Busted Axle Road
CopyrightÂ© 1993, 2001, 2010
With hunting season over with, Mike thought that it was safe to move the dogs outside again. They hadn't much liked being locked in the barn, and seemed gloomy, not seeing the sun, or being able to go out for their accustomed run. Mark's prediction hadn't quite worked out; there hadn't been much snow during hunting season, but the day after it was over with, several inches had fallen, and Mike and Mark had both taken off work early to get the dogs out and take them for a run up the trail.
The dogs had been exuberant, eager; it took a long time for them to get the first mile madness out of their system, and get settled down to a steady trot.
With the short days as the winter solstice neared, there wasn't a lot of time to take a long run, and they finished up in total darkness. Running in the snow at night had been fun. The dogs seemed to like it, and seemed more settled down. The trail had turned into a strange, ghostly landscape, eerie in its appearance, strange to see and experience. Once their night vision became focused, they became entranced with how the dog's breath created halos over their heads. They ran quietly, except for the whoosh of the runners, and the occasional jingle of a harness. The rabbits were out in force in the night, and every now and then, they felt their teams surge when a rabbit crossed the trail ahead of them. It was a magical experience.
When they finally made it back to Mark's house, both of them were a little chilled; it had turned out colder than they had expected. "I know a good way to take care of that," Mike said. "When you get your dogs tied up, why not grab Jackie, come over to the house, and we can all crawl into the hot tub?"
"Sounds like a great idea," Mark said. "I think I'd better grab a bit first, but we ought to be up in half an hour or so."
"Great," Mike said. "See you then." He gave his dogs a "Hike", and ran up the edge of the road to his house.
It took a while to get the dogs and the sled put away before he went inside. "How'd it go?" Kirsten asked.
"Pretty good," Mike said. "I want to do some more running at night. That's a lot of fun. It helps if you stay on the two-ruts, though. The trail gets awful narrow in the dark, even with a headlamp."
"Would you like some supper? We've already eaten, and the kids are in bed."
"Just a sandwich," Mike said. "I want to run down and check the temperature on the hot tub. Mark and Jackie are going to be up in a few minutes."
"Temperature's up," Kirsten said. "I figured on going down there later, anyway, but I had something else in mind."
"They may not stay late," Mike smiled. "Any mail for me?"
"One Christmas card," Kirsten said. "But, it's a Christmas card you'll be interested in." She went and got it for him.
"Hey, it's from Andy Bairnsfether," Mike said when he saw the envelope. Bairnsfether had held the job Pat Varner held now, his first job out of journalism school -- the job that Mike had held, when he'd first come to Spearfish Lake a dozen years before. Bairnsfether had been the first reporter to do sports and general assignments in Mike's old job after Mike had become the editor. Unlike Mike, he hadn't had a reason to stay in Spearfish Lake, and had a hankering to be on a big newspaper. Well, so had Mike, once upon a time. "Haven't heard from him in a couple of years. Wonder what he's up to?"
"Read it and see," Kirsten smirked. She'd already read the note in the card.
"'Thought I was going to be stuck in Phoenix for a while, '" Mike read the note out loud, "'But last spring, got on the L.A. Times, investigative reporter, no less. A long way from Spearfish Lake, babe. I suspect your're still at the same old stand. The babes here are something else. Saw Jenny Evachevski once, at a distance, and she may be the hottest one in town. Fortunately, I'm still single, so I can chase some of them.' Hey, he's making out all right, it looks like."
"Looks like it to me, too," Kirsten said. "He was a sharp cookie. I didn't think we'd keep him for long."
"Meaning that only the dumb ones stay?" Mike laughed.
"No," she smiled. "Only the smartest ones stay in Spearfish Lake. Here's your sandwich."
Mike barely got his sandwich finished before Mark and Jackie arrived. By now, the Gravengoods had gotten used to getting into the hot tub nude with Mike and Kirsten, so it wasn't long before the four were down in the basement, driving the chill from the musher's bones. "Aaaah, this feels good," Mark said. "I got colder than I thought I was going to out there tonight, but wasn't that a run to remember?"
"That was nice," Mike agreed. "How'd you like to run all night, like they do in the Iditarod?"