In March, the sun was moving closer and there was only snow in most places. Bare patches of earth were beginning to show, even among the juniper trees. Beanpolio introduced me to a veritable goldmine for industrious teens, such as we were: The dump. It was a landfill, so you couldn’t count on seeing the same stuff on each visit. You had to grab things fast, lest they be buried tomorrow.
They had one hole for garbage and another hole for scrap wood and things like that, which made it easier for us. There was also a Forest Service dumping ground where they put things out of the way, like the floating outhouses they had used on the lake in years before but later decided were a bad idea.
But what Beanpolio really wanted to show me were two stacks of doors sitting next to the hole full of garbage. Regular house doors; front doors, bedroom doors, closet doors. I guess there were between 50 and 100 doors in those stacks. He told me he had designs on building a fort using these doors. I said, “Cool.” And we grabbed a bunch of doors and tossed them over a chain link fence and carried them to a spot he’d picked out already. He had moved some doors there previously as well. It is hard to pick a good spot for a fort in that area because the places that don’t have juniper trees turn into washes during rainstorms. But Beanpolio had picked a good spot that wouldn’t flood. We could envision the fort even as the doors were flat on the ground or leaning on trees around us.
Then it was back to the brimstone school with the creepy crawls and the living dead. My story for English class was coming along nicely. I was doing my part. Beanpolio was a year ahead of me in school and most of my classes were with the rest of the sophomores. My favorite class was woodshop because I got to make things. I did most of it by myself or it was just me and the teacher. I made a nightstand that is in my daughter’s room right now. The metal shop was basically in the same area as the wood shop, so sometimes the cowboys would overflow into where I was working but most the time they stayed in their space, welding “headache racks” for their trucks.
I wasn’t making friends in my class. The nicest guy there was still a cowboy through and through and he worried me a little. Nothing bad, but when we played basketball in Gym and I was guarding him as he tried to drive the lane, he spat, “Get out of the way. I play football, dammit!” Remember, the school had no football team. I think he was trying to sound tough and give me a reason to fear him. I thought he sounded like he was about to cry. There was no sense in reaching out to a guy like that. Leave him be.
The Green River is a world-class destination for fly fishing and occasionally movie stars fly in just to drop their scuds in the rushing water. But if you go into any gas station or lodge in the Flaming Gorge area and you see an autographed photo of a movie star hanging on the wall, the odds are, it will be a photo of Loni Anderson.
Would you believe that THE Loni Anderson is connected to Cow Country High? It’s true. Her sister was the Home Economics teacher at the school. Her nephew was in my class. My first impulse was to call him Eyebrow Monster for this story, but let’s call the nephew Eddie Munster instead. Eddie Munster was the son of the Forest Ranger. They say Eddie Munster dated one of the twins from a Double Mint gum commercial. Eddie Munster worked summers at the local yacht club. Do you know what that made him? Hot. Shit.
I think Eddie Munster had seen the world outside of Cow Country and he knew cowboy wasn’t cool everywhere. So Eddie Munster was only cowboy some of the time. Other times he was Utah Cool, meaning denim shorts and a braided belt. Eddie Munster wasn’t braggadocious about how he had things happening in a far out kind of way but he did walk around with a strange grin locked on his face like it was only a matter of time before you found out how great he was and then, oh yes, the fawning would begin. He could wait.
I think these things gave Eddie Munster a boost in self-confidence. He wasn’t shy to talk and he talked loudly like he was going to say something funny, but I can’t remember anything he ever said as funny. I remember he took the dry erase markers and was making a show of sniffing them at his desk. The principal rolled his eyes at the wolf-boy of destiny and went on with class. I think that’s about as funny as he gets.
I tried to make jokes with him during class for a couple of days but he made no response, except one day he got up and moved to a different desk. Like I said, my material was no good with this crowd. Too bad I didn’t have a famous aunt or a need to be a prick, maybe we’d have something in common.
Eddie Munster came up to me in the locker room one day and said, “Emmett. My dick is purple.” I looked at him and waited. I was certain there must be more to the story. He said, “MY DICK. IS PURPLE.” I waited.
Then he calmed down and said, “We were talking about how you laugh at everything. I was just testing you.” What was the difference between passing and failing, I wondered. Nothing, as far as I could tell.
There was no luck for friends on the drab side of the lake. When the bus took me back to the sublime side of the lake I started walking home. I was walking next to Geppetto who was a year behind me in school. We said hello. I was staring at an outcropping of red rocks on a nearby ridge. I asked him, “Have you ever been up to those rocks up there?” He said, “No.” I said, “They look cool. We should hike up there sometime.” Geppetto said, “Yeah.” I said, “Do you want to go right now?” Geppetto said, “Sure.”
We didn’t even go home first. We just pointed ourselves up the mountain and went. It was a few miles up the hill and Geppetto told me how all of his family lived down around Vernal. His grandpa had a recycling plant and would pay him to strip copper wire. He planned on living around here forever.
I liked Geppetto. I guess getting to know someone is just not worth the risk for some people. With others, you can just point up a mountain and say, “Want to climb it?”