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Ten Winters later we balanced on thin stripes of rail around that same corner, a similar freshet though not as famous because most of what was washed out in 64 stayed washed out. It was just as thrilling--moreso, because we were old enough to break free and take real risks, see up close the new slides, some of which sagged against and threatened the rail's foundation of gravel, packed deep. In some spots the river had gone between the ties and under the rails, and ran at a brisk pace, but the water hadn't torn the rails free. In fact they were solid. We used them as reverse skates, pushing along in undeviating single file on our vibram soles, the surging river close enough to tickle our balls if we slipped.
In that condition the river is dangerous to be around. Sections of land can tear away from the bank like peeling the next slice off a stack of bologna. Small islands bravely float and quickly degenerate in the throbbing current, lost in the folds and rolling whole trees, still in leaf. But it's a thrill to stand at the edge, like the abutments where Ten Bridge
(the original wooden one) was connected to the bank. What landscapes came plowing around that bend headed for the deep sea as we stood a foot or so above the flood, plinking at flotsam with our .22s.
Even then, water surging and in full roar, at noon, you'd hear the long peal of whistle marking the day half over, not quite to the five mile post on the tracks.
Whatever you meant to do you'd better get started.
By the time I worked at the mill I owned a watch, and sometimes visited a girlfriend who lived out of range of the noon whistle. She claimed it was audible when conditions were right but they never were.