by Sydna Mundy, Lynchburg, VA

Story prompt: My favorite memory of being on or near the river is…

I am eight years old as I search for sandy patches among the orange and brown rocks of the Pedlar River. My father told me it’s better to trust your footing on the riverbed than on the large, smooth stones slick with algae. He’s standing just ahead of me, pants rolled up to his knees, leaned over and peering into the light-dappled ripples. The cold water streams around our ankles, obscuring the view of what lies at our feet. We move, eyes cast downward, at a glacial pace. Though the footing is unstable, our pace is determined by a different factor.

“Look at this,” he calls out, dropping a large stone back into place.

I reach out and he drops a handful of water and mud into my hand.

“What is that?”

“That’s a caddisfly shell; the larvae make them. Spin them out of silk and weave in rocks and bits of leaves.”

I marvel over the tiny hollow tube before placing it carefully back in the water. I can hear my father’s voice extolling the virtues of caddisfly fishing lures, but my attention has been pulled away to my own discovery–a bright orange crayfish clambering onto my foot. I slip my hands slowly into the water on either side of the curious creature and let it continue its climb onto my fingers. With water cupped between my hands, I stumble over to show off my prize.

“Looks mighty tasty,” he says with approval.

“You can’t eat him,” I reply in shock, shooting daggers with my eyes.

“Alright, alright,” he laughs, “Let him go back home then.”

The crayfish darts away as the fresh water washes over my palms. We continue in this manner for the next hour or so. By the time the sun has sunk below the trees, we’ve hardly made it 20 feet. Though we haven’t gone far, our investigation has landed us countless discoveries–a pure white quartz stone, a couple dozen black snails, a tiny newt, minnows nipping at the saltine crumbs we scattered in a still pool, the frightening pincers of a hellgrammite.

This is not the first nor the last time I will spend an afternoon with my dad happily turning over rocks in the same stretch of water. Each time we step into this river there is something new to discover, some treasure to unearth. As we walk back to the car, my father marvels at our small odyssey: what an adventure it is to go nowhere.

Creative Commons Photo