Holidays: Labor Day

Chapter 1

“I’ve never seen so much rain in all my life,” said Kate. She pulled her curly brown hair back into a short ponytail. She’d let it grow over the summer and was pleased that it was almost long enough to tie back. More stylish than what her mom called the “wash & wear” look that she’d had forever. Kate knew that some girls in the 7th grade would be wearing make-up but she knew her mom – and dad – wouldn’t go for that. Lately, she had spent a lot of time staring into the mirror, wondering if what she saw was really as pretty as her folks said. Hazel eyes, clear skin (fingers crossed and hope to die), full lips, strong chin (thanks, Grandpa), straight nose that looked a little too big to her but everyone said was “distinguished.”

She was pulled back from wondering about her nose by her cousin Billy saying, “That isn’t saying much since you’re only twelve.”

“Well, that may be, but I’m still older than you. And always will be.”

“Six weeks only.’

“Yeah, but six weeks always.”

Billy usually didn’t mind that Kate was older. They weren’t just first cousins; they were First Friends – that’s what they called it. Better than just Best Friends. Anyway, Billy had started to pull away from Kate in size. He was already an inch or so taller, and had built some extra muscle working with his dad on the farm this summer. He was tan and his normally brown hair had some natural highlights from hours in the sun. He had the same hazel eyes as Kate and Grandpa’s chin. There was no mistaking the family resemblance, and strangers might even think they were brother and sister.

Kate and Billy had climbed up into the treehouse right after breakfast. Kate’s dad, Jeff, had made it pretty watertight, but the rain was coming down solid and had been for an hour or more. A real toad strangler. That’s what their grandpa called it when it rained so hard you couldn’t see to the other side of the road.

A puddle was forming on the floor of the treehouse where the water was seeping in under the North window that faced the main house. The skylight was holding, though. Billy moved the blankets, lantern, books, and games to the driest corner of the little room.

For awhile they watched the rain. Then Kate read a few pages in her new book, The Truth About Forever, and Billy played the new Gorgon game on his PSP. Pretty soon the sound of the rain was so loud they couldn’t concentrate on anything else.

“I’m hungry. Wanna go back to the house and get lunch?”

“Billy, it’s only 10:00. You can’t be hungry yet.”

“Yes, I can. And I am. Come on, let’s go get some PopTarts. Those are still breakfast. It’ll be like brunch, midway between breakfast and lunch.”

“Brunch. Okay, but wait until the rain eases up.”

“I don’t think it’s ever gonna quit. Hey, maybe this is like Noah. You know, the ark. Forty days and forty nights.”

Kate considered that. It had been raining an awful lot lately. Some everyday for almost a week. Not as hard as this, though. Maybe those rains before had just been God warming up. Giving people warning of what was coming. Maybe there was a new Noah somewhere, with an assignment from God to build another ark. That didn’t seem all that likely to Kate, but it probably hadn’t to the first Noah either.

Billy and Kate looked out the East window, through the woods that stood on the slope down to Rogue Creek. Even through the rain they could hear the creek roaring and slamming up against the rocks and tree roots that grew along the bank. They were glad that their houses weren’t in the way of all that rushing water. Kate’s house was a 10 minute walk uphill from the creek and Billy’s family lived on the other side of the highway, about another 20 minutes on foot from Kate’s.

“I don’t think it’s like Noah,” said Kate. “I think it’s global warming. I watched the weather on Channel 6 last night and there’s a bunch of hurricanes lined up in the Gulf of Mexico and down by Cuba. We’re getting the rain from Eva now and then we’ll get the rain from Frank, and maybe even Greta. It’s global warming from all the pollution in the air.”

Billy looked outside the window. “I don’t see any pollution. Anyway, when did you start watching the weather?”

“I watch the whole news show now at 6:00. Well, I don’t care about the sports, but I watch the news and the weather. It’s important to be informed,” Kate said importantly.

Billy really hated it when Kate put on her older-than-you, grown-up airs. “I’ve got better things to do than watch TV,” he said, though he thought he might tune in to see the sports some evening. “Anyway, we talked about global warming in school and nobody’s really sure where that comes from, or even if it’s real.”

“Oh, it’s real alright. In my class we had a video.”

Another problem with those six weeks. Billy’s birth date put him one full year behind Kate in school. He was still in grade school, while Kate had moved up to middle school this year.

“Anyway,” said Kate, “even if it is the hurricanes and global warming, it could still be another flood like in the bible. God could do that, if He wanted.”

“Why would He want to do that?” Billy wondered, more to himself than to Kate. He wasn’t comfortable with a God that sent floods and plagues and stuff.

They sat quietly for awhile, thinking about hurricanes, global warming, floods, and God. Then Billy’s stomach growled and they decided to make a run for the house.

Chapter 2

Carl, Kate’s older brother, was home on leave. He and Kate’s dad had gone into town to pick up some stuff at Tractor Supply. That’s what they said, anyway. Kate thought they just wanted to be together away from her and her mom. Male bonding, Kate’s mom, Sarah, called it.

Billy and Kate blitzed through the kitchen, gathering up Pop-tarts, Cokes, chips, and a couple of apples. The apples were Kate’s mom’s idea. More like her requirement. “No apples, no chips.”

They flopped down in front of the TV and surfed until they found an acceptable movie. No chick flick, no blood and guts (Kate’s mom, again), and definitely no R rating (all the parents).

The afternoon passed quietly. The movie ended and they watched Judge Judy. Billy thought most of the people were stupid. Kate said they were really actors just playing stupid. But Judge Judy was real and really that mean.

“I wouldn’t have made him give her the money back,” said Billy, feeling like the girls always got what they wanted. Judge Judy, after all, not Judge Joe.

“Yeah,” said Kate, “she should have just kept the car and found a good mechanic. Or learned how to fix it herself.” Kate was not in favor of girls who couldn’t do things.

Before the next show could start, Kate’s mom told them to get outside. The rain had let up some and they should go check on the goats. Make sure their feed was dry and that they weren’t standing around in puddles.

“Stupid goats.” That was Billy’s opinion and always would be.

“Not as stupid as turkeys. Turkeys will stand around in the rain with their mouths open until they drown.”

“Well, you don’t have stupid turkeys. You have stupid goats.”

“My goats aren’t any stupider than your rabbits. They pick at their own fur until they’re bald.”

“That was just one rabbit and he had an emotional problem.”

“Billy, you have got to be kidding me. A rabbit with an emotional problem! What do rabbits have to be emotional about?”

“Dad thinks maybe he was taken away from his mom too soon.”

Kate didn’t have a good comeback for that. She was generally pretty tender-hearted, at least about animals, and could imagine that leaving your mom too early could give you emotional problems.

“Come on, let’s check on the stupid goats.” Score one for Billy.

Chapter 3

Billy was right. The goats were stupid. When he and Kate got to the goat yard, at least half the herd were standing hock-deep in puddles. Kate began grabbing halters and pulling the goats up to drier land.

Billy meanwhile was forking the wet feed out of the trough and tossing it into the yard. “Here, Goats. Here’s some dry hay for you,” Billy said as he pitched some feed further back into the shelter. Some of the goats, the Einstein’s as far as Billy was concerned, were crowded into the shelter, staying out of the rain.

The rain fell steadily, but it didn’t seem that God had another flood in mind.

Once it looked like the goats would survive their own idiocy, Billy and Kate decided to head down to the creek to see if it had jumped its banks yet.

Last springtime the snowmelt in the mountains raised the level of the creek to the highest that either Kate or Billy had ever seen. Their parents told them that they would be grounded for life if they went down there, but of course they went anyway. What they saw that spring day amazed them. Even in the deepest, middle part of the straight stretches of the channel, the water threw up whitecaps. On the outside bends, the water splashed up against the bank like it does in a bathtub when you slide your body from side to side.

By early summer, after the rushing water subsided, debris from upstream littered the bank along the stream bed. Weeds, branches, plastic bags, beer cans, all kinds of junk stuck on the trees’ roots and branches. In a couple of places, the creek had eaten away at the bank and exposed new, white tree roots.

The ground sloped steadily downward to Rogue Creek from Kate’s house. Nearer the creek it got steeper and the wet grass was slippery. Kate and Billy carefully picked their way along the side of the slope, looking for safe footholds and occasionally sitting down to scoot along a particularly dangerous looking spot. By the time they got to where they could actually see the creek, they were crawling on their bellies.

“Wow! That is way higher than it was last spring,” exclaimed Billy.

“And moving way faster.”

Kate and Billy crawled closer to the edge. Kate hooked her arm around a sapling, and Billy stuck a short, thick branch as far into the soft earth as he could and held on tight. Their parents may have been right. The water was within a couple of feet of the top of the bank.

The rain was still falling and the water was still rising. As they lay head-down on the slope, they could see roots and rocks being covered by water and small sections of the bank dropping away. Kate judged that they were still about five feet from the edge, but suddenly that didn’t seem far enough. She started scooting backwards, grabbing Billy’s hand as she did so. “Come on, Billy,” she said, her voice a little shaky.

Billy resisted for a moment, not because he really wanted to but because he always resisted her suggestions at first, no matter how good they were. Soon enough, though, he was scooting back toward higher ground, too.

When they got back beyond crawling and scooting territory, far enough away from the creek that they felt safe to stand up, Kate asked, “Do you think we should tell our folks that the creek is pretty high? I mean I know we aren’t supposed to be here, but …”

Billy thought maybe she was right but he really didn’t want his dad knowing he had gotten so close to the creek. His dad and Kate’s dad were brothers, but that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t forbid Billy to visit Kate. He’d done it before, after the unfortunate episode with the goat and the chicken coop. Still, the water was damn high.

“Let’s go to the treehouse and think about it. Maybe we can figure out a way to tell them that won’t get us in trouble,” suggested Billy.

On their way back to the treehouse, they detoured by the goats to make sure they weren’t being stupid again. Naturally, Kate and Billy had to haul the real doofusses by their halters back to dry land. They also stopped by the house for more provisions. Grapes this time to go with a box of Nilla Wafers, and a towel to sop up the water from the leaky window.

Chapter 4

When they got up in the treehouse, Billy mopped up the puddle. “Hey, Kate,” he said, “I bet if we asked to go to the creek with one of them, they’d let us. We could tell them that we were nervous. That we’d been talking about Noah.”

“You aren’t really nervous, are you?”

“No! Of course not. I’m just saying that so we’d have a reason for them to take us seriously.”

Kate was skeptical. “You think talking about Noah is going to make them take us seriously?”

“Well, not your parents probably, but maybe my mom. We could start with her.”

“It might work. You could do it tomorrow after church. It would be perfect timing. Let’s try it.”

When Kate and Billy heard Carl and Kate’s dad coming back from town, they climbed down to see what they had bought. Kate was more interested in spark plugs, timing belts, and duck-foot harrows than Billy was, but Billy was very interested in the stories Carl could tell about being in the Army. He figured someday he might join up, too, and it was never to early to start learning how to be a good soldier.

Chapter 5

On Sunday morning, the families headed to the Methodist church in town. Carl looked very serious and handsome in his dress uniform. His mom had tears in her eyes as she looked at him, some of them from pride, some not. His dad shared her feelings, but not her tears. Kate was a bit more dressed up than usual for church. She wanted to honor her brother. Plus, she figured that a serious and mature look is what her and Billy’s plan called for.

Billy and his folks wore their usual church clothes. Apparently Billy hadn’t figured out that older looking might equal wiser acting.

When they arrived at church, instead of peeling off to Sunday School as they usually did, Kate and Billy went into the sanctuary with their families. The parents looked at each, shrugged, and led the way to their regular pew, about half-way down and on the pulpit side of the aisle. Carl sat between Kate and Billy, making both of them feel at least 10-feet tall.

When, during the sermon, Billy started fidgeting, one quick sideways look from Carl was enough to settle him down. Kate sat still but her mind wandered all over the place. She thought about cheer squad tryouts, Kevin Carson, the creek, and even a little bit about God.

After shaking Pastor McDonald’s hand, the family headed to Kate’s house for supper. The families took turns hosting the Sunday afternoon meals. The women and Kate went into the kitchen. Sometimes Kate resented the way the men and Billy got to hang out in the living room or garage while she and the women got supper on the table. But it wasn’t really so bad. The men were always in charge of cleaning up and in the summertime they’d grill the burgers and brats. Billy’s dad made a mean potato salad, too.

Today’s meal was beef stew, bread baked that morning before church, and an apple pie Kate made with Granny Smiths from the orchard. The talk around the table was about school and work, Carl’s next duty station – Stateside this time, thank God – and the weather. Which was – finally – the opening Kate and Billy were waiting for.

Kate looked at Billy to make sure he was going to start talking. It looked like he’d forgotten the plan and was going to let the opportunity pass. But, just as Kate was getting ready to speak, Billy cleared his throat and said, “Say, Mom, do you think this rain we’re having could be the next flood? You know, like Noah?”

All the conversation around the table died. Even Spike the Cat stopped begging and looked at Billy. Kate had just decided that Billy was as dense as the stupidest goat when his mom said, “Well, I doubt it, Honey, but we have been having some amazing rain lately. What makes you think there could be a flood coming? You haven’t been down by the creek, have you?”

Uh-oh, thought Kate. Billy was a terrible liar. She was much better at it than him, but even she wasn’t eager to risk trying to pull one off now.

Billy paused for a moment, she could practically see the wheels turning. “We could hear the water all the way from the treehouse yesterday. It must be really near to overflowing by now. Do you think somebody ought to go down and take a look?”

Genius, Kate thought. Brilliant! Not a lie. Not the whole truth, either. But not a lie. Superb!

Kate’s mom said she’d like to see how high it was, and maybe pick a few more Granny Smiths from the orchard on the way back. Kate said she wanted to try NanaMary’s cobbler recipe and would like to get a few apples for that, too, so she thought she’d go along. When that worked, Billy asked Carl if he’d like to see the creek and maybe tell him a few more stories about paratrooper school. Pretty soon it was agreed by everyone that a walk after supper, through the orchard and down toward – not too near! – the creek, would be a good thing to do.

Chapter 6

After the men had put the leftovers away and Carl had changed out of his uniform, everyone pulled on boots and slickers and went outside. The rain was still falling – this made six days with hardly any breaks – and the ground was just about saturated. In low spots on the lawn, the water stood above the tops of the grass. Where grass wasn’t growing, it was mud. Last night Carl had spread straw in the goat yard. It looked like he’d need to do that again today. Instead of walking to the creek, Kate’s dad decided to caulk the leaky window in the treehouse.

As they passed below the treehouse at the near-edge of the woods, they could hear the creek. Kate and Billy looked at each other. It sounded much louder than yesterday.

Billy’s mom, Amy, said, with a little laugh,  “Maybe Billy was right, maybe Noah is building an ark somewhere nearby.”

“Kate,” her mom suggested, “why don’t you and I just go to the orchard and then get back to the house?”

Kate wanted to argue, but the creek did sound almost angry and she thought it might be okay to be inside sooner rather than later. Billy, his mom and dad, and Carl kept walking toward the creek.

A couple of minutes before they should have been able to see the creek, even before they got to where the ground started sloping away sharply, they could feel the spray from the runaway stream. Cooler than the rain, it was floating up in the air from the roiling water of the swollen creek. This near the creek, the earth truly was soaking wet. They sank into the ground with each step they took. Billy took his mom’s hand.

Another few steps and just at the last flat spot before the slope, they could see the creek. It had jumped its banks and was climbing the grassy hillside. The rushing torrent was foamy and almost gray, as the air mixed into the water, dirt, and other debris. They stood without speaking for a couple of minutes, watching the incredible power of the raging, flooding creek. In just that brief time, the water advanced on them by at almost a foot. The creek that had been a 10-minute walk from the nearest house – Kate’s house – was now several minutes and several hundred yards closer. At the rate it was rising, the spot where they stood would be underwater in less than an hour. Once the creek, more like a river now, was on the flat, there wasn’t anything between it and the orchard, the woods, the animals, and the house.

Wordlessly, they turned back to the house. They went to the orchard and told Kate and her mom that the creek was outside its banks and could be headed their way. Kate’s dad had finished with the treehouse and was spreading more straw for the goats. He could tell by the look on his brother’s face that there was trouble coming. The family went back to the house to figure out what to do first.

Chapter 7

Carl called a friend in the Sheriff’s department to see what they knew.

“Hey, John. This is Carl Pendleton. Yeah, I’m home on leave. Listen, Rogue Creek’s jumped its banks here by the house. What do you guys know about the situation upstream?”

John told Carl that upstream from them it was worse. Thirty miles north, the creek had joined two other tributaries of the Flint River and the flood zone was already one-quarter mile wide.

They didn’t have much time. They’d have to get themselves and the animals to Billy’s family’s house before their road – and maybe even the highway – was cut off.

Kate’s dad said, “We’ll hook up the tractor to the stake-bed trailer. Kate, you and Billy get those hens in feed sacks. Then get them and the goats up onto the trailer.”

Once the goats and chickens were on the trailer, Billy asked his dad if he could drive it to his house.

Billy’s dad, David, looked hard at his son and said, “Bill, I think you are just the guy for that. Drop off the trailer but be sure to get those chickens in the shed. Don’t want them drowning. Bring the tractor back here and we’ll hook up the harrow and you can take it over there, too.”

After Billy left, the men started moving everything portable into the hayloft.

Back at the house, Kate and the women were collecting food, clothes, photographs, electronic equipment, everything they could lift went either into the trucks or up in the attic.

While Kate was pushing boxes around in the attic to make room, she looked out a dormer window to the East. “Mom,” she called down, “the water’s lapping at the edge of the orchard!” That meant the water was halfway between the treehouse and the creek now.

Billy came back with the tractor and the men hooked the harrow to it and Billy took off again. He’d stay at his house after this trip and start moving his family’s valuables into their attic. Just in case.

When the flood waters reached the bottom of the ladder to the treehouse, about halfway between the house and the original stream bed, they tied the tarps down over the truck beds and everyone piled into the pickups to head out. Kate had Spike the Cat in his carrier on the floorboards. Carl lifted Rufus, his old dog, into the back of his pickup and covered him with the tarp, too.

The road to the highway was a terrible combination of slick and saturated. Traction was hard to come by. Billy’s mom was leading the four-truck convoy. She fishtailed the ¾-ton she was driving and nearly lost the load. By the time they made it to the highway, only about the length of a football field from the house, the rain started coming down in buckets again. The steady drenching became a gullywasher. Visibility dropped to almost nothing. It was like looking through frosted glass.

Once they turned off the highway, it was slimy, soupy mud again. Everyone took this road much slower. They were pretty sure they were out of danger on this side of the highway. Of course, if the floods reached the level that they had in Iowa and Illinois this spring, there might not be anywhere really safe around here.

Billy had disconnected the harrow and dragged the bass boat on its trailer to the side of the house. Then he pointed the tractor back up the road. If it came to it, they could use it to tow a truck back to the highway. He had also unlatched the bass boat from its trailer and tied it to the porch railing. He checked the fuel level in the boat and topped it off. Once things outside were as ready as he could think to make them, he put his rabbits in their show cages and put them inside the front door. Now he could hear his family pulling up to the house. All four pickups parked facing the highway.

Chapter 8

Everyone scrambled onto the front porch. The rain was falling hard enough to hurt when it hit your bare skin. Carl got Rufus onto the porch and then went to check that the loads were as well covered as they could be.

By now the family could hear the Sheriff’s deputies rolling down the highway with their loudhailers.

“This is the Boone County Sheriff’s Department. Everyone on the East side of Highway 71 should prepare to evacuate. If you need to leave, you aren’t going to have much time. So get ready.” It sounded like they thought the west side would be okay.

“Bill,” his dad told him, “you did a good job getting things ready at the house. Really good thinking about the boat.” Carl gave Billy a medium-sized punch in the arm as a way of saying ‘attaboy.’

“Kate, come into the kitchen with me,” said her aunt, “we might as well get something ready for dinner.”

The electricity was going off and on, so Billy, his dad, and his uncle went out to the garage to set up the generator. The rain was still pounding down. Carl tried to get through to his buddy at the Sheriff’s department, but John must have been out of range. Or else the weather was messing up reception. So far there hadn’t been much wind in this storm, but that was always a risk this time of year.

It had been dark all day and as the sun set the power finally flickered one last time and died. Billy had brought all the lanterns and flashlights he could find into the house – another Attaboy! –  and his mom dug around in the kitchen drawers and found some candles, which Kate set on saucers and lit. The stove used propane, so they’d have hot food. The well pump was electric, though, so they’d have to be careful about how much they used the generator.

As the family finished dinner, the weather radio, which had been broadcasting warnings and watches all day, announced that straight-line winds of 40 MPH had been clocked at Rogers, and that there was a report of a funnel cloud near Fillmore. That was about 60 miles from home; a little too close for comfort. They could hear the wind building outside. Kate’s dad said, “Still sounds like straight wind, nothing like a twister … yet.”

All night long Sheriff’s vehicles rode up and down the highway. The advice to prepare to evacuate the East side became the instruction to evacuate immediately. Kate’s family wondered how their property was doing, wondered if they’d have a home to go back to. Eventually everyone slept at least a little. Carl took Rufus out around 4:00 and saw that the rain had eased off some. By 6:30, when Billy’s dad went out to look around, there was some blue sky showing in the North and a little bit of sunrise peeking through the clouds to the East. It looked like the storm had blown itself out.

When Kate and Billy woke up around 8:00, the grown-ups had finished breakfast and were getting ready to go see what waited for them East of the highway. The kids grabbed a quick bowl of cereal and piled into Carl’s truck. Two trucks made the trip back over the sloppy roads. Billy’s mom was praying quietly, Kate had her fingers crossed. Everyone was staring ahead, looking for the first emergency vehicle to turn them back.

The trucks reached the turn off from the highway without running into a roadblock. They headed down the short muddy road and saw that the house was still standing. So was the barn. The goat yard and chicken coop were gone and the orchard was a mess, with a high-water mark on the trees about 2-feet off the ground on the rows nearest the creek. Water still ran just past the East edge of the orchard. It looked like Rogue Creek had crested and receded overnight.

After walking through the house and barn to make certain there was no damage, everyone started unloading the trucks. The goats and chickens would stay with Billy’s mom and dad until the fencing and coop could be rebuilt. When the trucks were empty, the men drove back across the highway to bring the other pickups home. The power was out over here, too, so Kate’s mom got the generator going.

Chapter 9

It took about a week for things to get close to normal in Boone and Folsom Counties. It was Wednesday after the flood before school was back in session. State and local officials toured the devastation, insurance agents met with their clients, and the banks geared up to write emergency loans.

On Friday, Carl left for Ft. Lewis and battlefield surveillance training. Billy had asked, “Carl, can you send me a shoulder patch, and maybe a photo of you in your battle gear?”

Carl promised he would and told Billy to ask his folks if they would like to come to his graduation in December. Carl’s parents and Kate were coming, so it could be a real family event. Billy ran to ask his dad right then.

By Saturday, the goat yard and chicken coop had been rebuilt and the animals were home. Not that they cared where they were, as long as the feed was there, too.

Sunday supper was at Billy’s house. As always, the conversation circled around to school and work, how Carl was probably doing, and the weather. It was still September, but the air was a little crisper in the mornings and with the sun lower in the sky, the light seemed a little bit softer. The family talked about the flood, too, and how some friends of theirs with fields closer to Rogue Creek lost their crops. Some animals didn’t make it, but some thought to be lost had turned up a mile or more downstream, seemingly none the worse for their “swim.”

Most folks would rebuild and plant again in the spring. Some wouldn’t or couldn’t hold out that long. People who took their whole livelihood from their farm were in the worst shape, of course, but some state and federal relief was available. Families like Kate’s would be fine. Her mom and dad had jobs in town. That was more common now than ever before, and many of the kids and grandkids of farmers inherited their land and subdivided it into “ranchettes” for people who wanted to move to the country but never planned to make a living from the land. After seeing what Mother Nature can do, some of those new arrivals would be packing up and heading back to the city.

Chapter 10

The first weekend in October felt like summer again. The temperature was climbing toward 80 and the humidity seemed about that high, too.

Kate and Billy went to the treehouse after breakfast. Kate had finished The Truth About Forever and was reading The Slave Dancer, a book Ms. Douglas at the library recommended. Billy was still working through the levels in Gorgon.

“Hey, Billy?”

“Yeah?” Billy said absentmindedly. He was about to slay a Hemispore.

“I think it’s hotter up here than down on the ground. Heat rises, you know.”

Billy could tell Kate was up to something, but he still wanted that dastardly Hemispore dead, dead, dead.

“So,” Kate said, “do you think maybe we should go down by the creek? It’ll be cooler.”

Success! The Hemispore fell with a resounding crash and Billy advanced to the next level. Now, he could figure out what Kate was up to.

“I don’t know, Kate, the folks still don’t want us going down there. The flood undercut the banks and it’s pretty risky to be walking around, even on the flat.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right. I was just thinking that there are probably about a million tadpoles down there now. Every little puddle in the yard has one or two. And the ground is still plenty wet of the other side of the orchard. What do you think? Want to go catch some tadpoles? Maybe raise them to be frogs?” Kate was trying hard to mute the excitement in her voice. She knew that Billy’s knee-jerk response was always, NO, but she could usually work him around. She had a plan but she needed to let Billy think it was his plan, too.

Billy liked the idea of tadpoles but he couldn’t see any value in frogs. So he said, “I don’t see any value in frogs. It’s not like we can show them at the Fair. There’s no Frog category. No Lop-Eared Frogs. No Angora Stud Frogs. No Biggest Frog.”

Kate was satisfied with the progress of the conversation so far. Now she needed to reel Billy in.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I don’t know what anybody can do with a frog. I mean sometimes frogs are used in science experiments …”

“Hey! I know. The high school uses frogs in biology class. I bet the school would buy our frogs. And not just Emerson, but all the schools in the County. Maybe even the whole state!”

Kate smiled, ‘our frogs,’ Billy said. Kate could see that she’d soon be making another deposit to her college fund.

“That’s a great idea, Billy. Let’s get some jars and head down to the creek. We’ve got to catch the tadpoles and then figure out how to raise them. Do you think there’s anything on the Internet about that?”

“Sure. You can Google anything.”

Kate smiled to herself and started climbing down the ladder.

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