The morning began with the sunlight streaming through Li’l Abner Milner’s window. The curtain was moving with the gentle breeze blowing into the room while the scent of jasmine wafted under Abner’s nose. The morning was beckoning for him to come outside. Li’l Abner threw back his blanket and hopped out of bed. He scrambled around looking for his overalls, which usually are in heap at the foot of his bed; but this morning, they weren’t there. He had remembered his mother, Lilly, had washed them; therefore, his cut-off britches would have to suffice. They were hanging on a peg in his closet along with a baseball cap. He slipped them over his furry legs, snatched his cap and he slipped out the back door after calling out to his mom to tell her he was headed to the creek. A peach tree stood a few yards from the back door. Opposite the tree was a clothes line where he saw his well-worn overalls, some towels and his mom’s aprons. He picked a golden peach that was tinged with ruby red from the tree. This would be breakfast.
As he briskly walked along Wisteria Lane, he could hear the babbling of Willow Creek that ran through town. Bird song filled the otherwise quiet morning. Li’l Abner’s friend, Ted, was sitting on the steps of the gazebo in the middle of the town’s greens. Ted jumped up as the two friends waved at each other. Ted joined Abner on the path and together they walked past the train depot, while following Willow Creek. Today was the day they had been planning -to have an adventure.
While marching along the foothills of the Hazy Hills, and into the forest, the anticipation inside them built. They didn’t say much to each other. Ted had brought his box of tools which contained an axe, a rope and some matches (he did like to build fires; as he was known as the town’s pyromaniac - or pyrotechnic as Ted would correct them). Following the banks of Willow Creek was their favorite past-time. The creek flowed from deep within the Hazy Hills, through Blue Lake (encircled by Camp HoopLa HooRay), and flowed down to the Azure Sea after leaving Milner’s Marsh. Camp HoopLa HooRay was the beloved summer camp where others would come from far and wide to camp for four glorious summer days each year.
Usually, Pudd’n and Tater took Honey Grove residents and visitors up to camp. They would load folks into the bed of their wooden truck. It took four “fixin’-of-the-tires” to get up there and only two “fixin’-of-the-tires” back down to town. The road was well-worn and had plenty of pot holes and divots. Nobody knew exactly how far Camp HoopLa HooRay was from town in miles or kilometers. Who measures that way anyway? Moments are how time is measured in the Hinterlands. All anyone knew for sure with faithful accuracy was it took four “fixin’-of-the-tires” to get up to camp. Today, Li’l Abner and Ted were hoping to see how long it took to hike to camp.
It wasn’t too long and the sun was high overhead. The shadows were short and sharp. Abner and Ted sat on a large boulder that sat on the edge of the bank. It sat far enough out in the creek that water had no choice but to divert itself around the rock. Ted and Abner saw some fallen trees across the creek bed. Both of them looked at each other with a twinkle in their eyes as if both, by telepathy knew what the other was thinking. SPLISH. SPLASH. Their furry feet hit the water and they were wading across Willow Creek’s crystal clear cool waters. Once reaching the other side, Ted threw his tool box down. They took turns chopping the fallen tree limbs to be as close to the same length as possible. Li’l Abner pulled out the rope and they worked at tying the small logs together so as to make a raft. Once the raft was complete they rested under a Cottonwood tree. Nearby, a fish jumped. Then another and another. It was a school of salmon. They were swimming up stream.
The shadows were getting longer now and the sun was disappearing behind forest trees and hills. Getting to camp wasn’t going to happen today. The two friends decided the quickest way back to town wasn’t by foot, it was by water. Specifically their raft on the water.
The sense of adventure sparked and after tossing the tool box and a limb of a pine tree onto the raft, the two pushed the raft to the middle of the creek. They each climbed aboard. Ted stood at the helm, with the limb in paw, using it as a rudder. They were off. Li’l Abner dangled his feet in the water as he sat on the side of the raft. The creek had a swift current and was deep enough that the raft wasn’t dragging bottom. Smiles stretched across the two bears’ faces and excitement bubbled in their hearts. A crow could be heard in the distance. The frogs were beginning their late afternoon songs of courtship. A rabbit scampered along the grassy bank. Cottonwood seeds with their soft, feathery fluff drifted through the air. Dark green trees provided the background for the contrasting white “snow”. The shadows were merged together as one and the trees provided plenty of dappled light on the creek bed where the two bears were now navigating their raft. Li’l Abner and Ted took turns being captain of the raft while the other dangled their feet or paws in the cool, clear stream.
Ted used the limb as a rudder and alternated between steering and un-sticking the raft from shallower waters. Li’l Abner enjoyed watching the ripples his paws made in the water as they floated along. It wasn’t long before they could hear faster moving water. The raft began to more more swiftly. The two friends looked at each other with anxiousness showing on their faces. They had forgotten about the waterfall. Ted grabbed his box of tools and the two bears hopped off the raft and watched it get carried away with the quick current. They waded through the water to the creek bank. The bank was rocky and provided a way to climb down the embankment where the falls were. It was as they were climbing down they happened to find a small set of train tracks. The tracks went towards the waterfall, or maybe, perhaps they came from the waterfall and went along the embankment? The two bears were not sure which direction to follow the tracks. Li’l Abner suggest they go towards the waterfall, since going that way kept them close to the creek which would eventually take them back home to Honey Grove.
It was getting later in the evening and the trees were offering full shade for the creek due to the sun being on the west side of the Hazy Hills. A whippoorwill started its nightly song. Ted and Li’l Abner followed the narrow set of tracks into a cave behind the waterfall. The cave was damp and noisy. It smelled of moist rock and dirt. There were gold flecks in the walls of the cave. Some flecks looked like long, jagged designs; a sort of marbled effect. On the opposite side of the cave, there was a small cart on the tracks. The tracks stopped there and did not continue through. Ted wandered over to the cart and peered inside. There was dynamite laying in the cart. Ted’s eyes grew as big as tea saucers and an idea sprang into his head. When he told Li’l Abner his idea, Abner was in full agreement. The two were quite hungry and were ready to be home. It was a fun, but long day. They agreed to come back another day to explore the other direction of the tracks.
They maneuvered the cart off the tracks and positioned it facing out of the waterfall. Ted fashioned the dynamite on the back of the cart. They two adventurers crawled inside the cart. Ted dug into his tool box and took out the matches. He struck the first match, but it didn’t light. He struck the second match. FIRE. With that match, he lit the dynamite. POOF! Like a rocket, the cart blasted forward and out from under the waterfall. Somehow, it followed the creek, as there wasn’t any way to commandeer the flying cart. The cart twisted and turned its way along the creek, heading towards Honey Grove. All the two bears could see was a great green blur on either side and twilight skies in front of them. They had no idea how fast they were traveling; maybe there were going as fast as Racecar Rudy? What a thrilling thought to think they might be as fast as Rudy’s car! Li’l Abner’s cap flew off, and as he looked behind him to retrieve it, the cart tilted to the left. It corrected itself as he turned back to face forward. Up ahead were willow trees, they must be approaching the fork where Willow Creek and Bee Creek meet. Within seconds, they were past the willows, but the train trusses were quickly approaching. They ducked as they went under it. They flew through town and had to duck again as the cart flew under the footbridge. It was at that moment they both realized they were about to fly over Jaxon’s Pond. But as soon as they realized that, they were over the pond. Suddenly, the cart tipped on its side and the two bears fell out and splashed into the water. They bobbed in the pond and saw the cart - all lit up, fly over their heads heading back from the direction from which they had come.
They swam towards the shore and dragged their tired bodies out of the water. It was now twilight and the fireflies were flickering around the pond in the tall grasses and weaving in and out of the cattails. Frogs were croaking their night songs and the crickets joined in harmony. They sat there for a little while gathering their thoughts, mulling over what had just happened while also chattering about their adventurous day. With rumblings in their tummies they walked back to town. Ted’s house was at the south end of town while Li’l Abner’s was at the north end. They said goodbye to each other and agreed to go fishing at Jaxon’s Pond the next morning. As Abner walked through the Gazebo Greens, he could see his house up ahead. His mom, Lilly, was in the kitchen. He was looking forward to whatever she was serving for dinner. As he got closer, the door opened and out stepped Lilly to collect the clothes hanging on the line. She saw Abner and they hugged. She told him soup would be ready in five minutes and to go wash up. As Abner climbed the back steps into his house, Lilly asked if he had a good day. “I’ll tell you all about it at supper, mom,” he said with a grin.