Runaway! - Cover


Copyright© 2017 by Ernest Bywater

Chapter 02

High-school Life

David finished the first term of Year 10 before he left Australia but the US schools start in August not February. The different start dates and the time he missed has David unsure about what level to start at in the Window Rock High School, so he arranges to be tested by the local school board. In some subjects he tests well enough to be a Junior, what they call Year 11 in the US, and in others he tests out as a Sophomore, the Year 10 equivalent. So he registers as a Sophomore, but in the advanced classes. He also registers for some extra credit and advanced placement classes. After he gets settled into the school he does a few advanced and college level on-line at your own pace classes from other sources as well.

The first few weeks at the new school are a bit busy while David gets familiar with how they do things in the Window Rock High School and many of the other students get to know him. He meets people and relationships grow, as is typical of high school life the world over. The help David gave people in Window Rock involved him with some of the students in their homes and now he meets others in his classes, thus he makes a lot of new friends. One of the hardest things for David to get used to is the school provided lunch. In Australia you can buy a lunch at school or you bring your own, but many of the US schools provide one from a very limited menu. He often brings his own because the school lunches are usually foods he doesn’t like eating. Some of his school friends ask him to collect his school lunch so they can have something extra to eat from his school provided lunch. David does this for them because he knows they’re often on limited food at home due to their family’s poor economic situation.

Like any school student David finds some classes interesting while some classes are a lot less interesting, but he does well in all of his tests and exams.

At lunch David sits at a table with a mixed group of students: some are from his classes and some are neighbours while some are friends of those in the first two groups. There are also a few other students who come and sit with them on some days. Most of them are from his year.

For sports David joins the Cross Country Team and he does well due to his overall fitness and his training from Dave. However, the training in moving across open country he gets from Long Arrow helps him to be a lot better than he was. Important things like reading the country for a safer or faster path, good map reading, how to best move across the country, and how to prepare for moving across the open terrain. On the cross country runs David wears a larger pack than the others so he can carry all of the emergency gear he has from his training by Long Arrow. At first the teacher objects to the backpack as excess weight slowing him down, but the teacher eventually comes to accept it as being part of how David does things. At the meets the pack is often inspected by the officials, but they allow him to carry it after they confirm it contains only emergency aid equipment and other safety items packed in it.

David doesn’t try to pick up a local accent, but he soon starts to talk with the same accent as those around him. Thus he sounds like a local when he starts at school, which saves him from being teased about his old accent. He wonders how come until he realises he now has the same accent his mother spoke with, so it’s very familiar to him.

Life settles into a routine for David, a routine he enjoys and does well in, most of the time. There are a few bumps on the road of life, as is normal, but nothing major and nothing that can’t be dealt with after a little work and planning. Some of the most interesting bumps relate to his social life, both at school and at home.

Homecoming Dance

One thing that catches David unaware is how important the school dances are to the students and the community in general. This is made very clear in the weeks approaching the ’Homecoming Dance.’ David is used to the Australian school scene where most school dances are very low key and of an interest only for a short period before the dance. He doesn’t like the way some people are gloating about who they’re taking to the dance or how soon they’re asked out. Also, many are upset at who is already asked out so they have to look for another to ask out. The big shock is how many of the students suddenly change the quality of what they wear and how they look each day, only to fall back to their usual standard once they have a dance date; it reminds David of how peacocks and lyrebirds behave during their mating seasons. It’s clear there’s more student social standing involved with the dance than he thought.

The dance is still three weeks away and David hasn’t asked anyone to go to the dance as he doesn’t intend to go. One of his better friends at the school says, “Light Arrow, you really need to go to the dance if you want to fit in here. Those who don’t go aren’t well liked. So get busy and ask someone to go.” After a long discussion he agrees to go to the dance. So he looks at the other students while mentally ticking off which girls have a date and which he wouldn’t ask out for any reason, because some are just too bitchy for him to consider ever going out with them at all.

Near the end of lunch his eyes are roving over the students when he stops to look at one girl who lives near him. However, she looks so sad. Her father is dead and the family is poor, but they get by. He and Long Arrow sometimes help them out by doing minor household repairs to save them money. Some days David gives her a lift home, although she usually takes the bus to meet her mother in town. She’s one of those who likes to be called by her first name instead of her Navajo name.

Walking out of the cafeteria David moves up beside her and says, “I’ll give you a lift home today, Mel!” She gives him a stunned look because he made it a statement of intent instead of asking her if she wants a lift in the way he usually does. Surprised by his approach she simply nods her agreement to ride home with him today.

After school is over for the day they meet beside David’s car which is parked on the public road in front of the school and he opens the door for Mel. He’s driving down the road when she asks, “David, why do you park on the road and not in the student parking lot?”

He gives her a wry grin before saying, “I’d be breaking the law if I put this truck in the student car park. I leave my emergency gear in the back. It includes my first aid kit which has some over-the-counter medicines as well as a scalpel. Also, my camping gear includes sharp knives. None of that stuff is allowed on the school grounds due to Federal and State laws. I won’t go anywhere without proper survival gear and I won’t break the law, so I park on the road where I can legally park with the gear in it.”

“Good reasons! I wonder how many others have first aid kits that are in violation! Why did you insist on giving me a ride home today?”

“I wanted to talk to you but not in a situation where you’ll feel a lot of pressure from the others. This way we can talk in private!” She turns and half frowns at him. “Will you go to the Homecoming Dance with me?” She shakes her head no. “Why not?”

“I don’t have a suitable dress and everyone knows that. If I turn up with one they’ll know you bought it for me. That’ll embarrass me more than if I don’t go.”

They both sit in thought for a few minutes before David says, “We have three weeks before the dance. You’ll make your own dress!”

Mel gives him a stunned look then says, “I don’t know how to!”

“Then I’ll teach you! I was taught how to make my own clothes so I’ll teach you! We’ll travel home together each day and I’ll show you how by making a dress. You’ll copy what I do to make your dress. But today we go to Gallup to get material for some dresses and patterns.” Mel is so stunned by his plan she simply nods yes before she gets out her phone to call her mother to tell her they’re going to Gallup to get the gear she needs to make her own Homecoming Dance dress. Her mother is stunned by the reason for the trip, so they talk about it for a few minutes.


An hour later the two teens are in a shop in Gallup while looking at what’s available in sewing machines. The sales lady is amused it’s David who’s asking about the capabilities of the various machines. When he selects one they move over to the patterns to have two copies of each pattern pack they choose of four dresses, two trousers, two coats which both have long and short coat versions, a man’s shirt, and a ladies’ blouse. Next is a number of the various tools they’ll need: tape measures, shears, chalk, pins, etc., plus a dressmaking book. Last is the material, which is the hardest and longest part of the shopping.

Mel likes some patterned materials but David tells her, “We’ll wait until you’re a lot more experienced to do material with patterns. They’re murder to get the patterns aligned at the seams and they look terrible when they don’t.” He gets out a number of single colour materials and lays each over Mel’s shoulder while he looks at her from five feet away. They go through a lot of colours before he’s happy with his choices.

It’s just on closing time when David pays for five full bolts of cloth in the colours of light tan, dark tan, desert camouflage pattern, black, white, and six lengths of other colours in pale blue, mid-orange, mid-brown, silver grey, pale yellow, and lilac as well as the sewing machine, thread for all the colours of cloth they bought, extra needles, and the other tools they have. It takes the two of them, the shop owner, and her assistant several minutes to load all of their purchases into his truck.

Back at home they unload it all before they clear a suitable space in Long Arrow’s home to set up the sewing machine so they can use it with ease. The main table is expanded to its full length so they’ve room to work on the material spread out on the table. Then they’ve dinner with both of the households eating together.

Mel thinks it funny David is teaching her to sew, but it gets stranger when her mother, Anna, asks to be taught as well and Long Arrow offers his assistance to help teach them both. They all laugh at the ladies being taught how to sew by the two men. After measuring Mel and sorting out the size markings they settle down to the work of measuring and marking material to get the best use of it by the careful laying out of the pattern pieces on the cloth in a way to minimise the waste of material.

David starts with one dress pattern on the white cloth and Mel has the other copy of that pattern on the pale blue cloth while Long Arrow and Anna use both copies of one of the trouser patterns on the two tans. They use four colours so they don’t mix up the cut pieces of material.

The first night is setting up the cloth patterns to cut the cloth out of. They leave it all set up on the table to do more tomorrow and end early so the teens can do some studying tonight. Starting tomorrow they’ll do their studying in the afternoon then the four of them will sew at night. That’s how it goes for the next two weeks while the dresses take shape.

One other thing David does the next afternoon is to find some sites on how to do make-up then he orders a large home make-up kit. When it arrives on Thursday they start working on how Mel should use the kit to her best advantage. He also takes time to teach her what he knows about matching colours for clothes. Then he enlists the help of Bright Star to help with the colour matching and make-up lessons. Mel recognises David is giving her a ’Make Over’ and they plan to keep most of it for the dance so they can surprise the other students.

The first two dresses and trousers are finished ten days after they start the work on them. The next night Mel and David start on a blouse each of light tan and black while Anna and Long Arrow use the other trousers pattern on the black and the white cloth. Due to the experience with the first items they go faster, especially for Anna and Long Arrow who are doing the same type of clothing as before. David and Long Arrow are faster than the ladies so they make extra clothes in the other colours.

Mel has a lot of new clothes made by the end of the weekend before the Homecoming Dance. Dresses in white, blue, yellow, both tans, and black; trousers in both tans, black, and white; blouses in both tans, black and white, skirts in both tans, black, white, and blue. Long Arrow and Mel are working on dresses in lilac and mid-brown while David and Anna are working on long coats in both of the tans and white.

The Monday of the dance week they start their campaign with Mel wearing the light tan trousers and dark tan top. They look stylish and they have no maker’s brand mark on them.

Luncheon Fun

At lunchtime David is one of the first in the cafeteria while Mel is one of the last. When she walks in he waves her over and asks, “Is that the pair of pants your mother was making for you?”

Mel slowly turns around while saying, “Yes! And they fit perfectly. So does the top which was made at the same time.”

“They look much more stylish than most of what’s in the stores. How are you doing with your sewing lessons?”

“I’m doing well. I finished my first dress and blouse. I did it all! I was under supervision while I did it, but it’s all my own work. I’m working on a pair of trousers right now. The dress I made is for me to wear to the Homecoming Dance this week.”

“Good to hear you’re learning such a useful skill. By making your own clothes you’ll have a better wardrobe while saving a lot of money. Now you better get your lunch. After school I’ll see you at the car.”

Because they spoke in their normal voices those near them hear the talk, but not those not at the closest tables. However, the news is so good the other girls have to pass the word around about Mel learning to make her own clothes and how good they look. Naturally, all of the boys also hear what the girls are talking about.

For the rest of the week Mel wears a different outfit from her new clothes each day and the other girls all talk about how good they look. All of the girls really like the white dress when they do get to see it.

Before the Dance

There’s enough time between the end of school and the football game for all of the students to go home, get changed, have a meal, and return for the Homecoming Game which is followed by the dance. David still doesn’t understand why it’s called a Homecoming Game, but he doesn’t worry about it at all because he thinks many of the others don’t know either. He does realise the dance gets its name from the game.

David and Mel race home and shower then things change at that point. Mel is dressing at Long Arrow’s house but first David is giving her hair a rinse, trim, and style after she washes it in the shower. While drying her hair he uses a styling wand to give her straight hair a bit of a curl where it hangs down the sides and back while the front is a straight trim and he trims the rest back to be collar length after it’s curled.

Mel puts her make-up on while Long Arrow does David’s hair. His trim is very simple to do at a collar length. Then they both get dressed.

The two teens are ready to return to the school when Anna arrives home, and she’s stunned by how good they look. Mel’s different hair style really changes her looks, so does the light make-up highlighting her features, but the pale blue ankle length dress with the white three-quarter length coat all add up to make her look very stunning. David stands beside her in his black trousers, shirt in the same blue as Mel’s dress, black tie, and a white coat to match Mel’s. They look a good couple. Many photos are taken before the two teens can escape to go to the game and dance.

The game is outside so they leave their white coats in the car and wear long tan coats that hide their clothes when they go to the stadium to watch the game. Mel and David return to the car to exchange their tan coats for the white ones after the hard fought game is won by their team, the Fighting Scouts, by a field goal in the final minutes of the game.

The Dance

When the two of them enter where the dance is being held in the Events Center their matching white coats really stand out and they get a lot of attention. Also, very few recognise Mel due to her changed looks.

On reaching their table another student there asks, “I don’t think I know your partner, David! Who is this lovely lady?”

He smiles as he replies, “Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to Melissa Swift Rabbit Mason.” They all recognise the name but not the girl on his arm. When their friends look at the much changed Mel both Mel and David enjoy their friends’ stunned expressions.

One of David’s friends asks, “Mel Mason, the Freshman?” He gets a nod yes in reply. “Mel, is that the dress you made for the dance?”

“Yes! And the coat is home-made as well. David convinced me to let him style my hair and he had me put some make-up on tonight.”

One of the boys says, “You really look beautiful tonight, Mel. And your clothes are stunning. You did a great job on the dress!”

Mel really enjoys the attention she gets from the other students on the night, from both the boys and girls. Much is said, by many girls, about how good the dress looks, and some aren’t happy at how much they spent on their dresses that don’t look anywhere near as nice as hers.

The following week Mel gets a lot of attention from boys interested in asking her out, something she’s not used to have happening but she likes it a lot. She does speak to David about the situation then she takes to heart his advice on being careful with the boys. However, she does spend a lot more time going out on evening and afternoon dates to have fun with her schoolmates, something she didn’t have much chance to do before. She also continues with the use of make-up and her new hair style as well as making more clothes for her wardrobe in different styles and colours. Between the different colours and patterns she soon has a big selection of clothes to mix and match to create many outfits to wear.

David and Long Arrow end up making some money by teaching other girls how to make their own clothes. Anna and Mel also earn some extra money as dressmakers by making clothes for others. This helps their home life a lot as Anna’s family disowned her when she married Mel’s father. A single mother with four kids has troubles making ends meet so the extra income is welcome, so are the savings from making their own better looking clothes instead of buying them. David also buys clothes patterns to make more clothes and cloth dolls. Later, Anna buys her own sewing machine for her family to use.

Overall School Life

The Homecoming Dance sets the tone for all David’s school dances while in high school. He starts organising to spend time on dates with girls for some Friday and Saturday nights, but he doesn’t end up as one of those going steady with any one girl. He also makes a point of avoiding the really popular girls because most of them seem too stuck up for him to be interested in them. The girls he does go out with accept he’s not going to end up in a long term arrangement with them, thus both sides are free to enjoy the time they have together without any major expectations from either party or have any issues when they stop going out together. He never takes the same girl to two dances in a row or out on a date more than five times in a row. Every girl he does go out with more than once ends up with an improvement in how she does her hair and make-up as well as better choices in her clothing selections.

Classes, lunch, sports meets, dates, and watching the school’s home games comprise David’s school social life. He does well in all his regular classes as well as all the extra classes he takes locally and on-line. In the three years he’s at the Window Rock High School he does enough advanced placement and extra credit work, both at the school and on-line, to cut out a year and a half of the college class work which are mostly the general knowledge classes put in the curriculum to provide a ’well rounded education’ plus some of the common early subject classes. All of the extra classes he does are required regardless of where he attends college or university in the USA. It does mean a lot of work in class with a lot of studying after class, but he’s a good student who uses his study hall and free time to his best advantage. Also, unlike many others, he doesn’t have to work a job after school or weekends for spending money. So he uses the time for studies and helping others while he leaves the few available jobs to the students and other locals who need the extra money for themselves and their families.

David’s high school life is good, not noticeably different from the rest, and he enjoys the three years of high school in Window Rock High School. Exams are held, he passes well, and he graduates. But some important events happen outside of high school as well.

Arizona Life in General

Unlike most of his neighbours and classmates David’s life is on hold until he’s old enough and with a suitable education to return to Bowen’s Creek so he can live his life the way he’d planned it with Dave. But that’s a few years away and he still has to decide to do tertiary studies in the USA or in Australia. One advantage to attending a US college is his extra studies means he can reduce the time to get a degree. In his first year of high school at Window Rock his Advanced Placement and extra classes account for a full semester of the general knowledge college course work, and what he plans for the next few years cuts more out as well. With a good plan for his college courses along with a lot of hard work he can have a degree only two years after graduating high school. It’s a lot to think about and he has a lot of life to live before then. Just living in Window Rock results in interactions with others, so does his love of the local desert with his frequent camping trips.

David learns a lot about living in the desert and life itself from Jason and his neighbours in Window Rock. Some lessons are good and some lessons are bad, but all are educational in one way or another. A lot of aspects of life in the USA are like life in Australia while some are a little bit different and some are very different. However, all are interesting to him and he takes them in while noting the differences and why they’re different. In general, life in Window Rock is a placid event for David, but there are times when unusual events do happen to him or near him.

Home on the Range

Mixed in with all the things Jason teaches David are the traditional ways of fighting, the unarmed combat and knife fighting Jason learned in the Marines, as well as the care and use of a variety of handguns and rifles, including the sniper rifle Jason has. The fighting is taught on the land behind Jason’s house while the shooting is taught in a number of ranges in the region, including one near Gallup with a very long section for sniper shooting. David proves to be very good with the handguns and rifles for hunting, but even Jason is surprised at how soon David is accurate with long range firing of the .338 Lapua Magnum Barrett M 98B. On one visit to the range Jason talks a friend into letting David fire his .50 BMG Barrett M82A1A. David proves to be deadly accurate with the rifles at all of the distances to the range’s maximum of 2,000 yards.

David can’t understand why Jason and the others are surprised at how accurate he is with the rifles and guns, after all, Jason taught him how to use them and he just applies the knowledge. What he doesn’t know is how hard it is for many people to apply their training so well as quickly as he’s applying it. As one of the range directors says, “David is a natural with a gun and you only need to let him be himself with it.”

Once Jason is happy David is trained in the safe care and use of all the firearms he reduces the number of trips to the ranges to just one a month to maintain their accuracy. Competing with David forces Jason to work back up to his previous proficiency level. One aspect of firearms use Jason sees as odd is the total lack of interest David has in his range scores. All David worries about is hitting the bullseye as best as he can.

Jason also arranges for a couple of visits to ranges with a Combat Decision Course where the shooter has to fire three magazines at targets that pop up and out at them while deciding if the pop-up is a danger or not. This course is done with a handgun. Dangerous and non-dangerous targets are in the course. The points are scored for the number of targets hit plus the speed the course is done in while points are deducted for hitting the wrong target and targets missed. David does well, once he learns the rules and how to identify the dangerous targets.

Walks in the Country

David enjoys running in the school cross country meets, but they’re nothing compared to the desert hikes Jason sends David on. He does four different weekend-long hikes which run through a lot of varied rough and challenging terrain. One route goes east out of Window Rock well into New Mexico, turns north for a long distance, then heads west a bit north of Fort Defiant to end at a meeting point on Indian Service Route 12. The other is from Nakaibito, New Mexico, to the same meeting point on Indian Service Route 12. The other two are both these routes in reverse to show the same area is different when travelled in another direction. One reason Jason gives for taking the same routes often is to learn how the area changes with the seasons, and this is only realised by seeing the changes in an area that’s known and very familiar to you.

The first time David goes on these hikes, in either direction, Jason is along to show him the way while teaching him more about the desert. A friend drops them both off and also picks them up. After that the hikes start late on Friday afternoon with Jason taking David to the starting point and watching him for a little while before going home. David walks until near sunset before he stops to set up camp for the night.

David is familiar with these hikes by the end of August and he knows the desert can change a lot with the weather as well as the season. Paths through some areas that are good when there’s been no rain for a week or more aren’t so good if rain has fallen in the area during the last week. He also learns how rain many miles away can have an effect on his travel path due to the water travelling along the watercourses. He needs to be especially aware of flash-floods which can rush down a dry watercourse some hours after there were heavy storms well up stream or up slope. On his desert hikes David takes along plenty of food, water, first aid kit, cooking gear, cell phone, multi-frequency emergency radio, a .22 hunting rifle, an emergency beacon, 10 x 50 monocular, compass, maps, Global Positioning System (GPS), flares, and a two round shotgun pistol for close defence against snakes and animals. Jason organises a special permit for David to carry the mini-shotgun on the Reservation Land. David is ready for just about anything he could meet in the desert.

Desert Discovery

It’s a nice Friday afternoon in mid November when David starts out on another hike to Nakaibito. However, things look a lot different to all of his previous hikes on this route because this is the first trip with snow. Now David can really appreciate what he’s been told about the weather changing things. The night before was very cold and a light sprinkling of snow is on the ground. The experts predict more snow over the weekend.

David surveys the ground before moving out to the first rise to get a good look at the next section. As well as the light snow there was heavy rain two weeks ago so the water may have made changes to the area he’s travelling across. Thus he has to make sure each and every step is safe each time he travels through the area so he confirms his route plan at every rise. After planning the next couple of miles he turns and waves goodbye to Jason before walking down the rise and out of Jason’s sight.

Several miles later David stops at dusk to set up his camp for the night. Tonight is a simple meal of a few sandwiches he has with him which he made before leaving the house. During the night he finds the experts are wrong when it doesn’t snow again; although it does get cold enough for him to enjoy the warmth of his new ’Arctic Grade’ sleeping bag. In the morning he breaks camp by packing up his tent and sleeping bag. With no fire to bury or fire-ring to disperse he’s soon on his way as he eats the last of his sandwiches while the dawn lights the sky. What a beautiful sight, is David’s thought while watching the spreading sunlight bring the desert to life before his eyes.

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