Back to the Desk

"But I'm writing a Children's Book!"

(For Di who was my friend... "you are missed, dear lady")

©2011 The Media Desk

1. Bluff to Cortez, the long way

      I had an idea for a new children's book and I wanted to run with it.
      As a woman who was a writer of 'adult fiction' I felt I wasn't being taken seriously in other genres, so I thought if I started there, with a fairly safe topic, I could work my way up into more mainstream fiction and then write 'the great American novel'. So I started working on a classically styled children's book that was a short novel with a few illustrations instead of something that was almost a comic book like a lot of the ones I'd seen put out recently.
      More specifically, I wanted to write a book aimed at elementary aged boys, so I had to pick a topic that would catch their interest without totally leaving girls out. It took some doing, but I picked a topic that was of interest to boys, and that had some historical value so I could call it educational, and was romantic enough that girls would like it as well.
      Since I usually write under the very feminine name of 'Denise', that's what I'll call myself here as I tell you about how I didn't write a children's book.

      During the research for the story-to-be I traveled through the part of Colorado I had picked for the setting and came across a delightful bed and breakfast, several tourist traps that sold items that appeared to be of Native American design and production, but had 'made in ...' stickers or stamps on the bottoms of them from several Asian countries, and I had an adventure of my own that would never be in the book.
      I had driven up to the Hovenweep area and got massively lost to the point where my GPS made no sense at all. But I kept going and eventually ended up inside the Canyons of the Ancients Monument where I found a halfway familiar trail that followed some power lines until I got back to civilization on Road G. Which I am now convinced is the actual highway to heaven.

      But before my 'Epiphany on Road G', during my day and a half adventure in the wilderness I did get a very good sense of the land I had chosen to write about. And I come to have a great deal of respect for the advice of some of the locals at what called itself a trading post in a tiny speck of a town in Utah.
      I had stopped for gas and a cold drink and maybe a bite to eat before I went into the Monument from the west side just to look around. The people that were in there tried to be helpful and made some suggestions that I wasn't really open to in the beginning, but then I thought about it and changed my mind and listened to what they had to say. I mean I didn't want to appear to be a 'big city broad' that knew it all and didn't want to listen to anybody.
      One of the men in the store I had stopped in near Bluff advised me to take a full gas can with me for the four by four I had rented for the excursion. I thought it was a waste of money, but I did it. I don't want to think about what would have happened if I hadn't.
      He also advised me to buy a full gallon of water and just sit it on the floor of the back seat and forget about it. I'm damned glad I did that too.
      The old lady that was behind the counter gave me a spare sandwich. An act for which I will recommend her for sainthood.
      By the time I got back to Cortez, Colorado from my stop in Bluff, only fifty miles or so due east from the tiny town in Utah, I was down to less than a quarter of a tank of gas, after pouring the five gallon can into the truck, my water was almost gone, the sandwich was gone, I had smashed my last pack of cigarettes, my camera batteries were all dead, I had lost my flashlight, and I had sprained my left ankle.
      The doctor at the Cortez hospital that checked the X-ray and taped up my ankle said he had seen a lot worse souvenirs for those who had made their first outing into what he called 'the wildlands' to the west of town.
      And about my rented truck... I'm glad I had paid extra for the damage waiver. It was well worth it even though I don't think the axle was bent all that badly.

      That the area is desolate is a given. How desolate is simply amazing.
      That anybody had ever lived out there is astonishing.
      That 'the ancient ones' did live out here for centuries, and flourished, and left the hulks of tremendous buildings here and there, sometimes on top of a sheer monolith of rock, is almost unbelievable.
      I had read that the region was home to the most archaeological ruins of anywhere in North America. Now I believed it.
      I had also read that some of the most productive fossil beds known are in the area. Since I had almost become a fossil out there, I believed that too.

      But I had my pictures and notes and locations even a hand sketched map of the area I wanted to focus on.
      My map was the key.
      I had no idea what the name of the canyon was. Or even for sure where the state boundary between Colorado and Utah is on it. It's close, I know that, but there is a serious lack of signs out there on the track that I tried to follow south east toward what I hoped was a way out.
      The setting was perfect for my story, all I had to do was to get out and finish my research and then write it.
      There had been a narrow gauge railroad through the winding canyon at one point.
      I tried to follow the forgotten and half-buried line one way and then the other, which ended when two of the rotten ties had given way resulting in my twisted ankle.
      But I got fairly good GPS readings on the spot, and took several pictures, then I sketched the layout.
      At first I thought it was an old mine car route. One of the things my information had said was that the entire region was honeycombed with lost mines. And some that weren't quite so abandoned, and were still being worked by individuals who usually didn't appreciate trespassers.
      But after I followed the route for awhile and didn't see a mine, I realized it was an actual rail road. I didn't have a tape measure on me, but I stepped three shoe-lengths between the rails and that's when I decided that it had to be one of the several various narrow gauge routes that had been run in during the nineteenth century and since buried by rockslides and other actions by nature herself.
      It was about then that I heard hundred year old wood break and I ended up sprawled out on the rocks hoping I hadn't broken my camera.
      After I had limped back to the truck I took a break and looked at the topographical maps I had.
      Looking at the map, and my GPS I decided that I might be in Keeley Canyon and that the faint '4WD' line was the track I had been following. But then that didn't explain the turn I had made not long before I had found the railroad. So maybe I was actually in Hackberry Canyon near another faint line.
      But nowhere on the map was the old rail line. Something that presented a mystery that I wanted to look into.
      And that's where I fell into the adventure part of the weekend.

2. "There's no tracks out there."

      Once I could walk without wincing I took a Friday off and went back to the Heritage Center north of Cotrez and asked about the area I had been in.
      I spoke to several people, but none of them seemed to be intimately familiar with the area around part of the Hovenweep section that I had tripped over, to put a smiling face on it. So I drove back around to the visitor center for that group of sites and asked them about it.
      It was the ranger there that simply proclaimed that there was no railroad, in use or otherwise. I used their satellite photo display and typed in the longitude and latitude that I had.
      There was nothing there. And that's what the ranger told me in no uncertain terms.
      I admitted that I may have been off by a mile or so, but I had to be in the general vicinity of where I thought I had been by the landmarks I had seen on my way out.
      "I'm sorry Miss Denise. But I've hiked and ridden all through those washes, and I've never seen anything like you're talking about."
      "But I took these pictures there."
      "There's tracks like that down in part of McElmo Canyon, but not up there."
      I remembered seeing McElmo Canyon on my map and I knew I had been several miles north of it. The only way I saw out of that pointless conversation was to agree with the man that maybe I had been mistaken and to smile my best, most charming and most disarming smile.
      He bought it and I went on and looked at the displays like my curiosity had been satisfied.

      That's when I made a crucial discovery.
      I had known there were some differences between the various maps I had looked at. There were even variations in exactly where the state line ran through the area. But they were all 'close enough for government work' as I had always heard it put.
      The ranger was talking to another group so I went back to the satellite picture and zoomed it out and looked at it.
      The difference was critical to my getting back out to where I had been, and if I used the satellite images and their version of things, I'd never find it again.
      The online map's coordinates were several miles off from the coordinates given on the topographical maps and what my GPS had told me. They were at least close to each other, the online version was off by a full tenth of a degree of Latitude, and if I went to where it said I should be, I'd be in Tucker Canyon, twenty miles from where I knew I had been.
      I decided not to get the ranger's attention and then move the image back to where it should be and ask him again. Instead I just picked up a new map of the Hovenweep sites that didn't have coffee stains all over it and thanked them for it and left.
      After a brief stop in the visitor center's restroom I went back to my car and tried to figure out what my next move should be.

      I looked up and saw a cowboy who seemed slightly out of place. He had the hat and the shirt, and even the deep suntan, but his face didn't belong with them. "Yes?"
      "I couldn't help but overhear back at the Anasazi Center that you had found some railroad tracks out around the Holly ruins, and I followed you over here."
      "Yes. At least that's where I think I was. Why?"
      He nodded slowly. "I believe you, and I've been looking for that branch for years. Can I buy you lunch and we can look at your maps?"
      "No," I said. He seemed shocked by the answer. "It's too late for lunch, but you can buy me dinner."
      "OK," he said with a smile. "My name is John Brickman. But everybody calls me 'Brick'."
      "Denise," I said and we shook hands on it. "Where do you go for dinner around here?"
      "There's not a lot of choices, but I make a mean corned beef sandwich," he smiled that 'out of place' smile again. "Now don't think I mean anything by it, but I own part of a trailer up by L'il Cajun."
      I had to chuckle at the way he said it, "Sounds good. I'll follow you."

      Brick didn't belong in the truck he was driving either.
      I think the battered pick-up had started out life as a Chevy, but what it was now was anybody's guess. But it ran, and Brick knew exactly where he was going, and he took the various potholes and bumps in the road with the easy familiarity of a local, whereas I had to swerve one way and then the other to avoid them in my little car.
      But just past the sign that said 'Little Cajon Lake' Brick turned off the road and stopped, then he got out of the truck and walked back to me.
      "It's a little rough, take your time and I think you'll be OK."
      "Lead on, John.... Brick," I said with a smile.
      I guess 'a little rough' is a relative term. My car bottomed out twice at a barely moving crawl, but there was no permanent damage to either it or me, and we parked in front of a large aluminum skinned camping trailer that had long since become part of the landscape.

      All I could do was to sit and blink while I caught my breath.
      "Come on in, don't mind the mess. Bring your stuff. I'll get started," Brick said waving me to come on in.
      "Well. OK," I said to myself.

3. "You need electric? I'll start the generator."

      Brick's corned beef sandwiches were actually remarkable considering we were about twenty five miles from the closest deli and he had used canned corned beef.
      As he put what was almost a work of art next to my laptop I had to say it. "You're not from around here are you?"
      "It still shows huh?"
      I tapped the plate, "I haven't seen that since the last time I was in New York."
      "I've never been there," Brick said, I just waited. "I spent a long time in Washington, DC. Worked in a couple of deli's owned by New York Jews. I guess it just never wore off. Now I'm an accountant."
      "Accountant and chef, but I'm not going to complain," I said as I lifted the corner of the bun. "What'cha got to drink?"
      "If the ice held out, I can get you a cold beer. If it didn't, warm beer."
      "Either is fine."
      The ice was gone, but the beer was still on the cool side. Brick said he needed to run into town before the weekend.

      We started to eat and talked about how we both ended up out in God's Country, then Brick asked me about what I had found on my little excursion. "And while you're at it, what's a woman from Houston doing out here to begin with?"
      "That's a long story. Maybe I'll tell you some time."
      "Give me the short version."
      "I was researching a children's book," I said.
      Brick just sat there like, well, like a brick.
      "You mean that," he said, "you really write children's books."
      "No. I write erotic novels. But I want to write a children's book."
      Brick shook his head and laughed, "You have to be too good to be true."
      "Why do you say that?"
      "Of all the women in the world I meet one that writes... well."
      "You can say it, it won't hurt," I said. "Err-rot-teh-ka."
      "Very good," I smiled. "But you wanted to know about the railroad tracks I found."
      He nodded. "Yeah, that was the deal."

      Brick had full size topographical maps, aerial photographs, and even some hand drawn prospector maps that were almost a hundred years old.
      "And you say it is right there," he said pointing to a small strip of land that jutted out into a branch of Keeley Canyon.
      "I think so."
      He sat back and 'humphed' as he looked at the photographs on my laptop screen.
      But then before he could say anything my computer beeped and popped up a warning that said the battery was low.
      "Oh, you need electric? I'll start the generator," Brick said.
      "Well... its..."
      "No trouble. I want to see the rest of those pictures," He said as he walked outside.
      "OK," I said and sipped at my beer.

      In a minute I heard a gasoline engine start, and then several things in the trailer came to life. A radio in the back room started talking about live cattle prices and something in the kitchen began beeping.
      "Oh, sorry about that. I forget to turn things off," Brick said as he came back in and began silencing things.
      "Do you live here?" I asked him.
      "No. Not really. It's sort of a weekend home. I come out here prospecting and... you know. Just to get away from home."
      "Home being?"
      "Not to get away from my wife and kids if that's what you mean. I'm divorced."
      "Oh," I said and I knew my effort to hide a smile was probably a waste of time.
      "I live and work up in Montrose."
      My expression must have said that I'd never heard of it.
      "It's not quite two hundred miles this side of Denver."
      "Oh. OK," I said. "And she is in..."
      "Let me guess. You wouldn't catch her dead out here?"
      "Never. If it didn't have room service she wasn't interested."
      I nodded and smiled.
      Now Brick looked at me with an eyebrow raised, "OK, your turn. What has Keeley Canyon got to do with a children's book?"
      "You really want to know?"
      "Yes," he said and I believed him.

      I explained it, and he looked at the maps and pictures, and asked questions, and even filled in some of the details about gold rush era railroads that I hadn't thought about. Including the fact that this area had had its gold and silver rush, then a copper and uranium rush, then an oil rush. All of them bringing in people and equipment that then moved on.
      I had pictures of where the tracks had been reclaimed by the hillsides and other places where the rails and ties had all but vanished. But if you looked, you could still see where they had been.
      "No doubt about it." Brick said. "That looks like a continuation of a line off one of the Silverton lines."
      "Yeah, there were several private rail lines that ran out of there, and Durango, and almost every other town out here," he tapped the map. "Some of them were little more than tracks thrown down on rough cut timbers to get mining equipment in and ore out. They were put down, used and either pulled up or left and forgotten about in just a few years. And some of them were never on any map." He clicked to the next picture on my laptop. "And I'm betting that's what this one is."
      "So how do you know so much about them?" I asked him.
      Now it was my turn to not believe something he said when he answered me.
      "I spend my time looking for train wrecks," Brick said.

4. "When did it get dark?"

      I sat in almost total silence and listened as Brick told me about his hobby of locating and photographing, and recovering certain relics, from abandoned railroad equipment.
      He had a small collection in the trailer, and he showed me photos of other things he had at home and in his office.
      There were pieces off steam engines that ranged from nameplates and bells to what Brick called a 'Johnson bar' that changed the direction of the engine.
      He took a small shiny object off a shelf and handed it to me.
      "This one was made in France in the Eighteen Forties. How it ended up at the bottom of Rincon Canyon is a mystery I've never been able to solve."
      I looked at the old steam whistle. It had French lettering along one side that was deeply scribed into the brass. But I couldn't solve his mystery for him. I asked him if he had found it in the Ancients park or someplace else.
      "Yeah it may have come from inside one of the parks, but this wasn't put there by the Pueblo or Anasazi or any of the other Indian Grandfathers. That stuff I leave alone."
      When I handed it back to him I noticed my hands were shaking a little.
      "What's the matter?" He asked me.
      "I've just gone too long without a cigarette."
      "You should quit," he said. "I don't like kissing women that smoke."
      "You haven't kissed me," I said looking at him almost half wishing that he had offered.
      "Not yet."
      "Well then, when?"
      "Well. It's too dark for you to try to drive back out tonight. So I'd have to take you all the way back to town, and I'm not going back out."
      I looked outside, "When did it get dark?"
      "About two hours ago," Brick said looking at an old clock.
      "Oh," I reached into my purse and took out my cigarettes. "So should I go out to smoke or do you have another idea?"
      "Well. I've never made love to a partner before."
      "Yeah. You found a railroad, you need help getting to the bottom of it for your story and I've got the experience and equipment you need to do it. I collect lost trains and give some of the relics to the museum... and yeah, I sell others to pay my way but that's the way it goes, you know. I need to go out and find your line, but you know where it's at and it would take me... a long time, to find it just by what you've given me here."
      "So we need each other," I said for him, "OK. Partners," I said and stuck out my hand.
      He took it and shook it, and then he kissed me.

      I won't go into all the details, I mean really, I was going to write a children's book. But I will say one thing about it.
      I didn't know I could still bend until my knees were in my armpits.
      I guess all the walking and bicycle riding I'd been doing finally paid off.
      Oh, yes.

      It was well after midnight before I got my cigarette.

5. "You've got to go down to go up."

      Saturday morning Brick was up long before I was but he made breakfast and told me about his plan for the day before I could even focus my eyes on the cup of black coffee he offered me.
      "Sorry if you like it sweet or something, Denise. I don't have a lot of supplies out here."
      "It's OK. It's coffee," I said with a frog in my throat. "Thanks Brick."
      He smiled and nodded at me, but his face said he was already thinking ahead.
      "We'll go in from the Four By road that goes to the Holly ruins. Then we'll go down into the canyon to that big boulder you shot. I know where that's at. Then you have to guide me to where you were."
      "You've got a lot of faith in my memory." I said.
      "We'll find it. I even think I know about where you were. I've just never seen any tracks there."
      "OK." I said not trusting myself to say more.

      Breakfast was rustic to say the least, but it was food, and it tasted pretty good none the less.
      The shower was rustic too. Lukewarm well water and no soap, but it served well enough. And the company was pretty good too. Once we were both semi-naked in the tiny bathroom, things got interesting and I ended up adding myself to the list of women I know who have had a man ask them for their brains back once she finished performing on him.
      "My God, Denise. I've never...."
      "You're welcome," I smiled to him. "Can I get some more coffee to wash it down with?
      "Sure. Sure.... Be right back." He said as I got back into the shower.

      We left the dishes and the skillet in the sink and got into his truck for the kidney bruising ride down what he called his 'driveway' to the county road.
      Then after an all too short ride on the better road we were back onto another heavily rutted road which led to what I remembered as the trail labeled 'high clearance four wheel drive vehicles only'.
      I bounced off the ceiling twice before I learned how to brace myself just off the seat in a four point stance when Brick warned me to 'hang on'.

      I couldn't resist a comment that I had already 'gone down' that morning when Brick said we had to go down the hill to go up the canyon to where he said the boulder in my pictures was.
      "Don't I know it!" Was his answer. Spoken with a huge smile.

      The boulder wasn't my boulder.
      I took the laptop out of its padded bag and we looked at the pictures again.
      "Hang on, I thought it was this one, but there is another one, and now that I look at the picture, I think it is the other one," Brick said.
      "You just want to get lost out here with me so we can do the nasty in the desert," I said with a half smirk.
      "I thought we'd already done the nasty in the desert."
      "Oh, yeah. OK. Where's the other rock?"
      Brick looked both ways up and down the canyon, then he pointed, "That way."
      He dropped the truck into double low and we lurched over the dry stream bed and up onto the other bank then he turned sharply and we rattled along for awhile.

      "There it is."
      "Yeah, that looks familiar," I said. "Give me a minute." I got out of the truck and looked around.
      There were even tracks in the sand and gravel that I said looked like my rental.
      "You really came up here in a rented car."
      "Four wheeler, but, yeah," I smiled.
      "Lady, you got balls."
      I grinned, "No I don't, and you should know."
      "And you want to write a book for kids."
      "Yeah. So?"
      Brick just shook his head and walked back to the truck.

      We jostled up the side canyon for a few minutes, then I hollered for him to stop.
      "There they are!" I called out.
      "Well I'll be damned," Brick said.
      There, just visible through the weeds and stones were an ancient set of railroad tracks.
      "And you found these by accident?"
      "Well, yes and no. I was looking for a way out of that big canyon and ended up here," I said pointing back the way we'd just come.
      "My lucky day," Brick said.
      "In more ways than one," I grinned.
      "Do you have to turn everything into a sexual comment?"
      I smiled and remembered an old friend, "In fact I do. I learned it from the best."
      Brick laughed and said it was OK with him as long as I followed through later.
      "My pleasure," I said. "And it was. But what do we do now?"
      "We follow them," he stood up and looked one way and then the other.
      "Not walking I hope," I said with memories of sharp pain and doctor bills.
      "No. We drive. They came from somewhere and they went somewhere. I want to see both ends." I started to say something but he cut me off. "I know, I've seen both ends, we'll do that later too."
      "Promise?" I grinned.

6. The Dead End Paid Off

      The truck bounced along on and around the rotten ties and rusty rails for some time.
      There were times when Brick had to back up for some distance and then drive around another way to go on.
      Finally the sides of the canyon closed in to where it was too narrow for the truck to navigate safely, but the tracks went on. "OK, now we walk.

      Before we 'walked' we took a break and drank some water and even had a snack. Then we went for our hike.

      There were places where we could see where they had blasted the sides of the canyon back to allow them room to get the train through. And it was in those narrows where the infrequent rushing waters had removed all sign of the rails and ties, but we went on anyway. And then not too far up we'd find where they continued.
      As we walked I asked Brick why anybody would go to this much trouble for a dead end line to nowhere.
      "At the time it may not have been a line to nowhere. They might have found a promising vein of gold or silver or something up here, and thought that it would pay for itself," he pointed to a dark seam in the rock wall. "Sometimes it did. Most of the time it didn't."

      Then we found a 'Y'.
      The railroad switch was long gone, but it was obvious where it had been. We picked a direction and followed it. In a few hundred yards the line up and out of the canyon.
      "Look," Brick said kneeling down and pointing. "You can see where it used to go off across there. But they pulled up the rails a long time ago. I'm bettin' we'll never be able to trace it out in the open like that. Let's go back."
      The other branch went into an even narrower box canyon and stopped after a short distance. But it was something off to one side of the dead end tracks that got Brick's attention.
      "And this explains that," he said as he pulled at stones and looked up into the rock face.
      "A mine?"
      "Yup," he said in his best cowboyeze. "And look, there's another one." He stood back and looked. "This whole side. They mined all this. Dumped the rubble over there, and took the ore out on the cars parked here," Brick liked to gesture as he talked.
      The mined cliff face ran for fifty yards or more on that side of the old rails, but no more than a dozen feet into the rock in any one place. They had dynamited and dug back into the hill, and when the vein ran dry, they left. And in the years since, the goddess of the mountains had tried to erase the evidence.
      "What were they digging for?" I asked him.
      "I don't know yet. Give me a minute."
      "Be careful," I said as he scrambled over the rocks looking for evidence.

      We collected some rusty tools, and a few pieces of ore rock, and even some parts from the railroad itself. But nothing that he called a 'strike'.

      As we walked back to the truck with the various things we had picked up, and a ton of pictures on the two cameras. Then after a break we bounced back down and tried to follow the rails the other way down further into the larger canyon.
      After several misses we found a small section that had been buried by a landslide, but there was no more.
      "That's it then. This slide probably put an already marginal branch out of business. They came in and took what they could out the other way and left it," Brick said.
      I nodded in agreement. It sounded reasonable.

      We tried to follow the line down further into the larger canyon, but it had been carried away by the original owners and erosion since then. There were a few odds and ends here and there, but nothing that indicated where the road bed had been.

      Then on our way back Brick stopped the truck and asked me what I saw.
      "Nothing," I said after looking around.
      "That's right. There was another landslide, but it took the tracks with it instead of burying them."
      "OK," I said slowly as he got out.
      "Let's go look."
      "OK," I repeated. "Let me get the camera."

      We scrambled down from the ledge where the tracks had been to where the stream usually was.
      Brick was poking around a large uneven pile of rubble at the bottom of the hill.

      "Denise. I think we have our strike."

. Old Number 832

      "Write down 832." Brick said at one point.
      He was lying on his stomach, half twisted under a huge rock while using a flashlight to see down inside the pile.
      "Eight Thirty Two," I said back to him.
      "Yeah. I don't think it's an engine, looks like a hopper car. Maybe two of them." Then he twisted some more. "Wait a minute. Yeah. Two of them. But I can't see the other one very good. It's under the first one."
      "OK. Get out of there."
      Brick sat up and cracked his neck back and forth, "You sound like you're worried about me."
      "I just don't think the paramedics could find us."
      "Nahh... They've had medivac helicopters all through these canyons."
      But he did get on his hands and knees and butt and climbed down carefully.

      "There's our wreck," he pointed to the pile. "I didn't see any sign of an engine or a tender. So they probably salvaged them. But the cars weren't worth digging out."
      "So which avalanche was first?" I asked him.
      "This one. Although the other one was before they came in and reclaimed the tracks. Between the two, the route was impassable and since the mines had played out, they just never rebuilt."
      "Yeah, I've seen where they'd been digging all through here. But that one back at the box canyon was the big one."
      "I thought the big one was in the trailer last night."
      "You wish," Brick said.
      "It was big enough."
      "Good. Because I was hoping there'd be a second strike tonight."
      "Why wait until tonight?"
      He laughed as the truck bounded over another series of large rocks, "you are something else."
      "And proud of it."

      We stopped to look at another side canyon that Brick thought might have had tracks in it at one time.
      There were signs of more prospecting and a few trial holes, but nothing to indicate either a working mine or a set of tracks to support one.
      Then we heard a low rumble through the canyon that echoed off the cliff behind us.
      "Oh oh," Brick said.
      "Yeah. We need to move."

      It was raining like it meant it just as we reached the truck.
      "This is bad," Brick said.
      "How bad?" I asked. I had an idea, but I wanted to hear it from him.
      "If this really socks it in it could kick up a flash flood. Either way it makes driving through here sheer hell," he was going slow, but even then, the tires were slipping on the slick rocks. "I've got an idea."
      He drove carefully until we reached the area around where the bigger of the landmark boulders were and parked on a slight rise just up from it.
      "And we wait it out."
      "How long?"
      "Until it stops raining," he said. "This has happened to me before. I've got supplies for a day or two in the tool box."
      "And maybe an extra pack of cigarettes?" I said as I realized that I was down to just a couple in my open pack and the new one was in my car.
      "Sorry. There is a couple of cigars in there that I keep for Hank."
      "My other partner."
      "Do you make out with him too?"
      "No ma'am. I'm sorry. I know it's not the way you're supposed to be now, but I still like girls."
      I just laughed.

      We had a snack out of his supplies, and drank more water, and listened to the rain pounding on the roof of the truck. At times the rain drowned out the transistor radio he had in with the supplies.
      Outside the dry creek bed went from absolutely bone dry to a serious fast flowing stream splashing over and around the rocks we had just driven over.
      "That's why I don't try to drive out while it's raining," Brick said.
      Now I whole heartedly agreed with his reasoning.

      The rain didn't let up until it started to get dark. But the combination of poor light and running water meant we would spend the night right where we were.
      "Well, Denise. You said I wanted to get you out in the desert and have my way with you."
      "No. I said to do the nasty," I said.
      "So which do you want to do? The nasty or let me have my way with you?"
      "Let's try both and I'll let you know which I like better."

      The front seat of the pickup wasn't the smallest space in a vehicle I'd ever made out in, but then again, some of those had been a long time ago when I was younger, a littler smaller, and lot more flexible. But we made a good effort of it and in the end fell asleep suitably exhausted.

8. By the dawn's early light.

      It was some ungodly wee hour of the morning when I woke up.
      The inside of the truck smelled strongly of serious sex. I felt dirty and sticky and slightly chilled. I pulled on Brick's shirt since it was the easiest to reach and put it on against the cold outside. Then I got out of the truck carefully with the small flashlight that was part of my cell phone. Given what I had to do outside, there was no point in putting on my jeans even if I could find them.
      The rocks were still slick, and somewhere just off to my right I could hear lively water flowing but I couldn't see it. I held on to the back of the truck and emptied my bladder in the general direction of the stream. Then I hurried back to the truck just as Brick got out for the same reason.
      "And you said we don't do things together any more," I said to him.
      "I think we've done it all now."
      "Nope. There's one more way."
      "Whatever it is, we'll do it back at the trailer," he said as he finished up. Then after a look at the stream with his flashlight we got back into the truck.

      Act two wasn't as intense as the first time around. But it was good none the less.
      But at least it had stopped raining.

      We were both awake and waiting on something that might indicate sunrise way before either of us would have been otherwise.
      "OK. I can see now. Let's get out of here," Brick said as we walked back up to the truck from the stream where we had washed our faces.
      "You sure?"
      "Yeah," he looked around. "It's just going to get lighter now. We'll go slow but we need to get moving."
      "You did quite a bit of moving last night."
      "I think we were about equal in that department, Denise."
      I just grinned at the memory as we got dressed, then I let him drive without further distraction.

      As bad as it was, I was still so glad to see the old silver trailer I couldn't stand it.
      We both took lukewarm showers, then we made out for a little bit that was mostly wandering hands and random kissing than anything serious.
      But as we caught our breath we both agreed that we needed food.
      I offered to go through the cabinets and see what I could come up with.

      I hadn't grown up in the heart of Tex-Mex country for nothing. Given a can of red beans and some dry rice and some canned tomatoes with chilies and a bit of canned meat, I made what passed for a feast compared to what we'd eaten the night before out of the trucks survival rations.
      Now the beer was warm. But it was wet, and it was beer, and we drank it gratefully in spite of it being nine o'clock in the morning.
      Brick started the generator and we downloaded the pictures from both cameras onto both laptops while I cooked.

      As we ate, we talked about what we'd found.
      "I'd like to be able to get that plate off the rail car. But I don't think I can. Not without taking a crane down there."
      I agreed, "Could you tell who it had belonged to?"
      "I wish I could," Brick said, "but I couldn't see anything except the number. And that might not ever be the whole number, part of the plate was broken off."
      "Well, it's something, and you know where it's at."
      Brick nodded, "Yeah. I'll go back sometime and see what else I can see. There might be more around there. I'll take the metal detectors and all and see what I can find."
      My curiosity was peaked, "When are you going back?"
      "Not today that's for damned sure. I've got to get back and go to work tomorrow."
      I sighed, I knew that all too well, "Me too. And I've got to fly back to Houston to do it."
      Brick grinned, "Well partner, when can you come back up here so we can do it?"
      "Do what? Make out or go dig up a train?"
      Now I was grinning, "You're learning."
      "I've got a good teacher." He finished his beer. "But I think I need a couple hours of shuteye before I drive back. How about you?"
      "Wouldn't hurt," I said not looking forward to the puddle jumper plane to Denver before I caught the jet home.
      Then Brick stopped and looked at me with that eyebrow raised again.
      "So back in the canyon this morning. You said there was one more way to do it."
      "What haven't we done?"
      "You mean you don't know?" I asked him while I looked for a small tube that was supposed to be in my purse.
      He shook his head, "I've been out here or in Montrose a long time. And before that, my ex wasn't real adventuresome in bed either."
      "You mean she never made you moan in a pickup truck?" I said with a smile as I found what I was looking for. Now we could do it!
      "I wasn't the only one moaning. You made some pretty good noises yourself."
      "Only when trying to breathe."
      He laughed at me but I could tell he was thinking.
      "So do you want a hint?" I asked him and he nodded. But instead of saying anything I just turned around and bent over a little and waved the lubricant at him.
      "Oh my God. Do you mean?" He said.
      "What else would I mean?"
      "Shreriest," he said. Or at least I think that was what he said.
      I walked back into the bedroom and made myself comfortable on the bed. In a minute he came back and asked me again if I really meant doing 'that'.
      "If you don't want to," I said.
      "Oh hell, that's not what I meant. I mean. I want to, but my ex would..."
      "I'm not your ex. In fact. If she's the woman in a couple of those pictures with the kids, I could probably teach her a few things too."
      "You mean you like?" He asked and let it hang in the air.
      "I don't like to spend weekends alone," I said with a smile.
      "Oh geeze, I don't believe this at all."
      "So you going to join me or are you going to take a nap on the couch? I've got a plane to catch this afternoon."

      I made it to the plane after we both made it in bed.
      And I had a date to meet him back at the trailer in two weeks when we'd go do some more work on the buried rail cars.
      We.... shook... on it as partners.

      In the meantime, I told him, I needed to work on my children's book.


[NOTE: while the actual National Monument, the various roads and towns, and a random selection of the other features mentioned in this story do exist, the specifics of the trailer, the 'train wreck', and of course the characters, do not. No disparagement of anything mentioned is intended. This story is presented as a memorial to the author's friend and for the entertainment of his readers at large. Please accept it as such.
Thank you
Doc L

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