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Crossin' the Creek (from Tales of a Texas Boy)

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It'd been raining forty days and forty nights is what Ma said, but I only counted up eleven days myself. She did tend to put things in Bible verses, so I won’t say she was lyin’, just exaggeratin’ for effect.

Still, me and my sister, Dorothy, who we called Sister, had to go to school, whether the creek was high or dry. We’d spent Saturday and Sunday hopin’ the rain would at least slow down some, but it didn’t look like it was going to. On Monday, we put on our rain slickers and ran to the barn quick as we could to saddle the horses. Pa cut out oiled canvas to cover the saddles and most of the horse as well.

Brownie and Peaches saw us comin’ and they crowded back in the barn behind the cows tryin’ to pretend they wasn’t there. We dragged ‘em out by the halter since they were none too fond of goin’ out in the rain. Couldn’t say I blamed ‘em, as I wasn’t too fond of it myself.

Our school was more’n six miles away, so we got an early start every mornin’, along about five, so we could get there by seven. Usually, Sister and me would just let loose on the reins and let the horses go at their own pace. Brownie and Peaches knew the way, as they went to school just as often as we did. But, on days with the rain sheetin’ down, none of us was in a hurry to leave the barn. It took some effort, particularly with Peaches as she tended to hate gettin’ wet more than Brownie.

Off we went and the road, usually dusty, was now fetlock deep in mud. We’d have to go slow or the horses would slipslide off the road and into the ditch.

We had to cross a creek along the way. This creek was only a few inches deep most of the time and only five feet across, but after this rain, the water reached near to Peaches’ belly. She was one unhappy pony, I can tell you that.

We got to the creek and saw the brown water rushin’ along. It was up on the banks and a good fifteen feet across. I’d never seen it this high and I was gettin’ worried some.

We was already soakin’ wet, but it didn’t matter to Peaches. She took one look and you could almost hear her say, “I’m not goin’ across that!” She set her feet and didn’t take another step.

The plan was to tie a rope onto her bridle with the other end round my saddlehorn, so I could lead her across. But, she was havin’ none of it. She set back on her haunches just like a dog sittin’ down. It was actually pretty funny-lookin’, but I didn’t say so as Sister was gettin’ a mite agitated.

“We can just leave Peaches over at the Tate’s and we can double up on Brownie,” I suggested.

“No, I want her to do what she’s supposed to do,” Sister grumbled. Even with her squeaky little girl’s voice, she made it clear she wouldn’t brook no nonsense from Peaches.

“It’s up to you, Sister. I’ll pull her ahead, but you gotta show her who’s boss.”

“Don’t you worry, Eddie. I don’t like to do it, but I’ll give her a whup to let her know I mean business.” Sister seemed determined to not let Peaches get away with anything, so I just shrugged and started on across the creek.

Brownie stopped when he felt the tug of the rope with Peaches at the other end, not movin’. Sister took up the long end of the reins and gave Peaches a swat on the haunch. That startled her enough to get her up on all fours, then I nudged Brownie with my heels and he started to draggin’ Peaches behind him. He just wanted to get across the creek, so was not of a mind to let Peaches slow him down.

Peaches sat back down again and no amount of swattin’ got her up. I brought Brownie back to her side of the creek. I sussed what was goin’ on and thought puttin’ the rope around her neck would encourage her to move. Looking back, I don’t figure it was such a good idea.

I got the rope tied around her neck and made sure it wasn’t a slipknot, then wound it tight around the saddlehorn. After all, I didn’t want to strangle her, just get her movin’.

“Do you want to get on Brownie with me while we cross?” I was a little concerned about what Peaches would do, but I knew Brownie was steady.

“Nope. If I do that, then Peaches won’t move for nothin’. I’ve got to stay on to make her go,” Sister said. She was gettin’ as stubborn as Peaches by now. I shrugged and started Brownie up again. He was still willin’, but anxious to get across as quick as he could.

About half-way across, I could see the water was higher than I thought as it was brushin’ up on Brownie’s belly. This was worrisome, as Peaches was smaller than Brownie and she’d be in water up to her shoulder.

Finally, though, she started across. If a horse can have an expression on its face, I’d say Peaches looked about as mad as could be. Her ears were laid back and she was shakin’ her head back and forth tryin’ to lose the rope. It did her no good and we just kept on goin’.

When the water reached Peaches’ belly, the oil cloth started to billow out on the water like a big, shiny square dance skirt. I could tell she was gettin’ scared. Her eyes were rollin’ in her head and her nostrils were puffin’ in and out. She kept shakin’ her head like she was sayin’ no.

“Now, Peaches, just a few more feet and we’ll be up the other side. The worst’s over. C’mon, girl, you can do it,” Sister leaned forward and encouraged Peaches as best she could. I could tell Sister was a little worried about how deep the water was, too.

Now, the water was comin’ up over Peaches’ shoulder and it was clear she was one scared pony. Sister kept pattin’ and whisperin’ to her, but Peaches couldn’t take no more.

She reared back and hit the top of her head right in Sister’s face. Then, quick as can be, Peaches lunged forward and jumped right by me and Brownie. She was movin’ so fast, she almost pulled the saddle right off Brownie. All I could think of was if Brownie fell, he would drag Peaches and Sister right after him. All at the same time, I was tryin’ to help Brownie keep his feet under him, keep’ an eye on Sister, and workin’ on gettin’ the darned rope off the saddlehorn.

I could see Sister was swayin’ on the saddle and it scared me awful. She almost fell, then grabbed onto the saddlehorn and pulled herself back on. Brownie got his feet under him and followed Peaches up on the bank.

We got to the other side and Peaches stopped. She stood with her head down and her legs shakin’. I looked at Sister’s face and saw blood, but it looked like it was just a bloody nose.

We all stood still for a while. I got down and took the rope off Peaches. I was wonderin’ whether we could get her movin’ again. Soon as I was up in the saddle, though, Peaches picked her head back up and started off toward school. Sister managed to haul out her handkerchief from under her slicker and was holdin’ it against her nose. I figured we could fix her up when we got to school.

“Sister, you all right?” I was worried whether she’d been knocked silly, but she nodded her head.

“I’m fine,” she said loud enough as she looked right at the pony’s ears. I knew she was tryin’ to convince Peaches everything was all right. Peaches’ ears twitched back, so I guessed she was listenin’. When we got to school, the rain eased up and some sun started shinin’ through the clouds.

Our teacher took Sister in hand and cleaned her up whilst I put Brownie and Peaches in the barn. It burned my hide there was only five of us what showed up. Nobody else had the bad sense to go out on a day like this.

I hoped the creek would go down before we headed back for home. I wouldn’t care to repeat the experience.


This story and many others are from "Tales of a Texas Boy." The stories range from downright true to almost-true tall tales. All are from my father's experiences growing up in West Texas in the Depression Era. The book is available free in the Kindle Unlimited program at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001E3A0RU. Every story is photo-illustrated. Many of the photos are from my family album. Others I got on-line from Texas historical sources. If you want another format, I'm happy to provide any ebook type free through Smashwords. 

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