Or the Legend of Weed’N’Feed’s Red Boot Laces
I look down at my boots, after the exhaustion has set in, and watch as the borrowed red laces come to rest atop the crunchy layer of snow with each step I take. Behind me they sing- song after song after song at the top of their lungs- children singing, unaware of the glory they keep in their exuberant youth with it’s abundant energy.
Me. I’m tired, and cold, and wet and angry about the conditions of this little hike in the woods. Two hours turned to four when the top of yesterday’s snowfall started freezing into a sheet of ice that my brown leather boots are not equipped to skate on or punch through. My laces snapped when I tugged them tight on the ridge, and my boots scream with these replacements, ridiculous red.
And I trudge down a path, hidden in snow, though I know this trail so well, it doesn’t matter. Shouldn’t matter. I step: left, right, left, right, wriggling my toes to keep warm. Checking my watch, wondering how long it has been, how long there’s to go? And they continue to sing their top of lung songs, Tarzan and Jane and the Merry Go Round. And I continue to trudge down the path I know so well it doesn’t matter. Shouldn’t matter.
But then it does. The ground beneath me, frozen and hard, is suddenly steep and slippery and gone. I scream out “halt” and twist to see if any of the children heard me, saw me, stopped for me. Then when I understand their song has stopped and their feet are still, their faces have frozen too. Little girls in ear flap hats are horrified as their leader keeps going down with the slide.
Dunk weighs two of me, and walked in the back of the line, carrying the overabundant emergency pack. He could have stopped and opened the bag, pulled out everything until he got to the bottom- a safety harness’, two hundred rope feet, smashed under a hundred pounds of granola bars and bandaids. But he handed it off to a kid instead, and threw himself down the slide into the ravine behind me.
Together we clawed to stop. Arrest I thought, over and over I screamed in my head, arrest, arrest, arrest, then I could hear the frozen river below. And all I could think was I’m dead.
If you grow up in the woods in the North, you know that water rarely freezes at thirty two degrees- a river can run well below that mark, so long as it moves as fast through mountains. This one roared as water ran over the great rocks that I knew were below. My fingers cold with our hike, barely made dents as I dug into the mudslide.
And I started to slip even more, and my head began to pull to the side, and I was upside down trying to not die.
Then I stopped. I don’t know how a sixteen year old boy can stop a hundred and fifty pounds of sixteen year old girl and pack, but he did. He stopped me, and held me, and pulled me up towards him- without ever touching me.
Stopped I could dig in- use my hands to steady my body, pull myself up so the blood had a chance to drain out of my head back into my body again.
Dunk was locked into the mud. I was locked into the mud. And our eyes were locked onto those damn red laces. He had caught me, in a single act of desperation, just a few feet from the river’s edge, by the boot lace.
He let go, and we heaved one another up from the muck, hand to hand to keep one another from slipping again. I said thanks and scrambled to the end of the mud flow, back to safety.
There would have been paperwork. He answered. We climbed back up the hill, and I started a new song for the kids to sing along.
These days, when the kids at camp ask me why I always wear red laces I tell them to ask Dunk. When you ask him, Dunk will grin, and look down to the river, and say She knows I hate paperwork.
This true to my life story was written in response to Dewey Decimal’s Butler’s reflections on being saved. Neither of us are damsels in distress, though there may be a bit of klutzy geek girl in there. Besides, Dunk saved me once, and I have saved his butt a few times too.