This is the final Part IV of a four part story. (See Part I for Index). It is a story about relationships between and among teenagers. This includes intimate relationships between young males. If you don't approve or are offended, then how come you're reading this? Find a different story. Or perhaps read on; you may be persuaded to think differently.
If, for some legal reason, you are not allowed to read this in your area of the world because of illogical laws, again I will not condone (publicly) anyone breaking the law, so either move or read sentence six. I definitely don't want the thought police after either of our butts.
Please, this story is sort of my property, so if you ever want to quote some of it, please e-mail me and also give proper attribution.
Note that an author welcomes any feedback. Constructive criticism is appreciated, and all e-mails will be answered.
PLEASE NOTE: This story is finally coming to a conclusion. The entire story, including the last Chapter 104, plus the Epilogue, is now hosted at http://crackerwriter.us and at http://storylover.us . I hope you enjoy it.
Chapter 101 -- Yellowstone National Park
The roar was stupendous! This close to the eruption you had to almost shout to be heard. And the sight was even more remarkable! This, Steamboat Geyser, was the largest geyser not only in Yellowstone National Park, but in all the world and it was truly awesome -- and that word I mean quite literally. And Rocco and I were there watching it erupt.
We had been sitting in folding chairs we had bought from another camper who didn't want to haul them back with him. We had carried them with us and sat on this small island formed by two streamlets of what they called Tantalus Creek in the Norris Geyser Basin. Most of the water in it was from Echinus Geyser about a hundred yards away. This geyser only stopped overflowing for a short period between eruptions. Most of the other springs in the immediate vicinity weren't very noteworthy, except for a couple of springs generally between our island and the hill on the side of which Steamboat Geyser stood. The trail that went up to and past Steamboat was steep, and precarious when wet. It was much easier to sit and wait down here; and in the shade, much cooler. And yes, we had been sitting down here most of four days just waiting for the big eruption! One of the things that kept our periodic interest was a small unnamed pool just on the other side of Tantalus Creek from us. It would erupt about every 3 to 5 hours. Not very big, it shot up periodic bursts from a roiling eruption for about 15 minutes.
Mrs. Decker's Geyser
Also nearby was an old decaying formation called Crater Spring which had recently opened up a couple side vents which were now also erupting at an angle every few minutes to almost 15 feet. Then there was Echinus Geyser about a hundred yards away which erupted with quite varried butsts of 10 feet to 70 feet. And about every hour or there abouts.
And we also had company. Usually there was this nice older lady who sat out there with us. Her name was Mrs. Decker.* I thought the reason why Rocco took to her so fast was that here was one person smaller then him. She was very friendly and said she was from a small town in Minnesota named Two Harbors. She said that she started waiting there for eruptions of Steamboat beginning last year. Many of the naturalists here, especially Bill Lewis who talked with us a lot, started calling the area Mrs. Decker's Island because of her sitting there all the time.
[* Note: Mrs. Decker is an actual historic figure as presented here. In fact all the names presented, and their roles at this time are historically accurate. (The content about her deceased husband is fictional. Everything else is factual). This `island' as described, will be known as Decker Island even to the present day. The small geyser mentioned would for many years be called Decker Geyser. Several years ago, in an effort to comply with an unwritten rule not to name geysers after people, it was renamed Tantalus Geyser after the creek flowing next to it. In addition, all thermal history as presented is also historically factual.]
This brings us to Mrs. Decker and how she got us to stay here almost indefinitely. And there's a story to this. Rocco is unaware that sometimes he starts speaking for both of us without the slightest input from me. Like when we first got here. When Mrs. Decker expounded with such eloquence about Steamboat Geyser, he automatically decided for the both of us that: "Wow! We certainly will be staying long enough to see that!" He made one of two presumptions. He perhaps thought he knew me well enough so that he knew I would also want to do this. Or, he automatically assumed that since HE wanted so much to see this geyser erupt, that I would go along with his plan regardless. And in fact in this case he would have been correct on both accounts. But still. He at least could have turned to me and asked my opinion. So I decided to teach him a lesson.
It was just a while later as we were setting up camp. "Hay, White-boy. You do realize don't you that you told that Mrs. Deckert, that we will be staying without even a single glance in my direction?"
Rocco looked at me as if I'd molted white skin. Then I could see an amazing series of facial expressions as his brain zoomed through a dozen possible reasons for my question. I could not help laughing in spite of my resolve to be serious.
Rocco then smiled. He pretty well knew I was not actually angry with him. He replied: "Weeel, it's lak this offfisor. I knew raaht oooff I'd done big wrong, but see here. I cudna' he'p mese'f. I was jus' too struk wid the excitement of that thar geeser."
I was pretty well impressed at his impromptu excuse. And even more so that he kept a straight face throughout. He knew now that it was a contest of wills. Who would crack first. I then replied: "Well boy. The way I see it you in a heap 'a trouble. Yes siree. A big heap 'a trouble. Let's see now. Failure to even look at your (clearing throat noise) pardner, that's 20 dolla's and two days in jail. Failure to ask him what he was thinking, that's another 30 dolla's and three days in jail. Failure to read his mind properly, well that's 70 dolla's and seven. . ." I got no further. Rocco hit me with the dirty clothes bag which was really dirty on a couple of accounts. And we both burst out laughing. So much for "teaching my White-boy a lesson."
Finally Rocco stated: "I will NOT admit to that last charge. You DO know that I still assumed we'd talk about this later? And that I was about 98% sure you'd want to stay here anyway."
I smiled as I started stuffing some dirty clothes back into the bag. "Just 98% sure?"
With an exaggerated tone indicating that his reply was grudgingly given, Rocco replied: "Well, I will at least admit that you probably know me maybe 2% better than I know you." And after a pause added: "And your memory is much better than mine. You very well know that her name is Decker, not Deckart.
In fact we did talk about our plans more that night and we both agreed we definitely WERE staying to try to see Steamboat erupt.
So anyway, before I interrupted myself, I was describing what we had learned about this immediate area. Bill Lewis also told us that the small pool just behind where we sat with Mrs. Decker, and below the frequently puffing Arch Steam Vent, had greatly opened up that year and he was starting to call it Root Spring. He told us that since it is straight down the hill from Steamboat and might be connected to it suggested that the name `root' be used to designate this pool. He also said that an old root system from a long dead tree was prominently exposed in the bank nearest Steamboat.
Rocco and I had watched Echinus erupt just an hour ago. It sent up frequent and erratic jets of water in all directions, sometimes catching those watching in the spray as it landed. The highest water jets at times reached almost a hundred feet. It was one of the most popular geysers in the area since it erupted so high and so frequently.
Now we were back with Mrs. Decker sipping some lemonade.
While talking with Mrs. Decker we could hear the loud noise of one of Steamboats occasional smaller eruptions. These happened frequently, sometimes several a minute but they only lasted seconds. Every so often a bigger one than usual would stay up for ten seconds or more. On much rarer occasions, there were what Mrs. Decker called `heart attack bursts' that easily reached 50 to 100 feet and lasted sometimes as much as 20 seconds. She said that these were the type of burst that could lead to the BIG eruptions, and could give one a heart attack in anticipation. Instead of just quitting, the north vent would then suddenly rocket up and reach as high as 400 feet and tilt to the north. The eastern vent was wider but this one usually hit about 200 feet but was fully a hundred feet wide. The amount of water was tremendous. She said the whole hillside would be in a flood. Some of the eruptions lasted as long as 15 to 20 minutes. And then gradually turned into a powerful steam eruption that lasted for days. Rocco and I were entranced just hearing her describe the eruptions that she had seen. She also said that there had been no big eruptions of the geyser for almost 50 years until the big earthquake just outside the park in 1959 reawakened the sleeping giant.
I once asked her: "But what if the geyser went during the winter and no one was here. Couldn't some of these eruptions stay unrecorded?"
"Listen sonny, there would be so much ice lining all the ground and the poor trees nearby, an eruption would be unmistakable. And the steam phase lasts for a couple of days. Also I noticed a small ugly spring down the hill, just before Veteran Geyser, will empty for several days following one of the big displays. I think Bill said the spring was called the Cistern.* It certainly is an ugly pool."
[* For much of its known history this indeed was an unremarkable `ugly' pool. But in more recent years it has become one of the prettier pools in the Back Basin of Norris Geyser Basin.]
We had been there a number of days already and a good part of this one. We had just finished our lunch along with a lot what we had brought to drink. So there we were watching a small momentary eruption. Then Mrs. Decker started to get a bit more excited when instead of quieting down the vents suddenly spouted straight up, the north one easily reaching a hundred feet. Rocco and I got real excited and Rocco started running as fast as he could around the trail which passed Echinus toward the big geyser. And my heart had been racing. Then the north vent suddenly quit. I was so disappointed. What a letdown. Then a few seconds later the north vent again suddenly rocketed up. And up. And up. The bass thrumming noise was quite noticeable even this far away. I started screaming. And running. Mrs. Decker followed a little slower -- but not by much.
By the time I caught up to Rocco at the bottom of the hill just below Steamboat, it was in full roar. There were about 20 people around and we were all shouting or screaming. It was pandemonium. I tried to say something to Rocco but I couldn't be overheard from the roar of the geyser. He suddenly pulled me and we ran (OK slipped and skidded in the mud) up the hill. He wanted to be closer. We finally reached a spot just above and west of the two vents. The north vent was so powerful, the water was coming out in pressure waves. The air was literally vibrating from it. You could actually feel it. This was making a mighty bass roar not unlike that which a 727 makes when taking off at an airport. You couldn't even see the whole column in one view this close. After a few minutes, I pointed down the hill trying to tell Rocco where I was going for a better view.
Rocco followed. When we got down we could at least see the entire columns from both vents without having to look up and down all the time. By this time quite a number of people had gathered and some were running all over the place, totally ignoring the marked trails. Finally Bill Lewis showed up along with another ranger we didn't know. Some people were hugging and jumping up and down. Everyone was going bonkers. For the time you were watching the geyser, everyone there were best friends. For once in my life, all the new people I met, barely glanced at my skin, . . . or my hooks. The spectacle before us captured the entirety of one's immediate interest. Finally, after about twenty minutes it started gradually turning to more and more steam. Five minutes later it was mostly steam with only a small spray of injected water now and then.
Afterwards, we were comparing notes and a few people who knew how high the trees were that lay next to the geyser, estimated that the north vent hit at least 380 feet and possibly as high as 400. Mrs. Decker said that it was one of the most powerful and longest eruptions she had seen in the two summers she had been watching.
Rocco could barely be contained. Even 20 minutes after the eruption had finished, he was running around describing the eruption to anyone who would listen. I finally got him to stay put and we talked about how we felt during the eruption and also as it started. It was then I noticed how muddy Rocco had gotten. He said he slipped coming down the hill. I was pretty soaked myself but at least I wasn't so muddy except for my sneakers and lower pant legs.
About an hour later we finally made it back to our tent in the camp ground nearby. We both changed into clean clothes. I had to put clean socks on my arms as the ones I had on got totally soaked. I told Rocco we needed to do laundry. And get real showers. Not one from a geyser that spewed out tan water. We got a big bundle of dirty clothes together, along with a few necessities we put in our Kelty Packs, got into the car and started out towards Old Faithful. (Rocco wanted me to get my license but I told him I liked being chauffeured around. That got me his usual dirty look).
Right before we left we went over to Mrs. Decker's trailer to see if she needed anything from the store at Old Faithful, but she said she was going into Gardiner herself later that day. Gardiner was a small town at the northern edge of the park, about 30 miles in the direction opposite to where we were going. While there, Bill Lewis came up in an old battered Ford. With him was another ranger who was somewhat older whom he introduced as George Marler. It turned out he was one of the main rangers that kept track of the geysers in the park. He said that this was the first time he had seen Steamboat himself since he didn't get to the Norris Geyser Basin too often. But they missed the very beginning and Marler wanted to get the details from Mrs. Decker. We all filled him in on the eruption. Mrs. Decker described the beginning. When the north vent had restarted, it rocketed up past the 200 foot mark in just seconds. She was amazed how fast it could reach this height. We all agreed that it was almost too fast to follow. It was at this time that the water suddenly turned brown. Then it gradually climbed until it was easily 350 feet or probably more in just another 15 to 20 seconds. Marler was most interested in this water change. He claimed that some USGS people thought it was from a deeper water system that entered into the eruption.
Rocco told him that he and I were intending to stay for at least a month or so just to catch Steamboat, along with a few of the other notable geysers prominently displaying themselves that summer. Marler was a bit surprised but Bill Lewis told him that we were college students on our summer vacations.
We traveled 30 miles south and stopped at the Old Faithful Lodge where we did our laundry and got hot showers. Rocco told me he liked my smell, but not quite that much of it. (He now has a small bruise I had given to him to show my appreciation for his remark. It was his fault for not being quick enough).
Since it was so late in the day already, Rocco talked me into agreeing to rent a cabin and staying the night. It was 12 dollars, which I thought high, considering it didn't have more than a bed and a sink. And a heater for the cold nights. The girl at the counter inside the Lodge got a strange look when Rocco asked her if there was a cabin with a double bed instead of the one with two single ones that she tried to give us.
Rocco was still on what he called his `geyser high.'
"Hey Jade, how about us splurging? There's a fancy restaurant in the big Inn right on the other side of the parking lots circling Old Faithful Geyser."
"Fine. As long as we don't eat too late." And I leaned over close and added. "I want to make sure we get our full money's worth of that cabin. And especially the bed."
Rocco got one of his `looks' and replied: (Ooops. Had to censor that part).
So, after finishing the laundry, and finally watching an eruption of Old Faithful itself, we moseyed on over towards the Inn. Of course Rocco would recount our tale of seeing Steamboat to anyone who would listen.
Old Faithful Geyser was really great but nothing when compared to the eruption we had seen earlier that day. We had sat atop this old barely steaming mound and watched the eruption. It lasted only 2 to 3 minutes and maybe hit 150 to 170 feet. The ranger said that it didn't really erupt every hour but its average interval was over 70 minutes. While on the way to the Inn, just 100 yards away we heard a roar from the big hill across a creek that we later found out was called the Firehole River. There was this tall thin column of water shooting upwards. Rocco and I ran down to the edge of the Firehole River and watched as this beautiful geyser shot up out of its big cone. Someone said that it was called Beehive Geyser and erupted about once a day. Rocco thought it much more beautiful than Old Faithful. I also thought it went even higher.
We got to the restaurant inside this humongous log building to find out that it would be a good hour before we could be seated. We put our names on the list. Just inside the main door we could look up all the way to the ceiling more than seventy feet above. There were balconies extending off both the second and third floors. We eventually made our way to the small outdoor porch that extended from the second floor. We could see all kinds of steaming plumes from our observation post. Old Faithful was to the south, the hill with Beehive was to the east, and a lot of additional geysers and springs could be seen in other directions. We sat out there drinking Hires Root Beers that we had purchased inside. Rocco tried unsuccessfully to get us real beers. The guy behind the small counter said he had no more straws when Rocco asked for one. He saw my hooks and said he'd try to find some downstairs. I said not to bother. But I wound up spilling more on the floor of the porch than what I put down my throat. I was pretty mad at myself. I hadn't been this clumsy with my hooks in years."Hey Jade, I was thinking. We need to find someone who got pictures of that big eruption and get a bunch of copies and send them to my family and Tim and the Webster's and the Krazenski's and Cher."
I smiled as I said: "Which eruption are you talking about?" I must be getting slower. Rocco's fist actually connected. We agreed to ask around the next day when we returned to Norris. I remembered that Mrs. Decker had a weird looking camera set up on a tripod out on the island. I was hopeful.
We finally heard our name called and we got seated near a window in the back of the restaurant. (We used Brown since it was easiest and Rocco was even telling people that this was his last name too). The view from the back window wasn't much, but nothing could make any dent that evening in our satisfied smiles. Rocco had trout for dinner and I had stuffed pork chops. Rocco cut up my pork chops since I just didn't feel like fighting them. I rarely let him do that but I knew he didn't mind. I was finally realizing that I was simply exhausted for many different reasons. A good thing Rocco `twisted my hook' so to speak about staying the night.
And we certainly celebrated that evening. Rocco was in one of his `moods.' He was definitely the aggressor this time. I was happy to oblige even if we only `celebrated' once. But we celebrated a couple of times again in the early morning. I wondered if I got enough sleep to warrant the money we paid for the cabin.
About a week later, Mrs. Decker walked over to our campsite and showed us the pictures from the film she had shot the week before. She had taken color photos. The wind had been out of the southwest so the monstrous columns of water could be seen in their full glory. She was kind enough to give us a couple of `extras' that she shot just to make sure they came out right. She said that these were some of the best she had ever taken of Steamboat. The wind and the sun were just right. Rocco and I finally talked her into lending us a couple of the negatives and we had a bunch of copies made of the best views at the Haynes Photo Shop right there at Old Faithful.
About two and a half weeks later we were rewarded by yet another eruption of Steamboat. This time we had been sitting on a log in a small clearing just to the northwest of the geyser. We had been watching all the minor play which had been unusually good that morning. This eruption was more difficult to see with the wind not being as strong and the early morning clouds obscuring the sun. But it was still exciting. We watched most of the eruption from our log seat, though we certainly weren't sitting. We of course got totally soaked.
During the past couple of weeks we had also seen a number of the other geysers in the basin including two spectacular ones in an area called Porcelain Basin just on the north side of the same hill on which Steamboat was situated. One of these was called Valentine Geyser because it supposedly first erupted on Valentines Day near the turn of the century. But Bill Lewis said it was very likely that it had been active well before that eruption, but no one had recorded it. The geyser was situated inside this small alcove and there was a porcelain sign just inside which bore its name. The geyser erupted from a small fissure at the base of the hillside and easily reached about 50 to 70 feet. Rocco said it reminded him of a smaller edition of Beehive but at an angle.
Another geyser was even more spectacular. It was called Ledge Geyser. It erupted mainly from two vents in the next alcove over. The smaller vent shot a thin stream straight up about 60 to 70 feet while the main vent shot outward to about 150 feet at about a 45 to 50 degree angle out from under a `ledge' to the north over the flats. It lasted fully 30 minutes although the smaller vent quit after the first five. We saw both these geyser a number of times.
Of course there were a number of other geysers though generally smaller. But just as engaging. One of these was called Ebony Geyser which was situated in a wooded alcove at the very edge of the basin. It pulsed or splashed upward from the crater at varying heights and lasted over 5 minutes. No matter the size, every time Rocco saw a "new" geyser he went manic, running back and forth getting different "views."
We walked all over the area including the flat wet area between the Porcelain Basin and the campground. Bill Lewis said this area was called 100 Springs Plain. It had well more than 100 springs although no real geysers that we saw. There was one strange round spring there just off the main creek that flowed through the area called Cinder Pool. It has half covered with these strange partly hollow dark green and black nodules of sulphur. They were constantly being spit up from the bottom of the pool. Bill said he tried to measure the depth of the pool once but his weighted 50 foot cord never reached the bottom. He said that a scientist from the USGS, Dr. Moray, maintained there was no doubt a small source of molten sulphur which lay at some depth below. We had met the older gentleman once in the Back Basin. The day before he was doing some experiment at one of the thermal pools that was sending up a constant stream of steam and spray from a small vent at one end of a pork chop shaped basin. Someone there had named the spring Dr. Moray's Porkchop,* but I couldn't remember his name. I think it was Bob something. He was also from the USGS but much younger.
Dr. Moray's Porkchop
[* Today this feature is called Porkchop Geyser named because of its shape. However, in September, 1989 there was a steam explosion that obliterated the entire sintered formation. Now there is merely a greenish pool within a mound of sinter blocks and rubble. The `Bob' mentioned is Bob Fournier also of the U.S.G.S.]
Walking in the 100 Spring Plain allowed Rocco to test his ability to get pretty well soaked even in less than 8 inches of water. There were three small vents erupting constantly right smack in the middle of this portion of Tantalus Creek that we had to cross to get to Cinder Pool. However, they only reached a couple feet above the surface. But Rocco had to put his hand into the creek and try to see if the water coming out were really hot. A big splash, a bigger shout, and an even bigger complaint escaped White-boy's mouth as he tried to pretend it wasn't being startled by how hot the water was that got him stumbling backwards.
"You should have seen it Jade. There was this sudden burst from that little vent that rocketed up at least 50 feet." A pause. "Would you believe 5 feet?"
I just snickered as Rocco started wringing out his clothes. Just a few yards toward the creek from Cinder Pool was a small constantly erupting vent that didn't seem to have a name. So Rocco named it Jade Geyser.* It was hitting maybe 5 or 6 feet.
[ * Today this feature has the informal name of `Tantalus Geyser' -- yes another one.]
Of course it was that evening when Rocco proved there was a bit of the old get-Jade-into-trouble boy still inside this supposedly more mature model.
Hay Jade. I got an idea.
The tone of voice should have alerted me. But I innocently asked: "What?"
Just at about dark, I was back there next to Cinder Pool trying to make sure my White-boy stayed alive at least one more day. (And un-arrested). With a huge forked log, a couple of the largest rocks we could lift, and a spool of heavy twine connected to a small rock, Rocco gradually dropped the twine attached rock the Cinder Pool. After about a mile of twine was in the pool it suddenly hit bottom. I was quite astonished at just how deep that pool must have been. But just when we thought about pulling up the rock, it stared gradually sinking even further. And finally stopped after about another 4 or 5 feet. We were both now quite excited as we were both thinking about Dr. Moray's "source of molten sulphur." Excitedly we both started pulling up the rock, trying our best to maintain its position in the crook of the extended log. The twinesloppedandstrangely started sinking even further thoughalmost likeinslow motion. Finally it appeared to "bottom out." We started pulling up again. A million years later the rock broke the surface and we swung the log aside. The rock landed just a few feet away. Rocco reached for the rock and suddenly jerked his hand away trying his best not to yell.
Cinder Pool -- 100 Spring Plain
"The blasted blighter is blazing hot!"
I never did ask Rocco how much time he spent thinking up alliterations just in case he 'd later find a use for one. By this time it was pretty dark and we got a flashlight out to navigate our way back across this branch of Tantalus Creek and into the nearest trees. We were amazed to see the cooling rock covered with a coating of greenish-black sulphur! That rock eventually became one of our "secret" treasures. The "secret" being how we obtained it. Later we measured the twine. The pool was over 69 feet deep with a layer of molten sulphur near the bottom! Too bad we couldn't tell any of the rangers. I'd doubt Bill Lewis would believe my ESP routine.