Chapter 7 – Calf Creek

 

          Life’s normal traumas continued with struggles to get the house financed from the high payment with a $1300 per month payment to an $800 house payment.  She bumped into two finance companies that offered to do a loan.  One promised additional funds to help pay part of the credit card debt.  The other one didn’t have a second mortgage ready but promised one that would pay off “all” additional debt.  She was first going to take the sure thing and at least get part of it refinanced, but the second broker begged and since he was local, she agreed, as long as he was sure that her credit would qualify for the promised loan.  He vowed that he never lied, but he did…. And the credit card debt wasn’t consolidated.

           The renter of the trailer next door decided to renege on his rental agreement, and since he was a mental disabled person the law seemed to be on his side.  His debt mounted till he owed them over $1400.  The only way to get him out was not to pay the water bill for him, so that the city would turn the water off.  He left the place in a mess.

        She then moved to Orem, five hours away from home, for 3 months by herself to take a job with her brother in the city to see if that could pull them out of the hole, but it wasn’t working.  The cost of keeping two residences, no matter how cheap, did the plan in.  She would also go home every weekend and the cost of fuel was too expensive to make this work. So she had ended up at the bankruptcy lawyer’s office crying about her desperation.

          It was hard and humiliating and a long time coming up for review, but bankruptcy was the only way to be able to function.  The credit card companies wouldn’t listen, nor even work out deals.  She didn’t even qualify for the debt consolidation companies, since there was no income to budget.   By the time June rolled around and the debts were discharged it became a whole new beginning.  She referred to it as her year of jubilee.

           There was no change in the rocks.  She could get no more insight into their function, but she still had a feeling that something was still coming.

           She had placed an application in with the troubled youth ranch in town, but hadn’t heard anything for a while.  She figured since she was fat and had religious affiliations with the Mormon Church, that most likely they wouldn’t hire her at the mostly Baptist ranch.  The occupations were divided by what religion you were.  The phone company hired only Mormons (almost blatantly) and the Ranch hired mostly Baptist.  It was a lawsuit waiting to happen, that is if there were any lawyers or prosecutionists to make it happen in these backwoods.

           Finally Turn About Ranch had an opening for a part-time fill-in and Anne got the job.  The hours were varied and sometimes ranged in predictability from zero to 80 hours in a week.  The pay was half of what she had been making at the phone company, but it got her out of the house on occasion, and some exercise.  She truly hoped that she could make a difference in the lives of the kids, and liked being able to tell the pampered rich kids how things really were in life and to straighten up and fly right. 

     She could identify totally with the parents and knew how horrible it had been for her during the time her kids had hit the “black box period”.  That’s what she called the teenage years.  It was a mechanical and electrical term she had heard, meaning that even though the engineer knew how to put together the larger system he would occasionally have a specialized object that all he knew about it was how to hook it into the system, not what actually took place in the box.  He would know what was going into the box …and know what was suppose to come out of it, but not actually what had taken place inside to make it so.  That’s exactly how she would explain it to parents.  They knew what they had put into the kids up to that age…they hoped they knew what would eventually come out, but no one knows what is going on during the black box years.

           Anne would come in whenever a staff was sick and most of the time she would have a few kids to supervise while they pulled weeds, cleaned the kitchen, or fed the animals.  She would discuss how to milk a cow and make a peach cobbler or anything else that needed to be accomplished that day.  She really wasn’t suppose to be there to counsel them, just to keep them focused in the here and now.  Something that most modern people don’t seem to be able to do. After the initial shock of having all their known items removed, they became placid and at least open to a new way of thinking.

           She would tell them that they were on Cowboy time, which meant that it was daytime or nighttime…summer, winter, spring, or fall.  Everything else was irrelevant.  Slowing the kids down enough to think was part of her goal.

           Sometimes the ranch would go on hikes, but she never seemed to be filling in for those times.  She would always hear about it after the fact.  She use to love to hike before her sedentary job had broadened her horizons to the point that walking out to the car made her lose her breath.  There was no way she would be able to keep up with these speed demon teenagers, still she missed the wonders of hiking at her totally turtle pace.

           One morning she was called in with five minutes notice.  She entered the barn and was called back into the adult’s office.

           “We have a problem child.” Rick the barn supervisor reported. “He is threatening to attack and kill any of us that try to make him do anything.  We are going to need to empty out the barn of the rest of the kids to let the counselors deal with this.” 

           “Anne,” he announced turning to face her directly. “Can you take five of the kids on an all day hike?”

           “I haven’t done that before. I don’t hike very fast.” She mumbled with some concern.

           Rick continued with urgency, “Take the Chevy and go to Calf Creek.  That is a controlled hike.  Have you hiked that before?”

           “Yes,” Anne brightened.  “As long as I get some kids who will listen and not run ahead of me.  I hike at the blazing speed of one mile per hour.  Since it will take at least ½ hour to get to the trailhead and the trail is 5 miles round trip…if we allow an hour at the falls for lunch…we should be back here around dinner.”

           “Great, take a radio and check in on occasion, but we won’t expect you back until 5pm.” Rick turned to the list and gave her the names of the five that would accompany her.

           She was pleased with the selection and left the office to call for the kids on her list so they could create a lunch before they left.  As she stood outside of the office and started calling the names there were moans from those she called.  Since she was a fill-in and rarely had major projects that the kids liked, they knew if she called their names they would probably be pulling weeds.  The dishearten question followed.

           “What are we doing today?”

           “I suggest you get some bread out and let’s make some sandwiches, we are going on a hike.” Anne announced.  There were shock acclamations as the kids stumbled over each other with their exuberance.  “Make a lunch for me also.” She added.

           Anne collected the radio, car keys, first aide kit, and checked for any meds that the kids might have to have for the day.  When she got everyone checked out with the proper attire, lunch, and water and in the car she made an announcement.

           “Alright you guys.  You know that I don’t get to hike very often and you can see that I am not a speed demon.  If you can not hike slowly with me and stay within my visual and earshot you can stay here.” She waited to see if there were any second thoughts. “You know that most of the time I have to pull weeds with you guys, but if we can go thru out this hike without any major incidents maybe we will be able to repeat this type of expedition.  I want to have fun.  This is my most favorite hike in the entire world.  Can I count on your help?”

           There was silence for awhile and then, Marty, a tall thin lankly lad who was in the last few weeks of the program, but had been depressed and on drugs when he first got here, spoke up, “We’ll make sure you are taken care of.” And he gave Anne a Sir Galahad expression of great valor.

           She smiled as the other two guys hurried to agree.  The two girls spoke up almost in unison and stated protectively that they would make sure that the fellows stayed in line. 

           So they started off the journey to the trailhead.  The geological differences of the terrain changed from the high desert plateau of sagebrush and piney pine to a deep red rock large slot canyon.  She pulled into the BLM parking lot with the background music of the kids ooohs and aahhs. 

           “Ok, Beth and Jamie are buddies, Scott and Brandon will be buddies, and Marty you are with me.”  They distributed the supplies and got the pamphlet that explained the markers on the trail.  It included information on the plant life and the pictographs as well as the Anazai constructions hidden on the cliff walls.

           Anne heard some ringing in her ears as sometimes happened.  She always thought it sounded like her first computer when it was saving information on the tape drive.  The same type of high-pitched squeals, which means she must be downloading information from heaven. When she noticed this happening she unconsciously paid stricter attention in hopes that she could interpret the input. She said nothing about her inside superstition, but was more aware that maybe something special was going to occur on the hike.

           The morning was high everywhere but down here in the slot. It wouldn’t be more than a few minutes before the suns rays hit their location.  They were at the beginning of their hike and it would be nice if the kids could show gratitude for this wonderful opportunity.

           “You know,” Anne started, “some of the Indian’s had a ceremony that they performed at dawn.  This was to show their gratitude for the new day.  They would pick up a rock from Mother Earth and lift it to meet the first rays of Father Sun.  I performed this simple act once and I felt it was pretty cool to be able to see the sun’s rays come down and hit my rock as I held it up.  Would you guys like to try it? The ceremony requires that you be quiet. Find a rock and each of you get on a different level of ground and let’s watch as the sun hits each rock until the last.” She hoped the suggestion would be received well. It was always good to have self-centered teenagers reach out of themselves and be grateful for something. She held her breath until she got confirmation from the group as each kid started looking for a rock.  She was surprised that no objections were raised; guess it was because of the magnificent inspirational surroundings.

           There was jostling for positions as they all watched the sun come down the cliff walls. “Now everyone be quiet.  When the sun’s ray has gotten to the bottom of your rock…lower it and watch the next person’s.  No talking until the last rock has been lowered.”

           Of course, Marty was on the higher ground and the sun first enlightened his very large chunk of red rock.  Anne thought she heard a gasp escape someone’s lips. It wasn’t but a second and Marty lowered his rock and Beth’s rock was in the light. Each did as instructed and Scott was the last.  Scott’s rock had a portion of quartz or something crystal like and when the rays hit it…it for a second refracted into a rainbow that brighten and scattered light beams in a moment of brilliance.

           There was quiet after this short, less than ten second ceremony.  Was that a good sign?  Or did they think it dumb?  Then she heard a sob as Jamie sat on the ground.  No one ran over to comfort her, because it wasn’t a sad cry, but the realization of the greatness of the world around her that had brought her to tears.  The others were quiet also until Marty pretended to fall off his perch and threw his large chunk flatly in front of Jamie.

           “Hey, Watch it!” Beth bellowed up at him.  That broke the reflective moment and the hike continued with the normal combative play that occurs between young bucks in the presences of girls.

           “Are we there yet?” was the continual cry, since they were moving slower than they liked to go, they were jettisoning off the walls back and forth in front of Anne. Stop 10 was the cliff face and she smiled when Marty was the last one to be able to find the hidden Anazazi storage structure.  It was good for him not to always be first.

           “Speed means you will most likely miss what is important.” Anne tried to explain.  “For instance, did you hear the Condor?”

           “What Condor?” Marty wanted to know.

           “Condor’s are the largest bird living today and almost extinct, but I just heard one.” Anne hoped she was telling the truth.  The bird sound she had heard through the canyons was the exact call she had heard on a Johnny Quest cartoon for a condor, so she was hoping that it was accurate. California had been releasing some birds back into the wild and they must have traveled this great distance.

         There was quiet for a few moments as they each strained their ears to hear, but the sound didn’t come.

           “Well lets get going. We may hear it later on, listen and watch instead of speeding through life.  You’ll enjoy it a lot more.” Anne declared.

           The terrain dipped to the canyon floor. They were walking along parallel to the creek and the kids did stop to see if they could grab with their hands the trout running in the shallow stream.  The girls got the closest to the treasure when Beth raised a 6-inch fish quickly out of the water, but she screamed and let go as one of the dorsal fins poked her.

           Marty was just making too much splashing and had too little patience.  The sound of Calf Creek Falls was audible now and he wanted to see it. They all walked with anticipation and they had to speak loudly to be heard over the thunderous roaring sound that reverberated off the canyon walls.

           The last turn opened up to the brilliant end of their journey.  The falls was the end of the slotted canyon; the colors of which were dripping black on red embossed with green slime.  The pond below the falls wasn’t very large about the size of a domestic swimming pool only round, but the water was ICE cold.  The little creek where they had been trying to catch fish ran from this place.  The left side had tall swampy plants where were circling a myriad of light florescent blue dragonflies.  The right side was marsh.

           The falls fell nearly two hundred feet; the three-foot trickle ran down the falls hugging the wall until about the last 70 feet where it broke free to fall and cause positive electrons to fill the bowl.  It had hollowed out the back only slightly, but the whole area looked like a hollowed private circle.  It reminded Anne of the primordial Adam & Eve swimming hole.  There was almost a prehistoric urge to strip and dive in.  “Probably I have been watched too many Tarzan movies.” Anne thought to herself.

          The near 90-degree temperature that their hike had reached by this time was now a very moist but comfortable middle seventies here at the falls.  She instructed the kids to leave their packs and water with her on this sandy portion and gave them permission to take off their shoes and wade.  The water around most of the edge was not over two feet deep.  The only deep part seemed to be directly under the falls, but she wasn’t sure how deep that went, maybe 6 to 8 feet.  She felt confident that the cold would keep them from venturing in very far. The sudden shock from near 90 to 33 degrees was a surprise as soon as a toe went in.

           She sat down and unpacked the items and set out the blanket as a tablecloth.  She could hear the conversation rumble from the kids but not the exact words.  It was at a pleasurable level and nothing seemed foreboding.  After a few minutes of squealing about the cold she called them in for lunch.  They all gathered around talking excitedly about this place when Marty threw a little grass snake in front of the girls who screamed and jumped up.  Anne gave him 25 push-ups as a penalty, but when he started doing them way to fast, she had him finish them with his hands in the marsh and made his nose touch the water.  He grumbled about this cause there was a film on the surface that was slimy and smelled bad.  Anne hoped this meant that further shenanigans would be curtailed.

           They finished eating lunch and went back exploring their surroundings. Anne packed the remains all into one bag and got up to look to make sure none of the trash had been blown around, when it happened.  The kids screamed, as she turned from watching the ravens’ circle above with a shiny wrapper she had been wondering was left from them or not. 

           “Marty has dived in!” Jamie ran to Anne’s side and they both raced to the water’s edge a few feet away.  There was splashing of hands in the center of the pool.  Scott and Brandon looked just as paralyzed as Beth did staring into the tumultuous waters.

           “He shouldn’t be able to stay in there long.  It is so cold.” Anne held her breath and tried to strength her resolve if it came to her having to jump.  They watched as the splashing continued with no head rising to the service, and then Anne knew she had to do something as the adrenaline started surging in her and her heart raced.  She threw off one shoe but the other would not unlace as she tugged on it.  The kids started screaming, because the splashing had stopped.

           That was it. She waded in quickly.  The sandy mud sucked at her feet, and the cold almost stopping her movement, but she had decided, and she made the lunge toward the center, which took her under the frigid water.  She lost most of the breath she had taken before diving as the muscle-aching liquid encapsulated her into its world. Pain shot thru her head and limps as she gave several kicks toward what she hoped was the center.  Then she knew she had reached the falls cause it was turning her upside down, again and again.  She curled up in a ball for a time as a reaction to preserve her limbs, which seemed to be hitting something violently with every revolution. 

           The cold must have been getting to her along with the panic because time seemed to slow down and thoughts moved slowly. “Hmmm, I am running out of breath and I don’t know which way is up. I’ll have to try and stand.” she commanded herself, knowing that the next moment something would be hitting at her again she straightened out and felt the bottom.  She put both her feet down and bent her knees for a spring up, but what happened took away any hope.  The shoe she had been unable to remove was stuck in the sand.  It was either pinned under an object or  it was in that quicksand that holds on to everything.

 She had time to remember the search her husband went on where a hiker had stepped into the sand and no amount of pulling or digging could free him.  He was there for a day while one of his companions hiked out the three hours, found help and hiked back. Her breath would not allow that.

           Her lungs ached to breath and she couldn’t hold her breath any longer. She decided to breath the water and felt her lungs expand and contract relieving the pressure that had built up, but felt no water in them.  She knew that her consciousness was slipping as she clawed down to her boot to see what was holding her. Trying to remove the boot didn’t do any good on dry land it would be lots more irritable in this water. It was caught under a branch or something. Grabbing onto the branch she gave it what last strength she had, for she knew this would be her final attempt before….before…

     The “memory” forced its way into her head. The pond and water had been the subject of conjecture for years and to think, it had just been the foreshadowing of her death. 

  “Are you all?” It asked.

 “I am all.” She sighed in her mind.  With the last second of her conscientious she managed to get both hands around the stick loop that had encompassed her boot and then she was doubled over as hands were pulling her.  Someone had grabbed her by the waist and was hauling her up.  She had no thoughts now.  In fact, the last thought she had given her body was to grab hold of the stick that held her boot, and she had no thoughts available to tell that body to let go.

 With two major heaves her head broke the surface and air again soaked thru her body.  She could not move anything but her eyes.  Marty had her around the waist, Brandon had Marty by the ankles and Scott had a hold of Brandon by his belt, and Jamie was pushing down a large aspen trunk that Brandon was holding onto with one hand.  Jamie let go of the tree and it pulled everyone back to the shore with one final tremendous tug.

 Beth was there pulling at Anne to position her further up the shore and to try a lay her down in a comfortable position.  Her boot was still there, but free at last. The stick was clenched still tightly in both her hands and the kids could not remove it.

 Marty was openingly weeping uncontrollably, “I didn’t mean it.  It was just a joke.  I had thrown a big rock in and turned that tree from over there.  I didn’t mean it.  I am sorry. I don’t know what I would have done if you had died.” He continued to babble and Anne closed her eyes and fell asleep.