[Collaborative Project with C. Willison of ImagesByCW]
One week till the summer ends, and I have to go back to school. One more week to play down by the creek, and sneak out to the old mines when Pa isn’t watching. One more week with no homework.
Pa says school’s important, he says you need to be educated to get a good job. A job like he has. But I think Pa has the dullest job I can imagine. He runs the telegraph office the next town over. I saw his office a few times. Lots of desks, papers, and people pushing buttons on an electrical gadget all day. Duller than ditchwater if you ask me.
My buddy Sammie’s Pa has a better job – he works the general store in town. There’s always something new and interesting at the general store. Sammie’s real name is Samantha, but nobody calls her that or she’ll slug ’em good. Sammie’s always getting in trouble, and my Pa says she’s not very ladylike. But I think being ladylike sounds dull too, so Sammie and I have always been friends.
We live in a small town in the middle of dull. On the east coast, but not close to any harbors. Harbors are where the big steamers from all over the world come in. Not close to any big cities either. Pa took me too a big city once. A city with buildings so tall that you had to ride in a special room to reach the top. Now that was fun. We’re also a long way from the wild west. Cowboys and Indians and wild adventures. But Pa says it’s not like in the books anymore.
Most of my friends think I’m smart ’cause I read more books than most folks around here. But mostly I just read adventures. Stories of what it’s like someplace else. Maybe somethin’ will happen around these parts someday. And maybe than I’ll even have something to write about.
But now, it’s a sunny day, and Sammie and I are going to meet at the creek. There’s a deep spot where you can jump in from a tall rock on the side. Pa says that’s dangerous, but Sammie did it first, and I can’t be ‘fraid of jumping.
* * *
Sammie grabbed a crate of canned sardines from their family’s big old farm wagon and trotted to the back entrance of the General Store. No interesting new goods to poke into today, so she completed her chores briskly. Hopefully Preston will make it today and we can both have a plunge in the river, she thought. Wonder why his Dad is keeping such a close eye on him these days. Then again, I’ve got enough to worry about myself. With summer almost over and all. Autumn is getting closer and I have spent so much time helping Mom making preserves – I hardly had the chance myself to enjoy the most wonderful season there is. Summer.
It’s a pity we’ll have to go back to school soon. Can’t stand that place. Listening to some old granny – oh, I’m sorry, Mrs. Elizabeth, but I’m sure you’ve never had any fun moment in your whole life – what am I to learn from you? And sitting the whole day on a bench, inside, while I could be out in the woods, or at the creek. Or helping dad, with our two horses, Tim & Jessie, and our big wagon. Not everyone in town has a horse, and most that do have a big farm, with even more chores to do, so I suppose I’m lucky. Oh, how I love horses.
Such wonderful beasts. Not as big and cold as the Iron Horses, as my older sister Micah likes to call those things. Most of my friends were jealous when I got to ride in one of them last year. It was big, and very fancy – fancier than our parlor. Made me feel like a lady sitting in there. Mostly I’m not one – spite of what Mom and Dad want.
Dad took me to the big city to pick up some special goods for the store. And he bought me the prettiest dress! Not that anyone would notice around here. Who needs a fancy dress working the store or swimming in the river. Not me! So it mostly hangs in the wardrobe looking pretty. But I’m lucky my dad looks out for me like that.
* * *
Preston dawdled a bit on the narrow footpath that wound out the creek. He knew that Sammie had further to come than he had, so he could take his time. At a spot on the trail that overlooked the creek, Preston swung onto a tree branch and peered down. The creek looked great today. There was a hard rain a couple of days back, so their normal swimming spot was sure to be nice and deep. He rounded the last bend and called out to Sammie. No answer.
“Wonder what’s taking Sammie so long – we were both suppose to sneak out here when the town clock hit 1,” he muttered. Probably still brushing those horses of hers, he thought. But I’m not going to wait anymore, water’s too nice and time’s too short. “I’m jumping in now, Sammie!”
The water felt great – clean and refreshing on Preston’s lips. Pa had told him not to drink out of the stream, but it hadn’t hurt him yet. He balanced himself against the current on an underwater stone, worn smooth by the stream, and gazed at the green canopy overhead. So peaceful here. He nearly jumped out of his skin at the huge splash not a yard behind him. Jumped out of his skin, and unfortunately screamed. He would pay for that later.
“Heya Preston, ya miss me?”
“Yeah, um, where were you?”
“You big chicken. Bet I scared ya good, didn’t I.”
There was no point evading, or changing the subject. She was right.
“Yeah. Didn’t expect you from behind me.”
Sammie leaped forward at him, and shoved him backwards. Preston lost his footing, and splashed into the deepest part of the creek on his back. He surfaced and spat out a mouthful of water.
“How ’bout from the front? Did ya expect that?”
Clearly time to change the subject.
“Hey Sammie, how’d ya like to go out to the old mines?”
“Sure, but why ya asking me? I usually have to twist your arm to get ya out there. Why do you wanna go out there?”
“No reason especially. Pa says the glass is falling – or something like that. He’s got some fancy weather contraptions at the office. So it might rain tomorrow. Carp something. That’s what Pa says.”
“Carp? Ya wanna go fishin now? Make up your mind!”
“No, it’s Latin or something. Means grab… uh… something like ‘lets go do it'”
“Alright, let’s go!”
Fishy misunderstandings would be the least of their problems by sundown.
…to be continued
The Miltonville Mine Mystery is a creative collaborative project between David and Claudia Willison. I think you can tell who does what. Although actually we share a little of everything in this story. Stick around and see where the story goes!