Sunday afternoon. Church services attended. Noon meal consumed. Momma & Daddy napping. A beautiful spring day and I am in no need of rest. I am young and love to explore, walking randomly as my mind fills with dreams as beautiful and airy as the clouds waltzing their way across azure skies.
I tell no one where I go, not knowing this myself. The family dachshund, Buster, follows. Being full of energy and nosiness, he loves an adventure as well as me. I say nothing, enjoying the silent comrade as he swishes through the growing brush; watching as he jumps above vegetation taller than him. I know he searches for rabbits.
We make our way across the pasture behind the house, then, across plowed fields further west. The exercise feels good. The sun’s heat is like a gentle hand placed on my shoulder, urging me toward the tree line that follows the Middle Sulphur River. Back then, it was a creek to me. It seemed too narrow and shallow to be a river. Rivers were big and dangerous; swift of current, gurgling up debris swallowed up by recent storms. This river was humble and boasted no such excitement. It’s debris consisted of trash thrown off a nearby bridge. Shallow pools separated by dry earth were its bottom. It was here that my brother and I sometimes fished for the mud catfish that survived in meager waters.
The trek through the thick brush to get to the banks of the river was something only the determined would attempt. Mesquite trees with long, dangerous looking thorns and innocent-looking vines with needle-like stickers reached out and grabbed at my sleeves and pant legs; often penetrating and leaving hair-thin red scratches on my skin. My arms reached out and bent tender limbs as I made my own path. I ducked my head and sometimes felt the pull of my hair as it got caught.
Finally, we reached the river. We made our way down the steep bank and headed north. I knew this direction would lead me to the wooden bridge that spanned its width, where the trees bowed their heads together above and filled me with awe. I did not take into consideration the winding course the river took. What seemed to be a short distance, took much time to cover; like a winding road up a mountain. I had not counted on the pools of water, either, that I would have to skirt which meant climbing up and down the steep banks of dirt, holding onto tree roots and vines to keep from rolling back down again. Buster was not bothered with this, but simply splashed his way through; cooling off and enjoying a good shake as water sprayed around him.
A sense of fear came over me. I felt that it was taking too long to reach the bridge. The darkness of the wooded area fueled my imagination. What if I got bit by a snake? What if I fell and broke my leg? No one knew where I was. They wouldn’t even be alarmed until supper time if I didn’t show back up at the house. The joy I had felt at being on my own had been overshadowed by the fear feeding in my head. Not wanting to go back through the brush, I trudged forward, carefully watching each step, although trying to quicken my pace.
Finally, the old wooden bridge came into view and the fear left my mind like a window had opened up for it to pass through. I climbed once more up the steep earth and made my way to sit on the edge of the bridge, dangling my feet over the side to take in my victory. Buster took it all in stride, ever hunting and scouting. He came to my side panting his happiness. He knew we would be fine all along.