The river which forms the eastern boundary of our farm has always played an important part in our lives. Without it we could not make a living. There is only enough spring water supplying the needs of the house, so we have to pump from the river for farm use. We tell the river all our secrets. We know instinctively, just as beekeepers with their bees, that misfortune might overtake us if the important evens of our lives were not related to it. |
We have special river birthday parties in the summer. Sometimes we go upstream to a favorite backwater, sometimes we have our party at the boathouse, which a predecessor of ours at the farm built in the meadow hard by the deep pool for swimming and diving. In a heat wave we choose a midnight birthday party and that is the most exciting of all. We welcome the seasons by the riverside, crowning the youngest girl with flowers in the spring, holding a summer festival on Midsummer Eve, giving thanks for the harvest in the autumn, and throwing a holly wreath into the current in the winter.
After a long period of rain the river may overflow its banks. This is a rare occurrence as our climate seldom goes to extremes. We are luckily in that only the lower fields, which make up a very small proportion of our farm, are affects by flooding, but other farms are less favorably sited, and flooding can sometimes spell disaster for their owners.
One bad winter we watched the river creep up the lower meadows. All the cattle had been moved into stalls and we stood to lose little. We were, however, worried about our nearest neighbors, whose farm was low lying and who were newcomers to the district. As the floods had put the telephone out of order, we could not find out how they were managing. Form an attic window we could get a sweeping view of the river where their land joined ours, and at the most critical juncture we took turns in watching that point.
The first sign of disaster was a dead sheep floating down. Next came a horse, swimming bravely, but we were afraid that the strength of the current would prevent its landing anywhere before it became exhausted. Suddenly a raft appeared, looking rather like Noah’s ark, carrying the whole family, a few hens, the dogs, a cat, and a bird in a cage. We realized that they must have become frightened by the rising flood, for their house, which had sound foundations, would have stood stoutly even if it had been almost submerged. The men of our family waded down through our flooded meadows with boathooks, in the hope of being able to grapple a corner of the raft and pull it out of the current towards our bank. We still it miracle that they were able to do so.
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