Print Story Valley of the River
By dakini (Sun Sep 03, 2006 at 06:56:04 AM EST) water, mother earth (all tags)
Our city is situated between the junction of a river and a creek, with the river flowing through the valley on the southern outskirts and the creek separating the south and north parts of the city.

There is a certain tranquility to be achieved just by sitting in the backyard of your home during the fading days of summer. This is especially true if your backyard overlooks a valley complete with animals that feast on the many varieties of grasses and drink from the cool water of the river. You can also see the leaves of the trees being painted by Mother Earth in anticipation of fall.

This valley of ours holds many secrets in its quiet dark places. Secrets of long ago when Chief Sitting Bull was supposed to have camped there following the Battle of Little Big Horn. It is well known that there were Cree who camped there and many arrowheads were found in the valley. It was never established who these belonged to, so the mystery of Sitting Bull is just that, a mystery.

There are many stories from the valley and its impact on the families that grew up around it. Some lives would never be the same again.

Summer in the Valley

There were six of us who grew up together and used the valley as our playground. After school and weekends we would hunt for arrowheads or anything that looked like it might have been there from long ago. Often we would find pieces of old pottery, arrowheads and even spent bullets. Of course at that time we figured that the arrowheads and bullets were used in a fight to the finish between cowboys and Indians. We later learned the bullets were from the guns of those who were shooting gophers.

By the end of the day,we could be found on the old dam seeing who could skip their rock the furthest on the river. We all had a pile of our favourite skipping rocks on shore and were often on the lookout to add to our supply.

Made of broken slabs of concrete, parts of old logs and dirt, the dam was literally falling apart. Following a major flood, it had been built as a temporary flood control system a few years earlier and was never replaced.

One day as we approached the dam, we noticed some of the concrete and the logs had broken away and the river was now rushing through the open places. We had decided that we still had enough room to get on the dam and skip our stones. Our parents' warnings to us to "stay away from that river" went unheeded and onto the dam we went.

While skipping our stones, we also had the challenge of staying on the broken down dam and not falling into the river. This was all about to change.

Everything seemed to happen so fast. One minute we were skipping our stones and the next minute, we were all in the river. The dam had totally fallen apart and was no more. With the fast flowing water, we were all taken down stream.

Many thoughts go through your mind at a time like this. The words of my parents telling me to "stay away from the river" seemed to be yelling out at me. It was now to late to heed this warning. My next thoughts were of how I was going to hide the fact that I fell into the river. I would not want my parents to think they were right, as after all, I was almost a teenager and knew better than they.

We all sailed down the river for a few metres and ended up downstream close to the riverbank. I reached out and grabbed a tree limb that hung over the river and pulled myself out of the water. The others were also able to get to shore. Now we had to make it home and change our clothes before we had to explain to our parents what had happened.

Well, we all made it through that experience. We did hear the same old thing from our parents, "stay away from the river." For the rest of the summer, we did just that as we were forbidden to go to the valley for any reason.

Winter in the Valley

Looking down over the valley when the snow was falling was wonderful to behold. Watching the smoke billow out of chimneys and outside Christmas lights blinking in the white wonderland, gives one the feeling of peace and Santa.

The river was now frozen with about one foot of solid ice. There were places where the ice wasn't so deep and water was seen gushing up through the ice. We were often told to keep off the ice near the dam but again, failed to listen to our parents as we knew better.

We often took our skates and cleared off some of the snow where the ice was thick and have races to see who could skate the fastest. Oh yes, we had great times on this river.

This Saturday started out like any other Saturday. The sky was blue, the air was crisp and it wasn't snowing. We decided it would be a great day to go skating. We got out our sleds and loaded them with a blanket and our skates in preparation of sledding down the valley bank to the river.

After we made it to the ice covered river, we chose a spot that we thought had nice, thick ice. We then cleaned off the snow, donned our skates and started racing around the ice. After about fifteen minutes of skating, we all heard a loud crack. We all stopped looking at each other and skated to the bank of the river as fast as we could. We could still hear the noises the ice was making as it was breaking up.

My heart started to pound as we realized that one of our friends was still on the ice! He was the comedian of the group and could be seen laughing and waving to us. We yelled at him to get off the ice and to shore, but he paid no attention. Then we heard the loudest crack of all. The ice opened up at this time and our friend fell into the crevice. All of a sudden, the ice appeared to swallow him and close the gaping hole over top of his head.

Being unsure as to what to do, a couple of the kids ran home to get their parents while the rest of us stayed behind in case our friend reappeared. Our parents, police and fire rescue made their way down the embankment to the river. The fire rescue crawled out on the ice to see where he went under but it was of no use.

After awhile, we all went home. His body was found in the spring after the thaw, about five miles down the river.

Today there is a new dam, built after the major flood of 1974. There is also a skating oval on the river, tended to by the city and made far away from the dam. As it happens, none of us ever went back to the river to collect arrowheads, skip rocks or skate.

My friend continues to reside in her house overlooking the valley. We often sit in her backyard and talk about the old days. She now gives the same warning to her grandchildren as her parents gave her: "stay away from that river!"

I wonder if they will obey this wise lady?

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