My mom likes to wade deep—up to her armpits.  And she is a small person.  If I am wading upstream from her it is not unusual to see only a pair of arms, a rod, and a cowboy hat clearing the surface of the water.  I watch for the reassuring wave of the rod, and then I can settle back into my own fishing for a bit. We are mother and daughter on the water, and we keep track of each other.  Do not range too far. Stay where I can see you, or at least just around the bend.

At some point I became frightened that this was not enough insurance against the freight-train current of a big river. I bought her a life vest, one of the small ones that inflates instantly when you hit the water. It was pink, and I think she was less than thrilled, but she wore it dutifully for a whole season, and even tried it out once on a slippery day.  It has since been relegated to a storage bin with discarded long underwear sets and extra hats.  Occasionally I scold her that she should be wearing it. She placates me, tells me she will get it ready again for next year, and we move on.

I sometimes wonder what I would do if she actually did come floating by me in the little pink life vest, bobbing farther and farther downstream through the rushing water.  I play the scenario out in my mind. Would I just happen to have a handy rope nearby?  Would I run, screaming up and down the bank like a banshee, or would I swim the river myself in the hopes of saving us both?  This is the more likely, though equally foolhardy, option.  

Original 1523286827 erica article

Photo by Bulkey River Lodge

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Photo by Bulkey River Lodge