All characters appearing in this story are mine of my own design.
This story is a work of fiction based upon nothing in particular.
Precious Cargo is copyright © The Silver Coyote
An Unanticipated Change Of Direction
This was certainly a different traveling climate from that which he and his
wife had enjoyed the other day. The dynamic in the cab was totally different.
Whereas he and Annie had been totally into each other on the trip over the
Rocky Mountains from Denver, now there was an added element in their process
that changed everything. It wasn't bad or unpleasant, just different. That
added element was their blonde, pony-tailed seventeen year old daughter, the
most talkative of their three pups.
Even now, as they roared down out of Cortez into the desert of the Four
Corners region, the two of them were in the back, Annie and Debbie, talking
up a storm about God knew what. While he could hear the giggling and
exclamations, most of the conversation was lost to him in road noise. He
supposed it was just as well. It afforded him some time to become one with
the road and his truck and allowed him to enjoy the scenery. He missed having
his wife at his side, but was simultaneously sharing her joy at having their
Last night's celebration dinner had been a family adventure. All of their
children had been born in the month of October, so they tended to celebrate
all birthdays on the same day. As the kids grew older and started their own
lives, it had become harder and harder for Joe and Annie to hold those annual
celebrations, so when the opportunity presented itself, as it did now in
Durango, they capitalized on it.
And what a family meal it had been! So much had been shared over California
wine from the central coast provided by he and Annie, consumed along with
Chris's grilled trout and fresh corn and salad greens. Joe and Debbie had
been the constructors of the meal, he minding the grill while Debbie made the
salad and the dessert. By the time Chris had arrived home and taken a shower,
the meal had been at the peak of perfection, ready to serve.
US 666 stretched in an almost uninterrupted tangent before him. Chimney Rock
was already visible in the distance as they rolled along at legal speed.
Somewhere ahead of him another pair of vehicles was communicating on 146.520
simplex, he had been monitoring their conversation as they all headed south
towards US 160. He was hoping that they would turn west also, just so he'd
have some "eyes" ahead of him. The low band radio scanned incessantly,
nothing was happening there.
West it would be, down into the desert, into the Navajo Nation. Another "home
away from home". God! Do I love this country! He smiled in spite of
his earlier thoughts of having his wife "misappropriated" by his daughter. He
loved them both, and if they needed this time to reinforce their bond with
each other, so much the better. He glanced at them in the mirror. The word
that leapt to mind was animated. Each of them spoke energetically, gesturing;
their happy expressions lit up the cab.
They had all behaved that way at dinner last night. At times it seemed that
all of them were talking at once, and each somehow managed to listen to all
the others simultaneously. He had learned a few things during that meal. He
had learned how stable and self controlled his daughter really was when she
laid out the straight story on a couple of past boyfriends. Debbie was a
smart, street-wise girl without all the negative side-effects that usually
went along with that kind of education. She had benefited greatly from the
careful diagnosis of some mistakes her friends had made. She was bright,
observant, and intuitive. He marveled at the maturity she exemplified at her
young age, and momentarily reflected ruefully on how different his life might
have been had he been as smart at the same age.
He and Annie had heard first-paw from Mike about his new lady friend, and
how that might be progressing to what most would call a "serious
relationship". Mike had seemed pleased. She was a young feline from his
church, steadily involved in the youngster's ministry Mike worked so
diligently at. While in theory he worked for her, they had rapidly built a
team concept for their mission vision, and that concept had begun to overlap
into their personal and social lives. So much the better, Joe thought. Good
And of course Chris had his love, the railroad. Their younger son had been,
like his father, the one infected with wanderlust and a low need of "home".
It pleased Joe and Annie both that Chris had found the Durango & Silverton.
It was the first stability he had experienced since graduating from high
school. Unlike his older brother, Chris had not exhibited any desire at all
to go to college. He had always been the "tool fur", ready to take anything
apart and make it better than it had been. So the job firing the ancient
steam locomotives and working in the shops of one of the last surviving steam
powered railroads in the country had suited him to a tee. There in Durango he
was home, and his family visited often and stayed as long as they could.
They had enjoyed a couple days together after Joe's lunch with the yard crew.
These times together as family were getting fewer and farther between as the
kids grew up. Annie and Joe had learned to cherish these times together, so
they all did whatever they could to maximize their fun. Like the almost
innocent four hour poker game of the night before last, following the day
trip they all took up to Silverton on a scheduled maintenance run with D&S #
480 and the maintenance of way train (crewed by Chris and Russ Taylor and
John Briscol). The trip may not have seemed the most exciting thing for some,
but they enjoyed it as a family, including Russ and John. The pride they all
felt in Chris's work and accomplishment was second to none. And they had all
caught a movie in town yesterday afternoon, just to have something to do
together while Chris was working in the shops.
The turnoff to US 160 was coming up. Joe downshifted, checked his mirrors,
and moved into the right turn lane as the intersection approached.
Downshifting again, he slowed into the corner, foot off the throttle. Turning
the steering wheel with one paw as his other rested on the gear selector, the
truck leaned slightly into the corner, and within moments they had turned
west and he was upshifting, accelerating towards Comb Ridge and Four Corners.
The sky was bright this morning, not a cloud to be seen in the deep blue
overhead. A very thin haze from the coal fired power plant in Page caused the
horizon to look somewhat milky, but the visibility had to be seventy five
miles or better.
Out here traffic was light. There were other cars on the road to be sure, but
by anybody's standards they were few and far between. The highway was only
two lanes wide, but it didn't seem to matter to those who drove it. Everybody
was well spaced and moving at legal speed.
And suddenly that "world by the tail" feeling hit him square in the chest.
Out here on the high desert of far southwestern Colorado, with nobody else
around, suddenly he realized, yet again, how blessed he really was. His wife
and his daughter were everything, the sun and the moon, the sky and the
earth. His outward expression didn't change, and the two-way radio still
randomly chattered for him, but inside he was suddenly infused to the point
of blindness with an all-encompassing feeling of right, of reality, of
completion. His life meant something. And it was here, with his two ladies,
As if on cue his daughter's pony tail momentarily preceded her head between
the front seats next to him. She kissed his cheek to get his attention, and
when he turned to look at her she had one of those mischievous "I've got a
secret" smiles on her face. "Daddy, we're getting thirsty," she advised.
"When do we stop?"
"We've got that stuff Mike packed in the cooler for us," he offered,
motioning with a gloved thumb towards the back of the truck.
She put on one of those half-irritated, half amused faces that teenage
daughters reserve for their befuddled fathers. "No, daddy! We want to stop.
You know, actually make the wheels stop turning so we can get out and walk
around?" She winked at him.
Raising his voice just a bit and tilting his head back slightly, he said "Ah!
Full bladders, huh? Must be all that talking going on back there."
The hand with the manicured nails reached forward to slap the top of his hat
The road suddenly curved and began to descend into a draw. The San Juan River
loomed into view. "Well Blondie, there's not much between here and Teec Nos
Pos," he said, lifting his foot off the throttle.
"Peek what?" she asked, turning from admiring the view out the windshield, a
puzzled look on her face.
He smiled gently at her misunderstanding. "Teec Nos Pos." he said slowly.
"It's the next town, maybe five miles or so away. We'll be there in a few
She looked at him steadily, anticipating an explanation.
"It's Navajo," her father explained, referring to the origin of the name,
"dating from the late 1800s. It roughly translates to 'Circle of
Cottonwoods', or perhaps 'Cottonwood which blooms perfectly round'. Nobody's
sure exactly where the name originated."
"Well just remember that mom and I want to stop. Put on the brakes, shut off
the motor, you know, stop." She smiled at him again.
"OK, OK, I get the message. We'll stop." Joe grinned at her.
Debbie's head disappeared, to be replaced a few seconds later by his wife's.
Leaning in close, she gently bit his ear and whispered "I owe you one",
giggling at his reaction. Then she was in back again, and the muttering and
giggling and gesturing started all over again.
Some things never change, he thought, smiling and chuckling a bit
"This would look great in mom's office, don't you think?" Debbie held out a
small Navajo rug for her father's inspection. It was hand woven of home-spun
wool, maybe four by six feet. Her brow was furrowed slightly, her tail
wagging slowly while she looked at it, as if she were trying to decide
whether she believed her own assessment or not. She looked up at him
They were in the only trading post in Teec Nos Pos, in far northeastern
Arizona. Her mother was next door procuring "essentials" at the market. "You
know," Debbie continued, "on a wall with a rustic hangar, like some sort of
weathered wood beam with old wire. Or maybe..." Impulsively she draped the
rug over her shoulders like a shawl and wrapped herself loosely in it. She
turned slowly, looking at him from beneath lowered eyelids over her right
"It looks pretty good just like that," her father offered. At times he was
slightly bewildered by how much like his wife their daughter looked and
behaved. She was truly a chip off the old block. And God bless her, Annie was
now taking such good care of herself that they were sometimes difficult to
tell apart at a distance.
Each of them would most likely be described as "busty" or "buxom". But where
Annie tended to be broader of shoulder and a bit shorter than her daughter,
Debbie tended to be leggy and lean. They both had great legs. They were both
blond and blue eyed. Where Annie's body fur was a silvery auburn blonde color,
Debbie's tended to be more of a champagne color. Debbie's fur also tended to be
thicker and more coarse than Annie's, thanks to Joe's genetic contribution to
Joe looked at the exposed fur of his own arms. The outer shell was coarse,
beneath it the fur was fine and soft, densely packed for good insulation
against the elements. The fur coloring was mixed, in overall appearance it
was a silvery tan, but upon close inspection individual colors of black,
brown, tan, gray, and cream were visible. He'd always imagined it to be
unappealing. Thank God his girl's didn't have coyote fur!
"So what do you think?" She held her arms out to him with the rug still
across her shoulders like a shawl, turning slowly one way and the other for
"I think you should be a model," he told her. To her surprised smile he added
"I know, you've heard it before, and so have your mom and I. But I think it's
true. You could do it. You're a natural. Look at the way you're moving right
"You think so?" she asked coyly, a trace of uncertainty in her voice.
"Certainly. I wouldn't say so if I didn't think so." He looked at her
questioningly, his head tilted slightly to one side. "You don't think so?"
"I have a confession to make, daddy," she said cautiously, removing the
Navajo rug from her shoulders and holding it out to him. "I wasn't going to
say anything about this until I had a few more facts and a couple of test
shootings... I'm looking into modeling." Pausing to measure his reaction to
this, she continued. "I've got a mentor, and I'm considering some specialized
schooling for it after I graduate from high school." She smiled up at him,
knowing she had just taken a big step with him, and a considerable gamble as
He took the rug from her paws and slowly rolled it up into a tube shape,
taking the time this required to arrange his thoughts. "Your mom know about
this?" he asked finally. He could see she was nervous about discussing this.
He stuffed the rug tube under his right arm.
Taking his left paw, she began to walk slowly with him about the shop they
were in. Outside a semi truck whined by on the highway. She looked out the
windows facing the highway, watching it pass out of sight. "I haven't
discussed this with her yet. I didn't want to say anything to either one of
you until I had more to talk about. I have no idea how or if this will work
out. I may not have any chance. I may not like it at all." She stopped,
looking at him ruefully.
He smiled warmly and prodded her along. "Honey, you've got more chance than
most, take it from me. One thing I know a little bit about, it's classy, good
looking females." She actually blushed slightly, visible mostly through the
thin fur around her nose and eyes. "You'll go as far as you want." He
squeezed her paw, trying to put her at ease. "You know, ever since you were
in grade school people have been telling us you should be a model."
She stopped again and turned completely to look at him. "Really? Like who?"
Her nervousness was forgotten with this bit of news.
"Remember that woman who's daughter you were in classes with in your
elementary school? The one who was always doing volunteer work at the school?
Her daughter was in your third and fourth grade classes, I think," he said,
trying to recall. Letting go of her paw, he scratched his chin gently with
his left paw.
"Missus C?" she asked after a minute's thought.
"Yeah," he said, pointing at her. "That's the one. She always used to tell me
that you should be a model. At that time I didn't give it much of a tumble,
but now..." his smile broadened as he looked at her.
"You're not mad?" She seemed surprised.
"Why should I be mad?" he asked, curious.
"I don't know." She sounded perplexed. She took both his paws in hers. "I
just thought you might be disappointed in me for some reason."
"Not hardly!" he exclaimed with pride. Then, thinking over what had been said
within the past few minutes, he explored cautiously. "So, tell me about your
She dissolved all his concern with the first word past her muzzle, and she
could see that as she spoke. "She's terrific. She works at our church now,
but modeled in the past before coming to us. Her name is Gina." At his blank
expression she elaborated "You may not have met her. She works with Bryan and
Ozzie with the high school kids. She's been on the volunteer staff for a few
"I guess I don't know her," he agreed, dropping her paws.
"You know, daddy," she smiled at him, gently gripping his arm to reinforce
the teasing, "You'd know more of these folks if you'd show up a little more
He dodged the barb with a grin. "How old is Gina?" He envisioned some dish of
perhaps age thirty with a gaggle of males following her around.
"I don't know, maybe your age. She owns her own agency." Sensing his next
question she answered it before he could ask. "Apparently business is so good
that she can afford to devote a lot of her time and resources to the church.
She talks to us girls about a lot of 'un-church' stuff like grace and poise,
and etiquette, and boys." At his raised eyebrow to that last she added "All
on the up and up. You know, how to behave properly on a date, that kind of
He smiled, teasing her back a bit. "Like you really need any lessons in
that." He hooked his thumbs in his jeans pockets.
"Daddy!" she grinned, punching his upper arm lightly.
"So this Gina has offered you advice on getting into modeling?" His tone and
appearance had turned serious.
"Better than that," she replied. "With your and mom's approval, she wants to
teach me about it at her convenience for free, and then manage me as my agent
if I want to try it out."
"Can't beat that deal with a stick," he observed. "You really want to do
She nodded her head emphatically, pony tail bobbing. She smiled broadly, blue
eyes shining. It was a contagious look, he couldn't help but be infected by
her excitement. He grinned back at her.
"OK, then. Your mom might have some minor heartburn with you possibly putting
off college for this, but I'll back you up. Who knows, maybe I'll see my baby
on the cover of Vogue someday!" He smiled back at her. He reached for his
wallet and removed some cash. "Tell you what. Buy this rug for your mom." He
handed the rolled up rug and cash to her. "It may help soften the delivery.
Keep the rug under wraps until after you tell her, and use it as a
peacemaking tool if things get heated."
"You think she'll be mad?" Suddenly Debbie looked worried.
He tried to reassure her while at the same time letting her know that it
might not be an easy sell. "Not mad, maybe, but you can bet she'll be
concerned for your future and safety. At the very least she'll want to meet
Gina and spend some time with her." He put an arm around his daughter's
shoulders. "Don't worry, sweetie. I'll be there to keep things civil." He
smiled his best "I've got your six" smile.
"OK daddy. Thanks." She took a few hesitant steps towards the cashier in the
front of the trading post, and then suddenly ran back to him and kissed him.
Looking in his eyes she repeated "Thanks" with much emotion.
He turned her by the arm towards the cashier and, patting her lower back,
sent her on her mission. She paused briefly and half turned to look back over
her shoulder at him, a slightly uncertain look on her face, like she was
momentarily unsure of herself. It was one of those picture moments when his
mind took a snapshot. Years later he'd be able to perfectly recall the way
she looked at that moment, in that pose with her brow slightly furrowed,
mouth slightly open as if to say something, ears up, eyes bright, her future
full of promise. He'd remember that look for the rest of his life.
He nodded to her. Go on, he thought. As she moved to continue her trek
towards the cash register he turned in the opposite direction and walked
towards the door of the trading post. Passing through it he could see Annie
placing a couple of bags of groceries in their truck.
To Chapter Sixteen: The Sale.
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