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In a flat spot in Oregon,
above Diamond Lake
On Saturday around noon I rolled into Oakridge and filled up with propane, gas, and groceries. At the deli counter I asked the lady about something I'd seen on Streets and Trips: Kitson Hot Springs. It has been a long time since I sat in some springs.
"Oh, that's gone private now. It belongs to the Boy Scouts." She hesitated for a moment. "Ah...our hot spring is McKensie Hot Springs. Down the other side of Blue Hole."
I hadn't seen that on any map. I followed her directions south on Hwy 58, back the way I had come. Sure enough, about a quarter mile past Blue Hole Campground (closed) there was a wide turnout on the right side, with a couple of Kenworths rattling away in the middle of it. Truckers seem to know about this place. One of them was from California, and the other from BC. I found the worn but unmarked trail, and followed it down to the river.
There were 4 pools this side, and a couple more across the river. In the large pool were 4 guys and a gal, all buck naked. Well, the gal was covered by a few strategic tatoos. What the hell. When in Rome. I stripped down and joined them. Aaaahhh.
After the initial warmth wore off, I found it hard to get just the right temperature. The problem was that the little pool feeding this one was so incredibly hot that it didn't mix readily with the cool water. What you got was about two inches of hot to boiling water floating on top of tepid. You had to keep moving around to avoid being scalded by the hot skim.
Still, it beat any other spring I've been in this month. I think August was the last time I had this pleasure.
It was a beautiful day. I was just about to get out and investigate the pools across the river when we were joined by three generations of women, all clothed. Grandma was wearing a baggy black bloomer swimsuit, leaning on a cane and her granddaughter, about 6 or 7 years old. The girl was wearing a neon green swimsuit. Mom promptly stripped off her shirt, shoes, jeans, and underwear, and climbed into the water. The others got in with her.
Now it's none of my business, but a six or seven year old girl seems a little old, and way too young, to be exposed to a situation where any truck driver could and did get up and waggle his presumably poxy prick at her. On the other hand, her mom and grandma were right there, and it was indeed about as non-sexual a situation as you could imagine. On the other hand, grown men have gotten in a lot more hot water than you could ever find even in the upper pool by exposing themselves to young girls. On the other hand...
Well, there wasn't any other hand. I decided to stay under the water for a while. And felt a fool for doing it. Hiding from a child.
Of course, as luck would have it, the girl made a beeline for me, and sat herself down right at my feet.
"You know you can cook taters in there?"
"Can you? How do you know that?"
"'Cause I seen'em do it one time. They cooked eggs in the other one."
So. She and Mom are regulars here. Right then she got up and leaned over me. Good grief.
"There's a spider on you."
I looked around, and indeed an industrious aerial arachnid trailing a wisp of silk had landed on my left shoulder. I brushed it off.
"That's okay. I'm not gonna be here long enough to get all caught up in spiderwebs."
"Prairie. Leave the man alone. He's trying to relax."
Thank you, Mom. At last.
I leaned back until the water covered my ears, and the world went away. After a while, I just got up and put my clothes back on. I wasn't going to hang around there all day. And whatever I contributed to Prairie's education was pretty minor compared to everything else going on.
Besides, she had moved on to the tattooed lady.
But did you ever find yourself unexpectedly going the wrong way down a forest road at night, and realize it might be a while before you could get turned around? That's how I felt in that pool. I went there to relax, and got into a questionable situation. Even if I was the only one asking the questions.
Sometimes you just gotta go with the flow. I left.
I drove back into town. I had forgotten to get beer, believe it or not. The market was just inside the city limits. As I swung into the parking lot I noticed a cop turn in right behind the trailer with his lights on. Great. How long has he been there? I hate it when they get so close behind you. He could follow me for miles and I wouldn't see him. I got out of the truck.
"I didn't see you back there. What can I do for you, Officer?"
This guy had a thin smile like a car salesman. Inauthentic. He asked for my license and registration, insurance card, the usual routine. Told me I'd been going 52 in a 35 zone.
"I just came off the highway. I slowed up when I saw the sign." I looked around him and pointed. It was right there, about a block away.
"Sir, that's the second sign. The first is about a quarter mile back."
"Well, I guess I didn't see it. I sure didn't intend to speed. I was just coming to the store..." Whine. Grovel.
He took my license, walked back to the patrol car, and left me standing there with my wallet in my hand for a long time. This looked bad. Then he came back, same smirk on his face.
"Sir, I've issued you a citation for speeding."
"How much is this going to cost me?"
"The minimum is $140."
Good Grief. Last chance. "I'm sorry, Officer. It wasn't intentional. Couldn't you just give me a warning?"
Not a chance. "You can protest this ticket with the Judge if you want."
I gave it up. "Now that's a loser's game. And you know it. If you're not inclined to be lenient, he sure won't be."
"Thank you for your cooperation, sir." He turned and went back to his car. Yeah, right. Prick. What else was I going to do? Knock you down and make you eat this ticket?
Now that really would be a loser's game.
I just stood there for a minute with a frozen smile on my face. Remarkably like his, no doubt. Sigh. Sometimes you gotta go with the flow. Even when the flow's against ya.
Grrrrrr. Now I really do want that beer.
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