Part of the idea for Walking the Country is to get to know folks - usually older ones - here and there along the way. And, that is what generally happens. But that Sunday, I unexpectedly got to spend time with some "younger folks." And, it turned out to be a precious moment initiated by Mr. Dylan.
I had been resting for a time under some trees several yards from Highway 12 near mile marker 182. I had noticed some ATV traffic coming and going, but had paid little attention.
Of a sudden, there was a boy standing next to the Flag and Buggy, saying, "What is this thing?"
I unthinkingly yelled out, "That's mine," and returned to my nap.
When I wandered over to the Buggy en route to the nearby river some minutes later, the youngster had disappeared. But, it seemed that he was responsible for the bottle of water I found waiting there for me. "How kind," I said to myself.
I proceeded to a nearby bridge which crosses the Musselshell River. I stared down at the water looking for a place to rinse and rest my weary feet. There was no easy spot, but I thought I could manage to get to one on the other side. I passed over the bridge and picked my way down intending to find a log or rock to sit on near the water's edge. Instead, I slid down an embankment collecting mud on the length of the left leg of my blue jeans.
I sat for a moment reflecting on my predicament when a voice came from above.
No, it wasn't God. Or, maybe it was. But, in the form of a young boy who inquired what I was about. He quickly told me that he had a "much better waterhole."
Dylan, whose name I soon learned, invited me to ride with him on his ATV to his special place. "It's only two minutes away."
I said, "Sure. Thank you very much. But, I need to leave a note at my rig. I'm expecting friends to stop by on their way home."
Dylan gave me a quick lift - after I stretched and stretched to get on the ATV behind him. When I dismounted, I walked a few yards to the Buggy to find more water - several bottles, a can of cream style corn, and the remains of a bag of Cheetos. "Someone is looking out for me, and I have a good idea who it may be."
I quickly scribbled a note for Duane and Audrey - who didn't appear until the next day in Melstone. I returned to the ATV with thanks to Dylan and stretched again to get over the wide saddle.
And, WE'RE OFF. Dylan put his foot to the pedal and sped down the gravel road. It seemed like a long two minutes, but we eventually turned across a pasture and onto a landing area which made for a Musselshell River Beach.
Lexis (sister) and Josh (friend) were paddling in the turbid waters with sandstone rims in the background. They were having a good old time. Dylan quickly jumped in, boots and all. I slowly followed suit sans shoes and just walked around in the water.
I have never been much of a swimmer. I blame that- in part - on wearing thick glasses and seeing quite hazily without them.
Still, I waddled the wide Musselshell pool and laved water over my dirty jeans and sweaty body. It felt grand. A great moment with sky, sun and water.
It was even more grand to see the young people splashing and cavorting with merely an inner tube and water as equipment.
I gathered bits and pieces of Dylan's story. His sister filled in a few blanks while Dylan and Josh made the best of their watery activity.
Dylan (10) and Lexis (11) live with their mother on a ranch nearby. They go to school in Roundup. But, they obviously relish the country, the fields, and the river.
Dylan told me he had been driving an ATV since age 6. He helps with haying and other ranch work as well. He didn't have much to say about school. I imagined that was far from his mind in the middle of summer.
Our play moments went by quickly. After our 90-minute excursion, I asked Dylan to drive me back the Buggy at mile marker 182.
We returned to the ATV. Waving to Lexis and Josh, we retraced the trail back along the gravel road.
I got Dylan's address and phone number, and promised to keep in touch. This is my first effort thereto, although I have shared this story several times over already.
I felt and continue to feel the TOUCH of a 10-year-old boy/man who was persistent and caring, fearless and friendly to a total stranger. Would that more of us could emulate him, looking for the best in others and sharing the best in ourselves.
"You're a good man. Yes, you are a good man, Mr. Dylan."