Especially when you’re 12 and your sister, Louise, is 6, and you are not getting paid for your labor and inconvenience.
Especially when you live on a farm and rarely get to see friends, and your best friend’s family agreed to bring her out to spend the day.
Especially since the plan was to spend the day on horseback, and now you’re supposed to babysit your sister. This kind of precludes the horse thing because while you and your sister could ride double, she is not really that good a rider and would definitely put a damper on the activity. Oh me, what to do?
When my friend arrived, we sat down and begin to assess the situation. We definitely wanted to ride and we definitely don’t want my sister involved. The first thing we needed was somewhere to deposit her for part of the day, safe but not with us.
Louise was a quiet child, pleasant and willing to follow instructions. We knew she would follow our suggestions without questions, and would need something to do. After a great deal of thought and discussion a plan emerged. We knew the where and the how, and just needed to get the materials to facilitate the what.
Since money was short, candy was a rare item in our house. Rare enough that the offer of some would certainly make my sister happy while we were out riding. Mom would buy a small box of chocolate wafers covered with white sprinkles that she kept in the pantry and these were doled out sparingly during the month.
However, to use the candy, we had to get to the candy. Since it was on high shelf in the pantry, we had to get a chair from the kitchen to get it down. As Mom was cooking for the hay crew, we had to wait until the coast was clear. It took a while, but we managed to climb up and retrieve the box while Mom was out in the privy. We hid the box, then hung around the house until after lunch.
We put a toy shovel, pail and a few other small toys in bag and went out to get the horses. We mounted, with my sister behind me and headed across the river to the location we had decided on.
The Little Salmon River meandered through our place making several large horseshoe bends. It wasn’t overly deep in most places. However, the inside of the cuts tended to pull the soil away and were deeper than the other side. One such bend had a flat bench area above the river with a nice stand of quaking aspen and a good expanse of sand. The edge of this went directly down to the river. It was shady and pleasant.
We got there and deposited my sister under the trees and gave her the candy and toys. Smugly we noted that not only had we parked her in the shade, we had also remembered to bring a hat for her. We instructed her to stay there and told her we would be back after her later.
Happily we remounted and headed off for horsey adventures. We rode around, exploring pasture areas and were able to gallop whenever we wanted to, without the interference of a sister.
It was finally time to go, so we headed back to the river. We found my sister, face covered with chocolate, happily filling her sand bucket. We cleaned the sand from her shirt and pants and wiped her face. After mounting up we headed home, and were able to sneak the slightly diminished candy box back into the cupboard. We put away the toys and kept a constant chatter with Louise to keep her from “sharing” any of the day’s adventure with the rest of the family. My friend and I had had a wonderful day and all was well.
It was only much later in my life that I realized there truly must be guardian angels. Had Louise decided she wanted to wade in the river, she would have fallen about 2 feet down into 10 feet of water. Of course she couldn’t swim and the current would have carried her away.
After that experience, whenever I think of something that would be really clever, but stupid, I stop and think of the day I almost allowed my sister to drown.
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