My brother and I scampered down the dirt road towards the river. We spent many happy hours there, swimming
and playing in the sand. It was a great way to spend a summer day. The sand was clean and white, with shiny flecks
of fools gold scattered through it. Huge, old Oak trees lined both sides of the bank, plentiful enough to give the illusion
of a forest to two small children with large imaginations.
Rick, a skinny, tow-headed, eight-year-old
know it all, would try anything. He had never met fear except in the form of Dad. He did not mess with Dad. Ever.
Other than that though, he was fearless.
I was almost seven, the only girl in the family, with three brothers, of which Rick was the oldest. We
were very lucky to live where we did, and considered the river was our yard, our park, our fantasy world.
Rick and I swam and fished. When we tired of that, we would leave the water to race across the burning
sand toward the bank. I would run on my tip toes, drawing my feet up high, trying to step into Rick's footprints. We
figured the sand would be cooler on my feet if I did that. Rick said he had knocked some of the heat out of it already.
"It ain't workin', Rick. Its still hot."
"Pick your feet up higher Ree, the air will cool them off."
"It don't either, and
my other foot is in the sand and it's burnin'!" I would stand on one foot as long as I could and then switch in
tears. Rick would finally convince me to get moving again.
We would reach the bottom of the bank, finally, finding a bit of shade and jumping on any piece of grass or weeds
we could find. Invariably, there would be puncture vines. Stickers. Our blistered feet were further tormented
by being unable to avoid the puncture vines that grew along the ground under and in the grass. As we became older, we
remembered to grab our shoes as we left the water.
"Ree, walk like this, then you will miss the stickers."
I tried. I placed my hands on the ground in front of me, and duck-walked across the sticker patches, just
like Rick was doing. Now we had stickers in our hands as well as our feet.
It was no
picnic. The life of a country kid is not all it's made out to be. We would have to stretch between each patch
of grass, searching the ground, trying to avoid the stickers. It was an impossible task.
Once at the top of the small bank, Rick and I would explore. We would imagine a time of long ago.
"I wonder who walked here a hundred years ago?" We wondered. Rick surely encouraged my imagination. He also
practiced refining his sense of humor on me. For instance, having me reach for something when he knew there was a spider
on it. Anything that got a yell out of me, got a laugh out of him. If he happened upon a gopher snake slithering
under the weeds, he would pick it up on a stick and scare me half to death. We knew which spiders were poisonous.
Actually, I didn't yet but Rick said he did and I trusted him. There were no poisonous snakes in our part of the world,
so we were safe. But, I didn't like snakes being swung at me, poisonous or not.
"Stop it, Rick! I'm gonna tell Mama!" I repeated these words over and over for years. He never
stopped, and I never told Mama. We really did like each other.
After a bit of exploring and tree climbing, we would head back toward the water. Having learned a lesson,
we searched for a shorter stretch of sand, one that had more dirt mixed in it; dirt doesn't get as hot as sand does.
Once more picking our way back down the bank, suffering the torture of the goat heads, and a few more blisters
from the sand, I ran full out, anticipating the cool of the water on my burning feet. The water felt wonderful once
I reached it. Rick went on to the bridge.
"Hey. Look up here!"
I looked up toward the sound of his voice, ready to laugh at whatever antic he was up to. The smile froze
on my face when I saw him. I couldn't believe he would do such a thing.
There he was, standing on the bridge railing, doing
a Tarzan imitation. He was beating his chest and ah oo ah'ing.
I screamed at him, "Don't jump!"
He didn't jump, but he did fall. He said it was my fault.
"You hollered at me and made me fall."
He tried so very hard to laugh about it.
Today, in the Summer of
1997, we sit watching the rings caused by fish dimpling the glassy surface of Rick's pond. It is very near his front
porch in his beloved Oklahoma, the land of his birth. Fifty years have passed as we reminisce about the stupid, funny
things we did as children. Rick still tries to laugh, and he says he still feels the pain, and, it's still my
The softness of sand is very shallow and misleading. Hidden directly under the surface is brick.