Sunday, April 3, 2011

C is for Creek

What else could C stand for but Creek. Country. Cow. Cowboy. Cowboys, and boys who wanted to be cowboys, children, another C-word.

A creek ran along the backside of our property, dumping in from the upstream neighbor's property, dumping out of our property into Toledo Bend Reservoir, an offshoot of the Sabine River, which separates Texas and Louisiana. East Texas. You don't get more East Texas without being in Louisiana.

That creek came from someplace we never found, but I like to think it originated deep in the East Texas Piney Woods, the Big Thicket National Forest, from a spring-fed well -- which are common in that part of Texas, so it's not impossible. It had a pure source, and the water was cold and trickling even in the hottest drought.

There's something magical about a creek. I challenge any one of you to come upon a creek during your hike and not scout the shoreline for a place narrow enough to cross, shallow enough to wade through, or the coup de gras, a fallen tree spanning the width of the creek over which you cross, holding downed limbs for balance, ending on the other side by climbing a spiderweb of uprooted roots and jumping off the top of the root-ladder, onto the newly-discovered world where no man has been, and realizing you can't go back, not the way you came.

You'll have to survive until you can find another way to cross.

Or, if you really luck out, you find the coup de coup de gras, and discover a vine, thick as your forearm, strong enough to hold you as you monkey-swing across the creek, Tarzan, a lion of the jungle, king of the beasts, flying above the water to the far shores of adventure. You hack at the vine's base with your machete, which you always carry to the creek, always, because you never know when you'll see a snake who needs its head cut, or bamboo, or sugar cane, or water-vines (they ooze water when you nick them, for drinking), or any other number of things that meet the special needs of a machete chop.

You cut the vine to length, so it won't drag the ground. You test its weight. The first of your troop swings across, the lightest, you because you are the smallest, and then your brother, who was usually second, because although he was smaller and younger, he was smarter. You have scars dotting your body that he watched you earn, testing those great idears, first into the breach, too impatient to wait on everyone's useless theoretical discussions of weight, rot, is the limb big enough, will it hold, I don't know, tug-tug, yep, it looks good, is it long enough, should we find another vine?

You grab the vine and step off the cliff and swing and throw the vine back across the creek and say, See?

The others swing across. The older boys swing last, the heavier ones, some of them dragging their feet through the creek because their weight is bending the limbs, testing the vine's capacity. It snaps, of course, when the last and largest boy takes hold. A warning groan from the treetops, that familiar crack of breaking wood, a panicked whisper as trees and leaves and limbs and vine become an avalanche of broken rottery as you and the rest of your troop scatter like ants beneath God's thumb before He crushes you. You marvel that nobody dies, because that limb was friggin HUGE.

The big boy, the one who broke it, survives by diving into the creek, headfirst to the bottom, chest-high on him when he finally stands up amid the wash of floating debris and says, What the hell happened!

We laugh because we are all dry and he's wet. We laugh because he's alive. We dive into the creek after him when he calls us names, slurs not fit for a boy's mouth that only a boy can properly speak.

We drink from the creek, eat the berries that line its banks. We never get sick, not even when we drink downstream from a dead cow and realize you shouldn't drink water with foam on it.

We cross it always, boots in the winter and shivering legs through the pasture, or shorts in the summer and we dry as we follow the cowtrails home. We never stay out of the creek, not even when it snows and we break through the ice to our thighs.

I defy you to resist the urge to cross a creek when you come upon one. There's something magical about a creek, something mystical and inexplicable, something that says everything is better, everything is worth it, getting wet, getting muddy, the tromping along the shoreline, all the hard work will pay off.

If you can just get to the other side.

- Eric


Cindy said...

I used to rampage through the woods as a kid too... this makes me nostalgic. Sundays are supposed to be "days off" for the challenge though :)

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I was on the other side of the sabine, Eric. I pretended I was one of Louis L'amour's Sacketts or Daniel Boone. Sometimes I was Ulysses in search of his lost men on some fabled isle of danger and magic, avoiding centaurs and minotaurs.

And Eric, I decided to stray into the wilderness today, not resting but forging on ahead -- Louis L'amour would be proud of the two of us. Ulysses would have urged looking for a siren, be it sorceress or wife. Ah, sometimes they are the same in myths ... and in reality! LOL.

Erin Kane Spock said...

I didn't know we had days off! I wondered how we'd get 26 letters to last 30 days. I have to redo my schedule. Sigh.

Anyhoo - yes, when I see a creek, I have to find a way across it. It's like when you see a big red button that says 'do no push.' You have to push it.
Great post.

Unknown said...

I love creeks. There wasn't any where I grew up, but I lived close to what could have been could a swamp and it was fun to wander through that and get all muddy when I was a kid.

Rachael Harrie said...

Ooh, I have some lovely memories of playing in the creeks growing up! Great Challenge entry :)



Stephanie Lorée said...

C is for Creativity... you have it.

Evocative. Dug it.

Wine and Words said...

Growing up, a creek ran through our property. We could walk the creek for miles in either direction and wind up nowhere. Caught tad poles a plenty AND poison oak. I can still remember the smell. I love this post. The way of boys. Fearless and stupid, as kids often are. It did indeed make me feel like the crossing was possible.

Matthew MacNish said...

You don't get more East Texas without being in Louisiana. Great line.

Melissa Dean said...

Great post! I was born on a creek, feels like it at least. Used to play around the creek back behind my grandaddy's house. Makes me remember him.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I really should head back to work now... but there's a creek on my way...

Great post.
Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

Jai Joshi said...

I agree, there's something really special about a creek, especially in Texas where there are so few of them about!

Have you ever been to the Enchanted Springs Ranch near San Antonio? The American Indians there called the spring there enchanted because they thought the water was magical. It's a lovely place.