One Saturday, Tom, my youngest adult son, challenged me to get away from the computer and play outside. I followed him to 4-wheeler territory that locals call the Jonesville quarry.
I remembered the Fossil Canyon trail from several years before — a pretty tame 4×4 jaunt, and easy on my 63-year-old bones.
After traveling for an hour or so, Tom hadn’t poured me a single drop of java from his silver bullet yet. I planned to remind him about coffee soon, reflecting on some picturesque lake I thought we’d find.
Which is when Tom chose to descend a steep gorge that no sane person would call a trail. I followed…
Our 4-wheelers convulsed on dragon’s teeth (spiky rocks) until we burst into a barren box canyon where we mercifully killed our engines. In this monochrome ravine, coal veins streaked high, stone ramparts. A lake of coffee-colored sludge oozed against the canyon’s unstable walls, and a half-submerged car chassis broke the acidic liquid surface. The steel skeleton supplied a warning to all soft-bodied vertebrates (like us) to “play” elsewhere.
At Fossil Canyon, my son chose to unpack his silver bullet and serve his father a special coffee drink—a memorable father-son moment…
A short-lived moment.
As he poured our brew, a freaky splash–not unlike the death-throes of some imagined mutant creature–thrashed somewhere in the pond. Small streams of water were loosening gravel in the fossil-laden walls around us.
For a space of time Tom and I stared at each other, wordless…
We drained our cups just as a boulder careened down the canyon face, sending slow ripples across the sludge and up and down our spines.
“I won’t start up the hill ‘til you get to the top…” Tom hurriedly said, jamming his helmet over his ears.
This wasn’t an honor-your-dad thing: If the coal-streaked walls collapsed, he didn’t want to be trapped on dragon’s teeth right behind his snail-paced ol’ man.
At Fossil Canyon’s brow, we checked our 4-wheeler tires. All was well and I led the way back to our trucks, rehearsing how to spin OUR story MY way this time.