Long Pine sits on the northern edge of the Sand Hills, where they flatten out. Next to it is “Hidden Paradise,” a resort in a small canyon cut by Pine Creek, which flows up from an underground pool. Early in the last century, families from Omaha traveled here by train to seek respite from the damp heat of the Nebraska summers. My family had a cabin here when the kids were growing up. For well over a hundred years kids have ridden inner tubes down the twisting creek, whose icy water is so pure it is bottled and sold. The only Galleher (my given name) left in the area is my father’s brother, Tom, 92, as kind and mellow a man as you might ever meet. He spends the summer at .his cabin on the creek. On our visit to see him, Julya and I ride the tubes down the creek and surprisingly manage to survive the rapids at the bottom without cuts or scrapes.
Which raises a difficult point. The kids don’t do well in water. Their clothes fall apart, and their skin stains. They understand this, and accept the fact that they can’t go swimming in pools or lakes when we are on vacation. At Uncle Tom’s cabin, though, they see the fun the other kids are having on the tubes and insist they can ride them down the creek without getting wet. The problem is, you’ve a fifty-fifty chance of dumping at the rapids. We can’t risk it. The decision results in protestations and, eventually, tears. Andy argues that we need to give them a chance, to trust them. Uncle Tom eventually distracts them by showing how to feed the trout that school in the water under his bridge. The kids recover quickly, and in a little while are waving and calling to people on tubes passing under the bridge.
The kids join us and Tom at the senior center in Bassett for lunch. The older ladies make a great fuss over them. Several made their own Anns and Andys for their children and grandchildren. One made a second pair for her daughter on her fiftieth birthday, which brought her to tears. Ann and Andy are used to these stories, and bear them well, although I know from hearing them talk that these comments make them feel unimportant. They do well at the luncheon with the ancients. Ann smiles when one lady tries to straighten her hair.
Coming to Bassett is bittersweet for me. My father died when I was seven. I tell an abbreviated story of what happened to the kids, who listen somberly.
Photos by Julya:
Ann and Andy on the bridge, watching the fish and kids on tubes.
Uncle Tom, a vigorous 92, and his dog Jazz.
Ann relaxing on the lawn at Uncle Tom’s cabin.