A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

Children of the Valley
by Larry Foreman (Jan 2011)

         George walked along the bluff pondering the serenity of the valley. It had been five years since their home had been destroyed by fire sweeping off the prairie into the valley. His wife and three girls had perished. Even though George still worked the farmstead, he had rebuilt only a one-room shack. He wondered why he had been spared.

        Just then, two youngsters rode out onto the rounded promontory below him. George recognized Ada and Jack - children of two neighboring families. Both about 10, they often rode the trails through the tree-lined gullies bordering the valley. Many times, George had likened Ada to his girls and Jack to their playmates.

        George stood motionless as the children dismounted. Chattering indiscernibly, they flung small rocks out over the promontory into the canyon. He could hear their cries of exhilaration as their projectiles soared into the air and downward in endless flight. George smiled, remembering the times he had thrown rocks as a boy.

        Just as good ideas are wont to grow, the children’s rocks grew. Jack and Ada soon forsook the pebbles and graduated to fist-sized rocks – ones that made four or five good smacking sounds as they hit the rocks below. Soon, these were abandoned in favor of small boulders that had to be carried to the edge with both hands and dropped near the edge of the promontory to slowly roll over and tumble down with a crashing and smashing below.

        Of course, Jack had to take the game to its absurd end. Finding a large, round boulder, he rolled it toward the slope, heaving and pushing. With one last vigorous shove, the rock moved swiftly out of Jack’s grasp. But Jack’s thrust carried him forward, too. Falling face-forward onto the rounded edge, he slid downward. Quick as a cat, he rolled onto his belly and clawed at the rock. With a squeal of fear, Ada raced forward, dropped to her belly, and began edging forward to grasp Jack’s hand.

        George turned and ran to his horse, grabbed his rope, and ran back. He quickly tied one end to a cedar stump and the other around his waist. Sliding down the canyon slope on his backside, George ran over to the edge. He dropped to his belly beside Ada and pulled the rope taut. He squirmed toward Jack and threw his arm around Jack’s waist. Slowly, George pulled hard on the rope and edged them upward, sliding on their bellies toward safety. Ada, too, squirmed backward to level ground.

        As they stood looking out over the valley, Ada exclaimed, “That was scary!”

        Jack replied firmly, “I wasn’t that scared.”

        George smiled softly, “You two git on home now.” Barely needing the suggestion, the two turned and ran to their horses.

        George pulled himself back up the hill to his horse. As the fear now came alive, George mounted his horse, shaking. Deep in thought, he held the reins loosely and let his horse guide itself back to the shack.

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