Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Gully

The Gully

8.5" x 11 "


That looks dangerous

It started as a tiny little forked line in the soil of the field. As it moved to a slight downhill slope toward the Brazos, the line deepened until it was about the depth of a finger, then to the ankle, to the calf, to the knee, and, soon, as the line was followed, it was deep enough to jump into. The wash grew increasingly deep from shoulder depth to above the head.

As little girls, we were soon climbing over outcroppings of orange and brown hardened earth, shaped by water rushing to the Brazos River through the ages.

Kathryn often invited friends and classmates out to her family's farm in Milam county, across the Brazos River from Calvert, where we went to school, and most of us lived. There were all kinds of things to do on the farm, from playing games, looking at the animals, and riding her horse. And, of course, there was the gully to explore. There might be a couple of guests or a whole group, along with our guide who must have spent a lot of time learning all about that gully as it changed.

For posterity, we carved our initials into the sides of the gully. I've shown those in my drawing. I wonder if they are still there, or have they been washed away by rain and the gully filling during times of flooding.

As usual, I was afraid, but didn't dare to show it. But I know from my hesitation to do some things, the girls all knew that I was a big sissy. I was afraid that they might just leave me out there, lost. That we might encounter a snake or a spider, or who knows what might have been out there. Something from one of the horror movies that were becoming popular or from one of the outer space movies. Maybe an escaped Prisoner of War from the POW Camp at Hearne.

But, usually, her father wasn't too far away, in case we needed him. Sure enough, there was the time that someone sprained an ankle and we couldn't finish our tour. Her father came quickly and carried the wounded explorer to the house. And, another time, when we reached the end of the gully, and the River, where large rocks spilled across the water to a large sandbar, the girls all crossed the rocks, leaving me in the gully. We planned to spend the afternoon sunbathing and just talking on the sandbar. But, when I saw the slippery rocks, with water swirling around them, I thought of all the warnings I had heard all my life, about that dangerous river. How people were often pulled under water by whirlpools, and how there was unseen quicksand that would also suck a person under. I feared that I would slip on a rock and fall into a whirlpool or quicksand. So, Kathryn got her father, who guided me across, then came back to bring me back when we were through sunbathing. I don't think the water was very deep beside the rocks, but I was sure it was treacherous. Eventually, I made it across without her father's help.

I didn't add all the girls in my drawing who went to the gully at various times since that would be too crowded. But, I did show Kathryn, with her coiled braids, urging us to come on up and over the blocked place; Missie and Pat, on the left; Sandra and Shirley who are climbing down after carving their initials on the right; and me, fearing to climb. I added a couple of other girls' initials, who I know had also visited the gully. Kathryn's sister, Joyce, and my sister, Barbara, are not in the picture. Joyce was older and I don't recall that she hung out with us, but I feel sure that she might have visited that gully at some time as she grew up. Of course, we are all dressed in girls' jeans, rolled up at the bottom, and short sleeved shirts. My braids and ribbons have come down, ribbons hanging. We wore oxfords or penny loafers and socks, rolled over. Later, the socks had to be rolled over 3 times. Tennis shoes were not in style for anything except sports that required them. Sometimes, if it was muddy, we would wear cowboy boots on our adventures.

To me, the gully was like a smaller Grand Canyon. Constantly changing, and very deep.

My sister, a visiting cousin, his wife, my aunt, and I rode out to the Brazos River last Thursday, and rode through the Bottom from Bryan to Hearne. Something the whole family used to do a lot. We have seen the tv news pictures of the flooding along the Brazos and other rivers. The Brazos was flowing swiftly with brown, racing water in our area, up to the bank, but not overflowing. Since the dam at Waco was built, we haven't seen major flooding from the River. Before the dam was built, however, I remember driving out just a little way from Hearne and Calvert, and seeing the river out of its banks, as far as I could see. Houses and fields were underwater or floating away. This happened regularly, before the dam was built. I worried that the rivers would come into town, but that didn't happen. In recent times, there were other floods, but not from the Brazos.

When my great-aunt was married, the Brazos and the Little Brazos Rivers met. I can always remember the year of her wedding as that is the year of the big flood-1913. Because of the flood, it took the preacher, who was the groom's brother, three days to get back home after the wedding.

I wonder how deep that gully is now, especially after all this rain. I do know that we are all too elderly to be climbing in a gully, these days.

"The Gully" was drawn on cardstock using a #314 Sanford Draughting Pencil.

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