Saturday, July 28, 2007

Preschool Pearl Diver

Amazing how memories of events from over 40 years ago can surface through the accumulated fog and clog of one's cluttered mind. Even more amazing are the sensory triggers that trip the synaptic switch and start the reel to reel memory movie clattering through the projector of your mind's eye.

The Colonel is taking advantage of the fact that his lake's water level is low due to continuing drought, to build a dock at current water's edge that will, with hoped-for return of rains and raised lake level, be positioned out over deep water. While THE GRANDSON was here a couple of weeks ago, his dad and the Colonel dug the post holes, cemented in the posts, and fixed the 2 x 6 stringers onto which the deck boards would be screwed. This morning, Miss Brenda and the Colonel completed the deck board phase of the project.

Well..., almost.

From long experience with projects like this, and the Colonel's well-documented inability to effectively plan said projects or correctly follow an effective plan if he were to effectively plan said projects, he bought deck boards that were two feet longer than needed for the frame of the dock.
The Colonel will have to cut off the 2 feet or so of overhang, but not to fear, he has other projects for which 2 feet of deck boards will come in handy.

As he completed driving the last of the screws, the Colonel stepped off to one side of the very recently completed dock deck to admire his handiwork. The Colonel had four sides to choose from, three of which had board ends securely fastened to the edge of the dock frame.

The Colonel chose the fourth. The one with two feet of diving-board springy ends sticking out over several feet of nothing.

Owing to a combination of his still cat-like reflexes and the fact that his guardian angel knew from past building project experience to keep a sharp eye and close hand on him, the Colonel did not depart the vertical. The Colonel managed to regain enough balance to step back onto firmer footing, and as he regained composure and fixed his gaze on the trouble spot, the sight of loose boards caused a synapse to fire up the reel to reel.

Dad had taken little brother, Bruce, and the Colonel fishing. The Colonel was not more than 8 or 9 and that would make little brother either 5 or 6. They were on a narrow, rickety, plank bridge spanning a small, slow-moving stream somewhere on a gravel road in rural central Arkansas. Dad was doing what all dads do when they take young sons fishing -- cycling between the two boys untangling lines, fretting over the inability to wet a hook personally, and admonishing each boy at least twice a minute to sit still and not stand up on the bridge.

At one point in the two-son, line-untangling cycle, Dad failed to admonish little brother to remain sitting, and with Dad's attention turned to the Colonel, Bruce took the remain-sitting admonishment omission as permission to stand.

Neither Dad nor the Colonel were eyewitnesses to what actually happened next.

The sound, "kersploosh," was the first indication that something was amiss with little brother.  The Colonel looked over to see what his little brother had thrown in and was startled to see that he had disappeared.

As the Colonel marvelled at Bruce's evidently new found ability to vanish into thin air, Dad nearly knocked the Colonel off the bridge as he jumped to the spot formally occupied by his #2 son.

One of the earliest and most vivid pictures ingrained in the Colonel's memory is of his father leaping from the bridge and a geyser of water erupting subsequent to an impressive "KERSPLOOOSH!"

As water rained down on the bridge, the Colonel scrambled to his feet (Dad had failed to admonish him to stay seated before leaping from the bridge) and stood looking at bubbles roiling the water into which Dad and Bruce had disappeared.

Up through the bubbles little brother's face appeared and broke the surface, followed by Dad's head as he pushed Bruce up out of the water in front of him. Dad's reappearance reminded the Colonel that he was supposed to be sitting down and he spun to go reattain his seat before Dad could yell at him.

Too late; he was already yelling.

But, instead of yelling at him, Dad was yelling to the Colonel,

"Grab him!"

Dad needed the Colonel's help. It was the first time Dad (mind you, John Wayne was a simpering wimp compared to Dad) had ever needed the Colonel's help.

The Colonel managed to get hold of little brother's wrists and pulled as Dad pushed him up and out of the water. Dad pulled himself up and the three stood dripping, trembling, and awestruck, respectively, on that rickety old bridge in the middle of nowhere.

It was quiet, but for deep breaths and water dripping at our feet.

Bruce's plaintive wail broke the spell, "Momma's gonna kill me!" Never mind that he could have drowned or been eaten by a gator, he had gotten his clothes wet and that constituted a paddling offense in Mrs. Gregory's household.

About that time an old pick-up, trailing a cloud of dust, rumbled onto the bridge and stopped next to us. The man in the truck (describing him as a "redneck" would be an insult to rednecks) squinted at the collection of wet man and boys on the bridge, spat a stream of tobacco juice on the planks below his truck window, and snickered,

"Got yerself a pearl divin' youngun' there, do ya? Har, har, har."

Took the Colonel a week to forgive Bruce for cutting the fishing trip short.
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