They should have been back by now ... : LUSENET : FRL friends : One Thread

Himself took a vacation to fix the plumbing. It took most of his week, and by the time he was done and ready for his reward on the river, it was raining. He was sulky and a big pain to be around. When the rain stopped and the wind warmed yesterday, he'd given up on taking his canoe down the river. I talked him into going. For some reason, I talked him into taking the younger kids. It wasn't hard to do, but it was my own fault they went out on the river in November when the days are too short and the darkness falls so early.

I dressed them in jackets with hoods. It was a warm day and they protested. I made them wear life jackets and fitted each child's straps myself. I made up a huge amount of food for them, more than they could eat for a snack in the afternoon, maybe even enough for supper. I put together a kit to make a camp fire. Himself said they wouldn't need it, but I put it in there anyway. Then I put in a flashlight. Himself laughed, but he let me put the light in there. They wouldn't need it, he said.

I told each child everything that was in the backpack for them to eat. I told them about the fire kit and the flashlight. I told them if something happened and they ended up in the water, each one had to get out without trying to save the others. I told them if Daddy drowned, they had to stay together and head for lights in the distance.

At 1 PM I put them into the river myself, handed them each into the canoe, waved them off with kisses blown into the breeze. From the place where they went in to the place where they were supposed to come out was only three miles -- by road.

They were supposed to be home by 7 PM. WildChild and I went shopping in another town, which is something we have never done before. The time passed quickly. It was a great way to avoid thinking about the river, the way the wind was getting cooler, how the clouds would keep the little sliver of moon from giving light, how it was getting dark.

It was just the way it happened that WildChild and I reached the pullout place around the time they should have been there. We waited there instead of going home. It was already full dark. They should have been back by now. The gate was scheduled to be locked at dark on the road above the pullout, so we blocked the gate open with our car. WildChild stayed in the car to explain why the gate couldn't be locked, stayed in the dark in the car alone, stayed there huddled in the floorboard out of fear, stayed without so much as a pair of tweezers to defend herself.

I stumbled for a quarter-mile or so to the pullout place and waited alone in the dark by a river I could hear and smell but not see. I called. There was no answer. They should have been within distance of my voice, I should have been able to hear the little one complaining of cold, but only the river answered.

The worst place on the whole river was the two-mile stretch just before the pullout place. It was bad in the light and impossible in the dark. It was deep and confusing and dark, it was black darkness and they should have already gotten through it and been with me and they weren't.

I ran and slipped in the mud and stumbled back to the car. It was 6:35 PM, and they were missing. I told WildChild what I had to do, left her there alone again in the dark, and headed for the nearest lit house.

The people in the house, a man and a women, they were doing dishes and laughing in the light. The window was open, so it was still warm, still warm enough for children in jackets to live if they weren't wet, if they weren't already drowned. I called to the people from out in the yard so they wouldn't be too afraid to open the door. I told them my babies were out on the river and they should have been back by now.

They called the county for me. I headed back before they had even dialed the phone, passed WildChild and left here alone again in the dark, ran and stumbled in the dark, back to the pullout place, and it was too dark and I should have gone to the left when I stumbled straight ahead.

The barricade was invisible in the dark. I slammed into it hard. How could there be a barricade when I just passed through a minute ago? Where did a barricade come from? Where was I?

I was on the old bridge, the closed bridge, the bridge they shut down when I was child, the bridge that wasn't all there so to speak. I was lost high above the pullout point on a bridge where no one was allowed to go and it was dark and I still couldn't see the river even from up there, especially from up there.

Somehow somehow tripping and falling and sliding in the mud I made it off the bridge and back to the pullout point and they still weren't there. The River Patrol found me down there. The young man looked hardly older than WildChild, but he was big and calm and reassuring. He said the river where they went in was fifteen miles from the pullout place, even though by road it could be walked in minutes. He said they were probably ok, that he would get help, that my babies would be found, but he had to leave, would I be ok?

WildChild was abandoned where I could not be paid to leave her, I was on foot where I could not be paid to go, of course we would be ok as long as someone could please find my babies. The price was higher than all the money in the world, just my babies, that's all it took to make us ignore the fear and do what had to be done.

WildChild joined me by the river. We waited, aware that if things went bad we were all we had left, just the two of us. We didn't cry. We just waited.

The River Patrol came back and parked above us. The officer didn't get out. He waited for us to walk up to his truck. He had to be taking all the time he could before he told me my life was destroyed, my life was over, my babies were dead. We walked the longest hundred feet God ever made up to the truck, not wanting to hear, knowing we had to hear.

When we got there, he rolled his window down and said, "I got people in here for you."

The seven most beautiful words uttered in all the history of the world were spoken by a baby-faced River Patrol officer in the dark by a cold river to a woman who could hardly bear to believe them.

They had used the flashlight to steer by for nearly two hours. When they could go no farther, they pulled out and built a fire with the kit I'd packed for them. They had pulled their jackets closer and eaten all the food for supper. The River Patrol officer said he saw the fire and just thought he'd look there first.

They pulled out fifty feet before the most dangerous stretch of the river, the bad place, the place where people turn over in broad daylight, the place Himself had forgotten about. They just happened to pull out where they did, a few feet from where they were most likely to die.

Himself had used a payphone across the highway to call home at precisely the moment I was asking a stranger to call for help. Himself was amazed to be picked up within half an hour of the call. The were having a good time 'camping' and never realized Daddy was afraid, the trip was bungled, that Momma and WildChild were clinging to only faint hope that they were alive. They had a great time. They want to do it again.

I plan to write a glowing letter of thanks to the head of the River Commission, name the officer, tell how much it meant to have someone calm take over, make a donation to safety education in the officer's name, give thanks, give thanks, give thanks.

The people in the house who called for help were relieved and glad someone told them the rest of the story. The world is still ok if people in the dark cold woods will open the door and help a stranger. They are living proof the world is still ok here and there.

It sounds like a scary story, but it's a good one on many levels.

-- helen (got@headache.this.morning), November 16, 2003



-- Tricia the Canuck (, November 16, 2003.

Boy, there's nothing quite so thrilling as wondering if your loved ones are dead or alive. It ages us, whether involving a disaster of some kind, a hospital visit, runaway kids or lost-in-the-woods stuff. Funny, Lon is looking for a sack big enough to drown his and you're searching frantically for yours, hoping they're not drowned! Seriously, we're lucky caring so much doesn't kill us. My wife acquired her first gray hairs, a streak in her topknot, in less than a week over a missing kid event. Ain't life a hoot. It's usually just a lark to the kids. "Why were you worried, we were OK!" Right.

Three high school buddies and I once went fishing for a weekend in Colorado and got snowed in for a week. We survived without undue hardship due to my locating an old cabin which had a fireplace and everybody's mother having packed each of us enough food to feed all four for the weekend. The food came out just about right. The mothers worried, the dads said "aw, they'll be OK. We'll go get em as soon as it stops snowing and we can get in."

After a few near misses, I wear a fanny pack with some minimal survival gear when hunting, working in the office, playing golf, watching TV, etc. I have not yet needed it, but it's nice to know it's there. And if my mother were still here, I know she'd approve. (Nervous laugh...not sure I'm being funny, but don't dare be serious.) I'm glad himself and brood accounted for, and some of us can relate to the headache.

-- J (facial_tic@para.noid), November 17, 2003.

Oh Lord Helen. That's every Mothers nightmare. Very pleased it all ended happily. I hope WildChild is okay after such a fright.

Chuckling here J. I guess what you wear is what we call a "bum bag". Over here "fanny" means something else entirely. Lol Lol Lol.

-- Carol (, November 18, 2003.

The very worst thing was knowing I'd put them out there myself.

Since I have to dye my hair now, does anyone have a favorite color? Should we run a contest to see who gets to pick it out?

-- helen (, November 18, 2003.

Helen--If anything worse had happened, it was your fault (to you), it would be Himself's fault (to him), etc., etc. If you hadn't sent the kids, maybe Himself wouldn't have pulled off in the dark when he did. Some stuff is just stupid to start with, but the babies will mostly initiate that themselves (just wait!). Your prudent precautions provide (thassalotta p's!)a valuable and lasting lesson. But if we don't get "out there," (and I'm not talking about suicidal "xtreme" pursuits) we become people who never take a chance (at least in our own minds--in fact, life is full of opportunity for the application of Murphy's law, no matter how cloistered). The misapplication of caution can be as disappointing as foolhardiness. And that'll be "your fault," too! It's the parent's lot.

My wife counterbalances my overthinking and introspection. Her saying that benefits me most is "get over it." Praise the Lord, learn the lesson(s), walk away from the wreck and move on to the next adventure!

Now, to the serious stuff--Being conservative, I'd suggest whatever color you were to start with. Unless you look better as a blonde. (Remember that girl, Heather something, on "The Fall Guy?" Yeah, I know, why would you. Anyway, she was a knockout blonde, a plain brunette. Some are the other way around.) Be careful with red, but once you're ready to color, the sky's the limit (not to suggest blue, we're not talking clown here, are we?). Most of us Martians appreciate a little variety. And, no, we didn't miss the reason for the "need" to color. Speaking for the unpolled friends, I'm sure we wish you few such occasions.

Carol--Bum Bag? Rhymes with "scum bag" and sounds like something a street person has hanging from his shopping cart over here. To us, "fanny" is a more polite euphamism for "hind end, rear, rump, behind, derrier" (sp? my French isn't so good) and other less menionable terms. "Fanny pack" is what they're called in advertisement as well, a belted cargo pack worn in the back. Some are big enough they have shoulder straps, but those beg the question "why not a regular 'day pack' (only slightly larger, with weight borne by shoulder straps) instead?" I don't dare ask what "fanny" may mean down under. Er, I mean, on your continent. Er, I mean (red-faced. stopping now).

-- J (, November 19, 2003.

Oooh Helen. Given the chance I'd go for a deep burgundy colour. Always wanted it. Unfortunately when I was young enough my hair was too dark to take it. Now it's all salt 'n pepper and the salt bits would probably come out orange. Durn it. I'm such a chicken. I hate to do anything that draws attention.

Thought for the day: Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that one amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic

Well J. I've rewritten my explanation several times, but have decided that no matter what I write it might cause offence so will leave it to your pefectly adequate imagination. Sure gave me a giggle though, you bein' a bloke and all.

-- Carol (, November 20, 2003.

Helen, take a page out of Carla's book and go for something outrageous. Instead of "When I am old, I will wear purple", it could be "When I am prematurely grey because of worry over children, I will dye chartreuse" :-)

Carol, what do Ozzies think about the Americans talking about Fanny Mae coming to the rescue?!?

-- Tricia the Canuck (, November 20, 2003.

Now, Lon Frankenstine would point out that our dear miss helen, Esquirrel, should be wearing clothes in public at her age, regardless of what color they are.

But, since I am couth and sound of mind and body, "I" would not say that.

-- Robert & Jean Cook (, November 21, 2003.

Wow, Helen! You should get the Boy Scout of the Year award! ("Be prepared") Except, of course, that you're a girl. :-D

I'm giving thanks right along with you that everything turned out OK!

J, I like your wife's saying.

-- Gayla (, December 07, 2003.

Maybe I should rephrase that to say, I like:

"Praise the Lord, learn the lesson(s), walk away from the wreck and move on to the next adventure!"

Not "Get over it". LOL

-- Gayla (, December 07, 2003.

Gayla, we all prefer the kinder, gentler versions of most things, but they pretty much come out the same in the end. I think of the two sayings as generally equivalent, from our different perspecives. I'm more the diplomat most times. My wife can be abrupt. Sometimes we switch out. With the kids, she's the diplomat, and I'm the abrupt one.

-- J (, December 07, 2003.

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