A fall day, the day before school was to begin, our families joined for a picnic at the reservoir. Gas prices had risen and many chose not to journey far, but simply to spend their time with family. We spread our cloth and watched humorously as the women folk panicked when hungry yellow jackets began to compete for their sandwiches. Euell, finishing a soda and chips, took his own sandwich to a windy spot, less frequented by the pests. He gave thanks and noticed an odd echo. The spot he had chosen was the spillway now above the lowered waters of the reservoir.
Katrina was the younger of two sisters and would begin seventh grade tomorrow. She joined Euell as he finished his sandwich. "We should bring the drums over here, the acoustics are great," Euell noted. She agreed. They rose and walked back toward where the other families were still sitting or fleeing from yellow jackets.
As Euell and Katrina descended with two ashikas, they invited Katya, the older sister to join them. Euell carried the larger drum made of African bubinga and purpleheart. Katrina carried the smaller one made from an old mahogany stair railing. Both girls were new at playing the complex African polyrythms. Euell patiently led them through the 3:2 beat. Katrina was a natural drummer and wanted to play more rapidly. Euell suggested that she walk down the dry spillway where the acoustics from the two drums reverberated. She said, "Listen, I hear some other drummers over there." Then smiling, she realized it was the echo. Katya, more steady, held the 3:2 beat and Euell layered a more complex 5:2 beat and riffles into the mix.
"Sing your Arabic songs, Katrina," he asked.
Katrina turned her back to them, facing the pool below where the stream began again. She swayed with the trees and began to sing. As if on cue, several other families drifted along the shore near the spillway. The sound was amplified by the spillway and carried across the reservoir. The wind began to rise dramatically. An osprey circled and dove twice into the water before catching its dinner.
As the drummers rested, so the wind died, and the sunny day returned to its serene fall business. They put the drums away, and got into the canoe. Across the reservoir, a small creek entered, only visible upon nearest approach. Quietly, they guided the canoe past logs and moved beneath the exposed basalt rock from an old lava tube. Spying a heron feather, Euell guided the front of the canoe toward the muddy bank. Katrina half stepped from the canoe and gathered in their prize.
When the logs and rocks made the creek impassable, they turned the canoe about. The sun was now to their backs and as they prepared to enter the reservoir, Euell noticed a small water creature eating while on a stump rising from the shallow water. As they glided toward it, the warm sun helped, and the strange apparition did not disturb the creature. It was a muskrat eating algae. Its rich pelt glistened in the sun as they approached within several feet. Its tiny eyes watched alertly as they passed, but otherwise it continued about its business. Its mate, not quite so assured, slipped into the water at their approach to the next stump.
"That was fun," Katrina said. As they paddled back toward their families, Katrina added, "Why is everybody so quiet?"
Kayla and Euell smiled. "Sometimes it is better not to be filled with the noises of human chatter, " Euell responded.