A Ten Pound Bag
Chapter 67: An Inch Deep and a Mile Wide
Copyright© 2020 by Emmeran
The morning coffee was good, even if it was made Turkish style. That means made with just a measure of ground coffee tossed into hot water and boiled. It was tasty. I still had sugar with my coffee also; I liked a pinch of sweetness in the first mug of the day. I wasn’t big on sweet foods outside of that. Most days, I only ate a small amount of sweets to be polite and still personally felt it was the greatest drug push of the modern world. Hell, in the modern world, you could even find pickles with sugar added in which really contradicts everything about pickling. Sugar made a lot of people rich and a lot of people sick or dead so I classified it as a drug.
I packed up camp and headed out to find a good fording spot on the Platte. The Platte has some pitfalls to it. The greatest are quicksand and shifting, fast-moving channels. The general plan was to ride the riverbank until I found a spot with an island or two to shorten my risk exposure. It’s best if they are in a vertical row so you didn’t have to fight the current on the way across.
From my slightly elevated view coming down to the river, I could see a section that looked promising, with three islands each located slightly east and down river from the next. The downside was that the current would be faster, the upside was that exposure to quicksand would be limited. I hoped to swim the horses across those sections but we’d swim with the current and not try to fight it. It was time to get wet again.
We followed the game trail down to the river bank. We ended up about a hundred feet upstream of the first island with a small sand beach to walk out on from the bank. The plan was to build a raft to carry the tack and packs, tether the horses to it and then after I crossed, I’d pull the raft over with horses following behind it. While horses swim pretty well, they don’t swim with anything on their back so I needed the raft. I tethered the horses, grabbed my ax and went looking for raft-making logs.
It took me a while, but I eventually found and cut enough dry fall to build a small raft that would float all of my gear. I bound it together with rope. This was modern light-weight rope and wouldn’t pass the time test whatsoever. Had I known I was traveling time, I would have only purchased hand-twisted hemp rope. But hell, if I had known I was traveling time I would have done many things differently. However, if you’re outfitting for camping and packing, you take rope. I had it and I was going to use it; it’s not like there were people around to comment on my strange rope.
I long-tethered the horses to the raft, which was loaded with my gear and had my rope attached to it. Then I took my boots and shirt off and waded out into the water, aiming for the upstream tip of the first island. I walked straight out knowing I would be upstream of the island if the current didn’t grab me. I trailed the rope behind me and kept my feet in constant motion. Brin followed me.
The water was cold. Nuts-relocating-to-your-stomach cold. It was only May, after all, and cold water did mean no snakes or leeches; I tried to take that part as a blessing. I was within yards of the island shore when the river bed fell out from under me and I swam for my life. It was less than ten yards to the island bank, but it seemed like a mile. Brin ended up all the way down on the second island. I was on the downstream end of the first. The current was that powerful.
I commanded Brin to Stay; I didn’t need to lose him to loyalty. I then worked my way back up to the tip island to bring across my packs and horses. When I got to the upstream tip of this island, I reeled in all of the slack in the rope and tied it off to a tree. I waded up the sand bar a little bit, slowly pulling the raft out into the slow part of the river. As soon as the raft was coming my way, the horses had to follow.