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Whitewater Crossing: A Casey Jones Columbia River Adventure Book II

My life in Brooklyn had its good points, but out here . . . well, there’s adventure! That began when I met
Kinsman family . . . my three lively girl cousins and their parents. I got swept up in their lifestyle. At first I was
bowled over by their huge manor house in Arborville. Then, I was so amazed by their huge K2 Ranch I fell into
an irrigation ditch my first day there.
Now Mom has followed me here and I think this new life in central Washington is everything Dad would have
wanted for us.
I’m 17 and feel like a real cowhand. I’m being trained by my Uncle Harry to take on more responsibility. Like
right now he’s sending me to see a man down in Oregon. I have instructions to buy twenty bales of wool and
get them shipped by barge down the Columbia River to a customer of ours in Portland.
Last night rain had soaked these broad Horse Heaven Hills and I breathed deeply, loving the odor of damp grass
and moist earth. On this part of the journey, Jasper’s smooth canter continued for over two hours before he
slowed up to a nervous trot.
“Hey! What is it, fella? Do you sense something I don’t?”
Then I heard the eerie thunder of many hooves. Jasper moved from side to side and bobbed his head.
“Whoa Jasper! Whoa boy!” I patted Jasper’s neck to soothe him and tingled all over as I realized that a herd of
wild horses was crossing the trail just ahead.
“Skidoo! Sure wish I could see those beautiful animals . . . running wild and free. Maybe on the return trip in
full daylight we will.”
Reaching a highpoint overlooking the gorge that separates Washington and Oregon, Mt. Hood appeared in the
distance . . . its peak, like a carnival small Snow cone, glistened pale rose in the rays of the rising sun.
I caught my breath as the mighty Columbia River appeared below, a shimmering silver ribbon, wide and full,
flowing west to a waiting Pacific Ocean. The vapor of my breath rose in the chill air and I paused to savor the
extraordinary view before urging Jasper to a cautious, hour-long trot down to the riverbank where we faced a
ferry ride to the Oregon side. A bit farther on we would meet the man who raised sheep.
My ranch hand friend, Cal Paluskin, had told me about the crossing of this river named for Columbus. “You and
the horse will be standing on the water while seagulls fly overhead,” he’d said.
Though forewarned, when I saw how we were to cross, I was amazed. Midway on the broad span of water, a
small steam-powered tugboat labored, urging a barge toward a dock just below us.
The makeshift ferry arrived just as Jasper and I came to the dock. I smelled the smoke from the tugboat as the
red-faced ferryman in overalls waited for a wagon and team of horses to clatter off the barge and onto the dock.
Then he called out to me with an outstretched hand, black with coal dust. “That’ll be five cents for you and a
nickel for the horse.”
As we trotted onto the barge, Jasper rolled his eyes and clomped his hooves on the deck . . . the clip clop
reverberating in the hollowness below.
“Easy there, boy. There’s a lot of water down there, but you and I are going to stay dry as a clump of
sagebrush.”
We were the only passengers, so the ferryman cast off the mooring line. He stepped into the pilothouse, spun
the wheel, and threw the tug into reverse before shifting into full speed ahead. The barge, tethered to the tug by
heavy hawsers, glided into the swirling waters with a shudder.
After ten minutes of chuffing and churning up a foamy wake, the ferry docked on the Oregon side.
Jasper seemed pleased to be on solid footing once more. He pranced around and tossed his fine head. When I
spurred him on, he leaped ahead, pleased to be back on solid ground.
We rode east for several minutes scanning the riverbank for the man who raised sheep.
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