This short story was written in August, 2019. The storyline is loosely based on the personal experience my brothers and I gained from a childhood trip to Yellowstone National Park back in the 1960s.
The three brothers are excited about the family’s vacation to a faraway national forest. Being an adventurous trio, they always seem to be finding themselves in trouble, and this vacation trip may just punch their ticket once again.
The family makes a stop on their first day out. There is a gorgeous canyon with an incredible waterfall. All of this waits for the family, nestled and hidden in the tall pines of the dense forest.
While Mom and Dad are gazing at the spectacular scene and taking photographs with their new high-end digital camera, the brothers three take an excursion to discover more about the waterfall. The sound of the cascading water can be heard for miles.
Gene is the youngest brother, and the biggest risk-taker. Nothing ever seems to frighten him. He leads the way through the thick pines as the boys find themselves closer and closer to the roar of the falls.
The oldest brother, Pete, follows close behind. He tries to be alert because Gene usually marches straight into harm’s way. Trailing behind, follows the middle brother, Craig. Barely noticed by the boys, the terrain begins to slope more and more, downward towards the dangerous canyon.
The pace of the brothers walk quickens, and their excitement grows with each step. Gene shouts over the noisy falls, “Let’s see how close we can get to the water.”
Little does he know how prophetic his words may soon become.
Craig’s steps even more tentatively through the challenging terrain and the pines. He notices the steep drop through the trees to the rushing and roaring river below.Pete calls out, “Keep your eyes looking up.”
Oops . . . too late!
And the story continues . . . more trouble awaits the threesome of adventure-seeking brothers.
The charging water from the falls nearly drowns out Pete’s warning. The trio of boys has ventured far past the safety zone.
Craig stares straight down at the bottom of the deep canyon. His eyes fill with frightened trauma. The angry river below, with the deafening sound of the falls, is too much to bear.
He grows more and more terrified, and his eyes are locked on to the danger below. With his eyes no longer watching his step, Craig feels his feet sliding on the steep ground, surrounded by prickly pine branches. He doesn’t see a protruding tree branch.
Colliding with the stiff branch, Craig’s body spins around as he is knocked to the ground. No longer on his feet, his body propels down the slippery slope like a missile. Closing his eyes, his hands miraculously grab hold of a stout pine branch above his head.
Craig lets out a scream, “Help! Help me!”
Pete and Gene can’t believe what has just transpired. Somehow, they have managed to stay on their feet. As Craig tumbles towards the canyon’s rim, he narrowly misses taking both of them with him.
Hearing Craig’s continued screams for help, the brothers need to come up with a rescue plan . . . immediately! They are too far from Mom and Dad for any help to arrive from them. They need to deal with the situation on their own.
Cautiously, the two boys slowly move down towards their brother. One misstep and one of them (or both) could be taking a plunge. The prospects of all three brothers making it out of this jam in one piece grow dimmer by the minute.
Gene steps gingerly, closer and closer, to reach his stricken brother. He sees Craig’s grip growing weaker as the pine branch appears to be breaking loose. Pete follows close behind, ready to help Gene rescue their brother.
The two boys stop just inches away from Craig’s hand, which has a death grip on the weakening branch. Pete anchors himself to a larger pine branch with one hand. His other hand reaches out to Gene.
The boys attempt to create a human chain to bring Craig back to a safer place. Suddenly, Pete’s hand slips away from the pine branch, and he tumbles into Gene. Both boys nearly join the river below, but Gene finds another branch to grab as well as more solid footing.
Pete’s hand replaces Gene’s hand on the branch as his other hand connects with Gene’s hand. The boys know this might be their final attempt to save all of them from the pickle they are in.
Craig continues to shout for the boys to save him. His impatience only makes the situation even more precarious.
Gene and Pete anchor their feet on the firmest ground they can find. Their feet dig in for balance and stability. With their human chain stronger than before, Gene reaches towards Craig’s hand.
The three brothers have reached a final destination, without any more chances. Gene calls to Craig, “You need to be ready to release your hand from the branch as I grab your hand.”
Craig nods in silence. He is much too petrified to say anything.
The rescue line is ready to make one final attempt. The wild river waits below as well. The next few seconds will decide everyone’s fate.
Gene reaches for Craig’s hand while Pete provides the anchor to hold all of them up. In an instant, Craig feels his brother’s hand and grabs hold. Together, Gene and Pete carefully pull Craig up the slope . . . one step, then two, finally three.
At last, the brothers are united again. They slowly and cautiously crawl and walk back up from the treacherous canyon rim.
In a few minutes, they emerge from the pine trees. Their arms and legs bear several scratches, abrasions, and bleeding from the spiny tree branches and the hard ground. Their dirty faces are topped with matted down hair full of pine needles. This disheveled threesome of thrill-seeking comrades is finally safe.
Mom and Dad turn around. They have been oblivious to everything until now. They both say in unison, “Were you boys playing again?”