Runner's Moon - Cover

Runner's Moon

©1995, ©2007, ©2010 by Wes Boyd

Chapter 11

"You getting along OK?" Phil asked as they left the two-rut and headed up the spur to the North Country Trail.

"No problems," Judy said. "I've done this before."

"I mean, in general. I haven't seen you much since school."

"Phil, I'm just a farm wife with a sunburned nose, any more. With three kids and the field work, I stay busy."

"I mostly remember you from school. Things have sure changed."

Judy smiled. "I'm not the same person I was when I was in school, thank the good Lord," she said.

"Neither is your dad."

"He really hasn't changed much," she said. "He's just finally getting a chance to do what he wanted to do for years."

"Well, you're going to have to catch me up on all the Willow Lake gossip. Since the folks retired and moved to Florida, I don't get down that way much any more."

"Not a lot of gossip. Things don't change much in Willow Lake. What have you been doing with yourself? I know you were going with that girl from Spearfish Lake, but I don't think I ever knew her name."

"Still sort of going with her," Phil explained his relationship with Brandy, and how they rarely saw each other, and liked it that way. "I suppose it's kind of goofy," he summarized. "But we like it that way, and it's the only kind of relationship we could have with our jobs, anyway. Brandy's a sharp girl, and she's not the only sharp one that's come out of her family. Do you listen to Jenny Easton music?"

"Sure, I've got a couple of tapes of hers that I listen to out on the loader."

"She's Brandy's older sister."

"You're kidding!"

"No, I'm not. I've known her for years. I've got to admit, I'd been going with Brandy for months before I found out about it. I've gotten to be pretty good friends with her, and her ... well, I can't exactly say boyfriend, Blake Walworth. You think Brandy and I have a wierd relationship, well..." He changed the subject; that was pretty much supposed to be a family secret, anyway; he wasn't sure even Josh and Tiffany knew the truth. "I don't exactly see them a lot of them. They travel almost as much as Brandy and I do, but we get together now and then, sometimes for family stuff, sometimes just to get together. Spearfish Lake is home base to them, like Brandy and me. Blake even comes out and works dogs with Josh once in a while, like I do. Remember that 'Wonderful Winter World' TV show she did a while back, where she was driving a dogsled? This is the sled, and these are some of the dogs."

"Didn't see it," Judy said. "Ken and I don't watch a lot of TV."

"No problem, I'll send you a tape of it. We've got plenty. That was the first production she did on her own. Jenny actually doesn't drive a dogsled, but we made it look like she did. Just a second," he said, then raised his voice. "DAMN IT, CROSSTIE, MOVE YOUR LAZY ASS!" He dropped his voice and continued, "Damn dog is keeping a slack line, thinks she can get away with it with me mushing. We spent a couple of days taping the dogsled scenes. Brandy wasn't home, so I sort of got volunteered to be a dog handler. That was a real zoo."


"Like I said, Jenny doesn't drive a dogsled. You see the tape, it's like she's out on the trail by herself. Usually, there were a dozen people and three or four dog teams around, just mass confusion. Whenever you see a distant shot, where you can see the whole team, it's actually Tiffany driving the team, wearing a wig. Where it's a close shot, it's only two or three sets of dogs in front of her, and what you don't see is the second sled cut into the gangline, with Josh or Tiffany driving., outside the frame. It's all short cuts, so you can't tell. Actually, it would have been easier if she'd learned to do it, and she was willing, but her insurance company had a hairy fit. At that, all the music and singing is dubbed in, and I guess they had a hell of a time cutting and dubbing that bit where she's got Hobo Jim in the sled basket, playing the guitar, doing a duet on "Iditarod Trail". It was so cold that he couldn't keep it in tune, and he had to play the damn thing so it was looking like he was playing it when they dubbed it, and it was absolutely the most horrible sounding thing that you ever heard in your life. There were a lot of takes where he's actually playing the guitar with gloves on. CROSSTIE, GET MOVING! That was a scream! We only did about five clips that were actually recorded in the field. Fun to do once, but I'm glad I don't have to do that sort of thing for a living."

"I never figured it out of you, back when you were going with Alison," Judy snickered. "You two were always so, well, close."

"Best thing that ever happened to me, when Alison went to Western, and I went to Tech," Phil said. "We discovered that Alison didn't do well unless she was clinging to somebody, and it didn't take her a semester to get to clinging to someone else. Then, I got to going with Brandy, and discovered that I didn't need to have someone clinging to me. I haven't heard a thing about Alison in, oh, maybe five or six years."

"You'll have to come to the class reunion next spring," Judy said. "She'll probably be there, with I think her third husband."

"Has it been ten years already? Guess so. I'll be there if I'm in the country. Tell me about some of the other kids. You used to hang around with Lori, you know, that got married to Bob Watson."

"I see Lori a lot," Judy said. "Bob's brother Merle decided he wanted to drive truck full time, so Bob and Lori moved out to his dad's farm. We trade work back and forth a lot. Two kids, they're doing fine. I took her to the hospital and held her hand when she delivered the second one."

"What about the rest of the old crowd? I never get much contact with them any more. Say, Keith Worden?"

"Doing seven to ten for embezzlement."

That was a surprise. "I figured if he ever did time, it'd be for dealing drugs."

"So did I," Judy smirked.

"Jennifer Savage?"

"Don't know, and don't care."

Phil shrugged, even though Judith couldn't see him. "Well, can't say as I blame you." Jennifer had been, well, 'predatory' would be the word to use if you had to sum her up in a word.

"Candy Howard?"

"Married some guy down in Camden, works in an office or something. Lori would know more about that than I would. Actually, with the exception of you, I guess that everybody turned out pretty normal. You sure didn't turn out like I expected."

"Well, neither did you," Phil replied.

"All I ever wanted was to be pretty normal," Judy said.

"Yeah, but you managed it. CROSSTIE, HIKE! HIKE! HIKE!" Phil glanced back over his shoulder; Norm was keeping up pretty good. Josh wasn't exactly setting a racing pace, with only five dogs. "What's the deal with your dad, anyway? I always figured he'd be at the farm center until he retired."

"He was at the farm center until he retired," Judy said. "They were cutting back, and they offered him an early retirement, and he took it. Then, he discovered that staying home with mom all day was driving him nuts. Grandpa used to have that cabin, and came up here hunting and stuff until he died, and Daddy decided to come up here and stay a while until he figured out what he wanted to do. I guess he hasn't figured it out, yet -- that was four years ago." That was really the shorthand version of the truth, Judy knew, but it was the version she used with anyone that asked.

"I'd heard about him from Josh and Tiffany, but I never figured that it was the same Norm Niven that I knew."

"The funny thing is that he really hasn't changed a lot," Judy said. "He has the time to do what he always wanted to do, and doesn't have the responsibilities that kept him from doing it. I sort of envy him that, in a way, but I'd be the one to go crazy if I wasn't doing something all the time. I learned that from Ken, I guess."

"Does he spend all the time out here?"

"Most of the time," Judy said. "He comes down to the farm once or twice a year, and Ken and I try to get up and see him now and then when the snow isn't on the ground. He likes it, and if it makes him happy, it makes me happy for him."

"It's still strange, how much things change in ten years," Phil said. "I mean, one thing just sort of naturally leads to the next, and after a while, you look back, and say, 'How the hell did I get here?' Maybe it's like that for everybody."

"Could be," Judy said. The subject was boring her, and getting a little personal, to boot. It was time to change it. "How did you get to running dogsleds, anyway?"

"Just one of those things that sort of leads naturally to the next, but Spearfish Lake style. Back when he was in school, Josh used to hang around with Danny Evachevski -- that's Brandy's younger brother, so I got to know him a little then. That was about the time he was getting into running dogs. Well, I saw him every now and then for two or three years, and then when Brandy and I started hanging our hats here, sometimes I'd be here when Brandy wasn't, and it would be kind of boring. Well, Brandy's mom, Carrie, works with Tiffany's mom, and somehow or other, it wound up that I got to helping out with the dogs now and then, and it got me hooked, too."

"I can see how it could do that," Judy said, "I'd almost be tempted to give it a try."

"Well, Josh could start you off easy," Phil replied, then continued, "The only reason I'd want to leave my job is to have a team of my own, but Josh and Tiffany sort of let me borrow their teams once in a while, so I can get a fix. If they've got enough extra dogs, they're going to try to put together a team so I can run the Pound Puppies race this weekend. CROSSTIE! MOVE YOUR LAME CARCASS! It'll be mostly a scratch team, and running to give the dogs some exercise, but I don't mind. Someday, I'll have the time to have a team of my own, and I'll do better, then."

Their conversation continued for the next hour, mostly with Phil telling stories about his travels, punctured every few minutes by another verbal blister of Crosstie's fur. Each time he yelled at the dog, she'd pull for another few minutes, then start slacking off, until Phil caught her at it. Well, the Pound Puppies wasn't a whole lot longer than he'd wind up running the team today, so it probably wouldn't be that bad. Maybe if he let Crosstie know now that he wasn't going to let her give him any shit, it might go better on Saturday. After a while, they stopped near 919, to give the teams a rest, but it was a short one, as the sun was dropping fast, and they weren't equipped to run the dogs at night, this time.

They stopped again, on the trail just outside of Mark's place, to swap Baldwin and Crosstie again, and the sun had already set by that time, and the light was fading fast. By now, it wouldn't matter; the dogs knew where home was. Phil stopped quickly at Mark's, to help Judy out of the sled and into her truck; she said she'd meet the rest down at Josh's. Josh and Norm went on ahead, and were getting dogs picketed at their houses by the time Phil got there with the big team. Judy pulled the truck in a couple of minutes later, and helped where she could to put the dogs away. Even though she wasn't used to working with the dogs, she'd spent a day around them, and had learned a few things.

Right in the middle of the whole show, Tiffany pulled in after an extended after-school run with her team, so there were ten more dogs to care for. While Phil and Tiffany put her dogs away, Josh ran the water out to the barn enough for it to start running hot, and started mixing dog food for the teams. Josh and Tiffany were used to doing the chores by themselves, but having the extra hands was welcome, and soon they had the teams taken care of. As they finished up, Tiffany told them, "I'd better be getting home for supper, but I'll be back later."

"We'd better get going, too," Judy said, peeling off her snowmobile suit; it would be too warm for the truck; Norm pulled off his parka and overpants.

"Hang on a second," Phil said. "Josh, have you got an extra copy of 'Wonderful Winter' we can give Judith? I've got plenty; I can make it up to you."

"Yeah, I've got to have one," Josh said. "I'll go get it."

"You don't have to do that," Judy said.

"My pleasure. Judith, Norm, it was good to see you again. A little surprising, under the circumstances, but good."

"Well, good to see you again, Phil," Judy said. "Except for Bob and Lori, and Ken, of course, I don't see much of the old crowd any more."

"I'd like to see Ken, again," Phil said. "I'll still be around this weekend, probably, unless I get a call. Bring him up with you, if you can."

"Not much chance of that," Judy said, throwing her snowmobile suit behind the seat of the truck, as Norm got in the other side. "Somebody's got to do chores. But you make it down for the reunion, if you can."

"I'll try, but the odds are I'll be out of the country someplace."

Josh came outside, carrying a copy of the video. It was a commercial copy that Jenny's production company had made up, still in its plastic wrapper. "I suppose Phil told you all about this," he said. "I still laugh when I see it. It looks so good on tape, and it was such a screwed up mess to make, but Jenny says they're all like that. We'll see about that; she's talking sequil this March."

"I'll try to get a chance to look at it," Judy promised. "Probably not tonight, but maybe tomorrow."

"Norm," Josh said. "I don't know when you're going to get back, but if nobody's here, your dogs will be here and the sled will be in the barn. I'll see that they get fed right with the other dogs."

"Thanks, Josh," Norm said. "I really appreciate it. I owe you one."

"Naw, I owe you one," Josh said, "For keeping the coffee hot when I'm out your way. Judy, you get up this way again, don't be a stranger."

In another minute, Josh and Phil were watching the pickup's taillights head down the road. "You know," Phil said conversationally, "There goes one of the people I admire most in this world."

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