We set out to find driftwood 35 years later. It is a good spot the Palliser rushes towards a series of falls before joining the Kootenay in the valley below. The wood from its tributaries banks are pummelled and smoothed in high water, left on the stones once the river goes down, like gold in the sluice.
We found love in this spot among the large boulders, on top and behind. Because of that our kids saw the same rocks.
The river always takes me, down, the flow, the rush. When I was a youngster it all seemed so natural. The quartz and blue water whispered in my ear, cascading into canyons that if caught in the current would mean death, since we are not, after all, driftwood, our skin only a thin layer of bark.
Now we are older, we poke around, picking up rocks, turning over polished wood, watching the current. It’s the same place my Father opened a can of peaches with his pocket knife in the rain. Where my Mother said the light was good. Where we were cautioned and in turn cautioned our children about the power of the river.
It’s the country. The bush in April. When you can get stuck tighter than a fiddler’s fart in mud or snow. The sky turning bruised in evening. The Columbia running before and after. Turning over in winter. There is not much you can have faith in, but the sky and river and creek behind Swansea, the Swans heading north and the Meadowlarks arriving. They continue to keep their promises.
The truck was hip hopping. He had escaped the ruck. It was all mud, dog barks and volume on the radio. He had pushed off.
He grabbed a long leggy one from the floor boards. Cracked the tab and took a long swig.
He held on above Horsethief, heading towards snags. Catching a break, here and there, getting a glimpse of an Eagle holding steady.
It was muddy and he tried to keep it out of the ruts. The leggy ones kept coming and he didn’t see a soul. He made the burn, watched the river, saw what the wind had done.
It fell dark. He ran blind towards the river trying to get closer to the melting ice and rushing water. Through bush and snow. Over deadfalls.
In the morning, shaking like a cat shitting razor-blades, the pups led him back. He hoped for one more forgotten long leggy one. The way back was always worse than the going. He had pushed off, but not hard enough.