THE YOUGHIOGHENY SCREAMS
By ~ Absolutely*Kate
Lying beside Gabe was his best bud, Duke. It had been a long night, but they'd made it. Thank God, they'd made it. Dawn shot light shards through a cathedral of cottonwoods on the west side of the ravine. Thankfully, the copse provided cover from where the hard-pressed duo had scrambled up doubletime from the brown river's edges churning danger below. Cross currents of mud and fear still swirled the mighty Youghiogheny. They knew it. Today was far from last night . . . but far from over as well.
Gabe listened, cautiously. Nope, only sound o'reverberation was Duke's steady, even, snoreless breathing, as if he comprehended even in sleep what a sound out of place could bring down upon them in this godforsaken suddenly out-of-sorts place. He slept the sleep of one who has come across challenge, met it well and yet held self and safety in deep reverent check. The challenge they'd begun a week ago seemed as if time and tumult had spit out a month of pain gone wrong.
Gabe had a bullet hole in his favourite blue-grey flannel shirt. Like the sinew of his scraped nerves, it was all loose in a bad bedraggle of a way. Dried blood marked the spot where Duke's flanked haunch had taken a hit of buckshot's better aim on the fly. Both the worse for their wear, they were priming timing and courage to go into the fray one more time. They had to. They couldn't leave her. Not this time. Not that way.
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The challenge they'd begun together had turned them from rapids-riding thrill seekers to unsuspecting prey. They didn't think that what they didn't know could hurt them. Who would that day? All was as right and bright in the world as the orange highlighter in the flash of the dazzle of her ringfinger hand. They plotted their voyage through puns and convictions. On the western side of the Allegheny Mountains they knew the mighty Youghiogheny ran northward into Pennsylvania, proud somehow of being but ten miles north of the headwaters of the stately Potomac. "When it gushes into the southwestern portion of the state between Fayette and Somerset counties, it flows northwest through a gap in X, Chestnut Ridge, see? Then it glides past X, Connellsville, joining the Monongahela at McKeesport, just southeast of our Slovak Club reception hall in Pittsburgh."
Naturally, Confluence, Pennsylvania gained a big orange X, just north of the border. He remembered how solemn the place on her brow where he traced his index finger became when she explained in her best history matters voice that George Washington knew instinctively how their rollicking river valley created such significant access through the mountains for both early settlers and military forces from Virginia to the Ohio Country: "In 1754, as a young diligent militia officer from the British colony of Virginia, the green George gained more than gumption, following our Youghiogheny to prove a water route to where the French held Fort Duquesne. Grist for his gumption ground its way home to ceremoniously become the George Washington Grist Mill in Perryopolis X, within northern Fayette County. My mom and daddy are from around there . . . you know?" She'd looked up so earnestly, so shyly, so warm and inviting like a mist on another scorcher of what August was serving up this year, he'd shoved map and marker aside and rolled his bride-to-be around on the braided rug for way more than a hug.
Mussed up and flushed up, but all the prettier for it, she'd continued orange marker tracing points of their adventure ~ X, "I want to see the remnants of the mill and walk the red bricks downtown where Daddy called Uncle Bob from the payphone at Perry Drug to tell him he'd won a new Schwinn in a radio contest and Grandpap was so mad at the prank and so fair at the punishment that he made him go out and buy one with his own money from workin' on Schwartz's farm. Then X, we have to hit Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright's place where the water actually flows right through. Most people don't know he built so spectacular in a backwater. So that leaves X, Friendsville in the Upper Yough in the Wild River section, and of course the whitewater at X, Ohiopyle Falls."
"But it's only legal to run the falls one day a year ~ at the race festival."
"We say we're from out of town. We are now you know. We're just going home to where we'll build one day. We can get married in Pittsburgh at the confluence of those three rivers, but I don't want to live day in and day out in a city's hustle and bustle. I need gardens and barefeet wading and waking up to have coffee with you on the lawn in the dawn when mornin' sunshine is dapplin' our river. We'll find the bluff. I know we will. Everything will be OK. You'll see. What could go wrong?," got all muffled up in the kiss that just kept comin' with the capping of the orange marker.
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The wet nose nuzzled the back of Gabe's hand. Duke was ready to roll again, his muffled bark affirmed. "Oh Jenny ~ Hold on. We're coming back. I have a plan."
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To Be Continued
where X marks the spot.
Next flashing Friday,
*AT THE BIJOU*