Above The Riffle, Part Three of Four
The next day Sam raced to return to the place above the riffle. But it was different than ever before. He did not stop and play in the water that swirled behind the stones. The crayfish that hunted food in the shallow pools seemed to know he was not going to try and catch them today. Even his dog that often chased birds along the way did not play on the muddy banks. Today they seemed to just want to find out if yesterday was just a dream and Rachel a figment of their imagination.
Soon they reached the head of the riffle and as they looked about the shore there was no sign of Rachel. Could she have just been a dream? But as they stood there a moment a head peered from behind a big sycamore tree.
“Where you been?” she called out to the two standing knee deep in the water. “I’ll race you to the far end.” With that she dove into the water and began to swim toward the rock near the end of the pool. Sam was not about to let a girl beat him in a race in his private place.
The first race ended with them both reaching the sun-warmed rock at the same time. A disagreement ensued as to who was there first. Sam realized that perhaps this was one time he would win if he lost.
The two climbed onto the rock and laid back to look up at the white clouds floating across the June sky. They began to talk about things Sam did not even know interested him. Rachel, coming from the city, told him of things a young boy from West Virginia did not even know existed. Some he did not understand, but when Rachel told him about them he was fascinated.
Rachel rolled onto her side and asked Sam, “Tell me about you and your family.” Sam hesitated for a moment, not knowing if she was going to make fun of the life of a poor farm boy and his family. But Rachel had a way of asking he could not refuse. He told her of the small farm and about his family. His father worked the fields and often would go to help the neighbors with the harvest. Sam’s father, every evening after supper, would always ask Sam, “Did you have a good day?” He would sit and listen as Sam would describe his day and smile when he finished. He would then lean over and place his broad hand on Sam’s shoulder and say, “Remember before you go to sleep, thank the one responsible for our good life.” Sam and his family had it hard, but they were a family first and that made a good life for a young boy and his family on the edge of woods above the creek.
Sam rolled onto his side toward Rachel. For a moment they just looked at each other. “Rachel, what do you want to do when you grow up?” I want to be a veterinarian. My family has always raised farm animals and I can be a help if I can treat the sick animals. She told him of her dreams and hopes for the future. They both lost track of time until his dog barked in the distance to get their attention.
June quickly passed and the hot days of July were soon on them. Sam could not come as often as before. The farmer down the road had asked him to work several days a week to help with crops. The rows of corn were knee high by the fourth of July and by the end of the month nearly over Sam’s head. It takes a lot of hoeing to keep the corn growing. But still Sam would hurry to meet Rachel and they would race to the rock warmed by the summer sun in the middle of the creek.
It was the last day of July when Sam finally reached out and touched Rachel’s hand. She smiled and brushed his hair from his eyes. At the deep end of the riffle, love had found the two young people.
August arrived with no rain and the riffle, once filled with flowing water, was now just standing pools. Minnows frantically hunted for fresh water and a place to hide from the hot sun. The crayfish fattened up by devouring the weak young fish in the warm shallow pools.
Sam had finished working his long days in the corn field and raced to see Rachel. As he arrived at the deep pool he could see Rachel sitting on a limb of a tree over hanging the creek. “I am going to dive in and swim over to you.” Sam shook his head no and called out to her, “Don’t! There are rocks under the water over there.” Rachel did not hear or ignored Sam’s warning and dove in. Sam was standing just at the edge of the creek near his big rock. Rachel barely made a splash as she made a perfect dive into the creek. The rings of water spread out in a circle coming across the creek toward Sam standing in the shallow water. The creek went quiet as Rachel did not surface as she should have. The only movements were the rings of water moving slowly toward Sam. As they reached his feet and gently touched him he felt a cold wave pass through him. He knew something was wrong.
He dove in and swam to the place beneath the limb where Rachel had gone in. Again and again he dove in the dark water to find his Rachel hidden by the dark green water. He dove until sheer exhaustion overtook him.
He pulled himself onto the distant shore and ran using his last bit of energy to make his way to Rachel’s family farm house. After a long search they found her early the next morning as a slight fog lifted from the warm water into the cool morning. It was only a small cut on her forehead, but it told the story of what had happened.
Sam was devastated at the loss of his Rachel. His parents did not know how to help the young boy with the pain of this loss.