Back 40: Diver

AFTER THE FORKS OF THE RIVER come together and before it sweeps through the rapids there are places to tie fishing boats and small patches of sand tethered to farms and houses by trails that snake through the fields.

It’s a summer day. Ninety degrees. My brother and I have been swimming for two hours. It’s almost time to head up the path. We splash and fin near a small sandy bank bordered by willow and cottonwood, enough room to leave our clothes and our mother where she daydreams. There’s a two-by-twelve, straight-grained plank anchored by two-by-four piles driven into the bank. One last time we search the river bottom for lost treasure, fishing lures or a piece of cracked ceramic from a long past flood, when we hear the tractor chug to a stop beyond the trees. We can’t see the big John Deere or the baler behind it. Labree, our neighbor, dusty from baling alfalfa, bursts through the brush. On a hop and gambol he shucks his boots and, heedless of clothes, runs to the end of the diving board. His spring matches his six-foot-four frame, bending the board nearly to the water. He arcs through the air, emitting a WAAHOOOOO and knifes into the water like an Olympian.

His face, when he surfaces, is nothing but satisfaction.

“Man, that feels good,” he says.

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