Chapter 16: Fishing Trip
The Great Adventure
It had been a hectic year; earthquakes, boys up trees, children lost at faires, appendixes, and bears. Belle had been very busy. "It isn't easy raising Roses," Belle commented to herself as she sipped a cup of tea one evening at sunset, "I'm looking forward to fall and things slowing down around here."
Back at the big house Grandpa James had just finished reading The Fisherman's Three Wishes to Lil Mike. "Hey, Mouse how about we go to the Little Fork and go fishing tomorrow. Would you like that?"
"Sure," she answered happily. She was all better now and ready for fun.
If Belle had heard she wouldn't have slept that night. But as it was she learned of the plans soon enough.
The Little Fork was a state wildlife park covering a 25-mile stretch of free-running river. The state had purchased several farms along the strip and had completely eliminated any sign that they had been there. Lil Mike enjoyed watching the birds and animals. On their last trip they had stopped and watched a family of river otters for nearly an hour.
Fishing groups who wanted to fish the Little Fork were required to have permits. There were no boat motors allowed and only dry camps without fires could be made. Campers were expected to carry out all waste. "We leave the forest the way we find it," Grandpa James said.
Monday morning at 4 am everyone was in the truck and on their way. Everyone was Grandpa James, Lil Mike, Buddy, Pal, Belle (comfortable in a tackle box) and Oscar. Oscar had been Grandpa James' guardian for many years.
These days Oscar spent his days on the porch growling warnings to strangers when needed. But he still loved to go fishing even if he was blind and deaf he could still feel the sun and the breeze and smell the water.
As light appeared over the hills the boat was floating lazily away from the boat ramp where they had put in. Grandpa James set out Lil Mike's fishing rig to port and began fly-fishing in elegant casts off the starboard side. The dogs enjoyed the sun while Pal was stretched across the foredeck. It was going to be a perfect summer day.
They caught a "passel" of fish. Lil Mike liked to use marshmallows as bait. Grandpa James was using a caddis fly. Soon they reached their favorite lunch spot.
Buddy and Oscar, eager to stretch their legs, set off to explore the woods. Grandpa James and Lil Mike set up a picnic. Pal was busy swiping at minnows along the water's edge so she didn't hear Belle's frightened calls.
There was a cracking sound and a startled yelp. Buddy dashed past suddenly to get help. He wanted Belle who was still trying to get out of the box Pal had put her in. (Her tail was itching like mad.)
Grandpa James ran toward the yelping so fast that he didn't watch his step and suddenly the ground gave out below him and he fell down into the same hole Oscar was in.
James shook his head and looked around. He was in an old waterless well that had been boarded over long ago. He realized all too quickly that he was in very big trouble. A cold sweat broke out on his forehead. Fear filled his mind.
*Grandpa James had reason to fear. They were alone and far away from any help. He and Oscar were hurt and trapped and the only person around was a little girl who was much too small for her age. She was too small to handle the boat and too small to go for help.
"Grandpa," Lil Mike called "Grandpa are you ok?" He could hear fear in her voice.
Grandpa tried to sound calm," I'm down here Mouse, you need to stay back. OK?"
"Think James," he said to himself. His leg hurt terribly. He couldn't be sure if other damage had been done. Oscar was whining near by.
"Oscar how bad is it?" Buddy barked very loud so Oscar could hear.
"Leg's broken. He's hurt too." Oscar answered weakly. "Buddy where's Belle?"
"I'm right here, FINALLY" Belle stated. "Next time, no latching the box."
Belle flew high up into the sky to check things out. It was Monday and the river was quiet. The only other people fishing were some men down at the next ramp. The situation was one of the worst that she had ever faced. Her tail told her that Grandpa James and Oscar were in a very bad way. She returned to Buddy and Pal feeling sick. For the first time she forgot to be careful.
Lil Mike was frightened and crying she was trying so hard to be brave. She wiped her eyes on her sleeve. Suddenly she stopped crying. Her eyes got large with wonder. She was looking at the most beautiful mouse she had ever seen. The mouse was pure white with pink lined ears and blue eyes. But, most amazing of all, she had pale blue wings all glittery. "Oh," Lil Mike said. "Grandpa there is a little white mouse out here with wings."
"A mouse? Michal where are Buddy and Pal?" Grandpa James was starting to chill and feel sick. "Keep your head James," he said to himself.
Belle realized her mistake too late. She knew she needed to do something quickly. "Lil Mike," she called. "My name is Belle. I'm here to help you."
Lil Mike was delighted. The mouse talked. "Are you an angel?" she asked.
"No honey," Belle answered, "Right now I wish I were. Your Grandpa is hurt and I know you're scared but everything is going to be all right." Belle tried very hard to sound confident." We need to get help for your Grandpa and Oscar. Do you think you could help us?"
Lil Mike nodded.
"Good, you keep talking to your Grandpa. Buddy, Pal and I will figure things out. OK?" Lil Mike nodded again and Belle flew off to the boat.
"Grandpa, everything is going to be OK. The little mouse said so." Lil Mike called down into the dark.
"Michal?" James was getting worried. He was fighting shock. The talk about a mouse didn't make sense.
Buddy returned with James' coat. Soon he and Pal had collected the rope, blankets and a canteen of water.
"Grandpa, we got stuff for you," Lil Mike called down. Soon she was helping lower the items down to James and Oscar.
"Honey what's happening up there?" Grandpa James tried to clear his head.
"Belle said you need to stay warm while we go get help," Lil Mike answered him. "She saw men down at the lower ramp."
"Michal Hanna," Grandpa James made his voice level. "You need to go down to the boat and wait for someone to come by. The lower landing is too far away."
"No one is coming Grandpa. Belle looked," Lil Mike tried to explain as best she could.
Grandpa James began to shake. "MICHAL YOU STAY PUT." He was fading and he was scared.
Belle didn't have the ability to heal. Never had she been so very aware of it. She did have her special songs. She turned her gift onto Grandpa James and Oscar. Sleep was what she could give them now. Lil Mike slept too. "She needs it right now," Belle told the others. "Let's get ready."
Belle flew down to James and Oscar. She made sure they were as warm and comfortable as she could make them. Buddy collected what he could. Pal would stay and keep an eye on things.
When everything was ready Belle shook Lil Mike awake. "Michal you must always obey your Grandpa. He loves you and he will always keep you safe, but right now he and Oscar need your help. Buddy, Pal and I will help you."
Lil Mike nodded.
Belle flew down to check on the two sleeping friends. She pressed her nose to James'. "Sleep well, old friend."
Lil Mike, Buddy and Belle got in the boat. Lil Mike put on her life vest and shoved off. They would have to trust the river to take them down stream. Grandpa James had always made the float seem easy. Now, with the boat free on the water without him they were floating crazily alone spinning and dancing. They bumped into some rocks and got swiped by tree limbs.
Lil Mike sat in the bottom of the boat while Belle tried to figure out what to do. She didn't need Lil Mike hurt too.
"You need to use those things." Lil Mike pointed to the ores.
Together they tried to do it the way Grandpa James did. But, they weren't big enough. Finally Belle figured out how to use one ore to keep the boat from spinning so badly. "It's like flying a kite," she said. "If only this thing had a tail."
That gave Belle an idea. The next time they floated under a tree she yelled. "Buddy grab that limb. And don't fall out of the boat."
Buddy grabbed. Lil Mike grabbed. And Belle scurried up the limb and began zapping it off as fast as she could.
Now they had a tail for their floating kite and the tail worked like a rudder as well. With the branch tied in place the boat didn't spin any more. If only they could go faster.
Have you ever noticed how slow time can be when you are anxious about something? It didn't help that the river ran slowly in places. Belle chewed her nails. Buddy scratched and fidgeted. Lil Mike kept asking, "When will we get there?" over and over.
There was a change in the water. It still looked flat and calm but they were moving much faster. A deep low rubble came to their ears. Belle's tail itched worst than ever (if that were possible).
"We need to go that way." Lil Mike pointed to the right of an island of dead trees. "The water's too rough the other way. There's a cliff at the bottom we could hit."
Buddy and Belle tried to change course but it was too late. The boat bobbed and shook. Then it began to buck as the rolling waves tossed it about. Lil Mike screamed.
"Hold on!" Belle cried as she blasted a huge rock standing in their way. It exploded into dust and steam.
The water slammed them back and forth, nearly flipping them over. They hit the cliff at the bottom hard. Buddy was thrown out.
"BUDDY!" Lil Mike screamed. She was really scared.
"Buddy," Belle called, "get to the bank we'll try to get to you."
Buddy had a hard time swimming in the fast water. He had disappeared around a corner before he was able to struggle out.
Belle and Lil Mike saw him disappear. Lil Mike began to cry.
Buddy shook himself and looked around. MEN; he saw men. Buddy began running down the bank as fast as he could go. When he got there he began barking and dancing around the men madly.
"What on earth!" one of the men yelled.
At that Buddy ran up river and barked and jumping at the water.
"That dog's crazy," another man said.
Buddy tried again. He was going to get help if he had to bite one of these guys.
Just then the boat floated around the corner where the men could see it. Belle saw what Buddy was doing. "Yell Lil Mike, yell at the men," she cried. "I'll go check on your grandpa."
Lil Mike yelled and waved her arms.
The men recognized the problem at once. They went into action. Three men cast their lines right into the boat and began reeling in the biggest catch of the day. The other man in chest waders walked right out into the river and grabbed the boat as it tried to go by.
"My grandpa's hurt. He's up there." Lil Mike pointed up river.
One of the men used his cell phone to call the park warden. The warden was there very quickly. He gave Lil Mike and Buddy a ride up river in his security speedboat so they could show him where Grandpa and Oscar were.
Pal was there waiting at the river's edge. Belle flew out of the hole just as the warden stepped out of his boat.
Soon James and Oscar were being flown to the hospital in a helicopter. Lil Mike, Buddy and Pal had to wait for Grandpa Travis. The warden was a nice man named Scott. He cleaned up and then took them back to their truck, pulling the boat behind.
"I have never seen such amazing animals," Scott said to Grandpa Travis when he got there. "If you ever get puppies from this boy right here I want one." (Which is how Spark would become a famous park warden dog.)
Belle winked at Buddy and Pal. "Thank you," she said. Her tail was calming down. She knew everything would be ok.
Grandpa James was in the hospital for two days. (Belle had to sneak her medicine in to him. But that's another story.) He was in great shape for an 88-year-old man. On the day he left the hospital he insisted that they stop and buy a cell phone. He didn't want to get stuck like that again.
Oscar was well-cared for by Nanna Jillian. He was so helpful at the hospital that Belle talked him into a new job. He stayed with Jillian and comforted wounded animals for the rest of his days.
Belle went home very confused. Never in all her years had she been seen. She knew that Lil Mike would have lots of questions.
"No sense worrying about tomorrow," Belle fluffed her wings. "I need a cup of tea and a bath." That is just what she did.
Airabella Quick of Cherry Hill Farm is © copyright 2008 by Kimberlyn Kammerer. All rights reserved.
May not be reprinted elsewhere without permission from the author/illustrator.