Freezing Water in the Truckee
From Chapter 3- Buds erupt on limbs and signal that spring is near, but wait until April in Truckee. If you live high in the Sierra, as the Edwards children did in 1910, the Truckee River in mid-April flows swiftly, boiling and bubbling among granite rocks, filling its bed with freezing snow melt. No wonder the Edwards children couldn’t resist an adventure with their horse, Molly, through the blooming meadow by the river.
“When Tiny and Raleigh reached the bank on the upriver side of the mill, they howled in excitement. If the water had seemed turbulent below the mill as it roared to the town power station, it rushed so fast and strong here it plucked small bushes off the bank and dragged them into the current. The water churned around the few large boulders still revealing their granite tops.
“Running along the bank away from the mill, they found a good spot to watch all the junk race down from the dumping spot below the reservoir—splintered logs, some broken boards, one with a table leg attached. Still far away, they watched a wooden rocking chair on its side sliding downstream.
“Alta said, ‘Let’s pull it out, Mary.’ ‘What d’you mean? I can’t swim so well, and we can’t reach it.’ ‘Yes, we can,’ Alta said. Hold onto the branch of that aspen and lean out to pull it. The branch’ll bend. I’ll catch hold when you’ve pulled it over a little.’
“Astonished at her sister, Mary grimaced and turned to find a bush to tie Molly’s reins, so the horse could graze.
‘Okay, Raleigh, you do it,’ said Alta. ‘Crawl out on the branch and push the chair toward the bank with your foot. Then I’ll grab it.’ Mary whirled and hollered, ‘No, it’s too dangerous.’ Being the little brother, Raleigh said, ‘It’s all right. I can do this.’
“Grinning at all three, he sat down on the bank, rolled up his pants, and pulled off his boots. Alta smirked at her sisters and put her hands together to make a stirrup. He put his foot in it and held onto the aspen trunk while Alta slowly lifted him up. Finally, Raleigh grabbed the branch, swung himself up, and straddled it. It bent with his weight as he edged his way along, out over the river. He waited until the chair was right underneath. When he hooked his foot under the top rung of the chair, it yanked him into the rushing river. As he fell, an aspen limb with a sharp tip scraped against his leg, leaving a wide bloody cut along the side of his calf, and he screeched.
“Alta’s face went white. Tiny jumped up and down and screamed, ‘He’s bleeding and he can’t swim good enough! It’s freezing in there! He’ll crash into the mill wheel!’ Raleigh rushed along, holding onto the chair to stay above water, and Mary yelled, ‘Raleigh, kick your feet and aim toward the bank, or we’ll never catch you!’
“Then Mary ran along the bank to get below Raleigh, stripped off her skirt, and stepped into the icy water. She held her breath and waded out into the current….” See pp. 19-20.
The children survive, of course, or the rest of the family’s comedy and tragedy wouldn’t be told in The House on Harrigan’s Hill.
-original post March 2013