“Mr. Birdsall – – – lay down” commanded the Float Master. His second command was “Mr. Aiken move away, – – far away – -, from the rope.” And with that the Float Master himself sprinted away from his position.
As Grandfather lay there in frozen awe the rope finally frayed in a few spots. The loose strands curled and twisted like snakes in a fire. And then, with a deafening “CRACKKK”, the pulley on Mr. Aiken’s side exploded into several pieces. Grandfather, the horse and the float were all swept downstream until they reached the end of the rope. The other end was still attached to the Float Master’s tree.
The float swung in a wide arc downstream and toward the shore. The uprooted tree broke loose just as the float slammed into the river bank. Both Grandfather and the horse were thrown into the cold mountain water. Grandfather grasped at several pieces of brush and tree roots that were growing on the river bank, but each time the force of the current ripped him away from his temporary anchor.
Finally he was swept into an eddy and the back-current pushed him to shore. As he clawed his way up the slippery mud bank his thoughts went immediately to his horse. There was no sight of him upstream or down.
Grandfather’s heart sank, and just as suddenly it leaped, as he heard a horse whinny in the brush behind him. Grandfathers grasping at the roots had slowed his progress. The horse’s natural instincts allowed him to reach the eddy before Grandfather.