Friday, November 21, 2014

"I Am Pan! Lord of the Forest"

The western edge of the outside hot spring is formed from the natural stone of the mountain. The rest of the tub is bordered by concrete slab poured generations ago and overlooking the Verde River. On the mountain side, there is an undercut beneath the stone going back about three feet.

I used to dive down into this hollow space and come up with Kaolin clay. Kaolin is a high quality ceramic clay that's used to make china and also in the cosmetic industry. I've been unable to find these deposits since the major floods of '04-'05.

Below the sand, gravel, silt, and rich black organic matter, the clay began. The first layer was gray from the humus that rested above it. The second layer had yellow streaks, and I used to make pipes from it in the coals of my fire. After several dives, digging with my hands, I would come to the third layer of pure, white, kaolin.

I used to sculpt the clay into little figures and sit them in the sun on the rocks above. I remember one day, meeting two hippie girls from Tennessee and we played with the clay, afterward smearing it all over each other before hiking back to camp. On hot days I would thin it with water and cover my nose to prevent sunburn.

One Friday in April, I went to the tubs early (as I liked to do on weekends). I had a new book I wanted to read while I soaked. Springer had stolen some magic mushroom chocolate from me and, by way of restitution, was providing me with beers and buds. I was well stocked when I reached the spring.

The sun was just coming up over Ike's Backbone when I got there. I had the place to myself. The morning proved to be too groovy for my book. Wildflowers were blooming yellow all along the mountains to the north and east. It was going to be another perfect day. I lit a joint and floated around on my back for a while, enjoying the sun.

I had a crew cut, and my head was sunburned and peeling. I applied my mixture of clay and water, but it kept flaking off so I put a LOT of clay on, covering my entire face and head. I made a long hooked nose and pointed ears and topped it all off with a large horn that shot up nearly a foot.

During this process, Rusty had come up from the trail to the south and Pat and Springer appeared from the direction of the ranch road a little later. Springer announced that he had prayed to God, asking that he send us thirty single women. Rusty aptly remarked that thirty might not be enough of a pool for Springer to find one that could tolerate him.

We spent the next hour or so drinking cheap beer, smoking cheap grass, and comparing notes on the summer camps we would soon be leaving for when the temperature rose. From the Spring, you can see traffic on portions of the road leading down to the Verde Valley. That morning, there was an endless line of trucks bouncing down the road. I was glad to have gotten there while it was still comfortably underpopulated. Looky-loos and weekend warriors were about to descend on our paradise.

The first to make the journey from camp to the springs were an unlikely coupl of city slickers from Chicago who called themselves Dan and Marge. They were easily in their late sixties. Dan didn't say much. He just sat on a concrete pillar and sipped from a flask. Marge was more gregarious. She stripped down to a one piece and joined us in the water. She was what we call a “Peter Gazer”. She couldn't stop staring at our Johnsons.

Finally, Rusty told her “Hey sis, my eyes are up here”. He also told her we were expecting a mule train with tobacco, ammo, and liquor. She believed him and pleaded with Dan to stay and see the mules. Later, back at camp, Dan went from camp to camp asking if anybody had any Viagra for sale. I told him that I could find grass and mushrooms, but knew noting of pharmaceuticals. He later scored some from a source I won't name and drove his mini van to a secluded spot.

They only stayed at the tubs for about an hour. Shortly after they left, Springer's prayers came true. Thirty single women came marching down the path. It was unbelievable. Remaining clothed, they lowered themselves into the outside tub with us, retired to the hotter, inside pool, or lounged around the patio. Seeing my clay mask, one of them asked if I was a Chupacabra. “No” replied as I got out to fetch another beer. “I am Pan! Lord of the Forest”!

One of the women gasped and three looked away with enough speed to cause whiplash. The gasper told the woman beside her they should warn the new people. Wanting to make her more comfortable, I offered her a beer. That's when I found out they were a lesbian Alcoholics Anonymous group.

I told Springer the next time he prayed for women he should be more specific and maybe not so greedy.

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