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TWO or three days and nights went by; I reckon I might say they swum by, they slid along so quiet and smooth and lovely. Here is the way we put in the time. It was a monstrous big river down there—sometimes a mile and a half wide; we run nights, and laid up and hid daytimes; soon as night was most gone we stopped navigating and tied up—nearly always in the dead water under a towhead; and then cut young cottonwoods and willows, and hid the raft with them. Then we set out the lines. Next we slid into the river and had a swim, so as to freshen up and cool off; then we set down on the sandy bottom where the water was about knee deep, and watched the daylight come. Not a sound anywheres—perfectly still—just like the whole world was asleep, only sometimes the bullfrogs a-cluttering, maybe. The first thing to see, looking away over the water, was a kind of dull line—that was the woods on t’other side; you couldn’t make nothing else out; then a pale place in the sky; then more paleness spreading around; then the river softened up away off, and warn’t black any more, but gray; you could see little dark spots drifting along ever so far away—trading scows, and such things; and long black streaks—rafts; sometimes you could hear a sweep screaking; or jumbled up voices, it was so still, and sounds come so far; and by and by you could see a streak on the water which you know by the look of the streak that there’s a snag there in a swift current which breaks on it and makes that streak look that way; and you see the mist curl up off of the water, and the east reddens up, and the river, and you make out a log-cabin in the edge of the woods, away on the bank on t’other side of the river, being a woodyard, likely, and piled by them cheats so you can throw a dog through it anywheres; then the nice breeze springs up, and comes fanning you from over there, so cool and fresh and sweet to smell on account of the woods and the flowers; but sometimes not that way, because they’ve left dead fish laying around, gars and such, and they do get pretty rank; and next you’ve got the full day, and everything smiling in the sun, and the song-birds just going it! Two or three days went by. I guess you could say they swum by, because they passed so smoothly and quietly and lovely. We found ways to pass the time. The river was monstrously wide down where we were—about a mile and a half wide at times. We traveled at night and hid in the daytime. As soon as the night had almost passed, we would stop navigating and tie up somewhere on the shore, almost always in the still water under a towhead. We’d cut branches from young cottonwoods and willows and would use them to hide the raft. Then we set up the fishing lines before sliding into the river for a swim to freshen up and cool off. After that, we’d sit down on the sandy bottom of the shallows where the water was only knee deep or so and watch the sunrise. It would be perfectly quiet—with perhaps the exception of the croaking bullfrogs—as if the whole world was asleep. The first thing you’d see looking out over the water would be a dull line, which was the woods on the other side. That would be all you could see. Then you would see pale spot in the sky, which would grow and spread. Then the river would get lighter; it would turn from black to gray. You could see little dark spots drifting along in the distance—those were trading barges. The long black streaks would be rafts. Sometimes you could even hear a creaking oar or mixed up voices because it was so quiet that the sounds would come from far away. Pretty soon you could see a streak on the water, which meant there was a snag in a swift current. And you could see the mist curl up off the water. The eastern sky would get redder and would light up the river so that you could make out a log cabin on the edge of the woods, way over on the other side of the river. Those were likely to be lumberyards. Then a nice breeze would spring up and blow over you. It would be fresh and cool and sweet smelling because of the woods and all the flowers. Well, sometimes it wouldn’t be that nice if someone had left dead fish lying around—


a type of boney fish

s and such. Those would smell pretty rank. Then you’d have the full day ahead of you. You’d be smiling in the sun and the songbirds would be going at it!
A little smoke couldn’t be noticed now, so we would take some fish off of the lines and cook up a hot breakfast. And afterwards we would watch the lonesomeness of the river, and kind of lazy along, and by and by lazy off to sleep. Wake up by and by, and look to see what done it, and maybe see a steamboat coughing along up-stream, so far off towards the other side you couldn’t tell nothing about her only whether she was a stern-wheel or side-wheel; then for about an hour there wouldn’t be nothing to hear nor nothing to see—just solid lonesomeness. Next you’d see a raft sliding by, away off yonder, and maybe a galoot on it chopping, because they’re most always doing it on a raft; you’d see the axe flash and come down—you don’t hear nothing; you see that axe go up again, and by the time it’s above the man’s head then you hear the K’CHUNK!—it had took all that time to come over the water. So we would put in the day, lazying around, listening to the stillness. Once there was a thick fog, and the rafts and things that went by was beating tin pans so the steamboats wouldn’t run over them. A scow or a raft went by so close we could hear them talking and cussing and laughing—heard them plain; but we couldn’t see no sign of them; it made you feel crawly; it was like spirits carrying on that way in the air. Jim said he believed it was spirits; but I says: No one would be able to see our small bit of smoke now. We’d take some fish off the lines and cook up a hot breakfast. Afteward, we’d watch the lonely river and just laze about until we drifted off to sleep. Eventually we’d open our eyes and look around to see what had woken us up and see a steamboat belching steam as it headed up the far side of the river. It’d be so far away that you couldn’t even tell whether its paddlewheels were in the back or on the sides. Then for another hour or so there wouldn’t be anything else to see except the lonely river. At some point you’d see a raft floating by, way off in the distance, and maybe a big oaf chopping wood on it. That’s what they usually did on rafts. You’d see the flash of an axe reflecting the sun as it came down. You wouldn’t heard anything, though, until it was up over the man’s head again—K’CHUNK!—because it took all that time for the sound to come over the water. That’s how we’d spend the days, lazing about and listening to the quiet. Once there was a thick fog and the people on the rafts and barges that went by beat tin pans so the steamboats wouldn’t run over them. Another time a scow or raft drifted so close to us that we could hear them talking and cussing and laughing. We could hear them plain as day, but we couldn’t see them. That made you feel creepy, like ghosts were passing by. Jim said he did think they were ghosts, but I said:
“No; spirits wouldn’t say, ’Dern the dern fog.’” “No—ghosts wouldn’t say, ‘Darn it! Darn this fog!’”
Soon as it was night out we shoved; when we got her out to about the middle we let her alone, and let her float wherever the current wanted her to; then we lit the pipes, and dangled our legs in the water, and talked about all kinds of things—we was always naked, day and night, whenever the mosquitoes would let us—the new clothes Buck’s folks made for me was too good to be comfortable, and besides I didn’t go much on clothes, nohow. We would shove off as soon as it was night. When we’d gotten the raft to the middle of the river, we’d let it float wherever the current took it. Then we lit our pipes, dangled our legs in the water, and talked about all kinds of things. We were always naked, night and day, whenever the mosquitos would let up. The new clothes Buck’s folks had made for me weren’t comfortable because they were too nice. Besides, I didn’t really like clothes anyway.