Being a parent can satisfy a certain need to listen in on conversations, smile when they laugh and don't know you're looking. Those boys, I had watched them grow, change, become who they were and it seemed like my personal little miracle. There they were calling each other names, fighting over sleeping bags, laughing. I could just see their smiles. It was a nice way to drift off.
It was dark when I opened my eyes. All but the river was still, silent. I tried to tell myself that I could hold it and I did as long as possible but bottomline is when you gotta piss, you gotta piss but you never walk outta the tent without ya' shoes. Tapeworms may cure asthma but I didn't have asthma so I didn't want tapeworms. Thus, I wiggled about in that tent trying to put on shoes needing tying and I don't know how long it took me to get that done but I did.
I do know it wasn't long after that the boys started stirring, one at a time, fumbling around. Isaac wanting some of my coffee which had a hint of chocolate to it. I shared, we packed up, made sure we left it like we found it but better. Not a piece of trash anywhere, even trying to pick up from those before us. An important rule, I said. I had read it somewhere and it made sense.
Last minute teaching is what this was for me. Procrastinator's parenting where you try to cram it all in the end before they stop listening and you wonder if they already have. You teach anyway.
1. You don't need all that shit. No, cell phones don't work out here. You can't check your facebook. You have to look your friends in the face, and it is much better that way.
2. You can build a fire. I can so I know you can. Let's do it.
3. When you don't think you can take another moment you can. You just put one foot in front of the other or you ask a friend to help you. One way or the other you are going to make it or know that you went down trying.
4. There is so much you are not seeing 'cause you are not looking in that direction.
5. You didn't make this. The humans around you did not create what this place is. Know that no matter what you ain't the smartest most awesome everything anywhere. There is something out there your mind can't comprehend. Bow to that.
Enough, huh. What do I know anyway other than those things I am trying to teach myself? I promised Slater that I would take him and you down that horse trail and if I was worth anything as a writer it would be the most draining and long suffering writing you and he ever did read. And he laughed and he couldn't wait for me to write about it. Even said he knew it would be tonight. Thank you for the sweet little pressure, Mr. Goff. Like in that cave, urging me on.
Seth had said that we could either take the horse trail or one that stayed with the river. The horse trail looked shorter from his reading of the map. We did a quick discussion, some nodding. It was agreed, we would take the horse trail to the big waterfall.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: IF YOU, THE PUBLIC, ARE EVER FACED WITH THAT OF A TRAIL ALTERNATE OF A HORSE'S, PLEASE JOHN Q, PLEASE TAKE IT. WALK THROUGH THE FIRE. JUST STAY AWAY FROM THE DAMN HORSE TRAIL.
The path was wide and clear enough so as soon as an Alabama sun came down mid-morning in late May we felt like it was playing a concert especially for us. Obviously horses don't need shade, and their hooves pack down dirt like they are a thousand pound beast carrying yet more weight atop. The ground was stiff and dry and the gradual inclines stung my calves while the alternate would strain my shins. All I could think was one foot in front of the other and before long the cadence of our collective bitching became what kept us going.
That and Seth's assurance we'd find the end soon.
Another small hill, a slight incline.
One of us would stop and say, Did you hear that? Is that water? We'd all listen. It was just the trees in the wind and our heart broke as the sweat dripped and the sun picked up a fiddle.
Everything was brittle.
Slater saw a snake but I didn't notice it 'cause I was getting mad at Seth. He had said at least four times we'd be off that horse trail up the next hill, down around the curve, past that tree, not far now before I started questioning his map reading skills. Slater and Isaac followed soon after.
It was not my goal to be Piggy in Lord of Flies when I grew up but it was the horse trail and the sun and the packed dirt and the hills and everything.
Everything was wrong.
We were never going to get there.
We were going to die.
This was it.
What if we ran out of water?
Why didn't I suggest we stay by the river?
Still we walked.
And I don't know how far we walked but when we reached the clearing I felt like Jesus himself had cut out that little path into the trees.
Seth said, I told cha. And we threatened to take the map away from him but nobody else wanted it.
|Photograph taken with the new app After the Horse Trail where your subjects are enhanced to look as if they just walked down a damn horse trail.|
To be continued..........