Change unravels many relationships and delivers a future not easily able to be predicted. Perhaps that is why many people fear, deny, and are confused by its portents. The Ghosts of Dandy Crossing, a slice of history barely disguised as a novel, is set at Dandy Crossing, about three miles downstream from what is now Hite Marina in the Glen Canyon wilderness. The reservoir behind Glen Canyon dam is about to fill and irrevocably engulf the lives of people that lived there and the canyons that shaped their souls.
The story weaves in and out of the perspective of Shan Lu (Katie Lee), the book’s heroine, as she too becomes swept into the emotional changes that will be wrought in a wilderness she has often described as being more beguiling than the Grand Canyon. Katie is shown on the book’s cover—playful, utterly unselfconscious and naked (seldom anything else in the wilderness!) goofing off in one of the sandstone canyons. She’s pointing a Ruger pistol at a handsome guy relaxing in a pool. That cover says a lot about a joyful relationship with nature that is not driven by cliché or need to consume or conquer it and her intimate relationships with men that are not driven by sex—though in the emotions of at least two men in the book, ones that are complicated by their own repressed and forcibly clamped down desires.
By the time the book ends, the lazy river and the Anasazi ruin at Dandy Crossing that is shown on the book’s back cover will be drowned under a huge reservoir, leaving only the shards of those who once lived there. This reader is grateful that Katie Lee has preserved some of the memories of the people that once knew the river and canyons so well.
Many passages dramatize the difficulty of sustaining relationships out of the context that they were forged in. In one of the great scenes of the book, Jason, the legendary oarsman of the Colorado River with whom Shan has shared many river trips, visits her at the Playboy Club in “Shitcago.” The scene is awkward from the moment Jason steps into the hazy room and sees Katie in her fringed gown that provocatively falls from just below her breasts. It gets increasingly uncomfortable as Shan sings “The Wreck the Nation Bureau” and roils up Jason’s ulcers and becomes unbearable back in the hotel room where Shan utters a mournful lament: “Oh Jason.. it’s so different being here in a hotel room in the lousy city. All of a sudden being here together is wrong. We don’t belong here. We belong out under the stars and moonlight by our talking river in our own place. This dump isn’t ours!”
The Love Affair
Equally dramatic are the ups and down of the love affair between Shan and Buck Watson, the cowboy/miner living in a cabin at the edge of the river. If anyone has inbred clichés about what a cowboy miner is like, they are quickly dispelled by Katie’s description of the interior of Buck’s cabin: “The bookcases—old fashioned Birds-eye maple with tilting glass fronts that covered most of the wall space and held his mining, geology, and engineering books, novels and philosophy—books, books, books—everything from Nietzsche to The Little Prince. The eye-level cases were full of pots, arrowheads, shards, knives and scrapers, stone axes and prices of woven sandals, the bottom ones, crammed with rolls of USGS maps and ore samples.” The room is made comfortable for visitors with two strong leather chairs and a braided rug. This is a guy as equally multifaceted as Shan.
The Desecration of Glen Canyon
The descriptions of the changes wrought by the Colorado River’s rise are unparalled by any books I’ve read the desecration of Glen Canyon. In some passages, Shan rakes the gawkers who snicker at her naked body in the muck near Hidden Passage: “I’m looking—and I see three maggoty-looking slobs in a boat with a tiny-poo awning over it so they won’t get any sun on their white flab, plus several beer cans and candy wrappers floating around, known as litter.”
In a particularly heartrending passage, Jason tells Shan about the dying of the beavers: “They cut every tree and sapling frantically trying to stop the flow…their food rotted and their homes floated on the still water—some of them sitting bewildered on top of the woven sticks.”
Ghosts of Dandy Crossing: The Last of a Trilogy about a Lost Eden
Ghosts of Dandy Crossing showcases Katie’s talents as a gifted raconteur, a grand mimicker of dialogue, and shrewd observer of the hearts of her characters. This book is particularly wondrous because of her artful and dramatic crescendos to many sad disruptions and the surprise of a lovely redemptive ending.
It is a fitting wrap up for Katie’s other books about a lost Eden—Glen Canyon Betrayed and Sandstone Seduction.
Ghosts of Dandy Crossing, published in the Spring of 2014 by Ken Sanders, Dream Garden Press, is available in many Southwest indie bookstores. It is NOT available on Amazon. You can buy it most easily from Katie’s web site (www.katydoodit.com).
And if you have ever wondered why Katie Lee has such an odd website name it is because she is eclipsed on the internet by someone of the same name who married and is divorcing pop singer Billie Joel, is a celebrity cook and owns the KatieLee.com website.