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Excerpt from In the Shadow of a Giant

The following is a lightly edited, slightly modified excerpt from my first book, In the Shadow of a Giant which tells the story of my grandparents’ business. With their daughter, my aunt Patti, Doc and Jean built and ran a western-themed “resort” called Paleface, in the 1960s and early 1970s. It featured a ski center in the winter, a dude ranch in the summer, and an indoor pool for swimming, year-round. Guests stayed in the motel and dined in the restaurant. It was a family-owned and operated, family-friendly business. In addition to my grandparents, several couples worked there together. Karl and Putzi Jost ran the ski center. Dana and Jane Peck took care of maintenance and the office. Most of the characters in my book were real people. Preston and Cookie are fictional characters. In the winter Preston worked as a snow-maker, and in the summer he worked at a nearby attraction called The Mystery Spot. Cookie worked as a chambermaid. They found each other at Paleface in 1967. I fell in love with these characters as I wrote this book, and I’m planning to feature them as adults in a book in my Adirondack Spirit Series, set during the 1970s, and encompassing the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York.

Preston Marries Cookie

By the 4th of July, which fell on Tuesday that year, Cookie had confirmed her pregnancy with her doctor.

Pregnancy or not, 4th of July or not, Cookie had rooms to tend to at Paleface. Preston was busy at The Mystery Spot. They had made plans for the evening but would miss the parade and Fireman’s Field day. Cookie was looking forward to seeing Preston but was understandably apprehensive about seeing him that evening.

After work, Preston stopped at home for dinner, and then headed back out in his uncle’s car. It was a good thing Preston’s uncle hardly ever wanted to go anywhere! Preston picked Cookie up at her house, and as usual they drove from town to town just to pass the time. As dusk approached, they returned to Jay. Just up the hill from the covered bridge and the river rapids, Preston parked the car in the cemetery, facing the direction of town.

It was a beautiful evening, as it almost always was around the 4th of July. Preston and Cookie got out of the car. Standing in front of the car, leaning against the hood and fender, Preston and Cookie waited for the fireworks, and Preston drew Cookie closer.

There was a whole row of cars in the still undeveloped section of the cemetery. It was a great spot to watch the annual fireworks display, except for the mosquitos which really couldn’t be avoided anywhere.

Cookie decided that was the time, and that was the place. Cookie told Preston that she was pregnant, and that they were going to become parents early the next year.

Cookie had to admit that Preston’s reaction surprised her. Without thought or hesitation, Preston let out a yell, the sort of holler you might expect from someone who was just told that they had won the lottery.

“You’re happy about this?” Cookie said incredulously when Preston settled down a little bit. Cookie couldn’t believe it. Maybe Jane was right. Everything would be okay. “What about our not being married, Preston?” Cookie asked.

“We should do that,” said Preston breathlessly. “A baby’s going to want Mommy and Daddy to get married, isn’t it! Besides, I told you already, the way I see it, we already are married.”

“I guess the baby agrees with you, Preston,” joked Cookie. “But what about the government, the church, my parents, and your uncle?” And what about me, thought Cookie.

“Well, let’s get married right away then,” said Preston.

“Like, when?” Cookie pressed.

“I don’t know. How does it work? Right now? Like, yesterday! How about tomorrow?” Obviously, Preston didn’t care when, and Preston didn’t have any anxiety about making a lifelong commitment to Cookie and their baby.

“Let me check my calendar,” said Cookie. “You know, I’ll need at least a day to plan such a big deal as a wedding!” They laughed and hugged. Then Preston impetuously took off running at top speed down the length of cars, no less than twice, periodically jumping in the air and spreading his arms and legs, all the while hooting and hollering, “WE’RE GETTING MARRIED,” over and over again.

When Preston regained some of his composure, Cookie was waiting back in front of Preston’s uncle’s car. Shaking her head from side to side, Cookie thought, “What in the world have I gotten myself into?” Cookie thought for a minute about the fact that Preston was two years younger than she was. Then Cookie thought, “Even if Preston was ten years older than me, it probably wouldn’t change anything!”

Cookie said, “You know, Preston, this is a pretty small town. I haven’t told my Mom and Dad about this yet. Now you’ve gone and announced it to the whole town.”

The look on Preston’s face changed instantly. “We should tell them. They’re gonna need to know!”

Cookie thought to herself, “You don’t suppose?!”

Another thing Preston and Cookie shared was the propensity to face something like that head-on and quickly. There was no use letting it eat away at them. Rather than stay and enjoy the fireworks, Cookie and Preston left the cemetery and headed for Cookie’s house. Cookie’s parents were sitting on their screen porch in matching armchairs, waiting for the fireworks to start. Their porch was perfectly situated to see the fireworks without having to leave the house.

Cookie’s parents couldn’t help but like Preston in spite of the situation. Truth be told, they were as happy as Cookie and Preston. They had only met Preston once, and that meeting had been brief. That night they fell in love with Preston too. Preston and Cookie stayed on the porch with Cookie’s parents through the fireworks. Then they got back in the car to go find Patti.

After they left, Cookie’s father joked, “I didn’t even need to get my shotgun.” Cookie’s mother found the comment strangely amusing, and oddly endearing.

* * *

It was a very strange wedding. Patti took the day off, and she and Cookie spent a whole day planning it.

They decorated the Smoke Rise lookout just as they had decorated Paleface for a dance a couple of years earlier. The only difference was a change in color scheme, and the addition of some groovy modern touches, far out colors, beads, and so forth. It might have looked like a rainbow exploded inside the A-Frame building at the top of Paleface Mountain. Cookie thought it looked beautiful.

Patti had arranged for the groom and bride to ride the matching Palomino horses, Ginger and Señior, up the mountain.

There was one old-fashioned English style sidesaddle in Paleface’s possession, a throwback to earlier times. That saddle was used only in costume classes at horse shows or at the parade on the 4th of July.

Everyone else rode up to the chalet on the chairlift.

It was a modest affair anyway. Cookie’s parents were there, and Preston’s Uncle Harold, of course. Doc, as a former minister, was called to officiate, and Jean served as a witness. Dana was surprised when Preston dropped by the day before to ask him to serve as his best man. He was surprised to learn he had made such an impression on him. Jane was there too, and Doc’s son Chuck was there taking pictures. Patti had cashed in a favor to get Chuck to take the job on a volunteer basis!

Preston and Cookie got married in the clothes they wore on their first date, little more than a month earlier. Cookie rode up Paleface mountain riding a Palomino horse, sidesaddle, wearing knee-high, shiny white boots, a yellow mini skirt, a black and white, houndstooth patterned jacket, and big, round, yellow plastic-rimmed sunglasses. To top it all off, Cookie had spent the afternoon at Alma’s getting her hair piled up high on top of her head in a stunning bouffant that wouldn’t have moved if a tornado or hurricane had struck Paleface that afternoon.

Preston was wearing gray slacks, a three-color argyle sweater, and penny loafers. Preston’s clothes were definitely on the tight side, and his pant legs were a little short. Those clothes only two years prior had been almost too large to wear. He had reached his full height and maturity. New clothes hadn’t been a priority. Preston had more important things to save up for, namely a brand new snowmobile. Cookie liked Preston in the tight-fitting clothes anyway.

Jean and Jane looked at each other. The look they shared seemed to say something like, “Get a load of this.” Not in a judgmental way, really. What a sight those two looked. It was as if Doris Day was marrying Wally Cleaver from the television show Leave it to Beaver, if only Wally Cleaver was wearing a wig of thick, straight blond hair.

The wedding was as unique as the couple God had brought together.