“Mom! Can I ride Diane’s bike to see Grandpa and Grandma? I promised I would help Grandpa paint their old porch swing,” Emmy hollered as she dashed up the back steps and into the kitchen. “Can I go?”
Mom wiped her hands on a dish towel and sighed. “I am making lasagna for dinner. Will you be back in time to eat?”
Emmy grinned and rubbed her hands together. “I’ll make sure we finish in time. I love homemade lasagna.”
Emmy borrowed her older sister’s dilapidated bike and raced along the sidewalks to her grandparents’ house. She nearly wiped out on the loose gravel behind their house but managed to stay upright. She arrived and jumped off the bike and let it fall to the ground. “Grandpa, I’m here to help,” she hollered. She dashed to the back of the house where Grandpa was working on the old porch swing.
“I’m glad you made it. I just finished getting this thing ready for a new coat of paint,” Grandpa said.
“What color did Grandma choose?”
Grandpa opened the can of paint and stirred it.
“I like red,” Emmy said grabbing one of the brushes.
Emmy and Grandpa worked for almost an hour. Grandma brought out some iced tea and Emmy and Grandpa sat on the porch steps to take a break.
“Can you tell me another story while we wait for the paint to dry?” Emmy asked.
Grandpa chuckled and said, “I guess that would be better than watching the paint dry.”
“Tell me more about Ol’ Melvin and Obadiah.”
Grandpa wiped some paint off of his arm and then wiped a few specks from Emmy’s cheek. “I think I remember a story about the time Ol’ Melvin and Obadiah had wondered close to the Grand Canyon.”
“I saw pictures of the Grand Canyon at the library. I want to go there someday. Have you ever seen it?”
“We were at the South Rim once, but this story is about the other side. It was getting close to winter and Ol’ Melvin and Obadiah decided to head south for warmer weather. They had been travelin’ for several days through a forest of different types of pine trees and shrubs. It was hard going because of the dense forest and they could only see a few feet in front of them. It was about noon this one day and they had been travelin’ since sunrise. Melvin ducked under a big tree and came to a sudden stop. He froze in place and was afraid to move.”
“What happened? Did he see a bear or a mountain lion like before?”
Grandpa shook his head. “No, Emmy, he stopped because if he had taken another step he would have fallen down a thousand foot cliff.”
Emmy’s eyes opened wide. “Was it the Grand Canyon?”
“It was, but Ol’ Melvin and Obadiah didn’t know it at the time. You see this was before anyone except the local native people even knew there was a Grand Canyon. Anyway, Melvin grabbed hold of Obadiah’s rein before he lost his footing. He and Obadiah stood on the edge and looked out at the canyon. ‘Wow, Obadiah, that sure is a big ditch to cross,’ Both of them stared at the huge canyon.”
“I think its wider than the Kinmundy River valley,” Emmy said.
“Much wider. It’s so wide that Ol’ Melvin and Obadiah could barely see the other rim which was over ten miles away. Melvin looked at Obadiah and said, ‘I reckon we need to find a way down if we want to keep heading to warmer weather.’ They made camp, ate lunch and then explored the area for several days. Melvin caught some rabbits to eat…”
“Oh, why did he have to eat bunnies?”
Grandpa clenched his jaw, then explained, “These weren’t soft little bunnies like you see today. These were wild, desert rabbits that people caught to make stew out of.”
“That’s okay then. Did he put carrots and potatoes in the stew?”
“He didn’t have any potatoes, but he had a few carrots left and he found different kinds of roots to use.”
Emmy made a face. “That sounds gross. I wouldn’t want to eat roots.”
“Back then the old prospectors had to eat whatever they could find. Melvin added salt and pepper to make the stew taste better. After exploring for a few days, Melvin found a narrow trail heading down the canyon.”
“Was it like the one you told me about before?”
“In some ways, but this trail was wider and wound all around as it went down. Ol’ Melvin and Obadiah went lower and lower into the canyon until they couldn’t see the top. Finally, they came to a mighty river. It’s called the Colorado now, but it didn’t have a name back then. They set up camp at the edge of the river while they tried to figure out a way to get across. They ended up staying there for the whole winter. They built a shelter out of rocks and old logs and survived on wild plants, desert rabbits and other creatures.”
“Did they eat rattlesnakes?”
“I don’t mind if they ate those. I wouldn’t eat one, but it okay Ol’ Melvin and Obadiah did.”
“Then Melvin had an idea. He would build a raft and they would go down the river until they found a place to climb out. All winter Melvin worked on his canoe. He had to make it big enough to carry Obadiah and all their supplies.”
“Couldn’t they swim down the river? Can’t donkeys swim?”
“No, the river was much too wild. There were rapids and he didn’t know if there was a big waterfall just around the bend. So, they survived the winter. He even found a little bit of gold and silver to take with them. One day he said to Obadiah, ‘I reckon it’s time to move on.’ He loaded up the canoe and helped Obadiah get in and off they went.” Grandpa stood up and waved his arms. “The river went this way and that.” Grandpa moved back and forth like he was going around the bends of the river. “They went up and down the whitewater rapids while Melvin kept his eyes peeled for danger. That went on for three whole days before they came to a spot where the river settled down and they could get to the bank. They found a sandy beach and made camp.”
Grandma opened the back door and stood with hands on hips. “Are you going to keep flapping your tongue all day, or are you going to finish painting my swing. I do want to use it again this summer.”
“I suppose I will have to finish the story later, Emmy. We better do what Grandma says.”
“I know they made it down the river, Grandpa, because you told me they lived for almost a hundred years.” Emmy touched the paint. “It’s dry enough for another coat. I want to hear how Ol’ Melvin and Obadiah made it out of the canyon.”
“You’re right. They did make it out, but they had lots of adventures before they did.” Grandpa grinned and said, “They even had to escape a herd of wild horses.”
“I want to hear about that,” she said and then looked up at Grandpa. “You know it’s truly amazing that Obadiah never fell out of the canoe,” Emmy said as she dipped her brush into the paint.
Grandpa chuckled and replied, “Yes, he must have been quite an agile donkey.”