nothing much, just sputters a little on the high-speed jet.’
‘I’ll take ya down.’
Before Jason could say he’d rather walk, Windy ambushed him with a practicality. ‘What about yer oil? Gonna leave it in my truck?’
‘Whoa! Thanks for reminding me.’ He reached for his wallet, but before he could take it from his back pocket, Windy pulled open the cab door. ‘Aw, fergit it, Jason—you spend more money here ‘n anybody ‘n you never even let me buy ya a beer.’
Jason grinned. ‘Next time try ice cream.’