The Payette River snakes through southwestern Idaho for a little over 82 miles and it’s a major tributary of the Snake River. Its headwaters originate in the Sawtooth and Salmon River Mountains with peaks towering above. You get the idea. When you’re rafting there, it’s like living in a postcard. And, the day of my adventure there included picture-perfect companionship to match.
What does one do when enjoying the river on such a day? Take a break from navigating the rapids and pull over, through a gentle eddy, to a sandy beach. That’s exactly what we did. Our three boats glided to the shore and once beached, we pulled out some snacks and drinks and did a little swimming in the calmer water.
Jim, Ren and Bart were just upstream of me doing their best imitation of bobbing corks. At first, the cool water stole their breath and then it did its best to wash away their fatigue while its flow infused them with reviving energy. I watched it all, felt the flowing water, heard the laughter and marveled at what the river brought to us.
After a few minutes, my sight was captured by a different object brought by the flow. It was brown and moving. At first, I thought it was a beaver. Then I thought it was a duck. Then a pelican. But no! I watched as its beaked head flopped out of the stream and then splashed back down.
Bart was a short distance downstream from it and his curiosity caused him to carefully, smoothly swim toward it.
“It’s a wild turkey!” he yelled out to us in excitement.
Then, I watched Bart cautiously reach under the drowning bird so he could carry it carefully to the shore where turkeys live. The poor bird was so weak, so water logged, it just lay panting in the shade of its rescue. We left it there to recuperate and to live another day. And, we wondered why we were there at the time to save it.
We have no idea how the turkey got into the water, where no turkey should be. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that we offered kindness and respite to another creature who needed help.
We climbed back into our boats with lighter, optimistic hearts. Then, we used our oars to glide back into the river’s flow, back to life without the turkey. Well, sort of without the turkey. Its soaked, exhausted image has been etched into my mind.
It’s made me wonder about the many people we’ve all seen flowing in the river of life, in need of some kind of help and respite. How many strangers, or our friends and neighbors, have been caught in the rapids of life to be thrashed, beaten and exhausted? We’ll likely never know how or why they got there. But if we follow Bart’s example, it won’t matter. We’ll simply, yet cautiously swim toward them, and carefully lift them back to shore so they can catch their breath. Then, we’ll hope our small gesture is soon enough! There will be many times when we’ll never know.
We’ll climb back into our own lives with lighter, more optimistic hearts, while our life snakes through our neighborhoods and cities for a little over eighty years. We’ll see high peaks and valleys. We’ll hope that we, every one of us, can become a major tributary for the betterment of our fellow humans. It’s a lofty thought for sure. But you get the idea.
Rafting through life is often difficult. And our days of adventure are more joyously lived when we become companions to match whatever challenges come our way, or the way of our neighbors.
Lynn Butterfield lives in Erda and is a managing broker for a real estate company.