This photo was taken the last summer I spent in Rapid City (1973) before moving to Chicago to go to school.  I worked at the local Elks Club golf course as an assistant greens-keeper; I was a legacy hire — just like Yale or Harvard — my uncle was the grand Poohbah (or stag with the most points or whatever) of the Rapid City Elks Lodge and my soon-to-be stepfather, Roy, (he married my mother the morning of the day I flew to Chicago late in August) was the greens-keeper.

The equipment barn, a wooden structure painted dark green, was behind the pool house and concession stand, just to the left of this pond with the dramatically placed dead tree—once struck by lightning, but positioned in the body of the water so that it was impossible to remove. Crows loved its vantage point and commented on the whiffs of five irons slicing through the air as the duffers played on the adjoining fairway.

The barn was dark and oily smelling with the tools of greens-keeping, mowers for the fairway, a tractor caged with chicken wire to protect the driver when on the fairways from errant golf balls, some deliberately aimed in my estimation), mowers for the roughs with their winged flanges of blades on either side of the seat, and the mowers for the greens themselves, that only my step-father used; the assistants deemed not ready to cut the short grass.

Our day began at 6:30 and ended at 3:30—that o’dark early rising rough for a teenager, but my step-father was a special man and spending time, even not talking as we mostly did, was somehow comforting and informative. I’m not much of an ‘outdoor’ type, now granted I do love the outdoors, but more from an aesthetic point of view as opposed to actually working out-of-doors.  But the fix was in, I was funding my own schooling and needed to make as much money as possible before heading off to become a star in Chicago (at least that was my dream.) Roy was a gentle soul who perfectly understood my special needs, was encouraging,  helpful, and a great teacher and without his nurturing guidance I imagine a job like that would have been much, much worse for someone with my sensitivities.

Author, left, and Roy, exemplary stepfather, resting after a day of greens-keeping.

To help matters (or make them worse) was the presence of the other assistant greens-keeper, Randy (we’ll call him, because you know, I’ve forgotten his actual name). A year older than me, short with auburn hair and a gymnast’s body (leftover from his competing in high school gymnastics.)  Of course, everyone thought we’d be best buds, but most of the jobs on the course were solitary and we rarely spoke except at the start of the day, lunch and end of shift.

Randy asked me out on a date. At least that’s what I subliminally understood this to mean, “what’re you doing on Saturday? Want to drive up to Sheridan Lake and go swimming?”

“Shit yeah,” I thought I said, but instead I may have stuttered breathless, “oh, that sounds like fun.” Saturday comes along and Randy shows up at my house and I throw my knapsack in the bed of his pick-up and slide in beside him and off we go. His cab was seatbelt-less and the bench seat was sticky-slick vinyl that grabbed at the hairs on my legs and bit at the tender skin behind my knees. Exquisite pain to keep my mind off the proximity of Randy in his tank top and shorts, driving barefoot, his Coppertone smell acting like a warning bell.

But the devil got a hold of me and just before we get to the lake, I say to him “Randy, want to go to my favorite swimming hole? It’s just before the lake and no one knows about it.”  He makes a hard left where I indicate onto a rutted dirt track hidden among the pines and we bump and grind down gears and come to a little clearing where Rapid Creek’s just getting a flow from the lake and boulders have made a dam and the water’s just deep enough and cool enough to make it a perfect spot to skinny-dip—cause no one, I repeat, no one knows about it but me — and now Randy.

We spread out our towels on the boulders, slip out of our cut-offs and suddenly we don’t have anything to say to each other. Randy dives into the pool and swims for a bit and comes up out of the water like a god, all rippling muscle, his chest all shiny tan (the tan an auburn-haired man gets is golden) pulling himself out of the pool onto a large flat rock at the water’s edge to dry in the sun. I hide behind one of the boulders rubbing myself, uncomfortably turned on and not knowing what to do next. Randy glances at me (I think cross-eyed) and rolls over onto his back, closes his eyes, laying an arm over his face which gives me time to jump into the limpid pool that just recently had held him buoyant. The rest of the afternoon was spent in the odd silence of whispering pine trees, bird calls,  and the sparkling repartee of the creek.  As the sun set in the west, we drove home in silence and we never mentioned our day out (date) again.



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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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