Cousins and Convertibles
We were exiled, cousin Deb and me to Altha Florida. I think I had been buzzing around a little too much, working hard, waiting on tables and maybe, just maybe, had made one new friend that was potentially a bad influence. Mother's can sense these things and usually if they don't - God will plop someone down in a chair in front of them to tell them something they don't know yet. There is some kind of universal power that determines that Momma's will know the truth eventually so you might as well not hide it.
On this particular exile cousin Deb was tapped and captured where she ran wild and free roaming her neighborhood with little to no supervision as her mother worked hard to put bread on the table. Since my Mom was going to make certain I was relocated for a week or two for my own good apparently she knew I wouldn't have stayed or gone voluntarily if she hadn't managed to get Deb in that car with me.
We were sent to 'visit' with my Uncle Dan and family in Altha, Florida where my Uncle was the Chief of Police. I don't think there were any deputies but he was certainly the chief. Headquarters was in the house I guess because that's where the radio was that dispatched Uncle Dan. Surely, my mother figured that if I had been sent to live in the house that was the headquarters for law and order I would straighten up any loose tendacies toward trouble. Not that I was a bad girl - I was not - but I could be a certain kind of magnet. Trouble often seemed to just find me when I was minding my own business. With Cousin Deb along it was always a tribe of trouble. We were going to get lost, get found, get turned around and no matter what we would have A STORY to tell by the end of what was supposed to be a normal day.
Bam. There we are suddenly in Altha at Uncle Dan's and fuctioning under the tight supervision of Aunt Louise who probably was the only official Deputy and that was enough. She was big, and she could be mean. I never wanted to cross her so I tried to stay real low. Until we got out of sight that was.
Cousin Deb and me somehow break loose and end up in Cousin Brenda's convertible (Hey Bren) and we go down to this big old blue swimming hole there in the woods at the long end of a bunch of dirt roads running like thread through the North Florida woods. It was summer and if you are in the South and it's layered fourteen blankets of humid hot air over your head you will find a place that is cool to swim. You will. It is some kind of instinct for survival.
So Cousin Brenda is behind the wheel and we have the top down and she's driving fast and I think I do remember standing up a little, arms over my head, feeling the rush of that wind through my hair and the sun on my face and man, it was like flying. We were laughing and time was so pliable back then. Our immortal days where there had been no sharp edges to life shifting suddenly, missing a turn, and going straight off a winding ledge. Decisions were simple. Beenie Weenies came in a can. People actually ate spam. And a cold drink of Coke Cola was almost all anybody could ask for or need.
We arrive at the big old watering hole of southern pride and it's a river is what it is but it curves around right there and makes a big beachy bed where you can throw a towel down or open a camp chair and pretend you are beaching it. And, there is a tree that is oh, I don't know - bout five hundred feet in the air with planks that have been nailed all the way up so that you can climb up it like a ladder and then jump from the tree where you would land painfully hard in the middle of the river and float in the current back to that beachy place. BUT - and even being a stupid bunch of kids there were some instructions you had to respect - BUT - after you jump you must make certain you follow the current to the left back because if you were too far in the right of the river it would pull you around the corner where there were stories of rocks and currents and drops and people had reported that there were numerous lives lost to those that were pulled around the bend. Note to selves - do not get pulled around bend.
Cousin Deb and I being ever the adventurous sort (In Momma terms that would translate to - They are going to play hell. Again.) we agreed that climbing that tree and jumping was just the kind of thing we needed to do to distract us from being cast way up in the woods away from the actual beach we roamed. Deb goes first, me right behind her and we clilmbed up and up and up to the top. Which is precisely when Cousin Deb looked down and realized we were like, London Clock Big Ben high and she wasn't going to jump. Just flat out refused as she clung to the tree branch. Now, this is where the two of us being together managed to ALWAYS multiply our troubles. Because there was a line of people right behind us climbing and the only way down by not jumping involved asking a dozen people to carefully climb BACK DOWN the way they came. Cousin Deb who has an incredible fear of heights in spite of the fact that she is a natural born athlete and has been doing back flips off the diving board at the local hotel where we pool hopped - steadily refuses to bunge. So I make a command decision gently assist her in overcoming her fear by reaching out and pushing her out of the tree and as she is still screaming I walk off into thin air behind her.
Now this is the part where you should think of Butch and Sundance when they are chased to the edge of the cliff and Robert Redford confesses to Paul Newman that he can't swim. Paul Newman looks at him and laughs and says, Swim? Hell the fall will kill you. You don't have to worry about swimming. (or something close enough) When I hit the water and it knocked the breath out of me I knew exactly what he was saying. Deb hasn't gotten her lungs back and is cussing me as she begins getting pulled farther and farther away and - ummm - to the right. And I'm yelling at her after I can breathe again to get back over but the current is pulling me too. It's happening. We are def going right and around that bend of death rocks.
SOMEHOW I manged to get under water and use my fingers to grab icky stuff growing and hang on to it and grab another patch of icky and pull and so forth until I pull myself up out of the water on the left side of the river. I turn just in time to see Deb going around the big bend and then I started yelling at her like it would do some good. But maybe it did because she also grabbed weeds and wierdness and was able to pull herself up on the right side on a little island before she was totally lost around the corner. BUT now we were on opposite sides of the river staring at each other. I think she started cussing me again. I started trying to gather volunteers and form a posse to get her across and back to where we were. Deb wandered off in the trees looking farther up for a place that might be safe to cross.
Then we couldn't see her. Then she started screaming bloody murder.
For the first time the other kids that we didn't know paused at the sound of her screams and looked at me. "What's a matter with her?"
I shrugged my shoulders and said, "She saw a spider."
If heights were a problem for her spiders were the Alpha and Omega of all her fears rolled into one.
But the day rolled on. We (and memory fails me here) somehow got her back across the river. And the two of us caught our breath and then laughed at what a thrill it was, what a rush it was, this thing just called being alive.
Then we stole the convertible and took it for a little ride. Up and down those country roads, laughing like crazy because we were full of The rush, the sun, the summer, the wind. Full of the rush of freedom.