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FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: Lost in Yellowstone (Chapter 13)


“What the note did not say.”


No one could say with certainty what it was that Todd saw. One might say it was just a hiker on the trail. Another? It had to be an angel. What I do know is that Todd himself did not know.

He had hiked up the river all morning, leaving me well behind him. Outside of my half of an hour of rest and the nap, I remained diligent in making my way north up the river.

The river was clear – “clear as crystal,” I often thought – its transparency giving us the more assurance. Much was to be unknown on these days, but we had some clarity, at least, looking into that water. We never wondered where we were stepping or what was there. The rocks overlay the bottom like a sheet and were sometimes slippery, and they were of different sizes so that you had to be careful not to slip or lose your footing due to both the uneven river floor and the swiftness of the water. Of all the hours we walked in that river, I slipped a few times but never fell in the water. I never saw Todd slip at all. You walk carefully, circumspectly, with so much at stake.

I suppose I’ll never talk about the Christian walk without thinking of these six days and, especially, that careful, delicate walk up the Snake River.

Often the rocky islands that appeared often throughout the river would divide the water into separate tributaries. The divided water would come back together again when the island ended, and it would flow as before, as one. I hoped that the same would be the case for Todd and me.

As you walked, you had to pick and choose the best routes to take to make your way northward safely. Sometimes one of the tributaries would be far too swift to attempt to go that way, so you would either take the other stream, ‘having the better claim’ as says the poet, and perhaps flowing much more gently; or you would take to the island and walk it as long as needed before you could take to the water again. You would not want to walk on the islands too long because they were filled with much mud, high grass, and fallen trees – almost petrified logs now lying across the way – and its terrain did not inspire confidence, either. Down in the water was where the greater safety rest, in my mind.

I do not know exactly how far Todd went totally that morning or how far behind him I was. With my thirty-minute or so nap and rest, I think he must have gotten a mile or so ahead of me. Perhaps totally we walked as much as two, three miles that morning up the river. Along the way, I must have stopped again to write another note, in my journal, such as it was, or I wrote it earlier in the morning. Looking back now, I see I had my doubts about Todd’s finding me before nightfall. The eventuality of spending the night alone on that river was always in the back of my mind. I did not know that Todd was about to see something that would change the entire course of the journey, as I stopped to write once more to the amazin’ blonde. The note was simple, describing the items I had left behind and such. But now as I read this note, I read much more between the lines.

In my small tent bag I packed my medicine, a couple of shirts, one pair of extra socks – we are past “changing clothes” – and I took one walking cane and left the other.

After I walked alone awhile on the river, I realized Todd took my sleeping bag – and that worried me a little. I knew if he did not come back tonight that I would probably find some wood, etc. and build a makeshift bed on one of the rock islands between the two streams of water when the river divides often. I knew I’d be safer at night by the water than on the land.

I also knew I would see you again.

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